Need some time to yourself?

Let’s face it, the holidays are hectic. Now that the gifts have been unwrapped and the last glass of champagne toasted, you may find yourself in need of some alone time. A quiet house.

Sound like a pipe dream?

I can give you five simple words to guarantee an empty house. No, seriously, it works. Now, take a deep breath and repeat after me.

“I‘m taking down the tree.”

Like magic, the kids remember places they need to be, my husband must run errands or help a friend. Poof! Just like that, I am alone in the house. Even the dogs seem to find a place to hide.

“Just wait a minute!”, you say. “Now I have to take down the tree.”

Yes, but you do it your own way. And the faster it’s finished, the more time you have for —nothing!

First, get out the totes, boxes or whatever you keep the decorations in. Line them up, lids off. You’ll need bubble wrap for the fragile items. Let’s start with those. Line the bottom of one tote with bubble wrap, then take each individual fragile item — houses, special ornaments, etc. — wrap and place in the tote, heavy items on the bottom. If you have the individual boxes for items, store them in those then put them in the tote.

My husband buys me a new ornament every year for Christmas. He has since our first Christmas together. I keep these on an artificial tree. To store it, I leave the tree decorated, wrap the entire thing in bubble wrap then put it in a moving box large enough to accommodate it. I purchased two large boxes from U-Haul, place the tree in one, top it with another, secure it in packing tape and store it. 30+ ornaments safely secured and stored with the bonus of simply removing the box next year for instant decoration.

Next, the non-fragile items. I use a separate tote for these. Stocking hangers get stored in the stocking, then the tote.

Finally, the live tree. The star comes down and is stored with the fragile items. The remaining ornaments are ordinary round, colored bulbs. These I store in a five-gallon bucket. Yep, a bucket. Now keep in mind that I won’t cry if a few get broken from one year to the next but it rarely happens. For the lights I grab the end of a strand and pull. Let’s face it, there’s going to be pine needles on the floor anyway so if it rains a few more while taking down the lights, so what? I roll the light strands around a spool or a square of wood with a notch on each end. When the tree is empty, I drag it upright, outside through the sliding door. It’s larger than a standard door. If I’m really lucky, I get it to the door without spilling the water from the stand. Once outside, I tip it on its side to drain the water and remove the stand. Now to sweep up. I have tile floors so clean-up is a little easier, but a broom works on carpet for the first go round.

Now the final walk-through. No matter how hard I look there is always something that I’ll find in a few days. Put the lids on the totes, mark “fragile”, “Indoor”, “Christmas Villiage”, etc and the year. Next season, you know what is where for easy decorating.

It seems like a lot but taking down the decorations simply, starts with putting them up simply. I try to keep things at a lower level and only decorate the main living areas. On a good day, I can take the decorations down in an hour or two. And since I’m me, I clean while I do it. The rest of the day is mine and either way, the decorations are down, and the house is clean. And if there happens to be some leftover wine, well, I may as well make the clean-up complete.  😉

Remember, the decorations may need to get to put away, but the spirit of Christmas can live every day of the year. Smile, it’s free after all, think of at least one positive thing at the end of each day and be kind – to yourself and to others. Now, put your feet up, grab a good book and enjoy a little of the quiet time.

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Lights, Lights and more Lights!

In case you haven’t figured it out, Christmas is my favorite time of year. On an ordinary day you walk, bike or drive down the street, passing homes without a notice. From Thanksgiving to the end of December you take a moment, or even make a special trip, to see the lights and decorations that line the neighborhoods. It’s more than just a tradition, its a sense of community spirit that holds a special place in my heart this time of year. People string miles of twinkling lights, yards of inflatable Santas and snowmen, Nativity scenes, Menorah’s and electric candles  for the sheer enjoyment of it. At no other time is the community as united and vibrant as the end of the calendar year. Yes, we do it for ourselves too, but if it was only a selfish move, it’d be the backyard that was decorated, wouldn’t it?

So you don’t want your home to look like the Griswold’s or put the time and expense into it. It doesn’t have to be complicated though, or expensive. Your best buys are right after the holiday when things get heavy discounts as the stores prepare for January organization. Don’t want to wait until next year? A simple strand of lights, or a battery operated candle in the window can brighten the spirit of you, your loved ones and anyone who passes by. The weather not cooperating, stringing the lights around a window on the inside shines beautifully. Or put your Christmas tree in the front window for dual duty inside/outside decorations. Get the kids involved and hang snowflakes or paper chains cut from recycled paper on a string or simply tape them to the windows. A simple wreath or sprig made from extra pine tree branches tied with a red ribbon can welcome your guests or if you have live trees, a few simple dollar store or handmade ornaments can festive them up.

However you choose to let your light shine this season, make it yours, in your own style with your own kind of happy.

What’s your holiday happy? I’d love to hear! Post it in comments.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas – Keeping it Simple

I love Christmas! Spending time with family and friends, shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, sending out cards, arguing whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie — it is, by the way — and the pure insanity of the entire process. So, grab a cup of coffee, find a comfy spot and let’s chat about keeping it simple and spectacular!

We want to create those warm family moments that our children will remember and share with their children. Traditions that will last a lifetime. Decorating the tree, baking cookies, Christmas parties, a big family meal, shopping, wrapping gifts with a glass of wine and Christmas music playing in the background.

There’s a lot of pressure this time of year to get everything perfect. It won’t be. And that’s okay. That batch of burned cookies, the year the tree fell over? Those will be the memories that you cherish, the moments that you want to get back again. Perfectly imperfect is what I’ll call it. It still isn’t Christmas around our house unless at least one gift from Daddy is wrapped with duct tape. So, let’s tackle these things one at a time. Today, we’ll start with baking.

My mother-in-law was the kindest, most giving, loving person I’ve ever known. To family and friends alike she was known as Cookie-Grandma. Her peanut butter chocolate chips cookies are legendary. So much so that the recipe was passed out at her funeral. There was never a time that a tin of homemade baked cookies didn’t sit on the counter. And as one of the wiser kids found out, if you licked the bottom of each chocolate chip before you put it on the dough, you got the whole batch for yourself. It’s a cherished memory.

Baking from a premade mix or dough can be just as memorable. Follow these simple directions for baking with children, at Christmas, or anytime.

Purchase your favorite type of premade cookie mix or dough.

Place small children at the kitchen counter or table. Wrap an apron around them and lightly dust a small amount of flour on them. Warning: This can lead to extreme fits of giggles.

Mix according to package directions and place on a cookie sheet.

Set the children loose with sprinkles. Lots and lots of sprinkles.

Bake

While cookies bake, wipe off counter, rinse bowl and place in dishwasher.

Optional – Keep that camera ready!

Memories made!

This recipe also works for banana bread, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, the possibilities are unlimited! If you make multiple batches to give to family, friends, co-workers and neighbors as gifts, they’ll be appreciated as if you’d lugged out the stand mixer and spent the entire day baking from scratch. As a bonus, you’ve taught your children the joy and pride of giving a gift they’ve made themselves.

Got a favorite baking memory? I’d love to hear it. Post it in the comments below and stop by again soon as we tackle that Christmas to-do list!

Graduation Party Ideas-Centerpiece

Authors – Having a book signing or event? Modify this centerpiece to use as a giveaway and promotional opportunity. Fill with candy or promotional items. Be creative, have fun!

It’s that time of year again when speeches are made, diploma’s passed out, hat are tossed in the air in freedom and glee. There are also tears. Pride intermixed with the bittersweet joy of watching your child enter the adult world. And it’s also time to party!

I’ve compiled some fun, simply and inexpensive ideas for the graduation that are sure to make lasting memories. So let’s get started.

This simple table centerpiece was made from a sticker, a small candle holder that I bought for $1 from the Dollar Tree and a tea light candle. The sticker was a custom order with a collage of photos that I ordered through Oriental Trading but you can use anything that suites the event (just make sure that it is placed away from the flame). Try it for baby showers, wedding showers or weddings, the possibilities are unlimited. By the way, these also make a nice parting gift.

Stop by http://www.creativelife123.wordpress.com for everything creative and as always, Happy Reading!

Nightwalker: A Leah Wolfe SINS Novel

Nightwalker CoverNIGHTWALKER HAS BEEN REVIEWED AND RECEIVED ANOTHER 5 STARS “The plotline is fast moving and always interesting and exciting, and the characters, even the undead ones, are vividly alive. The author can’t write the sequel to this story fast enough for me. The is the best paranormal I have read this year.” 5 STARS from ROMANCE REVIEWS 4 HOOTS from NOCTURNE ROMANCE READS 4 STARS From PARANORMAL ROMANTICS 5 TEACUPS and a RECOMMENDED READ

Forget Me Not – Now Available for $3.99

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Buy it here.

Reader Review on Amazon:

This was a fantastic book. Once I started to read it I had to force myself to put my kindle down. I knew Brad was in on it but the end OMG I did NOT see that coming. The editing could have been done better, but all in all it was an great book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is into romance and even mystery!

Excerpt from Chapter One:

Snow fell lightly, landing in frozen patterns that momentarily decorated the car window before blowing away or melting in a single drop of water that slid down the glass. A young girl bounced in the backset of her family car within the confines of her seatbelt and talked excitedly about the tree they would pick for Christmas that year.

A car sped by, the face of the driver smiling, but it wasn’t a happy smile. It reminded the child of a night she hid on the staircase and watched a movie where an ugly clown wielding a knife smiled upon its victim. She had learned that night not all smiles were friendly.

Through the eyes of the child, Sarah helplessly watched the macabre fragments of the scene unfold before her, as a noise ground out like the roar of an angry animal and a jolt sent the world spinning until the snow became a tornado around the car. Metal twisted as the glass that held the delicate snowflakes shattered and the wind howled through, overshadowed only by the screams of the occupants.

Another roar and the car toppled, end over end, giving the child the impression of being inside of one of the little snow globes that sat upon her bedroom shelf. With a final groan the car fell still and silent.

There was so much blood mingled with the crushed fragments of glass that they shone like rubies. Fog shrouded the outside of the car, leaking its pungent fumes in through the broken windows.

As Sarah drifted above the wreckage, she was consumed with frustration, powerlessness, and grief.

She woke with a scream bubbling in her throat and sat bolt upright as sweat bled down her face like the melted snowflakes of her dream.

 

The Contract I’d Been Waiting For.

I’d written, tweaked, edited, lost sleep over and worked my butt off to get my first book, Nightwalker: A Leah Wolfe SINS Novel, out into the publishing world. I’d been told by a publisher that I would never get a contract on it and I pressed on. It paid off. The offer came. I missed the call.

Seriously, I missed the call. I’d gone away for a long weekend to Vegas and met up with family from another state. It was great. They were fully in support of my writing and wanted to know how book two was coming along. Imagine getting a contract offer in Vegas, surrounded by supportive family and friends. It would have been a hell of a celebration. It was, only we weren’t celebrating my contract.

Once I returned home, I realized I’d missed the call, got the offer and accepted. I was dancing in my desk chair! I was going to be a published author. It was a moment in time that took my breath away. Now the real work would begin. Editing. More on that adventure in my next post. For now, grab a cup of coffee and read a little bit of book three Justified. Beware of the potential spoilers if you haven’t read the others and if you wish to buy it, click on the cover or check out your favorite digital retailer.

Blurb: Things go very wrong, very fast when a federal agent is caught between her vampire lover, the leader of the pack, and a murderer intent on killing those she loves. Is stepping outside the law to stop a killer justified, or will it end her career in SINS?

Excerpt:

Mind if we join you?” The taller one asked. “I’m Zach and this is my brother Conner.”

After a round of nice-to-meet-you’s and a fresh order of drinks, the small talk began. Conner sat next to Tala and Zach dragged his chair closer to me. It wasn’t long into the conversation before I started to realize that neither one of these guys was intelligent enough to lure a puppy out of a cage, let alone a woman out of a bar. Tala looked up and gave me a “how the hell do we get rid of them” look just before I felt Zach’s hand start to slither up my leg, perilously close to my gun. I jumped from my seat, a little too quickly, and stifled it with a fake giggle. God I really sucked at the bar scene.

“Um, Tala. I need to go to the little girls’ room.” Did I just say “little girls’ room”? Somebody, shoot me now.

“Great idea. I’ll go with you.” She started to stand when Conner put a hand on her shoulder and dragged her back down.

“I think we’re getting ditched, Zach. How about you?”

Zach put his hand on my hip and squeezed, hard enough to bruise.

I grabbed his hand just below the fingers and pushed back with my thumbs until he let me go. “I’m not really in the mood to play grab-ass,”

“Oww.” He complained. “Calm down bitch.”

I bent Zach’s wrist back far enough to be painful and just this side of breaking it.

Conner kept a grip on Tala’s upper arm.

“Let go of her or watch me break your brother’s wrist.” I warned.

He released Tala. She stood and scrambled to my side.

“Now I’m going to let go and both of you are going to calmly leave this bar and go home.” I looked at each of them. “Not to another bar, home. Is that understood?”

“Yeah yeah, whatever. Just let go of my hand you freaky bitch.” Zach really needed to learn a little respect.

“Conner?” I asked, pushing Zach’s arm back just a little more.

“Fuck! Tell her okay Conner, she’s breaking my fucking arm!”

“Fine.” Conner said as he stood.

I let go of Zach and he straightened up and pulled his shirt down.

“Bitches!” I heard him growl as him and his brother walked toward the exit.

RLP_ALWS3_Justified

You’ll Never Get That Published.

I wrote Nightwalker: A Leah Wolfe SINS Novel,  just to see if I could, and well, since I’d gone that far, I decided to pursue getting published. There was no agent, no class to help me navigate the world of publishing. It was something new to research and learn. I spent so much time at the post office that I was on a first name basis with almost everyone there. It was time consuming and yes, frustrating. Determination kept me going and that took a serious hit on a trip to a local book festival.

I was so excited! The manuscripts had been printed, the plans had been made. The book festival started out great. There were multiple seminars that covered a wide variety of topics, so many that I had my husband sit in one while I was in another. I strolled through the tables that housed authors, agents and publishers, showing my manuscript to any who would see it. And had the wind knocked out of me. A publisher told me that I would never get it published, that is was paranormal romance and no one was interested in that genre.

It took me all of five minutes to catch my breath. That determination thing spiked. It seemed the best motivation for me to pursue publishing was someone telling me that I couldn’t. I persisted, did more research and continued to send out manuscripts. And I began writing the second book, The Order of Chaos.

I went back to that book festival the very next year, as a published author. My journey will continue in my next post.

While you’re here, take a moment to read about the second book in the SINS Novel Series, The Order of Chaos. But be aware, If you haven’t read Nightwalker: A Leah Wolfe SINS Novel, there may be some spoilers in this blurb and excerpt. You can purchase Chaos by clicking on the book cover of at your favorite digital retailer.

THEORDEROFCHAOS

Blurb:

All Leah Wolfe wants to do is master her ability to speak with the souls of the dead, protect her beloved town, and forget about the two men who betrayed her. But with the leader of the vampire council on his way to town and the threat of Chaos hanging over the heads of everyone she loves, getting what she wants may not be as easy as she thought.

Excerpt:

He turned me around and melted me with a look that skimmed me from the top of my head to the toes of the stiletto heels that I still wore. I started to kick the shoes off but he stopped me. “Leave those on.” His voice grew deeper, sultry.

I did a little spin that would make any runway model proud. He grabbed me and tossed me onto the bed while we laughed. “Yes, definitely keep the shoes on.”

“You owe me.” I reminded him.

He stripped off my jeans and flipped me onto my stomach. He began caressing my neck, my shoulders, then further south; alternating between gentle sweeps of his hands and a firmer kneading motion that sprang Goosebumps from my body. I felt the bra strap come undone before his hands slid to the flimsy piece of elastic of my panties. His fingers trailed them down my legs until he removed them completely. Then those magic fingers began caressing their way up my legs, teasing the tender skin on the back of my knees and inner thighs. I heard the Velcro of my holster tear away and felt the weight of my pistol lift off my waist. “Nightstand.” He murmured knowing that I felt more secure if I knew where my weapons were. Then his mouth blazed molten lava on my thighs and I forgot all about weapons.

 

Why did you start writing?

I’ve asked, ‘What made you start writing? Where do you get your inspiration? Where do find the time?’ Well, I write because I want to, need to. My characters speak to me and the can be quite insistent when it comes to having their say. I began writing Nightwalker: A Leah Wolfe SINS Novel, when my youngest child went to first grade. Writing was always something that I’d wanted to do. I’d even started a story years before Nightwalker was conceived and never finished it.

Life moved on and two kids later, I was back behind the keyboard with an idea and a title. Life still marched on an my first priority was, and still is, being a mother and wife. The cardinal rule to writing is ‘butt in seat, fingers on keyboard’, and I broke that rule on several occasions. It took months of late nights and a very supportive family to finally type “The End”. Then came the second guessing, tweaking, editing and self-doubt that led to part two of the process, getting published. I’ll write more about that in my next post. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy at little bite of Nightwalker: A Leah Wolfe SINS Novel. You can click on the cover for the buy link or find it at you favorite digital retailer.

NIGHTWALKER COVER

 

Blurb:

Leah Wolfe has retired from serious police work in favor of seeking a normal life. Her unique, yet not fully discovered supernatural abilities allow her to speak to the souls of the dead, providing vital information in the search for their killers. Her abilities have also cost her almost everyone she has ever loved including her mother, who abandoned her to fend for herself on the streets, and, most recently, her ex-fiancé Joaquín Wildhorse, Chief Detective of the Native American Reservation Police Department. But when Joaquín’s new lover is found brutally murdered on the reservation, he turns to Leah for help. The hunt for a vicious killer leads Leah to sexy Ian Nightwalker and Leah is unable to walk away from the case that may cost her her most guarded possession of all. Her heart.

 

Excerpt:

Ian took my hand and led me to a glass-enclosed atrium. Stars glittered above me through the glass ceiling and the desert outside was backdropped by the mountain range. A jetted spa that trickled a waterfall into a large swimming pool illuminated the room. Palm trees surrounded the edge of the spa providing privacy. Wow.

“It’s like an oasis in the desert.” I spoke softly so as not to disturb the natural peace in the room. Like talking in a library.

Ian walked over to a large stone bench and sat down. He pulled his shirt over his head revealing his pale skin and muscles hidden beneath. I silently gasped and felt a wave of desire heat my body. Each muscle flexed and tensed as he moved to kick off his boots then pulled his socks over his feet. As he bent and exposed his back I couldn’t help but admire the breadth of his broad shoulders, my eyes following his spine down to his narrowing back and waist. His wavy black hair fell over his face and I was left with a view of his neck. I had the sudden urge to run my tongue along his exposed neckline to his kissable mouth. I wanted to run my hands over the strong shoulders and let them slowly caress a path down his chest and along the expanse of his stomach tracing the trail of soft, dark hair that led from his naval and disappeared under the denim of his jeans. I wanted to feel his hands fist in my hair as I explored his body.

I shook myself out of the thought.

My face blazed red as I saw Ian’s eyes bored into mine, the look of passion on his face that a man gets when knows your interested in more than just conversation.

It’s time!

Sexy men, steamy romances, sexy men, great books, sexy men, fantastic authors, sexy men, free books, sexy men, grand prize Amazon $50 gift card. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, sexy men! Stop on over to The Romance Reviews and get your share! And as always, Happy Reading!

Wait! I almost forgot. Before you go, Follow this page and stay up to date! C’mon, look to the right, a little higher, Yay! Now just click Following Author Rhonda L. Print! Thanks a bunch!

Look for my Q&A on June 12th and enter to win any one of my books.

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