Valentine's Day Giveaway!

Loveys, it's February 1st already. Can you believe it? Happy Hearts Month begins today! I spent the morning making strawberry cupcakes and strawberry cream cheese truffles (and telling myself to just buy these things next time! #messykitchen).

I am SO excited to share with you about a giveaway happening right now! Squeal! Some author friends and I have joined together to offer a Valentine's Day book bundle giveaway. You don't want to miss this! Two e-books and four paperbacks and, of course, chocolate!
Click here to sign up! a Rafflecopter giveaway This giveaway will run from today until Valentine's Day, so share the love and spread the news!

New York! New Year! New Everything!

Loveys, it's 2019. What in the world. Happy New Year, everybody. I don't know about you, but by the time January rolls around, I'm usually a little worn out from a long holiday season and I'm ready to start fresh. This year especially. In fact, the day after Christmas I took down all the decorations. Even after such a wonderful Christmas season, I was ready for a clean slate. For a new year. (Also, I'm super excited about my new Outlander calendar, see above. I'm obsessed!)

Today is actually my dad's birthday. We celebrated last night, and after last year (cancer diagnosis, surgery, radiation, the whole deal), it felt so nice to just be together like normal, go out to eat, celebrate my dad with cards and cake and gifts, and know that even if we're a bit changed--we're here together and that's what matters. He's here.

I can only feel so thankful for that today.

I'm thinking about this new year. Since Curious George is playing in the background and Lily's been cozying up to the fire--it feels like I've been here before. :) In all the best ways. But the truth is that we're starting this year--2019--in a new place for our family. I'm sitting here typing at a different kitchen island, looking out at a different backyard, and if I walk to the front windows, I'll look out at different mountains in the distance.

I'll be honest and tell you that sometimes it feels like we're still just visiting. But something about this new year reminds me this is our new place. And with change comes so many new experiences. In December, the Jeffster and I went to NYC (my first time ever!) and it was amazing and fun and another reminder that things are different now. I went with Jeff to work one day to see the office and say hello to all his colleagues. And walking from Central Park to Madison Ave, where the office is, was surreal. We were so far from Castle Pines in Colorado--there was no mistaking that this was new for us.

I loved New York. I stood in Times Square, looking at all the lights and screens and billboards and people--thinking that it looked like every NY movie scene I've ever seen. And getting to explore that city with the Jeffster was perfect. I love that he's still the person I want to be with, twenty years down the road from those two kids who met so long ago.

We walked until we were ready to drop, then hopped on the subway and kept going. We needed that time together. We needed some adventure and to be reminded that things have changed, but in amazing ways. And we're still us.

We all need that sometimes I think. The reminder that we're still us. Older. Wiser. Changed in lots of ways. But still here. This new year will hold wonderful moments and hard moments and all the days in between. And all those days will make up the legacy we leave behind, and it's important.

Life has been a whirlwind since we moved. In truth, there's hardly been time to be still and process everything. But here at the start of 2019, I'm taking a little time to process.

It's a new year. Who do I want to be this year? What do I want for our family?

I can answer that in one word--health. Because last year brought all kinds of scary health issues for a family that's always been pretty healthy. And this winter has been a revolving door of sickness for my kids--strep and bronchitis and so on. I'm hoping, praying, for a year of good health for all of my family--getting stronger, getting better, working toward a goal of taking this gift of life and living it as well as we can. We can't control whether or not we get sick--but I think we can work toward good health and treat life like the gift from God that it is.

That's my wish for this year. It's enough.

I'm not making resolutions or setting goals right now. I think I'm still weary from last year. I just want to pray for good health and take care of my family here at the start of 2019.

January rolled in and the days are going fast. Our schedules over here seem as full as ever. That's all of us, right? Juggling life and work and family and relationships fills up our hours.

In my mind, every day that goes by brings me closer to my next book release on February 4th. There are last-minute issues (like always!) and I'm trying not to stress about things I can't control, while at the same time, doing all the things an author needs to do before pub date. I'm going to be talking more about the new book over on my book blog today, Thinking in Words, so come stop by!

Oh What Fun! A Christmas Tea Party!

Come on in, loveys. Let's talk about Christmas! Have you finished shopping yet? Does your family stick to a traditional meal or mix things up? Are you exhausted (raising hand) and it hasn't even happened yet?

You know we've moved to Virginia. And you know that for the last several years, one of my very favorite traditions has been to throw a Christmas brunch and tea party. So, naturally, even though we're still pretty new here, I wanted to host Christmas tea. And last Saturday, some of my mom's friends, and some of my sister Laura's friends, and some of my friends all got together for a party.

Last year I did a Little Women-themed tea and loved it so much. But this year it was a Storyteller Christmas Tea, with little questions on chalkboards for every group at the tables. We shared stories of favorite presents from the past (my table was all about Cabbage Patch dolls), favorite holiday movies and carols, and more. The chalkboards were passed from table to table so we could answer all the questions.

There is so much I love about the holidays. I'm all about holiday movies and music and twinkle lights and decorations. The Jeffster and I are smack-dab in the middle of Christmas with small kids and it's so fun. Programs and school parties and baking and so much excitement. Our December schedule can look overwhelming. But there's something about squeezing in time for a gathering like this. Sharing some holiday cheer with each other. I love it.

Preparing for the tea doesn't really feel like work to me. Sending invitations, setting the table, planning the menu--those are things I enjoy. Over the years, I've learned that help is a very good thing. I recommend a potluck because not only is it great to try different dishes your friends like to make, also, you're not so stressed about the food.

Another thing I've learned is to take time to get yourself ready! It's never fun when people show up and you still need to get ready. People would rather wait on the food, than wait on you.

Maybe especially this year, since I'm away from all the friends who I've done this with for years, it was so nice to have a house full of people. I like the chatter. I like the champagne. I like breakfast food! The truth is it can be lonely starting over somewhere new. Making friends can be difficult at any age. You hope people will like you, understand you, accept you. We never outgrow that, of course.

So maybe I was a little nervous about this gathering. But our first tea in Virginia went well, with the help of Laura and so many friends who brought delicious food. And someone at the table said, I hope this becomes a tradition. That warmed my heart, truly. And made everything worthwhile.

Still it's bittersweet. I love those women in Colorado and they are in my heart forever. And later, after most of the guests had left and I'd kicked off my heels, those girls in Colorado (who were also having a party!) Face-timed me, and I'm almost crying again at the thought of it.

Still loved. Not forgotten. Still knit together by memories and friendship.

That's what it's all about for me. Building traditions, building relationships, sharing a little of who we are with our people.

We're just days away from Christmas, loveys. I think we're just about ready. I've pulled out my Mimi's cornbread dressing recipe. (Sara, I really wish you were here and making the pistachio Watergate salad!) My family will go to church on Christmas Eve. The kids will squeal and scream with excitement on Christmas morning. We'll go to Grammy and Grandpa's house for Christmas lunch.

Oh so fun! All of it. What's happening at your house? Will it be a loud and crazy Christmas with a jam-packed house? Maybe it's a cozy, quiet Christmas this year. Both of those, and every scenario in between, sound wonderful to me. Is this season joyous for you? Or maybe tinged with a little sadness? Perhaps it's both and you're trying hard to make it through. You're not alone in that.

What are you hoping for this Christmas? What traditions are you continuing or maybe just beginning?

My wish for you is a very merry Christmas, lovey. Because Christmas is for all of us.