Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thinking about goals for the new year?

I am your constant companion.I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden.
I will push you up to success or down to disappointment.
I am at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me,
For I can do them quickly, correctly, and profitably.
I am easily managed, just be firm with me.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a
machine and the intelligence of a person.
You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.
Show me how you want it done. Educate me. Train me.
Lead me. Reward me.
And I will it automatically.
I am your servant.
Who am I?
I am a habit.

The author of the above is unknown, but the words are right on target. If you make good habits, they in turn will make you. But like the weeds in the garden, bad habits can take over your life. Make a decision today to pull those weeds.

Monday, December 29, 2008

(DON'T) Let it Snow!

Oh, by gosh, by golly!

I asked Betsy to sed me a picture of the snow. Here's what she says:

"So far in the past 13 days we have recieved almost 60 inches of snow at our house. I just came in from snowblowing another 10 inches we got just this morning. I'm not sure when we moved to the North Pole, but here we are in Spokane, WA. So far, the weather forecasters haven't predicted one storm correctly. Today was only supposed to be 3 inches.

Yesterday we had to pay roofers to shovel 4 foot off of our roof. Roofs have been collapsing all around town. Even though ours in a fairly new house, 4 foot of snow is a lot of weight. The picture is one I took a couple of days ago, BEFORE the last two storms. So.....Omaha is better, right. We're scheduled to arrive on January 10 and I'm looking forward to some balmy midwest weather like I grew up with... yeah right!"
"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings."
-Eric Hoffer

Visitors from all over the world!

Between July and December of this year, people from each of the following countries have visited my blog. They are listed in order of the most visitors to the fewest.

USA - United States
CA - Canada
GB - United Kingdom
JP - Japan
AU - Australia
DE - Germany
FR - France
PH - Philippines
IN - India
IT - Italy
NL - Netherlands
MX - Mexico
FI - Finland
BR - Brazil
BE - Belgium
ES - Spain
TR - Turkey
PL - Poland
ZA - South Africa
GR - Greece
RU - Russian Federation
TH - Thailand
SE - Sweden 24
SG - Singapore
HU - Hungary
NZ - New Zealand
CH - Switzerland
NO - Norway
AR - Argentina
IE - Ireland
MY - Malaysia
ID - Indonesia
RO - Romania
SA - Saudi Arabia
CN - China
AT - Austria
IL - Israel
DK - Denmark
PT - Portugal
VN - Vietnam
CZ - Czech Republic
HR - Croatia
AE - United Arab Emirates
RS - Serbia
KR - Korea, Republic of
CO - Colombia
IR - Iran, Islamic Republic of
PE - Peru
VE - Venezuela
PA - Panama
HK - Hong Kong
EE - Estonia
SK - Slovakia
BG - Bulgaria
SI - Slovenia
UA - Ukraine
PK - Pakistan 6
CL - Chile 6
PR - Puerto Rico
EG - Egypt
JM - Jamaica
TT - Trinidad and Tobago
TW - Taiwan
LV - Latvia
EC - Ecuador
EU - Europe
LB - Lebanon
BB - Barbados
DZ - Algeria
MK - Macedonia
MU - Mauritius
BA - Bosnia and Herzegovina
GE - Georgia
GT - Guatemala
IS - Iceland
DO - Dominican Republic
VI - Virgin Islands, U.S.
UG - Uganda
CI - Cote D'Ivoire
HT - Haiti
TG - Togo
GH - Ghana
KW - Kuwait
NI - Nicaragua
JO - Jordan
HN - Honduras
RE - Reunion
UY - Uruguay
LT - Lithuania
CY - Cyprus
SV - El Salvador
GU - Guam
SR - Suriname
BY - Belarus
BO - Bolivia
BH - Bahrain
NG - Nigeria
QA - Qatar
AN - Netherlands Antilles
BZ - Belize
YE - Yemen
MA - Morocco
TN - Tunisia
GI - Gibraltar
PS - Palestinian Territory
BS - Bahamas
KG - Kyrgyzstan
CR - Costa Rica
BJ - Benin
DJ - Djibouti
GD - Grenada
AW - Aruba
BM - Bermuda
LK - Sri Lanka

Pretty amazing, isn't it? Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this year. I appreciate you.

If you're from one of these countries, please leave a comment and say hi, telling us where you're from.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Night Before Christmas

Here's Adam reading to Erin on Christmas day. I keep a stack of Christmas books on the coffee table/trunk; they're fun to browse.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tree Tour: Frankfurt

Drink a glass of gluhwein from the holiday market at the Romer Frankfurt's city hall since 1405 and enjoy a taste of Christmas past.

Christmas Tree Tour: Patty's Tree

It's never too late - Patty just sent me a pic of her tree, and I'm delighted to be able to include it!

By now, all the gifts are wrapped and the groceries are purchased. If you're like me, you're down to the wire, cleaning bathrooms and putting out guest towels. It's all about the anticipation, isn't it? Seeing those kiddies open the gifts you selected for them, slicing the pie you made and watching the faces as your loved ones taste it. It's all about giving and the extra measure of love we put into this season.

We're putting together a little gathering to go look at Christmas lights tonight. Afterwards we'll have hot chocolate and light a fire. Probably pop some popcorn and watch a Christmas move - exchange a few gifts.

Tomorrow on Christmas Day I have the honor of the Petticoats and Pistols blog in the afternoon, so if you have a few minutes drop over and see the pictures I posted that represent what Christmas means to me.

Thanks for a peek at your tree, Patty!
Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas Tree Tour: London's Trafalgar Square

A token of gratitude for Britain's aid during World War II, the Christmas tree in London's Trafalgar Square has beenthe annual gift of the people of Norway since 1947.

Now there's a gift that keeps on giving!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Do you Twitter?

Follow me:

Christmas Tree Tour: Rome, Italy

In addition to the Vatican's heavenly evergreen, St. Peter's Square
in Rome hosts a larger-than-life nativity scene in front of the obelisk.

Patricia Potter's Story at P&P

Petticoats and Pistols is featuring a serial this week, a western written by our very own Patricia Potter. I'm loving it. When you get there scroll down to read the first installment and then back up for the 2nd.

Christmas Tree Tour: Spain


The Christmas tree that greets revelers at the Puerta del Sol is dressed for a party. Madrid's two-week celebration makesmillionaires along with merrymakers. On Dec. 22, a lucky citizen will win El Gordo (the fat one), the world's biggest lottery.

I have books published in this country, too!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Tree Tour: France

Ooh la la Galeries Lafayette!

In Paris, even the Christmas trees are chic. With its monumental, baroque dome, plus ten stories of lights and high fashion, it's no surprise this show-stopping department store draws more visitors than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Ho-Down

In case you ever wondered what I do on Friday nights.....
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Now you know!

Christmas Tree Tour: Germany

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree: Even in its humblest attire, aglow beside a tiny chapel in Germany's Karwendel mountains, a Christmas tree is a wondrous sight.

Germany was one of the first countries to initiate the custom of the Christmas tree, and they were makers of fine ornaments as early as the 1800s.

This is a German tinsel tree.

Remember: To see all the photos in the Christmas Tree Tour, type Christmas Tree Tour in the search box in the upper lefthand corner and click search. It will bring them all up for you.

Christmas Tree Tour: Anita Mae Draper

Anita loves Christmas as much as I do!
Our daughter just turned 30 and for those many years, we’ve tried to make our home a magical place at Christmas. We don’t want to detract from the real reason for this special holiday, but we want our kids to bring their children with them year after year to celebrate Christ’s birthday with us.

Our pre-lit Christmas tree looks like it’s divided in half but only because it has 5 reindeer pulling a waving Santa around and around on a railroad track. It’s one of the first things anyone from kids to Gramma want to check out when the tree is up.

But, it’s not the only thing that moves on the tree because we have 5 Ornamotions hooked up to the light strands. You push these little motors in place of a light bulb and it rotates the ornament. I just checked and this year’s rotations include an angel, a pair of caroling coyotes, Santa making a toy, and 2 carousels. Hmmm...I usually try to have one carousel but this year I let the kids have free rein with the tree...

We were married on Dec 20th and beneath our tree seemed very bare. I realized it was missing a tree skirt, something my parents never used. I rug hooked one in time for our next Christmas in 1977 and we’ve used it every year since.

My mother made my felt stocking when I was a child circa 1960. When I married, I made my husband one in green like my mother did for my brothers. I made a red one for my daughter in the late 70’s and found the felt to be thinner than my own. By the time our 2nd batch of kids were born in the 90’s, I needed to double the thickness to equal the felt my mom had used all those years ago. As well, Mom had lined our stockings with plastic in case juice leaked from the orange or the chocolates melted. When I went to line my kids’ stockings, I had to use plastic from the heavy disposable diaper pkgs to equal my vintage stocking. We don’t put oranges in them anymore, but chocolate is a requirement and I was trying to duplicate the one my mom had lovingly crafted for me. This year I’m using a red plush stocking. Why? Because I’ve used my old felt one every Christmas for approx 50 yrs. From now on, it’ll grace my wall with dignity and then maybe, last another 50 years.

Anita is a lovely friend and a reader extraordinaire. You can visit her blog to see what she has to say about the many many books she reads. CLICK HERE.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Tree Tour: Chris

My friend Chris send me a picture of her Snoopy tree. You Mickey Mouse gals don't have anything over on Chris. She has an entire bedroom decorated Snoopy-style!

Chris says:
"My Snoopy tree that has vintage ceramic made-in-Japan Peanuts ornaments on it. I also put up a small cookie ornament tree in the kitchen, a small train and car ornament tree in Garrett's room and a big real tree in the livingroom with our every year ornaments on it. Garrett was "into" putting up trees this year so we went overboard. I don't think he is going to be "into" taking them down in January though. :-)"

Thanks for sharing your Christmas with us, Chris!

Christmas Tree Tour: Lisbon, Portugal

The largest Christmas tree in Europe (more than 230 feet tall) can be found in the Prado Comio in Lisbon, Portugal Thousands of lights adorn the tree, adding to the special enchantment of the city during the holiday season.

I've enjoyed seeing these trees in countries where I have books published!

Remember: To see all the photos in the Christmas Tree Tour, type Christmas Tree Tour in the search box in the upper lefthand corner and click search. It will bring them all up for you.

Christmas Tree Tour, Venice


Venice's Murano Island renowned throughout the world for its quality glasswork is home to the tallest glass tree in the world. Sculpted by master glass blower Simone
Cenedese, the artistic Christmas tree is a modern reflection of the holiday season.

Christmas Tree Tour: Moscow

Moscow celebrates Christmas according to the Russian Orthodox calendar on Jan. 7. For weeks beforehand, the city is alive withfestivities in anticipation of Father Frost's arrival on his magical troika with the Snow Maiden. He and his helper deliver gifts
under the New Year tree, or yolka, which is traditionally a fir.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Tree Tour: Prague's Old Town Square


Illuminating the Gothic facades of Prague's Old Town Square, and casting its glow over the manger display of the famous Christmas market, is a grand tree cut in the Sumava mountainsin the southern Czech Republic.

Christmas Tree Tour: Donna Alward

Here's a alovely addition to the tour, sent by Donna Alward.
Donna says:
"I suppose since I tend to write traditional type stories, there should be lots of traditions for my tree. The tree skirt I quilted myself. The ornaments – well now, that’s a mix. Some are from a set the husband and I bought on our honeymoon, at a Costco in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Others are ones I’ve had since my childhood. Every time we travel, we pick one up and bring it home as a reminder of our adventures- there are ones from Disneyworld, Las Vegas and London. Some are keepsakes that have come our way, and many are ones I’ve made with my kids sitting around the kitchen table – the favourite being the white and gold bead wreaths we made 2 years ago.

"Each year the kids get a personalized ornament in their stocking. When they leave the nest, they will already have a box of keepsake ornaments to take with them to remind them of home. I get sad just thinking about it.

"This year the tree is in our new house, and in the family room which also has a fireplace that I adore. It is a warm, festive feeling place and I love spending time there. It feels exactly like Christmas should feel. Warm, happy and blessed.

"I certainly hope yours is."

Thank you, Donna! We wish you a lovely Christmas, too, and we enjoyed seeing your tree.


Thursday, December 18, 2008


Inside me there's a thin person struggling to get out, but I can usually sedate him with four or five cupcakes.
-Bob Thaves

Still need something for your honey?

Buying gifts for men is not nearly as complicated as it is for women.
Follow these rules and you should have no problems.

Rule #1: When in doubt - buy him a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. I have a friend who owns 17 and he has yet to complain. As a man, you can really never have too many cordless drills. No one knows why.

Rule #2: If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. "Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?" "OK. By-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?" Again, no one knows why.

Rule #3: If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car. A 99- cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.

Rule #4: Do not buy men socks. Do not buy men ties. And never buy men bathrobes. I was told that if God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn't have invented Jockey shorts.

Rule #5: You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.

Rule #7: Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after shave or deodorant. I'm told they do not stink - they are earthy.

Rule #8: Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. "Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink." You get the idea. No one knows why.

Rule #9: Never buy a man anything that says "some assembly required" on the box. It will ruin his day and he will always have parts left over.

Rule #10: Good places to shop for men include Northwest Iron Works, Parr Lumber, Home Depot, John Deere, Valley RV Center, and Les Schwab Tire. NAPA Auto Parts and Sears Clearance Centers are also excellent men's stores. It doesn't matter if he doesn't know what it is. "From NAPA Auto, eh? Must be something I need. Hey! Isn't this a starter for a '68 Ford Fairlane? Wow! Thanks."

Rule #11: Men enjoy danger. That's why they never cook - but they will barbecue. Get him a monster barbecue with a 100-pound propane tank. Tell him the gas line leaks. "Oh the thrill! The challenge! Who wants a hamburger?"

Rule #12: Tickets to a football game are a smart gift. However, he will not appreciate tickets to "A Retrospective of 19th Century Quilts." Everyone knows why.

Rule #13: Men love chainsaws. Never, ever, buy a man you love a chainsaw. If you don't know why - please refer to Rule #8 and what happens when he gets a label-maker.

Rule #14: It's hard to beat a really good wheelbarrow or an aluminum extension ladder. Never buy a real man a step ladder. It must be an extension ladder. No one knows why.

Rule #15: Rope. Men love rope. It takes them back to our cowboy origins, or at least The Boy Scouts. Nothing says love like a hundred feet of 3/8" manila rope.

Christmas Tree Tour: Gubrio. Italy

The world's largest Christmas tree display rises up the slopes
of Monte Ingino outside of Gubbio, in Italy's Umbria region.
Composed of about 500 lights connected by 40,000 feet of wire,
the 'tree' is a modern marvel for an ancient city

Christmas Tree Tour: Tokyo Japan

A Christmas tree befitting Tokyo's nighttime neon display is
projected onto the exterior of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka.

Thanks to my friend Mary Ellen for finding these great photos of Christmas Trees around the world! Have I ever mentioned that I have the best friends?

Blogging at P&P Today

I'm blogging at Petticoats and Pistols today.
Stop by!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hill Country Christmas by Laurie Kingery

Hill Country Christmas by Laurie Kingery
Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical
Oct 2008
ISBN: 9780373827985

Overnight, Delia Keller went from penniless preacher's granddaughter to rich young heiress. She's determined to use her money to find the security she's always lacked. And building herself a new house by Christmas is her first priority. But handsome Jude Tucker is challenging her plans and her heart….

The former Civil War chaplain hasn't felt peace in a very long time, and he has a hard time letting go of his past. But as Jude gets to know the spirited Delia, he longs to show her what true Christmas joy means. In the rugged Texas Hill Country, he'll reach for a miracle to restore his faith…and give Delia his love for all seasons.


Christmas Tree Tour: Washington DC

The Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., is decorated with 3,000
ornaments that are the handiwork of U.S. schoolchildren. Encircling
evergreens in the 'Pathway of Peace' represent the 50 U.S. states.

Christmas Tree Tour: LeighAnn

So my daughter calls me up a week or so ago and says, "You're not going to believe what Brad and I did."
"What?" I ask.
The lights on their prelit Christmas tree were pretty much all burned out and it was time for a new one. They priced trees and were horrified. Best to wait until after Christmas for a nice one at an affordable price.

So they looked around for something inexpensive to get them through the holiday. And always practical, they decided on one of these spiral wire outdoor trees! They set it up and waited for the kids' reactions. The kids liked it. And hey, the dogs won't be tempted.

And next year it will have a spot outside their house.
So without further ado -- the tree:

Christmas Tree Tour: Charlene Sands

The Christmas Tree Tour Times THREE

Charlene says:
"We’ve always talked about having two trees in our home but this year we’ve outdone ourselves! We have three and none of them are real!

"But oh, they have sentimental value. Our big tree is the mainstay in our living room. It’s visible from our corner windows to the outside and it’s our pride and joy, holding all our favorite ornaments, from handmade ones made by our kids to our vacation ornaments we’ve collected through the years.

"The tinsel tree, we forgot we purchased last year. We were pleasantly surprised to find it in our Christmas stash. It reminds my husband and I of the 1950’s and the trees we grew up with as children. We left it as is in the corner of our family/television room where we can enjoy it every day."

Thank you, Charlene. We enjoyed the peek into your Christmas celebration this year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tree Tour: Elaine

My friend Elaine sent me a picture of her adorable little tree.

Elaine says:
"The tree is new this year--
I needed an apartment size---
But the dolls and animals underneath I've had for years.
Some things you can't give up."

Thanks for sharing, Elaine!

Watch my McSexy McChristmas Dance!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Christmas Tree Tour: Times Square

Before the ball drops in Times Square, the Big Apple turns on its
holiday charm with the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

Christmas Tree Tour: Joanne Rock

This is Joanne Rock's Christmas tree. Couldn't you just curl up on the sofa with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and enjoy this pretty site? What time shall we be over, Joanne?

You're invited... Visit with Joanne and fans who love Joanne's books by subscribing to JoanneRock'sBlazingFans. Simply send a blank email to:

If you're a writer, Joanne has how-to articles on her website. CLICK HERE

Thanks for sharing with us, Joanne!

Monday, December 15, 2008

For Jocelyn, Sean and Noah


Christmas Tree Tour: My Tree Toppers

I've shown you a few peeks at my tree, which I decorated Victorian this year. It takes half a dozen totes and twice as many boxes of adornment, and is, of course, excessive.

My sweet husband toted the box of toppers up from the storage room for me, and I was trying to decide which one to use. They're all just so pretty. I've used the lighted angel and the pointy one and the ribbon and the glittery star all at one time or another. But then I stopped and thought, "But wait, why am I trying to decide on one? This is my tree of excess and I am the Queen of Excess."

Here is the top of my tree. And all four toppers. I'm in love. And it works.

HER MONTANA MAN a Book Club Feature

The Fabulous Firsts are always exciting, and I can't tell you how thrilled I am that Her Montana Man is a December selection in the Doubleday/Rhapsody Book Club!

And are you ready? It's in hardcover!

It was her whispered “please” that undid him. Low and intimate, it erased all hesitation and had Jonas agreeing to keep Eliza’s secret…no matter what.

Nothing and no one intimidates Jonas Black. Except for Eliza Jane, that is. As the owner of the Silver Star Saloon, he’s used to facing down drunks and gunmen, but he just can’t seem to do more than tip his hat whenever he sees her.

What Jonas doesn’t realize is that Eliza is haunted by a tragic past…and by a dangerous enemy in the present. Now, her fate hangs in the balance, and when she comes to Jonas for help, he makes a discovery that would change both their lives forever. Another powerful story by Cheryl St. John, Her Montana Man will stay with you long after the final page.


Chapter One
Silver Bend, Montana, May 1885

Jonas Black looked up from his ledgers and flipped open his ornately engraved gold pocket watch. Nearly three already. In preparation to leave his desk, he blotted the numbers he'd just tallied, then rubbed his ink-stained fingers on his denim trousers. There was something he did every afternoon at this time.

"Gonna be trouble at the North Star!" The tall stoop-shouldered man who tended bar rapped on Jonas's open office door at the same time as he shouted.

The North Star was the three-story hotel a few doors down, where Jonas and most of his employees lived. Jonas owned the hotel as well as the Silver Star Saloon.

"Tall fella, but not beefy," Quay told him. "He's hollerin' for Mrs. Holmes."

Jonas didn't bother to grab his jacket. He might talk this man into leaving peaceably, but experience had taught him it might take more than a simple please to appeal to an abuser. No call to ruin a perfectly good coat.

He glanced at the holstered Colt hanging on a peg just inside the door, but deliberately walked past and locked the door behind him.

With the shutters open to the warm afternoon sun, the saloon was warm and bright. The freshly scrubbed floors, the two patrons and the woman polishing the top of the mahogany bar barely registered as he strode for the door and out onto the shaded boardwalk.

"Madeline, come out here now! Don't make me come in and get you."

The stranger stood in the street, a sweaty bay tethered to the post in front of the hotel. His tailored black suit was coated with a layer of dust as though he'd been pushing the mare for the better part of a day. In Jonas's book, men who abused horses ranked right up there with men who mistreated women. Jonas had heard Madeline Holmes's story and drew the easy conclusion that this was the man she'd run from before finding refuge in Silver Bend.

"Don't make me come in there and drag you out!" the man shouted.

"Looking for someone?" Jonas called easily.

"Stay outta this, mister. Ain't none of your concern."

Jonas walked several yards toward the hotel. "Well, seems it is my concern since you're standing there hollerin' at the front windows of my establishment. State your business, Mister…"

"Baslow. This your hotel?"

"That it is. Jonas Black's the name. And you are?"

"I'm lookin' to take a woman back with me. I want Madeline Holmes."

"Is she your wife?"

The angry man deepened the scowl on his already craggy face, and his complexion reddened. "Ain't none of your damned business what she is. All you need to know is that she's comin' with me."

"I guess we can leave that up to Maddie, now, can't we?"

At Jonas's familiar use of her name, Baslow turned his whole body toward Jonas and squinted. "What's she to you?"

"A good employee. I'll go tell her you're here and you can ask her directly what she'd like to do."

The man jerked his head toward the saloon Jonas had exited. Quay still stood just outside the doors.

"She's in there?" Baslow shouted. "Whoring?"

Jonas gestured to a brightly painted wooden sign that hung on the outside of the building. "No sportin' women in my establishment. Maddie's one of my housekeepers."

"The hell you say. Madeline!" he roared, stalking toward the saloon.

Jonas frowned at Baslow's belligerent tone and aggressive stance. Eagerness for the man to try to push past him so he'd have reason to restrain him made his fingers tingle and his blood pump.

Instead, Baslow gave him a wide berth, striding to face the open saloon doors.

Casually, Jonas turned and stepped past Quay into the dim interior. This time his gaze sought and found the dark-haired woman who'd stopped polishing the bar and stood in rigid fear, her eyes as wide as saucers, her face pale. "Frank," she said on a dry rasp.

Jonas thought she might have been pretty once, before abuse and fear had added the appearance of more years to her narrow face. Using intimidation, the man had held her in his home and his bed for eight years. Breaking away had taken courage. Following through with her decision to escape would take even more.

"You don't have to be afraid," Jonas assured her. "Quay and I are right here. The whole of Silver Bend would see if he tried to force you away in plain sight. You don't have to go back with him. He can't make you. Tell him you don't want to leave. Make it loud 'n clear so there are witnesses."

Her frightened gaze moved from Jonas to the doorway. He'd seen the same bleak dread on too many faces, and it made his blood boil. "You're free, Maddie. You have a job and can take care of yourself. You don't need him. He has no control over you except what you give him. From here on out you can live your life any way you see fit. It's up to you."

His words took effect, and her expression changed. Madeline Holmes placed the cloth she'd been holding on the bar and, with precise movements, removed her apron, folded it neatly and set it down. She ran her palms over her skirt in a nervous gesture, then straightened and raised her chin. "He can't make me do anything I don't want to, can he?"

"No, he can't."

She walked toward the doors. Jonas followed.

As she stepped out onto the boardwalk, Baslow's severe gaze narrowed on her. His attention sidled over Jonas and Quay before fixing back on her as though the men were irritating flies he intended to swat later. "If you want to bring anything with you, get it now."

Her hands trembled, but with obvious deliberation she hid them in the folds of her skirts. Jonas cheered silently for her brave front.

"I have a job now. And my own room at the hotel," she said, her voice louder than he'd expected, though a slight tremble betrayed her nervousness. "I'm content to stay right here."

Baslow's thunderous expression darkened even more noticeably.

A few citizens had gathered on the boardwalk across the street and were watching the goings-on with interest. Wouldn't be the first time a fight had erupted in front of his place, Jonas thought, his blood pounding with keen awareness, and it wouldn't be the last. He had never minded a good fight to clear the air.

"You choosing a life of whoring over comin' with me?" Baslow bit out between clenched teeth.

Jonas kept his mouth shut. He'd already told the man there weren't any sporting women at his place, and everyone in town knew it. This was Maddie's chance to speak her piece.

"That's what I felt like when I was with you," she said, coming straight to the heart of the matter. "I don't want to live that way anymore. I'm not your wife." Her voice and demeanor showed renewed strength in her decision. "Nobody hits me," she declared. "And I get a fair wage for a day's work. I can take care of myself just fine."

Baslow headed toward Maddie. "I don't know who fed you that hogwash," he said, "but you belong to me, and you'll do as I say."

She backed away.

Jonas met him before he could reach the shade of the boardwalk. "Remember the brother's war, Baslow? It's against the law to keep slaves."

They stood three feet apart. Baslow's right eye twitched with anger. Jonas's palms tingled.

"Get outta my way, mister, before you regret it."

"Can't do that. Maddie's my employee, and I take care of my people."

Baslow lunged toward Jonas. Jonas dodged his first attempt to reach him, spinning with hands locked together to land a blow on the back of the man's neck.

Caught off guard, Baslow fell to his hands and knees in the dirt, losing his hat. Slowly, he shook his head, and then scrambled to his feet to come after Jonas. The fight was on.

The growing crowd pushed forward for a better look.

Energized now, Jonas raised both fists and bent his knees in readiness. Baslow faced him and they squared off, circling in avid concentration. The man's eyes bored into Jonas's with contempt. Jonas studied his stance, his movements, waited to see how he hit. Faster than Jonas anticipated, Baslow landed a blow to Jonas's shoulder that forced him to catch his balance and got him mad. He retaliated with a quick right that landed on the man's jaw with a crack and drew a grunt from his opponent and a murmur from the crowd.

Jonas didn't feel the hits that came next, though he knew one landed against his ribs and another at his temple. Adrenaline lent him strength and numbed the pain. In the minutes that followed he used the reprieve to his advantage, skillfully finding opportunities to put down punches.

Half-a-dozen solid hits later Baslow's lip was bleeding. He had a cut over his left eye, and he was breathing hard. Jonas watched for and found an opportunity, hit his eye again, then positioned all his muscle into landing a blow to his gut.

The man moaned and doubled over, dropping to his knees in the dirt. He glared up at Jonas, one eye red from streaming blood. "You got no right to keep Madeline."

"You're finally right," Jonas answered. "Nobody's got a right to hold her. She's free to leave, she's free to stay." He turned to Maddie, who'd been watching with both hands clasped under her chin. "You want to go?"

She shook her head and released a pent-up breath. "No."

"You sure? 'Cause we don't want any misunder-standin's. You're free to leave any time you want."

"I want to stay."

"There you have it." Jonas's knuckles were stinging now. "Need any more convincing?"

Marshal Haglar parted the crowd and made his way to stand on the brick street a few feet away. He took in both men's appearances. "What in blazes is goin' on here?"

Maddie immediately ran forward to explain what had taken place. When she'd finished, the marshal turned to the spectators. "That how it happened? Anyone see the whole thing?"

Jonas couldn't remember if anyone had been there during the initial exchange of words. He scanned the faces nearby. People had an aversion to getting involved, especially when a dangerous-looking fellow like Baslow glared at them as though daring someone to speak against him.

The marshal eyed the crowd, and one after another, the bystanders glanced at the person beside them and then away. Jonas figured his reputation and position on the town council would have enough sway. He wasn't a troublemaker, but he never ran from a fight, either. He didn't want to put Warren Haglar in a bad position, and the indifference of the locals irritated him.

Townspeople turned as movement caught their attention, and Jonas looked, too. From the opposite boardwalk, a slender woman in a blue-and-white gingham dress and a straw hat held the hem of her skirts above her shoes and stepped down onto the paving bricks. She walked to within four feet of the law officer. An unexpected tremor stabbed at Jonas's belly.

"I saw the entire incident, Marshal," she said. "I saw that man ride up and shout for Mrs. Holmes."

Of course. Jonas's three o'clock obsession. She'd been on the boardwalk the whole time. Eliza Jane Sutherland was rather tall for a woman, and on the rare occasion that she'd been without a hat, he'd seen that her hair was black and glossy in the sunlight. Jonas had never heard her speak more than a one- or two-word greeting, so now her magnificent silky voice, more than the words she spoke, caught and held his attention.

"Mr. Black came out of his establishment and suggested that he—" she pointed to the scowling stranger "—leave." Her bright amber gaze moved to Jonas.

Something in his chest throbbed at the direct look, something ragged and weighty, something more alarming than facing a dozen angry men in the street.

The marshal asked her several questions and she replied directly. Jonas couldn't take his eyes from her.

Every afternoon, rain or shine, Eliza Jane walked to the small tea shop that was a red brick storefront nestled on the corner beside Earl Mobley's tailor shop on the opposite side of the street. Once inside, she seated herself at a table before the front window, where Bonnie Jacobson brought her a china cup and a pot of tea. Most days Jonas observed her ritual from just inside the door of the saloon where she couldn't see him, but occasionally he found a reason to run an errand to the hardware store across the street in time for her arrival.

Once or twice he'd paused on the boardwalk as she passed and tipped his hat. As soon as she'd raised those amber eyes, his heart thudded in his chest and he'd chastised himself. Nothing and no one intimidated Jonas Black.

Apparently the marshal had no problem accepting the true story now that Eliza Jane had verified it, because he turned to Baslow. "Time you moved on."

Baslow shot Maddie a look of seething rage. "You ain't seen the last of me, woman. Don't think your friends can protect you forever."

"Anything happens to Miss Holmes, and we'll know who to look for," the marshal told him. "I'll be wiring the county seat to let 'em know about this disturbance."

Baslow located his hat where it lay in the street. He snatched it up, whacked it against his thigh and settled it on his head before walking toward his horse and untying it. From the clumsy way he mounted, Jonas suspected he was masking a couple of cracked ribs.

Marshal Haglar watched as the man turned his mount away and galloped out of town. "Stay out of sight, but follow him a ways to make sure he's headed home," he told one of the young men who had a horse tethered across the street.

Once Baslow was out of sight and the man he'd sent was tailing him, the marshal approached Maddie.

"Thank you, Marshal," she said.

"I had the easy part," he replied. "Looks like Jonas got the worst of it."

Maddie looked Jonas over, but after noting the onlookers, a tinge of embarrassment stained her cheeks. "Sorry," she said low enough that only Jonas and the marshal could hear.

Christmas Tree Tour: Michelle Styles

Today we get a peek in the home of Michelle Styles! I confess Michelle's tree is always one of my very favorites. She has it in her sun room, and her photos always show a lot of detail. I love the wood floors. the windows, everything. Michelle told me she moved her lovely grapevine to the greenhouse.

Michelle says:
"This year's tree has ornaments stretching back to my childhood. The great thing about decorating a tree is renewing my acquaintance with ornaments. For example, the hummingbird ornament which was savaged by the cats when they were young -- still hung high even though I think their days of scaling trees is over or the mice ornaments that I bought just before I moved over to the UK or the sprayed walnuts that the children and I did the first year we moved here.

"So many memories, but each Christmas brings new ones so I always like getting ornments as well."

Thank you for the pleasure, Michelle!
Visit Michelle's website and learn about her books here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I've finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.
-Dave Barry

$aving on Your Electric Bill

The news tonight let Nebraskans know that our natural gas bill will be decreased 20% in the next year. In the same breath the newsperson said our electric bills were going up nearly $9. per month. Good for us we have gas heat, but we still run a lot of stuff on electrity, like the $tove and dryer. I found some money-$aving tip$ today.

All those gadgets you leave plugged in all day co$t you--even when they’re not in use. Standby energy use accounts for 5% to 10% of all home energy consumption and costs the average household $125 a year, says Ronnie Kweller, a spokeswoman with the Alliance to Save Energy. Understandably, there are some items that are just too annoying to unplug all the time, including cable boxes, microwaves and other appliances with clocks. Plug other items that you use frequently, such as your computer or television, into a power strip that can be switched off before you leave the house.

Leaving your cell phone charger plugged in all the time uses electricity! This was a wake up call for me. We have three in our house, four if Elijah's using the one for the phone he plays with. I suppose my camera cord takes power, too then? Ugh.

One other helpful hint: Enable your computer’s “sleep mode” rather than letting it go to a screen saver. That small gesture can save up to $75 a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

For ways to reduce the power drain of commonly-used gadgets, read the story here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Family Pics from Thanksgiving

Continuing with pictures taken on Thanksgiving:
This is my younger brother's oldest son, Brad with his youngest daughter, Kadence. She is one adorable kiddo. She smiles all the time, except when silly great-aunt Cheryl aims a camera at her, of course.

This is Brad's sweetheart wife, Ramona and thir oldest daughter, Amaya. Amaya is the spitting image of Brad when he was little. I have to find a picture and put them side by side. Such a nice little family.