It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

We visited my dad today and my kids helped him decorate a small tree growing alongside the driveway. It was a small, 3 foot tree that looked a bit like a Charlie Brown tree, but very cute, especially after the kids hung the glittery ornaments.

He had another small tree for inside his house, a fake one that lit up and spun. It didn’t look like much, again, until they decorated it. We plugged it in and the little tree began to spin around and display little specs of glowing colors, which my middle son described as Northern Lights colors. We turned off the lights and watched it for a while as Elvis sang Christmas songs from the record player. I recently told my husband about my parents’ old Elvis records that I missed, and I was surprised to see them today. My dad had bought an old record player so there was even a way to listen to them again. It’s been a long time and many moves so I figured the records were gone. It seemed to work out perfectly for Christmas.

I’ve always been sentimental about the holidays and family – even as a kid I remember getting caught up in the emotions and traditions. Now I have my own kids to share this time with. I love this festive time of year, and this holiday season feels extra special to me. I took a lot of different steps this year to get my books out to more readers, and I’ve gotten to watch the results over the last five months. I reached 10,000 book sales, and the amazing part is that I sold most of them in September through November. A Cowboy For Christmas broke into the top 1000 in both the US and UK. All of my books have been following, making their way up the Kindle charts. More Than Memories was at 2,500 today. I’ve had some fun with writing too, publishing a Fantasy Romance novella and an Action Spy Thriller called Kauai Spy Games. Earlier in the year, I published Book Promoting 101 and A Miraculous Fate, a mystical thriller co-written with Tommy Garrison. Yeah, I know, I have quite a few different genres there! I just love a good story and enjoy writing romance, romantic suspense, action, thrillers and fantasy. I started three different novels lately and expect to publish several books again in 2012.

I’m very excited to see what happens this month. It’s been amazing to connect with readers through Facebook and Twitter, and these are just a fraction of the people reading my books. I’ve always dreamed about people all over the world reading my books. I have all kinds of big news to share with you this month along with some guest blogs. I joined a romance blog hop the 12th – 24th and will be giving away some ebooks too. So stay tuned, and enjoy this magical season!

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Cookie-Exercise Conversion for the Holidays

It’s the holidays once again! That means we’re baking, making and buying goodies galore. (I’ve bookmarked a page called The Best 50 Cookie Recipes Ever and visit it often. Take a look!)

Now I believe in enjoying treats year round, just not over indulging all the time. It’s about satisfying your craving here and there while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eating a small treat might save you from eating several healthy snacks and then giving in to the treat anyway. In fact, Glamour magazine just ran an article about the “Snob Diet,” where you allow yourself that yummy cheese and cracker snack or chocolate, as long as it’s the really good kind. A little bit of cheesecake will probably fix your craving, the logic goes.

So here is the real question: just how many cookies can you get away with?

I went looking and found a calorie calculator that projects recommended daily caloric intake based on age, gender, height, weight, activity level and personal fitness goals on a website called www.supplementcritique.com

I played around and put in my age, weight, activity level, and decided to put my goal as losing weight.

Good thing I did… I need to stick to under 1170 calories to do that if I’m only lightly active!

But the good news came when I switched to moderately active and my calorie intake went up to 1432 calories, meaning I could have a cookie in there if I go for a half hour, brisk walk.

But remember that I put my goal as losing weight. Maybe you’re happy with your weight and wondering what happens if you have a cookie here and there.

If I’m moderately active and simply maintaining my weight, which is actually about where I’m at, I can have 1934 calories.

So you can see, your activity level and weight goal have a huge impact on your daily calorie needs, which is why this calculator comes in handy.

Now I need to research how many calories are in a cookie. Store bought goodies make this part easy, but they’re never as good. And who doesn’t love eating cookies straight out of the oven? (That whole “Let cool 15 minutes” is an urban myth – don’t listen to it!) Most cookies range from 150 calories clear up to 500, depending on the size and what’s in it. Some recipes include the calories per cookie, and I’ve a site I use often, www.allrecipes.com, lists all the information. I just found a chocolate chip cookie recipe listing 250 calories per cookie.

So, it looks like one cookie is worth 40 minutes of speed walking. Maybe I need to run more. Oh, good, an hour of cycling at my normal speed of 13 mph burns 600 calories. But, I just realized, all that exercise would probably make me crave salads and healthy food, so we should probably skip the exercise and just eat our cookies. Here’s to the holidays!

Living In The Christmas Tree

Living In The Christmas Tree – a Christmas short story about family

Copyright Kristen James, all rights reserved.

 

We used to worry about finding Libby a heart, but now we only think of the best way to let her go. The understanding doctors let us bring a small Christmas tree into her hospital room and decorate it.

“Move it closer,” she asked, “Please. I like looking up into the branches.”

“Let’s see what we can do.” I had the two-and-a-half foot Noble Fir on an end stand, and I pushed it as close as I dare. Who knew what would happen if I disturbed all of her machines. “Can you see better?”

Slightly turning her head, she smiled as she looked at it. We’ve always had Noble Firs for our Christmas tree because their branches are spaced, leaving room for ornaments to hang. The kids especially like hanging tinsel.

“I used to wish I could live in those little worlds.” Libby said, looking between the branches at the scenes made by our figurine ornaments. I remembered her then, every year, lying under the tree, watching the lights and ornaments. Gazing into the tree’s branches now, Libby smiled. There haven’t been many smiles in the last few months as her condition deteriorated. Finally, the doctors said there weren’t any available hearts, and she would need one right away to change things. Dr. Lane’s eyes had filled with tears when he said, “We’ll make it as comfortable as possible . . . we’ll do our best to make it a great holiday.”

Losing my daughter is the worst Christmas present I can think of, for anyone, but I turned my thinking around and promised to make this her Christmas.

Andrew, Libby’s younger brother, and Joanna, her older sister, were hanging ornaments, asking Libby each time, “Where do you want this one?”

Libby has been so brave through all this. Joanna and Andrew, too, have been strong and haven’t cried in front of Libby. I haven’t done so well in that category.

“Leave room for the presents!” Andrew sternly told Joanna, as always trying to be a leader.

Joanna gasp, suddenly remembering something. “Libby, wait till you see what we got you!”

Libby’s eyelids flickered. She looked terribly tired but whispered hoarsely, “Why did you do that? You know I don’t need anything. You’ll just have to get it back in a few days.”

I turned away quickly and dug in my purse for something, anything, and tried not to hear the awful silence behind me. When I had my eyes under control, I went to the Christmas box and pulled out one of the small, shiny ornaments to hang, forcing a smile for the kids.

Libby sighed such a quiet little sigh that I barely heard it. “Sorry…you can get me something if you want.”

I’ve agonized in the stores already, searching for something for her. Her and I both know she can’t keep it, but still… it’s the last chance I will ever have to buy my baby a present. When people talk about having a difficult time finding a present, they don’t know. They really don’t know.

I glanced down at her and followed Libby’s gaze into the tree. I found myself wishing we could all go there, and be together as hanging figurines, forever. I took her hand, overwhelmed once again by the helplessness.

The door popped open with a harsh click and swoosh, followed by an animated Dr. Lane. Three nurses rushed in with him. I felt my own heart try to stop. Not now. I wasn’t ready. By habit, I looked at her monitors but they didn’t look any different.

“We have a heart! We have a heart!”

They grabbed wires faster than I could think, moving quickly, doing things I didn’t understand. I only saw Libby’s bewildered look.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said because she looks scared. Her grip on my hand tightens.

“We have to get her in right now.” Dr. Lane grabbed my other hand. “Merry Christmas.”

I looked at my daughter but couldn’t see through my tears. Someone out there . . . who isn’t there anymore . . . gave us this gift. I hope they felt ready, unlike my Libby, and I hope they went home for Christmas.

The doctor and nurses began rolling Libby out of the room. She looked exhausted still, but managed a smile, and told Joanna, “Wait for me to open presents, okay?”

 

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