Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Disneyworld's Hidden Gem by Denise Devine

Every year our family takes a vacation at Disneyworld around the beginning of December and each time we stay at a different resort. This year we decided to try something unique. We rented a cabin at the Fort Wilderness Campground. Now, as you probably know, everything Disney does is fit for a princess—even camping!

To me, the campground resembled someplace you’d stay in the mountains in Yellowstone National Park, except our cabin had a large deck and a brand new interior, complete with Wi-Fi, a dishwasher, a convection oven and a 60-inch Smart TV. That’s Disney’s idea of roughing it!

Disney resorts are noisy. The pool is full of kids and the check-in/dining/shopping areas are usually very busy, especially at mealtime. Our little piece of Disney property was tucked away in a dense wood of pine trees and though the cabins were built close together, the only people we saw were other campers occasionally riding up and down the road in their golf carts. Many of the people who stay on this property come back year after year and they not only adorn their cabins with Christmas lights and decorations, but they dress up their golf carts as well.

At night it’s so quiet in the campground that you don’t even feel like you’re staying on Disney grounds. After dark, we walked to the bus stop (two minutes away) and caught the Disney bus to the “Outpost” for a bonfire, marshmallow roasting, a free Disney movie and entertainment. The Outpost was a large general store stocked with everything from diapers to pizza. The Campground also had a large area for check-in, golf cart rental and horseback riding. The main shopping/dining area was called “The Settlement.” We didn’t get time to go there, but next year we plan to check it out.

This year was my granddaughter’s third trip to the Happiest Place on Earth and she was even more excited about it than last year. Guinevere’s birthday is in two weeks (she’s turning five) so we added that to our Disney registration and upon check-in, she received a special “Celebration” button. Everywhere we went, Disney employees greeted her with “Happy Birthday, Princess!” She went to a special salon next to Pirates of the Caribbean where they turned her into a mermaid. For five days, Gwen (as we call her) was the happiest girl on earth.

This year was probably the best time we’ve ever had at Disney and next year we plan to rent two cabins. If you’re wondering—no, we’re not decorating them.
                                                                          ~     ~     ~

Denise Devine is a USA TODAY bestselling author who has had a passion for books since she discovered Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder in second grade. She wrote her first book, a mystery, at age thirteen and has been writing ever since. Her newest publication, A Christmas To Remember, is on sale now for 99 cents.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

A Special Christmas by Raine English

Seventeen years ago, I rescued a dog on Christmas day. Chance was a young, unruly pit bull, but with lots of patience and training, she became a wonderful dog. When she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge two years ago, my family and I were heartbroken, and our other dog, Bailey, a French bulldog, was left without a playmate.

Whenever my friends would hear of a dog that needed a home, they’d contact me, but none of those animals seemed like the right fit for our family. Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t yet ready to open my heart to another dog.

This year, though, something special happened. Dolly came into my life, and it was love at first sight. This beautiful, sweet French bulldog became a member of the family two weeks before Christmas, and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.

Did you receive something special this Christmas?


USA Today bestselling author Raine English writes sweet small-town contemporary romance, along with steamier paranormal and Gothic romantic suspense. She’s a Daphne du Maurier Award winner and a Golden Heart finalist. Her latest sweet release, SAVING LAUREL, is about a tortured actress who finds love at Christmas with the help of a ghost from the past. To receive information on all her new releases, you can sign up for her newsletter, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter. Be sure to visit her website too.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Crackers by Susan R. Hughes

Growing up in Canada, Christmas crackers have always been a part of my Christmas dinner tradition. I didn’t realize until recently that this is a distinctly British custom, passed along to the Commonwealth nations, and many Americans may not be familiar with it. For those of you who aren’t, here’s a short explanation.

Christmas crackers come with many different wrappers, but they basically consist of a cardboard tube wrapped in bright paper that is twisted closed at both ends. A “banger” (a chemically impregnated card strip) is threaded through the middle, so that when you pull the ends of the cracker, it splits with a bang (much like a cap gun). Typically the joy of opening a cracker is shared by two people, with one pulling on each end.

Store-bought crackers usually have a small toy or trinket, a joke or riddle on a slip of paper, and a tissue-paper hat inside. My mother has made homemade crackers using cloth and toilet paper tubes and fills them with more extravagant surprises and chocolates. Crackers are typically opened just before the Christmas dinner, and those who get into the spirit will wear the hats throughout the meal.

Tom Smith of London, England, invented crackers in 1847, as a promotion to sell his bon-bon sweets, which he sold in a twist of paper. The banger was added to emulate the crackle of a log on a fire, and eventually the crackers increased in size and trinkets and hats replaced the sweets.

I can’t imagine sitting down to Christmas dinner without finding a cracker next to each plate. Whatever the rituals may be in your home, I hope your Christmas was a peaceful and merry one!

Susan R. Hughes writes contemporary and historical romance novels set in Canada. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Learn more about her books at
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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Traveling with Pets by Ginny Baird

When you travel, does Fido come with you, or do you make arrangements to leave any furry friends at home? We’ve tried it both ways, and—although it can be a bit restrictive taking a four-legged friend along—we’ve discovered that, with a little advance planning, it can be done!

My husband and I have always loved taking our English Style Labrador Maggie to the beach, where she can run and swim to her heart’s content. She’s a very well-behaved dog, so we’ve taken her to visit relatives too, including my elderly Mother, who is crazy about her.

This fall, we experimented with something new: taking Maggie on her first official “road trip.” We were traveling from Virginia to the Tennessee mountains to see family, and then heading to Asheville, North Carolina. It was early November, but we still caught some changing leaves, which were glorious!

One thing I discovered is that the Chamber of Commerce of some towns provides an online listing of dog-friendly restaurants, shops and accommodations. While health codes prevent people from bringing any animals but service dogs indoors, a few restaurants have outdoor seating where pets are welcomed.

We were lucky to find a nice Bed and Breakfast in Jonesborough, TN that happily accommodated us and our pet. We also made a cool discovery in Maryville, TN. Did you know The Quinta Inn allows dogs, and does not charge a pet fee? While the accommodations weren’t elaborate, they certainly were suitable and a buffet breakfast was included.

During our final stop in Asheville, we rented a dog-friendly cabin tucked away on a mountainside and overlooking the city. It was a nice way to round out the trip, and provided yet another perspective on pet-friendly accommodations. It was probably my favorite place to stay, since it gave all of us a little more legroom and freedom to roam around. This was especially important on our first day there, when it rained cats and…um…dogs!

To help the car ride go smoothly for everyone, I packed a bag for Maggie containing some of her favorite toys, snacks and her regular food from home. We kept to her normal eating schedule as much as possible, and were sure to bring a large water bottle specifically for her—which we used to pour water into her traveling dog dish. Hubby and I brought sandwiches for the road, so we wouldn’t have to worry about finding a pet-friendly eatery between our major destinations. We also made sure to stop every few hours to give Maggie a walk and get our own circulation going. In this way, having her with us was probably good for our health, as well!

How about you? Do you travel with pets? If yes, are there any tips you can share? Please add them in the "Comments" section.


New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Ginny Baird writes contemporary romance novels and novellas. Download Book 1 in her Holiday Brides Series, The Christmas Catch, for free at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas from Sweet Romance Reads

The authors of Sweet Romance Reads wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What Word Describes Christmas to you?

If you ask twenty people, young, old, family oriented, single, living in Europe, United States, or Canada, what word pops into their head when you mention Christmas, you’ll probably get one of the these twenty answers:

1)     Tree trimming
2)     Hot chocolate
3)     Christ
4)     Church
5)     Family
6)     Food
7)     Decorating
8)     Coming Home
9)     Traditions
10) Gifts
11) Donations
12) Sharing
13) Cooking
14) Caroling
15) Wrapping
16) Quiet
17) Snow
18) Vacation
19) Boxing Day
20) Angels

I believe that the one word that describes Christmas is LOVE.

We work, wrap, and wrangle our way through the holidays to please the ones we love. Sometimes we dream of simpler times and the quietness of a holiday gone. It doesn’t matter if the holiday season is calm, if you attend service, eat with family, or give donations, it’s all for what is in our hearts…LOVE.

I hope you are filled with the Christmas Spirit, with your heart full of love this season.

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Message
Author: Unknown
I really want to tell you 
Just how precious you are to me, 
My every thought of you 
Is as loving as can be
My heart is totally filled with things
That words alone can't say,
This comes especially for you
With love on Christmas Day.

What word do you think of to describe Christmas?


Ciara Knight is a USA Today and Amazon Bestselling author who writes 'A Little Edge and A Lot of Heart' that span the heat scales. Her popular sweet romance series, Sweetwater County (rated PG), is a small town romance full of family trials, friendly competition, and community love.

Sara Foster blames herself for her failed marriage. On Christmas Eve, she hides away in the family cabin, the same place her father abandoned her twenty years ago. 

Dalton Scot is unable to face the family holiday after his divorce and discovering he can never have children of his own, so he chooses Christmas Eve to fix his buddy’s cabin. Both search for a secluded spot to mourn their Christmas pasts, but instead are snowed in at the cabin for the holiday where they discover the power of the Christmas spark.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Accidental Christmas Traditions by Julie Jarnagin

There are some Christmas traditions that we decide we want to be part of our yearly celebrations, and there are some that happen simply by accident...and some of those are my favorites. Here are a few of ours:

1. Christmas cookies-My kids love to have something sweet after dinner. So we've gotten in the habit of keeping the break and bake cookies in the refrigerator that you can use to make only the number of cookies you need without making a big batch. In December, they like to help me decorate them. They're not fancy, but we've learned how to make some pretty fun little cookies. :)

2. Chocolate Advent Calendar-Writing this, I'm just realizing how much these traditions have to do with sweet treats! My seven-year-old loves these simple little advent calendars. Every day you get to open a window for a little piece of chocolate. I almost forgot to buy one this year, and he made sure to remind me.

3. Christmas Lights-Every year we make a special trip to a house in our city that has an amazing light show that is coordinated with Christmas music. It's fun for my older one and my younger one (and my husband and I think it's pretty cool too).

That's a few of the little things that make Christmas special for us. What are a few of your Christmas traditions? 

USA Today Best Selling author Julie Jarnagin writes sweet and inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and two young sons who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.comSign up for her newsletter to be the first to learn about new releases and free books:

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