Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Peek at My Fall Decor and Crocheted Scarf & Hat

Happy Harvest & Halloween!

I know Thanksgiving and Halloween haven't arrived yet, but I love the autumn season so much that fall decorating around my house begins as early as the fall equinox. I simply can't resist. It's also an ongoing process. It all begins with my stored decorations, but I always add to my collection when I see all the fall decor in stores. I do, however, typically wait until things go on sale (which is pretty early since Christmas hits shelves by early October...which seems crazy)...plus I always grab an online coupon to make my finds extra fabulous ;).

First off, I love to crochet when the cool weather hits. I'm not perfect at it and I'm not a pro, but I find it fun and relaxing. I've been wanting a super soft, fall colored, casual scarf and hat and, when I was in Joann's Fabrics recently, I found the perfect yarn. In fact, it's even called 'Harvest'! It's by Lion Brand Yarns (#377 for those who like to crochet or knit). I also added a rim to the hat using Lion Brand 'Herb Garden' (#410). I'm sorry that I don't have a specific pattern to use because I kind of wing it when I crochet. I can tell you that I mainly used a shell pattern with some single and double stitches in between...and a 6mm hook. I wanted it to have a loose pattern. Here's what I came up with (that's my totally Halloweenish black cat Nimbus inspecting my work in the first pic and his brother Storm peeking down from the upper corner in the second):

Rula's crochet handiwork
Another shot of Rula's crocheted hat and scarf


I also love owls and manage to include them in my decor year round. I have some that I only pull out for fall and others that transition through all seasons. I won't show pics of  all of them, but here are a few I incorporated into my fall decor:

Owl over Rula's fireplace. This one can hold a votive candle.

A recent owl 'bargain' I found, plus fall leaves from my backyard
By the way, I tend to include fall leaves around my home and they were all found on my property then dried/pressed by me. Free decor!

This very heavy owl is always in my kitchen. The mini pumpkins on top of votive candle holders are a substitute for real flames. No fire hazard here!
I seriously love pumpkins too! Talk about multipurpose decorating and getting your money's worth. They go from fall decor to jack-o-lanterns to roasted seeds and pie...and even chicken food! I especially like the white ghost pumpkins. So cool!

Pumpkins at Rula's front door
Pumpkins stacked on a planter at Rula's front door. Quick and easy decor.
Ooooh and then there's Halloween. 

Rula's butternut squash witch

A recent find on sale!
And a bit of spook. My teen son made the vials by filling them with water and food coloring and adding labels like 'Dragon's Blood', 'Basilisk Venom' and 'Mermaid Essence'. Can't have Halloween without some Harry Potter references!
I'm not done decorating and these are just a few of the things I've set out, but the season is young! :) Feel free to pop by this Pinterest board where some of the other Harlequin Heartwarming authors are posting fall/Thanksgiving ideas too!

What's your favorite fall decorating item or theme?

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Heartwarming Thanksgiving & Sweepstakes!

Happy October!! This is my absolute favorite month of the year. I'm a total autumn addict and can't get enough of fall colors, pumpkins and apple everything.

Now, I promised that I'd fill you in on some great news...

First off, Through the Storm was the final book on my first contract with Harlequin, BUT I recently signed a new SIX book contract with them. Yay!!!! The next three books will continue as part of my From Kenya, With Love series :) and the three after that will be part of another series...something a bit different but still Harlequin Heartwarming. I'm so excited about these next books!

Secondly, remember how After the Silence was honored as a Maggie Award Finalist? Well, this summer I found out that it is also an Aspen Gold contest finalist!! I'm so grateful and humbled!


Finally (for now ;)), what better way to usher in fall than with Thanksgiving themed stories and a huge GIVING THANKS SWEEPSTAKES (scroll down for details)? It might be awhile before my next Kenya book releases, but in the meantime, my connected short story, The Sweetheart Tree, is part of a 13 story Thanksgiving anthology releasing (along with scrumptious recipes...like my butternut squash cheesecake) November 1, 2016! A Heartwarming Thanksgiving is up for pre-order now! These stories were out for a limited time last year, but now they're back so you can have the keepsake collection to enjoy every year as a fall tradition.


"Count down to Thanksgiving with one of our 13 poignant Harlequin Heartwarming short stories. This is a time to get together with family and friends, and reconnect over pumpkin pie and hot apple cider…or read about the stories where heroes and heroines struggle to get their dream holiday!"

Snow Day Baby by Amy Vastine
Wedding at Turkey Run by Liz Flaherty
Her Thanksgiving Soldier by Leigh Riker
Mr. Right All Along by Jennifer Snow
Falling for the Cowboy by Sophia Sasson
The Marriage Gift by Tara Taylor Quinn
Heart of a Hero by Pamela Tracy
Thankful for You by Karen Rock
Autumn at Jasper Lake by Carol Ross
The Firefighter’s Promise by Kate James
Wedding of His Dreams by Cari Lynn Webb
The Sweetheart Tree by Rula Sinara
Married by Thanksgiving by Melinda Curtis

Amazon 
BN
Harlequin

including...



The initials were still there, carved in their tree…
Environmental activist Serena Myss thrives on difficult situations, so tying herself to a tree in her hometown to protect a wildlife habitat should be a no-brainer. Except she hasn't been back in five years—not since her brother died. Not since Austin, the man she loved, failed to save him. It's not just any tree, either. Serena and Austin carved their initials in its trunk and shared their first kiss under its canopy. But Serena's not one to let her emotions get in the way of a cause. Even if seeing Austin brings up all the pain she's tried to escape…and new feelings she can't ignore.


AND YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS SWEEPSTAKES!



We are giving away a grand prize consisting of a $70 Amazon gift card and one previously-released, signed book from each of the anthology's 13 authors (approximate value of US $150). We are also offering three second-place prizes of $10 Amazon gift cards.
Check out this post for all the details and a link to enter: http://heartwarmingauthors.blogspot.com/2016/10/were-giving-thanks-sweepstakes.html

And there's more!

We're also hosting a FACEBOOK PARTY scheduled for November 3rd, 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern Time. All thirteen authors will be participating, sharing stories, recipes and more. And, of course, there will be lots of giveaways! Let us know if you're coming HERE.

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot. Remember last year's USA Today and Nationally Bestselling A Heartwarming Christmas anthology? The one that includes my story, The Gingerbird House? It's on sale for a limited time for only 99cents on Amazon!! And though I don't have a story in it this year, you can revisit Christmas Town, Maine and many of the same authors in A Heartwarming Holiday!

See? Isn't fall the best time of year? :)

Now, I'm off to buy more pumpkins and mum. You can't have enough pumpkins and it's hard to choose between all the cool colors and shapes. Plus, at the end of the season, my kids can do some fun pumpkin smashing so our chickens can have a feast :).

Monday, August 29, 2016

RWA 2016 National Pics Part 2

Wow! August is almost over and only now am I getting the second set of RWA pics I promised posted! I've been a little MIA online because of so much happening this month, but I'll save all that for my next post. In the meantime, here are a few more pics from RWA Nationals this past July. This time I'm focusing on some of the goodies we get at Nationals :).

First, everyone has to wear a lanyard/badge at the meeting and it's tradition (for those who wish) to put meeting pins (we get them annually) and any award pins on our badge. Here's mine from this year:


In my last post, I shared photos from the famous Harlequin Party. Remember the close up of me with my awesome girlfriends Jeannie Watt and Jamie Steinman? Well, let's zoom out so you can see the wonderful booties Harlequin provides at the party for more comfortable dancing. Every year they're a different color and this year they were...



I collect my soft Harlequin booties and use them every winter to keep my feet warm while typing away at a book. I love them!

In fact, green seemed to be the theme this year, which coincidentally happens to be the color for Harlequin Heartwarming. This year, instead of giving us pre-stuffed goodie bags, RWA set up a room where meeting attendees could walk through and stuff their own bags (separate from the 'Goody Room' where authors put promo/giveaway items). The totes this year were sponsored by Harlequin.


and the flip side...


The Harlequin Heartwarming authors were also giving away totes at RWA and they kept with the green theme...even if the shade was a bit different.


Here are a few of the items that were in the RWA tote room, including a selfie stick, fruit juice/water bottle (it has an inner core you can put chunks of fruit in to flavor water) and a pool/beach towel. There was so much more, including tons of books.


Oh and you have to love Harlequin for the book marks they provided at the Harlequin Book Signing (I think I may be missing one but I can't recall what it was!)...



Here are a few pics of San Diego views:

USS Midway


I wish I had pics of everything I got, but suffice it to say my suitcases were full on the trip home. And even with all the goodies we got, the best gifts I brought home with me were the memories of time spent with friends and tons of inspiration.

I'll leave you with a wall plate I won at a Harlequin gathering at RWA Nationals a few years ago. It has been hanging in my office ever since.



And a door knob sign courtesy of brilliant author Kristan Higgins at this year's RWA. It's hanging on my office door and my kids are getting a kick out of it. I hope it works!


I'll be posting again soon because I have news! :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RWA 2016 Nationals Pics Part 1

I'm back from RWA (Romance Writers of America) Nationals in San Diego where the weather was absolutely spectacular! It was heavenly and the entire meeting was infused with a more relaxed California vibe. Loved it!

The best part about Nationals, for me, is getting to see everyone in person. I always look forward to reconnecting with my dear friends and RWA roomies, Jeannie Watt and Jamie Steinman. They're my rocks and I can't imagine RWA without them. For those of you who are new to my blog (or to my writerly history), Jeannie is the incredible western romance author who befriended and mentored me years ago...and wouldn't let me leave a Harlequin Heartwarming open house (where, at the time, Senior Editor Victoria Curran was taking pitches) until I pitched an idea. That pitch turned into my first sale and debut, The Promise of Rain. You can re-read the details of that Call story here.

I absolutely loved getting to see all of my other friends, including the lovable and unstoppable Harlequin Heartwarming crowd (I like to call them the Heartwarmers). This is an amazing group of women who are like one big family. This year was extra special because I finally got to meet Heartwarmer Catherine Lanigan in person. Catherine and I have been Heartwarming blog sisters forever now and we clicked from day one. She's simply a gorgeous, genuine and an all around phenomenal woman who I'm honored to know. Getting to meet and spend time with her in San Diego was the highlight of this trip.

In fact, Catherine and I were thrilled that our awesome Heartwarming sis Kate James made it to Nationals! We had a wonderful time hanging out and catching up :).

I'm afraid to leave anyone out, so forgive me if you don't see your name or pic here! I saw soooo many wonderful people that it's impossible to name them all. If I forget to mention you, know that I still love you and loved seeing you. I'm running out of hours today so I'm just going to post the pics I have. Enjoy!
I autographed books at the Harlequin Book Signing with Catherine Lanigan. Note the photograph of her with actress Kathleen Turner on the set of Romancing the Stone. Catherine wrote the novelizations (as Joan Wilder) of both Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. 
Rula and Catherine Lanigan at the Harlequin Signing
Anna J Stewart, myself and Catherine Lanigan at the Harlequin signing. 
At the RWA Literacy Autographing
My set up for the RWA Literacy Autographing. I was giving away canvas totes with the book cover on them and matching bookmarks.  It was an honor to be signing among a group of big name, incredible authors. And great news! This year, RWA succeeded in hitting the million dollar mark for funds they've raised for literacy!! 
And pics from the famous Harlequin Party...

My besties Jamie Steinman and Jeannie Watt 
Me and Jamie
Jeannie Watt, me and Cheryl Harper
Kate James, Elizabeth Heiter and me
Me and the lovely Roz Denny Fox
Roz Denny Fox, Kate James and Catherine Lanigan
The ever fun loving Carol Ross, Anna J Stewart and Cari Webb

Marion Ekholm, Amy Vastine and me
 
Me and girlfriends Catherine Lanigan and Kate James

Kate and Catherine
The sweet Cheryl Harper and me
And at the RITA/Golden Heart ceremony...

Kristan Higgins
 


Robyn Carr accepting her award

And just to show you how much fun the Harlequin party is. I present you with the Heartwarmers.
There were more pics and a repeat of a selfie from two years ago for old times sake, but I need to hunt them down for a part two to this post!

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mama Hen & Baby Chicks


Our latest baby!
Happy Summer! I was up early this morning and saw the full moon just above the horizon at daybreak. Apparently, the 2016 summer solstice is extra special because the northern hemisphere hasn't had a full moon on a summer solstice since 1967! It's also the 4th full moon since the spring equinox, which isn't that common either. You can read more on it in this cool article at earthsky.org: http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/june-solstice-full-moon-in-2016.

What it all boils down to is...my kids are finally out of school for the summer! Their last day was the 14th and my eldest graduated from high school the next day. A lot has been going on this past week, as you might imagine, and it all began on Sunday the 12th, when I went to the coop and discovered this little one peeking out from under his mama!


Exactly 21 days prior, I found Watermelon, my largest Black Australorp sitting on a couple of eggs. She was acting broody (aka hormonal and protective of the eggs)...so I put a couple more under her. The total was only 4, since we've never been through a natural hatch and I wasn't sure if she'd abandon the nest or not. A week later, I found one egg broken. I believe another hen had hopped into the nest while Watermelon was taking a water break. It's shell might have been weak too.

Anyway, we were down to three eggs. She didn't actually lay the eggs...although one may have been hers. One was a green egg from my Easter Egger named Moon and one was a dark brown egg from one of my French Black Copper Marans named Venus. The third was either from Watermelon or one of my Barred Rocks.

On the 12th, the little one above hatched, followed by egg #3. Unfortunately, that baby didn't make it. But by the next morning, the green egg hatched...

2nd baby
Now, my roosters are French Black Copper Marans, which means that this chick...assuming she's a she...is an 'olive egger'. I'm really hoping 'she' ends up laying olive green colored eggs! Her mother's eggs are a light to medium shade of 'easter egger' green and dad comes from a breed that lays very dark brown eggs, so we'll see...

First baby at day 1
Second baby on the left
Hiding under mama's wing
Watermelon is proving to be an amazing mother. She's protective, tolerant, immediately taught them to drink from a glass bottle waterer (the kind in rabbit/hamster cages)...which she remembered from her chick days. And when I took her out for a second, so that I could clean a spot, she freaked and wanted to get back in the cage with her babies. I set up a rabbit cage in the coop so that they'd be safe from trampling/pecking, yet they'd still be with the flock. Kind of a brooder/nursery.

The baby's are doing great and growing quickly. The cutest thing is that they like sitting on top of their mother, piggy-back style.

Cool view from up here! (chick #2)
Chick #1
1 week old. See those feathers coming in?
And for those of you who read my red fox post, we haven't seen the fox in a week or so. Granted, we're 'supervising' the flock's free ranging. We started by letting them loose a couple of hours in the afternoon, while three of us (two sons and myself) stayed outside on the lookout. This, obviously, isn't an arrangement we can maintain. About a week ago, I shaved my dogs and we put their hair around the fence line where the fox was coming from. I wouldn't rely on that alone, but I had spare dog hair so why not? Now, when the chickens are loose, one of us goes out and walks around or grabs eggs every ten minutes or so, just to let the fox know we're there. In the meantime, we're building a stationary, fox and predator-proof pen/aviary for times when we aren't outside to deter the fox.

That's my chicken update! I'm so looking forward to another broody hen. Seeing these babies hatch and interact with their mother has been so heartwarming.

Happy summer to all! I'll leave you with one last pic. It's fuzzy because my phone camera can't handle low lighting. This was the full moon at daybreak today from my back porch. The photo didn't capture how bright at big it was in person.


I should stick with baby chick pics ;).