Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ringing in 2009!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Don’t you love the feel of a new year? Starting out with a clean slate or a fresh canvas or...okay, you get the idea! So many possibilities.

And don’t you love to open a new day planner and feel those fresh, crisp pages waiting to be filled? It’s one of my favorite things!

However you plan to ring in the New Year, please stay safe and be happy.

Wishing you the very best in 2009,

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Family’s 100-Mile Christmas

The holidays have been busy and I’ve loved every moment of it! This year my family celebrated a 100-mile Christmas. We tried to buy gifts made or produced within 100 miles of where we live. Exceptions were things like books, CDs and DVDs, which were to come from locally owned businesses. We also included secondhand items because those things have been recycled.

For my daughter and her boyfriend, I had a local photographer touch up and convert pictures of them into black and white. The photos were printed on canvas and stretched onto frames to make them look like art pieces. The photos were taken when they were two or three years old. He’s on a merry-go-round and she’s on the rocking horse I blogged about earlier this month. They are thrilled with their photos, and everyone decided they were some of the best gifts of the year! Here they are...

My daughter gets top marks for 100-mile gift giving. She found interesting and unique secondhand books for everyone, locally made organic barbecue sauce, cheeses, etc., and she made donations to places that are important to each of us. For me, the animal lover, a donation of kitten formula to the SPCA. Aaawww!

And I received other gifts that can only be described as perfect. A can of primer from my husband, with a note saying he'll paint the bathroom this week. It’s like one of those TV ads. Paint brush—$1.98. Can of paint—$18.98. A freshly painted bathroom—priceless!

My son gave me a handmade tote bag with a typewriter silk screened on it. Isn’t it fun? I really love it.

I’d like to do the 100-mile Christmas next year. There are lots of positive reasons for it, but the best one was that instead of dashing out to the mall, it encouraged us to put more thought into the gifts we gave. Somehow they were more personal, and that was the best gift of all. And now we have a whole year to plan ahead.

How did you spend the holiday? Did you receive a gift that really touched your heart, or give one that touched someone else's?

Until next time,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Deck the Halls

I'm blogging with the Harlequin American Romance Authors today, sharing some of my quick and easy holiday decorating ideas. I hope you'll stop by and pass along some of your ideas to our readers.

Here's wishing you a very happy holiday in the company of people you love.

Until next time,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hummingbird Love

I took this photo through my kitchen window yesterday morning.

We have a hummingbird feeder suspended from the corner of our garden folly, and these two were putting on quite a show.

Did you know that hummingbirds mate in December and their babies will on the wing in February?

One small problem. This is not the tropics. This is the Pacific Northwest! The temperature was 21 degrees Fahrenheit (about minus 6 Celsius) when I took this photo. And your eyes do not deceive you. That’s snow on the ground and on my neighbors’ rooftops.

We’ve increased the ratio of sugar to water in the feeder so it won’t freeze, and so these tiny, tiny creatures can get more energy.

Seems to be working because now we patiently await the next generation of little hummers!

This is so much more fun than TV.

Isn’t nature wonderful?

Until next time,

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Smoked Salmon Mousse

This is one of those delicious spreads that will have your guests scooping the last bits from the bottom of the bowl! I like to include it in our Christmas Eve buffet, but it's perfect party food for any occasion.

4 ounces smoked salmon
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
salt and pepper to taste

Put the smoked salmon in a food processor or mixing bowl and blend until smooth. Add the cream, cream cheese, lemon juice, dried dill weed, salt and pepper. Mix well. Transfer to a serving dish, cover and chill for several hours.

Put the serving dish in the middle of a platter and surround it with an assortment of crackers, thinly sliced baguette, cucumber slices and celery sticks, and let your guests do the spreading!

Happy holidays!

Until next time,

Monday, December 15, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

The countdown to Christmas continues this week with more holiday fun at the Wet Noodle Posse.

Monday: "Let's Make Some Cookies!" with Theresa Ragan

Tuesday: Join Maureen Hardegree for "Have Cookies—Will Travel"

Wednesday: Karen Potter asks "Where's the Cranberry Sauce?"

Thursday: Priscilla Kissinger shares "A Heartwarming Family Memory"

Friday, December 19th: Q&A Day
Happy holidays!

Until next time,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pomp and Circumstance

Yesterday my son Joe graduated from Vancouver Island University with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies, and he made the Dean’s List. What a thrill to see him cross that stage in his regalia!

From the time he won first place in a piano competition at the age of five, we’ve known he was musically gifted. He moved on to the trumpet and played in his school band. After high school he taught himself to play the bass and auditioned for admission to VIU, which culminated in yesterday’s achievement.

There isn’t a prouder mom on the planet!

Until next time,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Baked Brie Appies

Planning a holiday party? What I am about to share with you is, hands down, my favorite party appetizer of all time.

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
8-ounces Brie
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, remove the rind from the Brie. The rind is edible, but many people don’t like it.

Put the Brie in a baking dish and set aside.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and cover them with boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes, until soft. Drain well.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Saute tomatoes for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, still stirring constantly. Stir in the basil, parsley and balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.

Cover the Brie with the tomato mixture and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is soft and warm, about 10 minutes.

Serve with crackers and a thinly sliced bagette. The warm cheese spreads easily and the topping is mouth-wateringly delicious. Seriously. You must try this. Your guests will love you for it!

Until next time,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Fun

Curious about the charming fellow in this photograph? He’s the topic of my post today with the Wet Noodle Posse. I’m also sharing a couple of recipes that make great gifts or party snacks. I hope you’ll check them out!

While you’re there, be sure to leave a comment so you’ll be eligible to win to be eligible to win a copy of Diane Gaston's holiday story “A Twelfth Night Tale” in the Regency Anthology MISTLETOE KISSES (Nov 2006).

Looking for ideas for holiday party food? Drop back here to The Writer Side of Life tomorrow for my favorite appetizer recipe.

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday News—December's Harlequin American Romances

Wow! Lots of news this week.

To start off, a quick reminder that on Thursday I’m blogging with the Wet Noodle Posse about a very special family heirloom. And I’ll share a couple of recipes for very yummy spicy roasted nuts—great to serve at parties—and they also make wonderful gifts if you put them in little bags tied with festive ribbon.

Still searching for gift ideas? My December '07 release, With This Ring, is still available as an ebook from and (Kindle edition).

Romantic Times Magazine has announced the 2008 RT finalists. Congratulations to the Harlequin American Romance authors who made this year's list for Best Harlequin American Romance:
Lisa Childs (Aug.)

Kara Lennox (Jun.)

Cindi Myers (Feb.)

Ann Roth (Mar.)

Linda Warren (Sep.)
And Megan Kelly is a finalist in the Best First Series Romance Category with MARRYING THE BOSS (Apr.).

Finally, the December Harlequin American Romances are out today. Four great reads, and of course they’ll make perfect stocking stuffers.

A Baby in the Bunkhouse by Cathy Gillen Thacker

Once Upon a Christmas by Holly Jacobs

A Texan Returns by Victoria Chancellor

The Pregnancy Surprise by Kara Lennox

Happy holidays, and happy reading!

Until next time,

Monday, December 8, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

Come celebrate the holidays with the Wet Noodle Posse. We have lots of fun stuff in store for you this week, including my post on Thursday.

Monday: Priscilla Kissinger gives us her “Candy Cane Bark Recipe”

Tuesday: “Put These in Your Stocking: Great Gifts Any Writer Can Wish For”—great gift-giving ideas from Delle Jacobs

Wednesday: Merrillee Whren reminisces about “Christmas Tree Memories”

Thursday: Lee McKenzie shares “A Family Heirloom, and recipes for Spicy Roasted Nuts ”

Friday: Q&A Topic: Great Gift Suggestions Under $50

Until next time,

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Mulled Apple Cider

Holiday party month is here! Don’t you love it? Family, food, friends, food, fun. More food. This month I’ll be sharing some tasty recipes for some of my favorite holiday drinks and appetizers, starting with mulled cider.

Over the years I’ve tried a lot of recipes for mulled cider. Some are too sweet, some are too spicy, but I finally found one suits our tastes perfectly.

1 gallon apple cider (or apple juice)
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
cinnamon sticks for swizzling (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a large (5-quart) crock pot/slow cooker and simmer on low for 4 or 5 hours. This recipe makes about 40 half-cup servings. For a smaller crowd, I make half the recipe.

Don’t have a crock pot? This can just as easily be made in a large pot on the stove, but reduce the simmering time to 1 to 2 hours. Either way, your holiday guests will be greeted at the door by the scent of apples and spices, and they’ll soon be warming their hands on a cup of warm of cider.


Until next time,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesday News—Books as Gifts

Today is the release day for The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming by Shreve Stockton. I’ve really been looking forward to this book and can’t wait for my copy to arrive. Someone on my Christmas gift list will also receive a copy.

From what I’ve gleaned from the author’s website, she moved to Wyoming from NYC and soon adopted a 10-day-old orphaned coyote, who she named Charlie. Charlie still lives with her, and his life has been well documented and beautifully captured in photographs.

To celebrate the book’s release, she’s doing a live BogTV broadcast from Wyoming today and inviting everyone to tune in. Anyone can watch, or you can create an account and log in to chat. Check her website for complete details about the book and today's broadcast.

While I’m on the subject of books as gifts, have you considered giving an electronic book as a gift this Christmas? My December '07 Harlequin American Romance, With This Ring, is still available from and (Kindle edition).

The hero in With This Ring rescued an Old English Sheepdog named Max, and you're sure to fall in love with both of them! On my website I've also posted some fun stuff about sheepdog rescue, and a couple of stories told by Max himself.

And if you send me an email at lee (at) leemckenzie (dot) com and give me your snail mail address, I’ll be happy to send you a bookmark. Okay, so you don’t actually need a bookmark for an electronic book, but they’re really nice bookmarks, and I’ll even autograph it for you.

Happy reading!

Until next time,

Monday, December 1, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

This month the Wet Noodle Posse shifts to a new monthly topic—the holidays! We’ll be posting lots of fun stuff, including stories, recipes and reminiscences about holidays past. Here’s what you can look forward to this week:

Monday: Dianna Love will introduce this month’s theme—The Holidays!

Tuesday: Dianna Love shares a recipe and a story about The Grouch Who Made Christmas Special

Wednesday: Dr. Debra Holland offers advice on How to Deal with Holiday Stress

Thursday: Terry McLaughlin shares a story and a holiday recipe

Friday: This week’s Q&A will focus on Book Clubs. Readers' questions about writing are also welcome.

Until next time,