Click on the image for more information.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Author's Resolutions

In 2012, I resolve to:

• give thoughtful comments both on my blog and yours.

• comment when you have a brand new baby author on your blog because I remember when I was new too.

• think before I tweet, FB, or blog angry words. Chances are good I'm getting mad over nothing.

• remind myself that not everyone is meant for overnight success. Some of us need time to saute gently.

• talk less, listen more.

• worry less about status. Cuz really, in a hundred years, who's gonna care if my book was on the NYT list?

• pet my dogs more and growl at my husband less. (Greg will especially like this one.)

Adopting and almost losing Murray kind of brought things into perspective for me. I am insanely competitive, especially with myself, but nearly losing that little guy made me realize how fragile life is. Selling a book is ridiculously insignificant compared to family and health. If I sell, I sell, but I will no longer beat myself up to meet self-imposed deadlines and sales figures. 

From now on, I intend to focus on the things that bring happiness to me and to others. When I die, I want people to remember me for who I was--a good friend who lived every day like it was her last.

Do you think your resolutions have changed over the years?

Murray's Resolution
Try to have only one near-death experience in this life. That last one was a doozy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Sad Christmas

I had planned on a happy post introducing the newest member of our family, but things have not gone well.

A few days ago, we adopted this little guy from a nearby city pound. For reasons I'll explain later, we call him Murray.

As you can imagine, the pound was a horrid place and we took him straight to the vet. Everything was going well until the other night when I noticed he had tired out particularly fast. Soon after, the vomiting and diarrhea started.

We took him to the vet the first thing in the morning and got smacked with our worst fear. He had the Parvo virus.

Many years ago, when I was a vet tech, veterinarians all across the country were being hit with a monster disease no one could identify. Puppies and even adult dogs died in spades, and they died painfully. I was at the clinic at all hours changing out bags of lactated Ringer's (fluids) and helping with blood transfusions. We lost almost everyone. In the meantime, scientists gave us a name for this disease. Canine parvovirus.

Today, with massive fluids, antibiotics and round the clock care, some puppies and dogs can be saved. This is where I am now.

Greg took Tank and Iko back home with him and I am here with Murray, doing my best to keep him alive long enough that he can rebuild his strength and fight off this disease. There is no cure for Parvo. It's just me and him. His odds are 50-50. He's very young and that's a big strike against him. He doesn't yet have a well developed immune system. But I did catch it early and that's a plus.

If Murray can give me 50%, I'll throw in the other 50 and maybe we can beat this thing. All I want for Christmas is a healthy puppy.

If you can find it in your heart, say a prayer for my little guy. We are desperate for a break from his downward spiral. We had an especially bad night yesterday. Murray needs all the prayers and good thoughts he can get.

I am taking off a few days to spend more time with my sick baby. I'll be back 12-31-11. Take care, everyone.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winners for the DIY Christmas Blogfest

We had an amazing turnout for our first Do It Yourself Christmas. Here are the winners for all the contests we had throughout the past two weeks.

Winners, please contact me here verifying your email address and I will forward it to the appropriate Santa-author.

Without further ado, congrats to:

Nadja Notariani,  E-book, Wednesday, 12-7 
WINNER:  Kaye Manro 

KS Augustin, E-book, Friday, 12-9 
WINNER: Romance Reader 

Raelyn Barclay: Custom Cards, Monday, 12-12 
WINNERS:  Southpaw and Angela Brown 

Marianne Arkins, Earrings, Wednesday 12-14 
WINNER:  (Ellie) Dead Herring 

Clarissa Draper, $5 gift card  Thursday, 12-15 
WINNER:  LG Smith 

Shelley Munro, E-book, Friday, 12-16 
WINNER:  lisagkendall

Cathy Pegau, E-book,  Monday, 12-19
WINNER: Madeleine

Angela Brown, Two E-book winners,  Tuesday, 12-20

Congratulations to the winners and a special thank you to the amazing people who shared their Christmas DIY projects.

I didn't know what to expect when I invited these folks. My only criteria was that the projects be from all over the world and that it'd be something anyone at home could do. Little did I realize what they would turn in.

From cakes to cards to decorated jars. We had it all and then some. If you missed anything, check out all the projects here.

Update: One more post tomorrow.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sarah Ahiers' Jars

If you're expecting company and need decorations fast, you must try this one.

I was so excited when Sarah Ahiers agreed to be a guest on my blog. I love her crafty posts and her baking posts look so good you wished you had smellavision on the internet.

Take a look at how EASY and fast you can make decorations with what you have around the house. Sarah is a genius!

Sarah's Jars

I'm not even going to lie. I love jars.

For reals.

Jars are awesome. You can put so much stuff in them, both for storage and for decorations, and they look so cool. Kind of an old-school country feel.

Seriously, mason jars are some of the easiest things to craft with. And one of the best things about mason jars are, they're pretty affordable. You can get them at any grocery store usually for about $10 for a dozen or more, depending on size.

Right now, I've been using some smaller ones.

just so cute!
I like to fill them with fun things, depending on the season, and then throw a candle on top. We hosted a baby shower a few weeks ago and I got more than a few compliments on this arrangement. And it was super easy and cheap (see the bottom of the post for a few other ideas of what to put in your jars).

For winter time, I like things that smell nice. Now, I don't drink coffee, but I love the smell of coffee beans. I really, really wished coffee tasted liked the beans smelled. But alas.

Anyway, an easy solution to my "no reason to have coffee beans in the house since no one drinks it" conundrum is to make coffee bean accent jars.

So, take an empty jar. Or two, or three. I use four at a time, since I have a ledge between my kitchen and living room that is really suited to four mason jars and my terrarium.

Pick out a flavor of coffee bean you like. I chose almond vanilla, since the candles I'll be using are vanilla scented.

smells sooooo good

Then fill your jar to the max.

Next, add your tea light. You don't have to use scented tea lights, if you don't want. I'm just using them because they're what I had lying around

The best thing about this arrangement is, once you light the candle, it will heat the coffee beans and fill the room with the scent of the beans. MMMMMM.

When you're done using the mason jar for the season, just ditch the candle (or save for use in another craft or project) and close up with the lid that came with the mason jar.

This makes for super easy storage and you don't have to worry about the jar spilling accidentally.

You can pretty much put anything you want in mason jars. For autumn, I used pine cones and potpourri pumpkins.

these were the ones that garnered me the compliments at the party

And for Christmas decorations, I'm using cranberries, floating tea lights, water and a few sprigs of a silver leaf I picked up at Michael's.

I also reproduced this on a larger scale, for a center piece, and added dogwood branches sticking out of the middle

You could use acorns or berries or the fuzzy parts of pussy willows. Anything really. And if you buy the jars in bulk, you can just store them as is and take them out with the change in season or holiday (assuming you're not using fresh fruits or something else that would rot)

If you're feeling extra adventurous, you could check out Specialty Bottles, for tons of different jars or bottles available for purchase.

What are you waiting for? Go have fun with your jars!

Sarah Ahiers blogs about writing (mostly) MWF over at Falen Formulates Fiction. She often procrastinates from writing or cleaning by crafting, crocheting or hanging out with her dogs.

NOTE: This is the LAST day to comment on any of our past DIY projects. To view all of them, go here.  

Winners will be posted tomorrow! Good luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DIY Coffee Cake with Linda Masterson

Oh my gosh. I had no idea cake from scratch could be this EASY. I had to lean on Linda to give me this recipe, but she finally conceded to my charm. :wink:

Please welcome Linda Masterson, and check out this cake. I have all these ingredients in stock and plan to make this tonight.


Thanks, Maria, for letting me be part of your DIY Christmas.

Unlike many of the recipes I’ve gathered over the years, I remember exactly where this one came from.  It was 1969.  Hubby and I were traveling from Ohio to Boston and stopped for the night with friends in Rochester.  She served this cake at breakfast and called it “coffee cake”.  I’m not a coffee drinker but I was crazy about the cake and managed to get her recipe.  Over the years, it has become such a favorite in our family my boys request it for their birthdays instead of the traditional frosted variety.  

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake


½ soft butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking power
1tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla


1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

You need a form pan, i.e. an angle food cake pan, well greased.

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add eggs and blend till smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add gradually and mix well.  Batter will be quite thick. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Mix topping ingredients together.

Put 1/3 of the topping in the pan.  Cover with 1/3 of the batter.  The batter is thick so you have to spread it out.  Repeat with the next third of each and so on.  Then swirl a knife through the batter to distribute the topping until well mixed.

Bake at 350° for 50 minutes.  Cool at least ½ hour before removing from pan.

Fair warning: serve yourself a smaller piece than you think you want.  It’s pretty rich.  And you can always go back for seconds.


Transplanted from Boston as a child – and still a diehard Red Sox fan – Linda has lived on both coasts, prefers the northeast, but will probably stay forever in Ohio because that’s where her four grandkids are.

After twenty years with the American Red Cross, she has moved to a full time pursuit of the dream of being published.  Linda writes mysteries/suspense, sometimes with a bit of paranormal, and always with enough romance to make it fun.  You can catch her on her blog, and her website.    

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here. Be sure to go back and leave a comment because there are goodies up for grabs all throughout the blogfest. All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DIY Christmas with Your Kids by Angela Brown

I met Angela years ago at a writing conference and we've been friends ever since. She moved away. I moved away. She moved back. I moved further away. But the internet keeps us in touch.

I had no idea what Angela would come up with for a DIY Christmas post, but I love her blog and I knew she would undoubtedly call upon her secret weapon. Chipmunk (aka, Danielle). I was not disappointed. Please welcome, Angela!

 Hanging with a Chipmunk

 Not this chipmunk:

Nor these chipmunks:

I’m talking about my chipmunk (aka, my darling, Danielle). 

She’s something that’s irreplaceable, just like the time I sometimes lose getting caught up in my personal projects.

This Christmas, I decided to do something a little different.  You see that ornament chipmunk is holding?  It’s a simple little thing really, made by removing the aluminum top, filling the glass ornament ball with cotton ball sized, red and silver frillies then adding red ribbon with snowflakes.

But what I love most of all is her smile.

So how did we go about making that smile?  It started with supplies from Hobby Lobby.  I adore that store.  From fabrics to crafts supplies to knick-knacks, Hobby Lobby has it all.  At the time I went shopping, I got what I needed at 50% off.  Yeah, call me spend-happy :o)

Glass ornaments, glitter, glue, red and silver frillies, and bling.  As you can see from the picture below, the glitter was a hit.

Chipmunk was able to produce these wonderful, personalized ornaments with minimal assistance. 

First, I covered the entire circumference of the glass ornament with Beacons’ ornament glue.  Next, I handed over the glitter and let her have a blast combining silver and snowflake white glitter.  That’s the one already completed.  She combined silver with green and red glitter for the ornament she’s working on in the picture.

It got messy, which is why I gave the junk mail new life.  It really made clean up as easy as 1 – 2 – 3.  But the mess was worth seeing this grin: 

Personalizing our own ornaments was great.  Having fun and spending time together…that’s more precious than anything.   Okay, I’m going to stop now before I start a tear-storm.  I suppose I can’t emphasize enough the joy I derived from hanging with chipmunk.

I recently did a post where I posed this question: What does this holiday season mean to you? From the comments, I could see that family time was and is at the top of the list.  But even I enjoy a little gift giving.  So I’d like to share two Kindle stories with two lucky winners chosen at random.  And yes, that means both winners will receive both titles.

Bah, Humbug! (a romantic comedy novella ) by Heather Horrocks and Christmas in Hell by Virginia Jewel.  The titles aren’t the typical merry, jolly, everything’s perfect sort of stories.  Honestly, the holidays can be that way.  So here’s your chance to get a few things off your chest.  Have you had an interesting Christmas mayhem moment?  You know, something like great Uncle Joe sipping one too many cups of spiked eggnog and showing the true meaning of full moon.  Or perhaps something less damaging to your eyes.  Even if it’s just your cat playing tag with your ornaments, this is your outlet.

Comment away.  That’s how the winners will be chosen.

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here. All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Salmon Pasta with Cathy Pegau

If today's post doesn't put you in the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will. We are headed for ALASKA!

Please welcome Cathy Pegau from the great snowy lands of the north. She is featuring a very Alaskan food that all of us should have in our pantry.

When Maria asked for an Alaskan recipe, my first offer of moose roast or stuffed moose heart was met with a bit of hesitation (not easy in an email, but Maria is an amazing writer of these as well). Not everyone, she reminded me, had moose on hand. Fair enough. So what recipe would have easily found ingredients yet an Alaskan flair?

Smoked salmon!

Living where we do, we eat a lot of salmon. A lot. It’s our main protein source, which is great for our Omega-3 fatty acid levels, but requires some imagination when it comes to varying recipes.

Salmon pasta is one of our favorites. It is, perhaps, the easiest and fastest homemade pasta dish this side of opening a jar of marinara sauce. And it definitely tastes better. We make it when we’ve forgotten to take something out of the freezer, or when DH calls on hot dog and baked beans night to tell me he’s bringing a few folks home for dinner. It’s great for those busy holiday nights when you’ve been out shopping, or if you’re looking for a dish to bring to a party.

While I realize not everyone has a couple of shelves of jarred smoked salmon in their pantry as well as pounds of it in the freezer, I’m sure it’s an ingredient most everyone can find in their nearest grocery store. Granted, I’m partial to our home smoked variety, but commercial works quite well.

Smoked Salmon Pasta
8 ounces smoked salmon
2 cloves garlic, minced
Enough extra virgin olive oil to cover salmon, approx. ½ to 1 cup
1-2 tsp. dried basil
1-2 tsp. dried oregano
1-2 tsp. dried parsley
A couple dashes of hot sauce, if desired
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan or Parm/Romano grated cheese PLUS some for sprinkling on top
¼ cup Italian style bread crumbs
Box of pasta of your choice (enough to serve 4)

While water is heating for pasta, put salmon, garlic, olive oil, herbs, hot sauce, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Break up large chunks of salmon. Heat on medium to medium-low, stirring occasionally. Taste, adjust seasoning. You can add a bit more oil if you prefer a looser consistency, or some white wine. Once it starts to bubble, lower the heat or turn it off altogether. Cook pasta as directed. Drain. Toss pasta with Parmesan and bread crumbs. Toss again with salmon mixture. Sprinkle on more cheese. Serve with crusty bread and green salad.

The salmon mix is also great on crackers.

Let me know if you give this a try. And be sure to tell your dinner companions you got the recipe from a real Alaskan. Only you and I need to know I’m an Alaskan by way of New York ; ) 

What’s your favorite fast, easy and delish dish?

Cathy Pegau is the author of Rulebreaker, a science fiction romance out from Carina Press. Buy it here: Carina  Amazon  B&N 

Cathy is also giving away Rulebreaker and a can of Alaskan salmon (if postal regulations allow) to one commenter. So comment away, then pop over to her blog and follow her there.

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here. All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.

Friday, December 16, 2011

DIY Bath Salts with Shelley Munro

Today, we're visiting New Zealand with Shelley Munro.

When Shelley came up with this idea for bath salts I knew it was perfect. It's homemade. It's inexpensive. And it's from the heart. Your friends and family will love it.

I am definitely doing this one.

Hello everyone, and thanks to Maria for inviting me to take part in her 12 Days of Christmas celebration. I feel very honored!

Imagine relaxing in a warm bath with the waft of lavender soothing your cares away. Read on, because this could be you…

Lavender Bath Salts

3 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon citric acid
Sprigs of fresh lavender or dried lavender if you have it
8 drops of lavender essential oil


1. Pick a handful of lavender flowers (or borrow or steal from the neighbor). Leave a bit of the stalk on the flower. Dry the lavender flowers. I put them in a sunny place in the kitchen for 2 days. You can also put them in the oven when it’s cooling down after cooking the evening meal. The flowers should be dry and almost crunchy in texture.

2. Mix the baking soda and citric acid together in a clean, dry bowl. If the baking soda is lumpy, put it through a sieve.

3. Add the dried lavender flowers to the bowl, roughly crumbling the flowers into small pieces.

4. Add 8 drops of lavender essential oil and mix well.

5. Keep in an airtight jar and sprinkle in your bath before you jump in and relax.

Lavender Bath Bomb
1. Use the same ingredients above plus 1 teaspoon of almond oil. If you don’t have almond oil use some oil out of the pantry. Olive etc is fine. Mix well.

2. Push the mix into a mold and compact with a spoon. Allow to dry for about an hour.

3. Run a bath and add the bath bomb. Relax and enjoy!

1. This is a good recipe for kids to help with since it teaches them about botany and chemistry and they get clean too.

2. Great for gifts. Place in airtight jar and decorate with ribbon to make it look pretty. 

3. I used poached egg molds to make my bombs. A cookie cutter would work too.

4. Make sure your work area is totally dry since the introduction of any water will make your mix fizz when it shouldn’t!

5. The recipe will make one bath bomb.

6. Here’s a link for chocolate bath salts if lavender doesn’t do it for you.

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a very naughty puppy. She writes romance for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing and romantic mysteries for Carina Press. To learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website Christmas is Coming is her latest release—a saucy little romance about sex toys and Christmas.

CONTEST: I’d like to give away an ebook download from my backlist to one reader. To enter – give me the name of one new-to-you author who you’ve read this year as well as the title of their book. I like to add to my reading pile. 

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here. Be sure to leave a comment because there are goodies involved all throughout the blogfest. All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pozole with Clarissa Draper

 Oh, boy. This brings back memories. Pozole is a traditional Mexican dish. Great for chilly winter nights.  

I have to admit, I used to eat around the hominy. LOL. 

Thanks, Clarissa, for letting me reminisce. The picture alone made my mouth water.

Mexican Pozole 


  • Pork shoulder or roast -- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (If you are short on time, just make with pork already cubed)
  • Canned or fresh hominy, rinsed -- 2 to 3 cups
  • Garlic -- 3 to 5 cloves
  • Ground cumin -- 2 teaspoons
  • Salt -- 2 teaspoons
  • Water or stock -- 6 cups
Salsa for soup
  • 2-3 Chili's Ancho (dried)
  • Garlic
  • Broth from soup
  • Pinch of salt
  • Iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • Avocado, diced
  • Onion, finely diced
  • Radishes, thinly sliced into strips
  • Key Limes (Limon), cut into wedges
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Tortilla Chips (Totopos), broken apart
  • JalapeƱo, diced (don't add if you don't like spicy food)

How To Make

  1. Add the pork, hominy, garlic, cumin, salt and stock or water to a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender.
  2. Remove the pot from heat. Take the pork from pot and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from its bones and shred it with your hands.
  3. Add the meat back to the pot and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. While the meat is simmering, make the salsa for the soup. Bowl Ancho Chilis for ten to fifteen minutes until soft. Place garlic, a bit of broth, salt and the Chilis into a blender and blend into salsa. 
  5. Serve soup with garnish. Makes a lovely meal on a cold day.
Do yourself a favor and visit Clarissa on her blog. She's always got something good to say.

CONTEST: Leave a comment for a chance to win a $5 gift card from Amazon.

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here. Be sure to leave a comment because there are goodies involved. All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jewelry Basics with Marianne Arkins

Fellow dog lover and gardener, Marianne Arkins is a long time friend. I read her blog faithfully and I'm always amazed at how much she can get done in a day. Her pre-teen daughter is a chip off the old block and started her own jewelry business. How cool is that?

Today, Marianne and DD will take you step by step to create a simple set of earrings. But wait--there's more! One lucky commenter will win the earrings. That's for those of you whose hands hurt just thinking about twisting teeny-tiny wire. Take a look and comment!

Making a simple set of Holiday Earrings

Making this pair of earrings is pretty easy and they look so pretty!

1.  Start with your basic supplies.  We used Swarovski crystal beads in red and green, goldtone head pins, gold tone wires, and goldtone spacers.  The only tool we needed for this were round-nosed pliers (a must have in any jewelry making toolbox).

2.  Thread your beads and spacers onto the headpin in whatever order you desire.

3.  Using the round-nosed pliers, make your loop.  This is actually the hardest part of this creation – I still can’t manage a decent looking loop, while my daughter is a pro at making them!

4.  Slip them onto your earring wires – these wires are super simple to use because you don’t have to leave the loop on the headpin open to put them on.  They simply slide over the top of the “S” and you gently squeeze it shut using your fingers.  Be careful using tools on the findings, as they can scar the metal if you aren’t careful.

5.  Here’s the completed pair – ready for a night out at the company Christmas party, or just hanging out with you while you finish your shopping.

The finished product

*Any questions? Comments? Thoughts?  We’ll be giving this pair of earrings away to one commenter so let us know what you think.

And if you’re looking for great gifts, a little bling or more, check out our store.

Marianne is originally from California but currently living in much colder New Hampshire with her husband, daughter, dog and cat, as well as a few hundred wild birds, chipmunks and a backyard bear that keeps trying to grab the feeders. She can’t imagine a world without romance or not having stories rattling around in her brain, and she uses comedy to get her through the obscenely long winter.

To learn more about Marianne Arkins please visit or her blog

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baking with Mike Keyton

When it comes to cooking, Mike Keyton is another person I'd likely kidnap and chain to my kitchen. This could be why the best cooks never visit me.

PS...Note the temps, spelling, and weird words like treacle. Mike is British, but I don't hold that against him. :grin:

Take it away, Mike.

Early Christians would be bemused  by what we eat to celebrate Christ's birth. No doubt there'd be conferences to ensure the Turkey was not an heretical bird. A medieval lord would be equally cautious in forsaking his pork or beef for such a strange looking creature. A global culture encourages uniformity, it also allows diversity and the chance to free ourselves from the shackles of Christmas Cake and the ubiquitous mince pie.

This Christmas go Caribbean. Below are two recipes: Jamaica Ginger Cake, followed by a fat free and protein rich cake I pinched from a West Indian cook.

Recipe and Method

7 oz Brazil nuts - cut in half             4 Figs - chopped 
6 oz Walnuts - ditto                       3 oz raisins 
3 oz almonds                                 6 oz half glace cherries 
4 dates - chopped                         3 oz mixed peel

Mix the above together and stir in to the batter below:

3 oz sifted flour 
3 oz brown sugar
3 eggs

A squeeze of lemon (alternatively rum) pinch of salt, tsp of baking powder, vanilla essence.

Place in greased-proof paper lined tin and cook for 2 and a half hours at 300 degrees F.

The result is a very nutty cake. Not good for dentures.
Jamaican Ginger Cake Recipe
This combines richness and pungency and is dead easy to make. Done right you will have a dark brown cake with a slightly gooey gingery centre that solidifies when cold. (The original recipe used lard instead of butter and had a little less ginger but this works for me)

2 oz butter                             4 oz black treacle
6 oz of molasses sugar             2 oz golden syrup
2 beaten eggs                        1 tbs of dark rum
8 oz of self raising flour            2 oz sultannas
3-4 tsp of ginger                     3 pieces of stem ginger in syrup. 

Place butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in pan and warm until the fat has melted and the mixture is soft.

When cooled a little beat in eggs and fold in all the remaining ingredients, slicing the stem ginger before hand.

Pour the mix into a lined and greased 2lb loaf tin.

Bake 180 degrees (Celsius) for aproximately 40 minutes.

Okay, now the cake is done, and between now and Christmas you'll be gorging yourself silly. But for me, coming up is the real treat of the season, best sampled in the early hours of Boxing Day or the day after that: Toast and dripping.

I'm talking about the post-roast meat jelly, which most cooks urge you to use in your gravy. Well, put some aside.

Toast a thick slice of bread and spread the jellified meat juice* on to it. Puncture the toast whilst it's hot so the melted juice sinks through, and then sprinkle with salt. 

Eat immediately - preferrably early in the morning, outdoors and beneath a grey, shreddy sky. Lancashire weather.

Contemplate the year's end and the year yet to come and enjoy the simplicity of hot toast and dripping.

* If you're feeling a little bit sinful you can use some of the fat. That's the white stuff that does all manner of bad things but which, like sin and Blue Stilton is good in small doses.

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here. All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.

I'm an adventurous eater, but not a particularly adventurous cook. Are you?  

This is why I kidnap good cooks and bakers. (Don't worry. I eventually let them go.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

DIY Christmas Cards with Raelyn Barclay

When I asked around for crafty people I had no idea someone would pitch something like DIY Christmas Cards. Raelyn blew me away when she sent me the pictures. But when you read her instructions, you can see how easy they are.

Give it a try. It would be a great project to do with the kids too. Make a card and make a memory. Please welcome, Raelyn!

Going Green with Your Greeting Cards

Hello! My name is Raelyn Barclay and I'm delighted to have been asked to contribute to Maria's DIY 12 Days of Christmas. I've been scrapbooking since oldest wee beastie was about 18 months (he's 13 now) and, in the last four years, using that love of paper crafts for cards. With everyone's budgets tight, a hand crafted card shows you're thinking of the person without breaking the bank. And recycling everyday items into card embellishments saves dollars and the planet at the same time.

Does anyone recognize the tree on this card?
The items you can use on a greeting card are limited only by your imagination. I've used the plastic cover off a store bought cake and cut into clear embellishments. How about the tag off clothing? Some of the children's ones are adorable.

Do you save cards you've received? Put away the sentimental ones and repurpose the rest. Cut out all or part of the front to use as individual embellishments. Save the greeting, mat it, and put inside your creation.

If you have children in school, you could even use their artwork. The wee beasties' grandmothers still have the Mother's Day cards made from a finger-painting. That scrap of lace, ribbon, cloth too small for a sawing project...prefect additions to a card.

Minimum supplies needed:

Adhesive (I prefer glue dots or photo mounts but really any dry adhesive will work)

Scissors (and if you're cutting plastic you'll want an xacto knife)

For ease, I buy the card/envelope blanks you can pick up in the craft section of most verity stores (usually 100 for under $3 in my area). Though you can also make your own cards by cutting 8 1/2 by 11 cardstock in half and folding, then pick up the invitation sized envelops at any office supply store.

The blue stared squares on the Thank You card are from the front of an old card.

For mass production, I recommend finding a sketch, or two, to follow/copy. This is as easy as Google search for "card sketch" and is an encouraged practice, called "scraplifting," so don't fear a copyright infringement unless you're planning to sale the finished card. You'll find entire blogs dedicated to card sketches.

Gather your embellishments, a sheet or two of themed scrapbook paper conducive to the cards you plan to make (or go green and reuse some wrapping paper).

To assemble, I recommend cutting a piece of paper slightly smaller than your card blank (leaving 1/8 to 1/4 inch border) and building forward, that way ribbon type (see Tree Card picture for example) items can be wrapped around the back of the paper which will then be sealed onto the card blank. And before you adhere anything, lay your design out. It's a lot like that old adage, "measure twice and cut once."

How you decorate is up to you. I'm firmly in the KISS group. Also if you plan to mail your finished cards you'll want to stay on the flat side like the 3 Square Card above. Something like the Tree Card above will cost extra to mail because of the bulk. 

For a chance to win one of these sets of four cards, tell me, what is your craft of choice? 

Bio: Raelyn Barclay is an aspiring romance author who believes anything is possible in love and everyone needs a happily-ever-after.  By day she tries to keep up with four sonic whirlwinds and dreams of a clean bathroom in heaven.  In the wee hours of the morning and in the quiet of the night Raelyn hones her craft with an eye on seeing her name in print.  She, her husband, and the wee numpties live in Nevada where scorpion hunting is a sport.

Raelyn is an avid reader able to gobble up 100,000 words in a single sitting.  She’s been known to hoard books and is often distracted by libraries, bookstores, and even the book aisle in the grocery store where more than one innocent tub of ice cream has met a watery death.

When she’s not chasing the wee beasties or chained to her computer, Raelyn stretches her creativity with cross-stitching, knitting, and scrapbooking.

You can follow me on my blog, on Twitter, and/or on Facebook.

Just wow! Leave a comment for a chance to win one of two sets of cards. Aren't they beautiful? They look just like the cards I've seen in fancy specialty shops. 

When you finish here, be sure to follow Raelyn back to her blog. She's such an interesting blogger and talks about a wide array of topics. I never miss her posts.

NOTE: For other DIY Christmas posts, go here. Be sure to leave a comment because there are goodies involved almost everyday. All contests for the DIY posts end 12-22-11, so you can comment on any previous post.