Merry Christmas!

My oldest attempted to get us out of bed at 3:45 a.m. this morning. I told him to go back to bed because it was simply too early to open presents even if Santa had come during the middle of the night.

A little more than two hours later, we were taking the stockings down while Ken reprogrammed his new coffee pot to brew ahead of schedule. I guess he was thinking maybe the boys would sleep in until 7 or so. Silly man.

I found some delightful surprises in my stocking. Heavenly perfume. An ice cream scooper. A new can opener (much needed!). Some candy. Three small scented candles.

The boys found fishing tackle, games, Wizard 101 gift cards, and some candy.

Ken got a gift certificate to his favorite beer store and other manly odds-n-ends. You know, stuff from places like Gander Mountain.

The big presents this year were Tony Hawk's Ride for the PS3, a grinder and saw for Ken, and my new, sparkly laptop! I love it, love it, love it! Really, there aren't enough exclamation points to express my adoration of this little piece of machinery. I've already loaded it with my favorite, can't-live-without-them programs. You know, like Firefox, Picasa, and Photoshop.

The next thing on the agenda is making hot cocoa for me and the boys and filling the collage photo frame my oldest got for me.

I hope your Christmas morning was as blessed as ours.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas..

And, as such, the night for family traditions...

First, there was oyster stew to make.

Then it was time to hurry home and get the reindeer feed sprinkled in the lawn.

(Mom forgot to take pictures of the sugar cookie frosting that happened next, but believe me when I say the cookies were not forgotten!)

Only after the house was clean, the cookies were frosted, and the reindeer were signaled, did we open our traditional Christmas Eve presents: pajamas for all!

Merry Christmas Eve!

Getting Ready for Santa

It was a busy weekend. Saturday I spent 12 hours on my feet, something I must admit I'm not used to, especially since I ended up with very tired and sore legs by the time I crawled into bed. On the bright side of things, I got some nice gifts for myself (thanks to Mom & Dad H!) and managed to finish up a few more family members. After all that shopping, I guess you'd expect that I would be done Christmas shopping.

Not so! I had promised the boys I would take them them to the store so they could pick out something special for their dad. This meant I got up early Sunday morning to take them out.

After we got home it was time to pull together all the ingredients and get baking. First we made the chocolate chip cookies. While the first batch was in the oven, we mixed the sugar cookie dough. Since it has to be refrigerated for an hour, we played some Devil May Cry 4 while finishing the chocolate chip cookies, which I overcooked and are crispy instead of soft. I blame this entirely on the stove and not my video gaming ways. Whenever the timer would go off, I'd take a peek and decide they needed a few minutes more. In retrospect, I guess the directions were correct and I should have taken them out at the recommended time.

Still, they're pretty good crunchy, so I'm not complaining. Much.

Then it was time for rolling the sugar cookie dough out and cutting out shapes. What a mess!

But the end results were totally worth the time, effort and mess involved. While I may have overcooked the chocolate chip cookies, the sugar cookies are just about perfect. Soft, fluffy, and sweet. Frosting is optional, they're that good.

Then it was time for dinner, baths, and the traditional picture in front of the Christmas tree.

The only thing left to do is get the reindeer feed mixed together. We'll have to do that Tuesday or Wednesday night.

Working on my To-Do List

I don't usually work off a to-do list, but right now I have so many different things I want to accomplish that I really do feel the need to write them down and assign them priorities. (Thank you iGoogle for providing lovely little gadgets suited for just such a purpose! You rock!)

In the last week or so I've managed to cross three items off my to-do list.
  • Edit Jenna's senior pics & burn to CD
  • Create DVD of Jenna's pics for easy viewing in my Dad's computer-less house
  • Edit Dad & Connie's wedding pictures
That leaves the following outstanding items:
  • Finish Chapter 3 of Between the Heavens and Earth
  • Finish critiquing Chapters 25-27 for Martin (critique partner from WisCon 2009)
  • Create music slideshow DVD of Dad & Connie's wedding
Ideally, I'd like to update the to-do list on Sundays with things like "work on Chapter 4" and "critique Chapters 28-30". Seeing the list every time I sign in to iGoogle will hopefully remind me that time is quickly passing by and I need to get crackin'.

How about you? Got any pressing items on your to-do list?

New Pictures for the Wall

If you were to wander through my house right now, you would find pictures of my kids hanging on the walls. Not surprising, right? I'm a Mom. It's what we do.

The shocking thing is that the majority of these pictures are old. Old, old. As in my youngest is still a toddler in most of them. (I know. I should hang my head in shame...) The only up-to-date pictures are their school pictures and those happen to be sitting on the plant stand in my bedroom right now; we had to make room for the Christmas tree.

Now, I've been using the lack of leisure time in our lives as an excuse to explain the chubby cheeks and dimpled fingers in those pictures. We don't have time to get family portraits done. Trying to fit in an appointment between sporting events, school, and family obligations is darn near impossible.

Unfortunately, the excuse doesn't really work all that well. I have a nice camera and I'm not afraid to use it!

The truth is I have great pictures of my kids. Really great pictures. Pictures that are worthy of displaying throughout my house.

It just never occurred to me (until today) that I should replace the studio portraits I have hanging on the walls with the best pictures I've taken over the last year. All I need to do is send them to Walgreens or Snapfish and order the sizes I need. It's that easy.

So why didn't I think of this earlier? ~forehead slap~

Reading for Others

It has come to my attention that I am sadly behind on the reading/critiquing of manuscripts given to me by fellow writers. I have three books that I've promised to read and critique in my in-box. Two of the three are about a quarter of the way done. The other one is perhaps halfway done, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to reread a lot of it in order to continue on because I set it down quite some time ago.

In addition to these three, I also have a couple of novels-in-draft sitting in my Google Wave in-box. I'm not sure when - or if - I will be able to get to those.

So, if you're waiting on some feedback from me, please be patient! I really am going to make a good faith effort to get caught up!

It's Beginning..

To look a lot like Christmas. At least, at my house, it is.

Yesterday we prepped the house for the holiday clutter before heading off to the Christmas tree farm. A quick visit with Santa, a hayride out to the lot, and a quick walkabout led us to this year's scotch pine. Ken thought he'd let the boys cut down the tree this year. Although they each took a turn trying to saw through the little trunk, neither boy had the strength to do the job. (Honestly, I'm not sure I could do it without a great deal of cussing and sweating and cussing. Hubby may make it look easy, but I know it's not!).

While we waited for the tree to get the loose needles shaken out, we went into the barn. Hot chocolate, hot cider and coffee helped warm us up from our little outdoor adventure as we searched for this year's wreath. Then it was time to head on home and get the decorating done.

It took some doing but eventually we got the tree up and decorated, the lights strung inside and out, and all the other decorations arranged. Of course, as usual, we ran into a few problems. The wreath refuses to stay on the door; it's sitting on the kitchen counter until we can figure out how to get it to stop falling. I need some pushpins to help keep the lights around the kitchen sink window and the sliding glass doors. A new tablecloth wouldn't be a bad thing, either. Oh, and some Christmas-y scented candles..those would be nice, too.

So, is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas around your house, too?

A Shopping We Will Go

My husband, one of the best bargain shoppers I know, started months ago. A gift here, a gift there. It was a slow accumulation to be sure, but every purchase made on behalf of a nephew (his side) or in-law has made the Christmas shopping a little bit easier.

Of course, the true shopping didn't start until Black Friday. Since that pocketbook-draining day we've managed to get a good portion of our shopping done. Yes, you heard me right. We're almost done and it's hardly December!

However, there remain a few people we still need to finish buying for, most notably our parents. I know what we're getting my Dad and his new wife. We just need to figure out which sibling of mine is going to actually do the purchasing so we can hand them over our portion of the expense.

Then there's my mom and her husband. They've recently moved out-of-state, which means gifts must be shipped. (Sorry, Mom, we won't be traveling this year!) Now if I only knew what to get them. Maybe I should have them take a little time to create an Amazon wishlist. That would help tremendously!

My parents-in-law are another big question mark. They get harder and harder to buy for because it seems like they have everything they want. While I'm sure this is grossly untrue and there's plenty of things they secretly wish for, I don't know what they are. Wishlists for them would be a good idea, too, if they actually had a computer with Internet access.

Okay, so I'm on a wishlist kick. They're fun! You should try creating one for yourself and sharing it with those people in your life who really don't have any idea what to buy for you.

Because you know what? I wish my nephews-in-law had them, too, because right now gift cards are looking good.

Family aside, I still have to buy for the office Christmas party and, again, I don't have a clue what to buy. Knowing me, I'll probably settle for yet another last minute gift card. Oh, the joy of buying for the unknown recipient!

Quote of the Moment

Reading comments on another blog and this bit of wisdom caught my eye...
You're free to say, write and do exactly what you want... and live with the consequences. Don't complain if the consequences are unexpected and harsh.
~Donna Lea Simpson
Well said, Donna. Well said.

Technically, It Was a Fail

Okay, so I didn't hit 50K on the NaNo project this year. I have no excuses. At least, no good ones because I'm pretty sure watching TV and reading are considered, at best, distractions.

So, I failed. I didn't win.

But I'm not worried about it. While NaNo is fun and a great way to bring writers together, what's more important to me is the fact that it gets me writing again. I have a story I'm working on. Sure, it's slow and painful progress right now, but it's words on a page and that's more than I had a month ago.

My story is what most would likely consider epic fantasy. It involves gods, god-kin (human and god offspring), Elementals, and miniature dragons. My main character, Moswen El-Brideah, is the recognized keeper of the god-kin bloodline. Her biggest fear in the beginning of the book is that her secret will be revealed before the god who birthed her ancestors. Unlike most of her peers, she posesses more than god-kin magic. She's also half-Elemental, the product of a meddling Elemental who has finally succeeded in corrupting the god-kin bloodlines. This is a secret that could destroy her family and leave her people without a ruling family to protect them. It could also mean her death or, even worse, her spiritual undoing in the afterlife.

Things are complicated when the god reveals his plan to restore himself to his former power in both this world and in the heavens where he must contend with the machinations of the other gods. He directs Moswen's family to make war on a legendary people, to destroy their faith in their own godess and to feed him their spiritual energy through conversion to his will. Although the directive doesn't sit well with Moswen or her family, the truth of the failing magic in the god-kin families forces their hand and scouting parties are sent to ascertain the strength, number, and location of the worshippers of the goddess Runne.

Moswen, who has just passed her god-kin test in the Temple of Oryn, has little time to celebrate her success. Distressed by both the political jockeying at home, she finds an excuse to leave the courts behind when her brother goes missing.

Okay, so that's as far as I've made it so there ends the synopsis of Between the Heavens and Earth (current working title).

The only other thing I really tell you is the story is just about ready to pick up speed. The set-up is almost complete. I'm right in the middle of introducing one of the main antagonists. Once I get him situated where I need him (let's hope he cooperates!), I'm hoping the words will start falling more easily into place.

Building the foundation of the story is hard work! I said, I failed NaNo, but I'm okay with it because what I did manage to write is 100% usable. Not perfect. But usable. It'll need some polishing and refining, sure, but that's okay. It means I have something to work with.