Last Stop: Gratitude



Welcome to the last day of November where we’ve been talking about gratitude. I finished The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and have to say my reading lead me to one thought:

It’s all in your mindset.

I always applaud patients who go into a procedure or surgery with a positive mindset because that’s one of the most important factors that will get them through. Positive mind = positive outcome.

Writing down what you’re grateful for each day or night feeds that positive/healthy mindset.

Positive mind = positive outcome.

I went on another trip to Wisconsin over Thanksgiving to visit my mother. My father passed away in October and it would be the last visit I made before the bad weather hits. Or so I thought.


My mother lives in the deep woods, part of National Forest system in Wisconsin. That pretty picture above shows what the area looks like in spring or summer. Ten miles outside my mother’s home, we – I took my two sons on the trip – ran into very bad weather. Icy rain, slick roads.

We made it to my mother’s house but knew the stay would be short. After a two hour visit, it took four tries to back out of the driveway and a few prayers were said as we climbed the steep hill and travelled to our hotel another fifteen miles away. The boys and I ended up spending the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend at the hotel waiting for the roads to clear.

I admit I didn’t handle travelling the icy roads very well. But, I was grateful for the short visit with my mother, my brother and his wife. I hadn’t seen my brother in almost 5 years.

And my mom was the best example. She’s alone but she wants her independence. She brings in her own wood, manages the home and remains upbeat 90% of the time. Yes, she still has her moments. She was married to my father for 50 years. It’s expected, I tell her.

And that’s the key: She finds her strength and gratitude within herself. She generates a positive mindset.

One of the hotel clerks chatted with me at breakfast. I talked about all the snow and ice. She pointed out how beautiful the frost and ice looked on the landscape. She was right.

So, I recommend reading The Gratitude Diaries as a way to supplement your mindset. Keep track of the good things happening around you.

Positive mind = positive outcome.

Happy Monday! :-)




Gratitude Every Day


12063389_10205190894520092_6739311842352560245_nYesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States, and we all took a moment to be remember what we are most grateful for. I had a group of friends over for the holiday, and I was so very grateful to have them sitting around my table. I’ve had a challenging year and having so many near and dear friends around me has been a wonderful, unquantifiable blessing. They have cheered me up when I’ve been down, supported me when I’ve faced an unexpected hurdle and cheered me at every finish line.

I think too often we forget to be grateful every single day, not just on Thanksgiving. This year (and hopefully every year to follow), I’m going to try to focus on what I’m grateful for, rather than what is challenging me. When I’m running, for instance, and the run is difficult and miserable, I list all the things I’m grateful for in my head–legs that work, arms that swing, weather that allows me to be outside.

Most of all, I am grateful for my kids and the circle of wonderful people who surrounds me. They make me laugh and smile and fill the world with hugs. So thank you, to each and every one of you. Hugs and leftover pie all around :-)

Shirley Jump


Happy Thanksgiving


Well, here we are, Peeps, at the perfect holiday. My house is clean. Turkey is roasting. Pies are made. This is my favorite day of the year. Absolutely, hands-down my favorite holiday. Why? No expectations. LOL No worries if anyone liked their gifts. Heck, there are no gifts. There’s just food and family. Conversations. Laughter.

When I sat down to think about what I was the most grateful for this year, the usual things popped up. But when I sifted through, and really forced myself to say what one thing made me the most all-around grateful, oddly, my answer was work.

Work gets such a bad rap. It eats into our schedules. It makes our brains hurt. It causes anxiety. It forces us to spend time with people we would otherwise never speak to. We usually have to buy special clothes for work. We probably get up earlier than we would like because of work. And, in the winter, we wouldn’t even start our cars let alone drive them, but there’s work.

Work has probably been the reason for the invention of new and colorful curse words every year.


Work also forces us to be our best selves. Not just in terms of using our brains, being creative and problem solving, but also in terms of people skills. I learned a lot about getting along with people at a job where everybody hated me. (I know! It’s probably difficult for you to imagine people could hate me…but it was one of my first jobs and I made some newbie getting-along-with-people mistakes!)

Work gives us a place, a purpose. We all need that. And I mean NEED that. We all need to feel that what we do matters. That’s why letters from readers, telling us our books helped them through a difficult time, or moved them, or changed them, stop authors dead in their tracks. We tell ourselves that our stories transform lives, but there’s nothing like hearing it from you.

Still, even the most insignificant job has meaning. I worked for a landfill for a short time and I can tell you trash collectors are one of the least-respected groups, but they are oh-so necessary. I don’t pass a trash truck now without thinking good thoughts for the workers. They are needed. Everybody is needed.

Work makes us appreciate down time. There is nothing like sitting on the sofa after a long day of work. Nothing like a vacation after a long year of work. Nothing like the first day of retirement after a lifetime of work. It’s very easy to appreciate free time when work takes so much of your regular time.

So…don’t hate your job. Be grateful not just for the paycheck, but for the fact that you have purpose. Look at yourself as the people-person leader and show others the way to get along. Be the light.

But above all, enjoy your days off. :)

And Happy Thanksgiving!

susan meier



Apple tea cake recipe with Michelle Douglas


MichelleAs I mentioned last time I was here, I have an ambivalent relationship with fruit. That said, I’m grateful I live in a place where fresh fruit is abundant. I’m glad I’m able to use said fruit in delicious recipes once it starts to languish in the fruit bowl. And I’m grateful that I have people to share my cooking efforts with (so that the waistband on my jeans don’t get any tighter).

This is one of my go-to recipes when I have a few apples in danger of spoiling (and I’ve given up all hope of ever just plucking them from the bowl and eating them).



(Makes 2 loaves)

180g butter, chopped (6.35 ounces)

1 ½ cups caster sugar

2 eggs

2 ½ cups self-raising flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ cup strained, cold tea

3 cups peeled, chopped apples

1 cup chopped pecans


Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition

Sift flour and cinnamon together. Fold into creamed mixture, alternating with the tea

Lightly mix in apples and pecan.

Spoon even amounts into 2 greased and floured loaf tins, and bake in a moderate oven (180’C/350’F) for 40 – 45 mins, or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Cool in tin for 5 mins before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. If you want to, dust with icing sugar when cold. It’s delicious served with cream. :-)



Using up extra yarn…. Donna Alward


If you’re a knitter or crocheter, you know that you often have ends or partial balls of yarn leftover from projects. What do you do with them? Sometimes I use ends for mitten stripes or that sort of thing. But one of my favorite things to do is knit them up into gift bags.

The great thing is you can adjust gift bags to be any size depending on what you need it for or how much yarn you have left. And this time of year is perfect, because Christmas is right around the corner!

Here are the basic patterns I use for mine.


Wine Bottle Bag

Using 5.5 mm or US 9 needles (I like a tighter stitch so I use 5 mm) cast on 56 stitches.

Knit 10 rows garter stitch

Eyelet row: K3, yfwd, K2tog. Repeat to last stitch, K1.

Beginning with a purl row, knit 13 inches in stocking stitch, ending with a purl row.

To work the bottom of the bag, cast off 42 stitches, knit to end of row (13 stitches).

Continue in stocking stitch for 3 inches, ending with a purl row and cast off knitwise.

To finish: sew the side seam, then sew base to the sides of bag. Weave ribbon or cord through the eyelet row to close.


Customizable Gift Bag:

Using the same size needles, cast on desired number of stitches depending on how large you want your bag. Remember the width will be halved, so if you want a bag 10 inches across, according to your guage cast on enough stitches to give you 20 inches (a multiple of 5 + 1 for the K1 stitch at the end).

Knit 10 – 15 rows garter stitch, depending on how much “ruffle” you want above your ribbon.

Eyelet row: K3, yfwd, K3tog. Repeat to last stitch, K1.

Beginning with a purl row, knit in stocking stitch to desired length.  Cast off and sew up side and bottom seams.




Thank you…


bigstock-Rain-drops-falling-from-a-blac-46512508This week autumn set in with a vengeance in my part of the world. Heavy downpours, wind, leaves everywhere and sudden realisation that I needed to get out there and clear up pots and hoses and garden furniture. If it ever stopped raining.

I whined about this on Facebook – as you do – and then a friend from Australia left a message sighing with envy. They’re in the most shocking drought situation and here I was moaning about rain. I’ll be honest, I felt bad.

DSCN0334So I’m going to say right here, right now, that whatever I may say about the miseries of having to get out in the rain I am grateful that I live in a damp, temperate climate where a heatwave might last a week, where we get an occasional dump of snow, where rarely a week goes by without rain.

Violet 3It’s the reason I have stunningly green grass that needs to be mowed twice a week in the summer (and could do with a cut now even though we’re nearing the end of November). It’s the reason I have roses, and violets and daisies and never have to worry that a wildfire will descend on the little cul de sac that I call

No Prince Charming Cover Reveal – Michelle Helliwell!


Thanks again to Donna for inviting me to come to the Chocolate Box – it’s great to be here, and I’m happy to continue with the theme of gratitude. My writing is inspired by fairy tales and myth – I’ve loved them since I was a child – and by the beliavatarmlhef that everyday kindness of friends and strangers, noticing the beauty in what might appear ordinary or mundane, creates it’s own special magic. Given the somber news of late, I have to hang on to that belief tighter than ever.


Twice this month I’ve heard people complain about November—in Canada, Thanksgiving is past, Remembrance Day is somber, and frankly, it’s a grey month. It’s mostly cold (though not freezing) and more dark than light. What, may you ask is there to be grateful about in such a dingy time of year?


Plenty – or at least I think so. For me, November is the pause between the flurry of October and the rush (even if it’s a good rush!) of Christmas. November is the time when the yellow leaves still clinging to the trees stand out, or create a bright blanket on the ground. You can notice the shape of the trees, especially at night when the moon is shining through them. November is the start of the cozy season. Flannel sheet season. Warm apple crisp season. In the past few years I’ve really come to appreciate November and it’s particular gifts. (Now I just have to work on March.)


MichelleHelliwell_NoPrinceCharming_blog sizeI’m also terribly grateful that my second book No Prince Charming, is taking shape. I loved the hero, Edmund, from the moment he walked onto the pages of Not Your Average Beauty, and I knew he needed his own story. The book is coming out winter 2016, but I wanted to share the beautiful cover now – I love it, and I hope you do too.


No Prince Charming


Dashing off in a daring elopement with a prince, handpicked by her mother, Lady Gwyneth Snowdon anticipates an extravagant, secure future. But when a mysterious stranger kidnaps her, Gwyneth fears her happy ending is doomed.


Used by his maniacal father, Edmund Pembroke turned his back on society. Seizing the opportunity to say good-bye to his past forever, he makes a deal to separate the pampered countess from a gold-digging imposter. But when Edmund discovers her life is in danger, he is forced to protect the beautiful, well-born Gwyneth Snowdon and to confront his ghosts.


Separated from her plush surroundings, Gwyneth learns she’s capable of so much—including love for a man with neither title nor fortune. But she begins to suspects there is more to her rugged, handsome guardian than he’s chosen to reveal. After finding herself at the center of a sinister deception, can she dare to trust her heart to man who’s spent years deceiving himself?


Love is the fairest of them all.




Michelle was born and raised in Nova Scotia, where she still lives with her husband and two sons. She has a soft spot for Jane Austen’s heroes, guys in puffy shirts, picnics, and to Lego video games. Because sometimes, when you’ve been toiling over a manuscript for while, the best way to blow off some steam is to save the galaxy/Middle Earth/Bricksville/Gotham by smashing lots of things into little tiny bricks.



Why we need to be kind by Kate Hardy


Kate HardyToday I’d like to extend my post on gratitude a little bit outside the box, into two things that are very closely related: kindness and empathy. Why?


That really hit home to me. Partly because the train route between London and Paris is quicker than it is between my home city and London; partly because Paris is a gorgeous city and I have very happy memories from staying there; and partly because I’ve used Paris as a setting in my romance ‘Holiday with the Best Man’ (April next year) so I’ve been thinking of Paris a lot before the atrocities of 14 November.

But mostly because of where the worst attack happened – at a little music venue. The kind I take my daughter to all the time. And in fact the band we saw the other weekend played Paris the day before the attacks. I think they played that very venue, or it could be that they were scheduled there in the Spring and played a different small venue last week – but whatever, it’s made those attacks feel very close.

I’ve been reading a lot to try to understand the mentality of the people behind the attacks. (There’s a really interesting article here at the New Scientist – is evil a disease and can it be cured?) Though I still don’t understand people who seem to be driven by hatred and a need for war.

But it’s also led me to think – how do you counter this kind of hatred? I think it has to be through kindness and empathy. These sub-humans (because they are not humans – they are hiding their faces in their bunkers, while they brainwash disaffected young men into being cannon fodder who do the most appalling acts… at a safe distance from their puppetmasters) are bullies who want to rid the world of joy and make everyone conform to their very narrow viewpoint.

As ordinary people, we need to stand up together. Be kind to one another. Find joy in the little things – because that’s what the terrorists want to stamp out. They want us to be divided, living in fear of each other. Let’s show them that we won’t let that happen. (I loved this video of the Imams singing outside Le Bataclan. Solidarité, mes amis.)

I don’t have a gun (or even know how to use one). I did a self-defence course in my early twenties, but I’m not sure I can remember how to disarm an attacker (and, really – if someone has an automatic rifle, I’m not going to be able to stop them using it). But what I can do is to make the effort to reach out to my fellow human beings and try to understand them and get them to understand me, too. To celebrate our differences (and we can learn from each other) instead of wanting them to be exactly like me. To be kind. It doesn’t matter what your name is, or what your gender or sexuality or skin colour or religion is. We’re all human and we have so much potential if we work together.

It’s hard to be kind and to empathise. There are people in my life who behave really badly – they’re mean (in all senses of the word) and toxic, and I’d much rather keep them at a distance than have to communicate with them. But maybe I need to try harder. (Not to let them walk all over me – but maybe I should make the effort to be kind to them, even though I really don’t like them, because as my best friend reminded me it’s those who are unkind who need the most kindness in their lives.)

So go and tell someone you love them. Find the joy in something, whether it’s sunshine or rain or a cup of coffee or cake. Share that joy. And, to tie it back to gratitude: be glad that you live in a free world. Let’s keep it that way.

51MvSdMSQfL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_-1Kate’s latest release is Falling for Mr December. You can find out more about the book, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/) – or find her on Facebook

(though Kate admits she’s *still* horribly behind with the website and Will Do Better this month… she still hasn’t quite caught up with herself!)


Following the Gratitude Diaries



So I’ve been following a journey of gratitude these past two weeks. Well, at least a slow one. I’m a slow reader. :-)

As I mentioned in my last post, I’d decided to read The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan to practice a bit more gratitude in life.

Halfway through the book (which I think the book is an interesting, easy read), two items stick with me.

According to Kaplan, if you consistently write three things down each day that you’re grateful for, it will change your mood and attitude. One of the author’s friends asked to start with only one item on the list. Maybe I’m doing this wrong but I can think of way more than three things each day to be grateful for. Or maybe I’m listing the wrong things: my sons, my job, my writing friends, people who accept me for who I am, that I have food to feed myself and my family . . .

Even so, I’m grateful each time I make the list that I can come up with more than one item.

Kaplan also comments on research showing how the negative takes away from the positive. For each negative, it takes at least three positives to reverse the impact. This I agree with. And let me add that it takes ten times more energy to shun negative vibes and stay positive than it is to just follow the path of least resistance: anger.

Shrugging it off will make us stronger in the long run.



Do I feel any different? Not sure. Am I supposed to? Again, not sure. Maybe I’m lost.

Look for my final comments on what I learned at the end of the month.


Happy Monday!


Abbi J

1 2 3 4 5 76 77