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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Moods

I'm in one of my moods!

I am actually in more than one mood.

I am working on a poem that I need to get finished before Saturday and I have to write my column, which I have not yet started, by Saturday, so I am in a writing mood.

I am trying to de-clutter around the house,  so I am in one of  "those house cleaning" moods my husband hates. Look out dust bunnies and junk, I am on my way!

I want to start the year off right.

If my house is straightened up, I do not feel guilty when I sit at the computer and write.
If I am writing and submitting, I do not feel guilty and think I am wasting my time writing.

I have submitted a lot this year. In fact I have submitted at least one thing (and sometimes more than one) every month of this past year. With an exception of a few poem acceptances, I have either gotten rejections or heard nothing back at all, but I have submitted. I have faith in some of my picture book manuscripts and know they are good enough to be picked up by a publisher. I just have to keep submitting and find the right publisher.

I am glad when I get in these moods!
I accomplish things when I get in these moods.

My early New Years Resolution is to stay in the mood and get things accomplished!

Want to join me see how much we can accomplish if we put our mind to it?


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve and all is Well

This morning  I've ironed one of my old Christmas aprons, put it on and made. . .

a cheese ball (my tradition)
a large fruit salad (my Mom's tradition)
deviled eggs
pecan pie muffins (my tradition - Mom always made the best pecan pies ever)

I've draped an old (and wrinkled) Christmas tablecloth over the kitchen table.


Now it is time to eat some breakfast, my stomach is starting to growl, and clean up the mess in the kitchen, before making the big meal for later.

When I was growing up, we opened our presents on Christmas Eve.

When I married and started having a family of my own, we opened the presents on Christmas Day.
I went so far as not putting any of the kids' presents under the tree until Christmas morning. Sometimes I think they got a little worried. Along with the cookies and milk, I left the wrapping paper and scissors under the tree for Santa to use.
After they went to bed, I stayed up and wrapped their presents and placed them under the tree. That was a little hard on Mom, though, I think I only did that a few times.

Now that one of my sons is married and he comes to visit on Christmas Eve we have started to open presents on Christmas Eve evening again.

My mom always made the best fruit salad on Christmas! We never had a lot, but they always bought bags of in the shell mixed  nuts, chocolate balls and hard candy that was placed in my mom's milk glass candy dish and oranges during the holidays.

When  my kids were little, after visiting my other sister and her family, Mom and Dad usually came out on Christmas Eve and spent the night, so they would be here on Christmas Day to watch the little ones open their gifts. I can still see them coming through the front door carrying bags of presents. Mom always helped with Christmas dinner. We'd still be in bed and I'd hear her and Dad in the kitchen getting the turkey ready to go in the oven.

I miss my Mom a lot during the holidays. She loved Christmas! Mom passed away in 1996. My dad is still with us, but he is in a Nursing Home. I visited him Thursday and he opened his gift from us. They had a Christmas Party and Santa passed out gifts to all the residents. He joked and said Santa probably wasn't going to bring him anything. But, Santa did!


My best wishes to all of my blogging friends and
I hope you enjoy Christmas with your family this year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Writing YA Fiction for Dummies nd Christmas Wishes

Merry Christmas to my writing friends! And, of course, to all my other friends out there.

What do you wish to be under your Christmas tree this year?

Do you wish for a pencil or
a pen or a book?
Do you wish for a Kindle or
a small writing nook?

How about an idea or
contract or story.
How about a lot of money
and fame and glory.

I would love to have a writing contract!

But, I am happy to have my family, my friends and my good health (or relatively good health).

I received this in the mail today. I opened it and put it under my tree, along side of my Fiesta Cappuccino Mug that I found at the thrift store today. Everyone knows I love Fiestaware. It is one of the fine products that is still made in the USA!


I won the book Writing Young Adult Fiction for DUMMIES!  and it is autographed by the author, Deborah Halverson.

I have glanced through the book and I see that it is going to have helpful info for other genre writing as well.

Some of the topics, along with the many that pertain to writing for teens, are: Writing the Almighty Hook, Setting is More than Somewhere to be, Editing and Revising with Confidence, Mastering Marketing, Picking up the Pace, Slowing the Pace, Creating Tension, Engaging the Five Senses and Packaging Your Submission.

I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas and you get what you wish for under your tree this year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Decorating With Holly


In Christmas folklore the prickly leaves of the holly trees came to be associated with Jesus' crown of thorns, while their red berries represented the drops of blood he shed.

We have three holly plants in our yard. My husband planted them from small starts he got from a friend who had many holly trees on his land. Only one is a female. It is full of beautiful red berries. I saw somewhere online that when there was an abundance of red holly berries it indicated a bad winter.
Have you heard of this weather superstition?


Our little holly needed pruning. Quite a few branches were too close to the ground. 

Our pruning resulted in this. . . 

 


this. . .



and this. . . 


 

I had so many, I was able to give some to my neighbor, too. 
Just be careful of the ones you bring inside. The berries are slightly poisonous to humans.

Do you decorate with holly?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deck the Halls!


You can deck your halls with boughs of holly, evergreen and mistletoe.



This "kissing plant" can be found locally throughout the hills and hollers of West Virginia. Look up and see if you can find this green plant high up in the bare treetops.

It may be a romantic plant, but it is also a parasitic plant that attaches itself to the branches of trees. Most of the time it is spread through bird droppings. Be careful, the plant and the berries can be poisonous when ingested. I would take off the berries if I had pets or little ones running about the house.

How do you get the illusive bunches of mistletoe from the tops of trees. Well, you could shoot them down.


Sometimes, my son, Andrew, likes to do that.

I didn't make a 'kissing ball,' but I did hang a sprig of it above a doorway in the house. 



Everyone needs a kiss every now and then, don't you agree?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing Wednesday and a Winner

Drum Roll please! The winner of last Wednesday's give a way is Tipper! I will be sending her a copy of Christmas Traditions and some of my home made Christmas Ornaments. I put the names into my mom's old Santa hat and pulled out the winner.



Just like in writing, you can't win if you don't enter. Thanks to everyone who entered.

I am also the winner of a give a way. I won a contest over at YA Fusion! My prize was a book titled, "Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies."

And, I would  like to thank everyone for their nice comments on my header! We love feeding our birds and that picture was taken last winter on our deck. I've gotten quite a few interesting pictures of our hungry birds and I hope to get a lot more good pictures this winter. One of my bird pictures was picked to be on the cover of the December issue of Two Lane Livin' this month, also.  The birds are fascinating to watch and I think I'll  keep taking their pictures.

I've put up what I am calling my Charley Brown tree. It is a scrawny little thing, but I surrounded it with children's picture books and cute home made ornaments of snowmen, sleds and building block elves.


I love getting out my books and displaying them at Christmas.




Do you have a favorite Christmas book? Do you display them at Christmas?

Happy writing!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Craft Ideas

A lot of times we give cookies, candy and other treats for gifts.

Here are a couple of ways to give them to people.

Make paper cones and fill them with goodies.

Gather supplies, such as card-stock paper, construction paper, Christmas stationary or scrap-booking paper (take your pick), ribbons, scissors, glue, double sided tape, stapler and other pretties you might like to include.


Cut your paper into a square shape so it will fold into a cone easily. You can use regular scissors or the fancy ones that cut with a pretty edge. Glue together the edges and staple at the top. You can cover up the staple later with a decoration of your choice.


Cut a strip of paper, glue a ribbon on it and attach it to the top as a strap. Cut tissue paper and fold into a cone shape, fold up the bottom of it and insert into the cone.


Decorate them any way you like. You can use ribbons, buttons, stickers, etc. depending upon who the recipient is. Fill with candy, cookies, gift cards or other small items. They would be nice to leave in the mailbox for the mailman, a neighbor, kids or grand kids, etc.


Another unique way to gift goodies is to get one of those plastic  storage boxes that is divided into small sections. Make sure you use one where the sections are not too tiny. You can make your own box of candy for giving and the container can later be used by the recipient to store items in. Below is one that I keep beads in.


Use your imagination to decorate it. I used decorative paper, cut it to size and attached it to the top. I used double sided tape so it could later be taken off easily. I attached a large ribbon around the sides (again using double sided tape. Be sure to put the tape around the corners.) I made a poinsettia for the top and a nice gift tag.


Again, decorate the containers the way you want to decorate them.  I used materials I already had on hand.

Fudge, holiday m & m's, peanut butter blossom cookies, Hershey's kisses, or my snowball cookies I gave you the recipe for in an earlier post, would all fit nicely into the divided sections of this storage box. Put in an assortment of cookies and candies, instead of putting in all of the same type. These boxes come in different sizes, so you can use any size you want.

I think this would be much better than buying and giving a store bought box of candy.

Hope you enjoyed my ideas. Happy crafting!

REMEMBER, to enter my give a way in the previous post! I will also be adding home made Christmas ornaments to the prize.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Writing Wednesday and a Give a Way!

Our writing group, The Appalachian Wordsmiths, are now having weekly meetings!

We met today at the Library and we had a very productive meeting. Everyone brought something to read and have critiqued.

I read one of my PB manuscripts and with a few changes I believe it is now ready to submit. We had a time working with the last two sentences of the picture book. I still have not quite decided on which version to use. Anyone who thinks writing picture books is easy, should have been with us today. When there are very few words to work with, each one has to be just right!

I have written a MG and a couple of manuscripts which total 28,000 and 21,000 words each, but I have to say that I enjoy writing picture books the most.

Now on to the give a way!

I am giving away a copy of  Christmas Traditions, the anthology in which my short story, The Old Santa Hat, is in. The book was published in 2009. I had not been writing for very long when I submitted this and it was the first story I ever had published.

I can tell you an interesting story about it. They always say not to inquire about pieces you submit because they will let you know if they want your story or not. If you don't hear from them, then they do not want it. Well, I did not hear from the editor who was putting this anthology together and it was past the deadline for hearing from them. It was my first submission and I was anxious. I figured I did not have anything to lose, so I emailed her.

I sat on pins and needles hoping to get an email back from her. I received her reply saying that the title did not ring a bell and that she didn't recall reading it. She said she had read thousands of stories, so, she might have forgotten or it could have fallen through the cracks. So just in case, she asked me to send it to her and she would let me know as soon as she read it.

I nervously hit the send button and that same night she emailed me back. I was afraid to click on the email to see what she said, but I got the courage and opened it up. To make a long reply short, she said, "I do remember this story. I cut it early on - because it was so sad. But I'm glad you sent it again. I have a change of heart."

My heart did flip-flops! I am a shy person and it took a lot of nerve for me to inquire like I did. But it paid off and my story was included in the anthology.

So, I guess my advice is this - take chances, submit your stories and keep writing.

Enter my contest to receive a copy of Christmas Traditions and I will also send a few home made Christmas ornaments to the winner!

To enter you must be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post. I will announce the winner next Wednesday. Sorry, I can only ship to people in the US.

Let me know if you mention the give a way on your blog or on Facebook and I will  enter your name twice.

Happy Writing and Good Luck!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kitchen Christmas Tree

 I picked up this little tree this year at either a yard sale or thrift store, I can't remember which. But I thought it was kind of neat looking and you couldn't beat the price. It is sitting on my little table in my retro kitchen that used to be our small laundry room. The tree usually sits in the middle of our big table in the kitchen. But it's currently being used for eating supper, so I placed it out here to take the picture.




You can go here to see how to make the gumdrop ornaments. According to my stat counter, it is one of my most visited pages. They are easy to make and so pretty! Give them a try.

You can go here to see how to make the cinnamon dough ornaments.

I think they are very fitting ornaments for a kitchen Christmas tree. Don't you?
I put a star cookie cutter on top.
Do you have a Christmas tree in your kitchen?

By the way, go over to Country Whispers for her Christmas Giveaway and Granny Sue is having a give a way too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writing Wednesday and a Yummy Recipe

We had a writer's meeting today at the library.
I came home,
worked on revising my children's story, 'The Snowman Village,'
and made snowballs!

They are so good! They are the perfect light snack to eat while you sip on coffee, tea or milk. 



The perfect cookie to make after writing about a snowman village.

SNOWBALLS

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Gradually add flour. Stir in nuts.
Shape dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until set and bottoms are lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes and then dust with confectioners' sugar. Makes 3 dozen.

Delicious eaten when warm. I just love these. I bet you can't eat just one.

I know my post wasn't too much about writing today, but that's okay.

I have been editing some of my stories this week and I just finished my column for the January issue of Two-Lane Livin' and I have came up with 28 ideas so far this month for picture books!


Happy Writing!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Writing Wednesday

Hi, Welcome to Writing Wednesday.

Last week I told you about a site called Rate Your Story.
You can submit your story (up to 2000 words) and it will be rated by judges who are published writers. 

I submitted my PB manuscript titled "Grasshoppers". My submission was rated by Margot Finke, who has had many rhyming picture books published. You can go here to visit her blog. I was honored and excited to receive a rating of #2 from her!


Below is the scale they use:


10 - Consider this story as practice and write a new one.
9 - This story is best saved for reading to your family.
8 - If at first you don't succeed...rewrite, rewrite again.
7 - Your idea has merit, but the story needs a lot of revision.
6 - Not bad, but it doesn't stand out.
5 - Better than average, but still needs work.
4 - A decent story – could be great with some polishing.
3 - Good story –  Get a critique or two and polish before submitting.
2 - A very good story - with the potential to be great.
1 - Great story!  You should consider submitting this.

I'm making a few changes and searching for publishers. I thought it was a good story, and was glad the judge agreed. And...it is written in rhyme! They discourage people from writing in rhyme because of how hard it is to get the rhyme and meter just right. I had help with this story from my writer's group and when it was finished we were pretty happy with the result. 


The December issue of Two-Lane Livin' is out now. Do you like the cover? The picture is one I took last year of one of my blue jays. We have quite a few feeders and I love taking pictures of birds in the winter.




My column this month is titled, Winter Snow and Hot Cocoa. Below is a poem I have in the December issue.


In the Winter
by Janet F. Smart

In the winter
Hear the roar
As blizzards blow
Outside your door.

We slip and slide
In the snow
With our red cheeks
All aglow.

We build snowmen
Big and tall
And keep them warm
With a shawl.

The sky grows dark
In we go
For dry, warm clothes
And hot cocoa.

Happy Writing and I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes

I thought I'd re-post a few of my recipes for Thanksgiving.

Have you checked out the price of pecans lately?  If so, and you don't want to shell out the money for them, check out this recipe for Poor Man's Pecan Pie. Instructions can be found here on my site.


And what would Thanksgiving be without a sweet potato casserole. This is absolutely the best one I have ever tasted.


SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE

4 LBS sweet potatoes

Cook sweet potatoes. Drain and mash with mixer and add the following ingredients:

1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter

Mix together and put in baking dish.

Mix the following ingredients for topping:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Spoon topping on and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Another good recipe is Pecan Pie Muffins. They are delicious!
You bake these in the mini muffin pans.

Pecan Pie Muffins

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2/3 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Pour into a greased mini-muffin pan, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

Go here to check out the step by step pictures. While you are there check out my recipe for Nuts and Bolts. They are good to enjoy while waiting on the turkey to get ready.

Cheese Balls are also good to munch on while waiting for the turkey.


FESTIVE CHEESE BALL

2 - 8oz packages cream cheese
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 t. Worcestershire Sauce
1 t. lemon juice
finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine the cream cheese and the cheddar cheese. Add the Worcestershire Sauce and lemon juice. Mix well with fork.  Shape into a ball, then roll in finely chopped nuts of your choice. In the one below,  I shaped it like a pumpkin and added pretzel sticks and pepper slices for decoration.



Well, are you hungry yet?