Christmas Time is Here

Although December can be a slower time in the book business, it’s a busy time for many folks…us included…as we prepare for the upcoming holidays. Visiting with friends, planning gatherings, sending greeting cards, finding that “purrfect” gift for family members and friends…all while bundled up against the cold winter chill…make it an exciting time. And although Brian is still busily writing away on the next book during the days, in the evenings we like to find time to watch some of our favorite holiday television programs. For Brian, it’s Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang. For me, it’s not the holidays until the Grinch carves the “rare roast beast.”

What’s your annual “must watch” holiday show…?

Squeezer or Roller?

With all of the events and traveling that we do to meet readers, Brian and I have perfected a lot of methods for packing—although sometimes we do need to get a little “creative.” (See my pic from last year around this time when we had to pack for 15 events in 8 days.) But invariably, we forget something, so it’s a good thing that most hotels will furnish small amenities like soap, shampoo, mouthwash—and even a disposable razor…! One thing we never forget, though, is a large tube of toothpaste…and yes, our brand is Crest. Luckily, a long time ago, we realized that we were both “squeezers” and not “rollers”…!

Which one are you…a “squeezer” or a “roller”…?

Croissant!

Although we live in Minnesota, Brian is often asked why he chose to set his newest book. THE NIGHT BIRD, out in San Francisco. That’s an easy one…Brian was actually born in Chicago (yes, his early years were spent in the shadow of Wrigley Field). In the early 1970s, his entire family relocated out to northern California. A midwestern boy at heart, Brian came back here for college and has been here ever since.

Most of the Freeman family is still out in the Bay area, so it seemed a natural fit for Brian to finally set a series of books out there. We go out to California regularly to visit family and friends, and just as he does with his Jonathan Stride books, we take time to go off in search of new and creepy locations for him to use in future books.

But one of our favorite “not-so-creepy” spots is a local bakery in his hometown that makes the best croissants we’ve ever had. So, everyday, before we head off in search of new places, we make a stop for a morning treat like this one…! After all, we can’t be expected to face those dark and creepy locales on an empty stomach…!

Soft and Chewy

One of the things that Brian likes to do to relax is bake. And he’s been known to create some wonderful desserts (like red velvet cake, cupcakes, brownies, etc.,). He even subscribes to several cooking/baking magazines. But, there are some times when he just doesn’t have the time to whip up a sweet treat with a lot of steps. And it’s times like that when he goes to our freezer and pulls out some pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough balls that we always keep on hand. (We have a long-time friend who runs a wonderful catering business in Rochester MN–called Catering By Design—and they sell their cookies frozen, so we stock up from her regularly.) He just puts a few of those onto a cookie sheet, pops them into the oven and 10 minutes later we’ve got fresh, hot cookies—straight from the oven.

Of course, this brings up that age-old question—how do you like your chocolate chip cookies? Soft and chewy…? Thin and crispy…? (Or maybe you’re like me…and just have to have one raw…?)

Minnesota Nice

There’s a phrase that’s commonly used to describe people who live here…they’re called “Minnesota Nice.” It means that Minnesotans will often go out of their way to help others…and this is particularly true when it comes to helping out their friends…!

We were recently helping some friends who’d gone away for a few days by going over to their place to feed and water their cats, check for packages/mail…and just generally keep an eye on their place. We’ve done this for them many times before (as they have for us), so knew the code to open their garage door to access their house.

On this particular morning, we went over to their place…but the code wouldn’t work. We tried it multiple times…but to no avail. We were stumped…because it had always worked before. Returning home after our unsuccessful venture, Brian did an online search to see if he could find what the issue could be—and if there were any suggested solutions. He found that, indeed, this is a common problem—cold temperatures can affect the functioning of these keypads. A quick look at a weather app showed that our current outdoor temperature was 17 degrees…!

One of the suggested solutions was to cover the entire unit with a heating pad—letting it warm up—and then trying it again. We figured it was worth a try, so back to their place we went…heating pad and extension cord in hand. (Luckily, they do have an outdoor electrical outlet.)

So, there we stood…holding a heating pad in place over the keypad to warm it. Finally, after about 10 minutes, we tried the code again. VOILA…the code worked, the door opened…and we were able to get inside to feed the cats—who were VERY happy to see us…!

I can’t even imagine what any of their neighbors must have been thinking as they watched this…!

Busted!

It’s the holiday season and, although there’s no snow on the ground in our area, Brian and I have put up our Christmas tree (yes, we have a fake one). This is no small feat…particularly when there’s “feline assistance” involved…! As you might imagine, having spent more than 30 Christmases together, we have quite the collection of bright and shiny ornaments to display. And as you might also guess, bright and shiny ornaments are just thing to attract the attention of our cats…!
For the most part, they’re pretty good…but every now and then we’ll come into the room and find an ornament or two on the floor. Of course, when that happens, it’s pretty difficult to know who the culprit was. But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we catch one in the act…BUSTED…!

 

Panda Lover

A great benefit of Brian’s career as an author is all of the wonderful people we meet at events and here on Facebook. And last year around this time, I met a lovely woman who saw one of the pictures that I posted here on Facebook…one with Brian and our neighbors’ adorable little dog Maggie. She is a fan of Brian’s books…and she just happened to live in an area that Brian and I were going to be visiting on that very same day! Talk about coincidences…!

panda-ornamentSince that time, she and I have become wonderful friends…we exchange messages and talk regularly and we try to get together whenever our schedules permit. Last night was one of those times…and I was so touched when she gave me a very special gift…this hand-painted Christmas ornament…! Of course, I’m a cat lover…but I’m also a panda lover—having seen live pandas at the San Francisco, Washington DC and London zoos. Over the years, Brian and I have collected panda-themed items, many of which are prominently displayed around our house. In fact, you should see our stuffed panda collection.

As I sit here, looking at this beautiful ornament—and thinking about how wonderful it is that Brian and I have friends and fans around the world–I can’t help but also think…”uh-oh, Christmas isn’t really that far away…!

Duck Duck Yellow Duck

One of the interesting things about traveling around as much as Brian and I do is that when we stay in hotels, we get to see all kinds of bathroom amenities. Of course, most places will give you nice soaps and shampoos…remember the “stack” of neutrogena products…? But we really love it when places will take that extra step to leave something fun. Out of all of the places we’ve stayed and all of the things we’ve seen, I would have to say that this–from a hotel in Appleton, Wisconsin a few years ago–remains my all-time favorite hotel room amenity…!

rubber-duck