How to Plan A Children’s Easter Egg Hunt by Susan Hanniford Crowley

Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

Due to the pandemic, my oldest daughter and I are planning an Egg Hunt & More for the grandchildren. The more part means that it’s sort of a continuing party with two other events and also a pizza lunch. The whole thing takes around 2 hours. Except for the pizza lunch, the hunt and events will happen on my front lawn.

I will open up my garage and set up tables and chairs there. My husband will be going off to get the pizza. The location for this may change to the front yard.

We are buying about 3 dozen plastic eggs to be filled with candy and trinkets. We will provide baskets. Due to the differing ages of the children, we have decided to get a permanent marker and write the initial of each child’s first name on their designated eggs. For example, S would be for Susan. This makes it a bit more challenging to find only the eggs that are theirs and also the trinkets and candy enclosed will be safe for that child. Running is not necessary as this isn’t a contest for who gets the most.

Following the egg hunt, we will all be putting on our bunny ears and doing the Bunny Hop dance to music. (I really hope to video this.)

After that will be storybook time. Adult characters will be acting out the story as it is read to the laughter of all. A plush woodland creature will be handed out to all children.

I haven’t decided yet, but we may do a game after this. It depends on when my husband arrives with the pizza.

Then it’s pizza time, where we will take our seats and laugh, chat, and eat in a pandemic safe environment. 

If you are thinking of planning a children’s event, I hope this helps. Enjoy!

Susan Hanniford Crowley, Author of Vampire Princess of New York
Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance

Available at
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In Praise of Crossword Puzzles

For many people, the crossword is a daily ritual. Some consider the puzzle an essential component of their mornings, treating it like a vitamin for the brain. Others think of the puzzle as a quick escape from the day’s demands. And a few, like late actress Olivia de Havilland, fantasize about the perfect evening spent completing a crossword.

Famous crossworders include Bill Clinton, Yo-Yo Ma, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, Nancy Pelosi, Kate Hudson, Dustin Hoffman, and Sting.

My Crossword Journey…

Twenty years ago, I faced several family and personal health challenges. While spending time in waiting rooms, I craved an activity that would keep my mind occupied for short bursts of time. Crossword puzzles were the ideal solution during those stressful days.

When the stress abated, I found myself unable to let go of my daily “date” with the crossword. I was pleased with the sense of accomplishment I experienced each day, and I also believed (and still believe) that doing crosswords will help keep my brain young.

Not everyone in the medical community agrees with the health benefits of crosswords. In his recent release, Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age, Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out that crossword puzzles can improve the ability to remember and retrieve information. But their benefits do not extend to brain functions like reasoning and problem solving, both of which are key to building cognitive reserve. He does concede that keeping an active mind can help reduce a decline in thinking skills, and for some people, doing crossword puzzles is a way to do that.

I have noticed that several crossworders in my circle (and I include myself) have also taken other steps to help prevent memory loss. We read voraciously, attend lectures and author events, and sign up for courses and workshops.

Tips for Solving Crossword Puzzles

  • Use a pencil. This will allow you to guess at different possibilities and not give up too quickly. Mistakes can be simply erased.
  • Skim the ACROSS and DOWN clues, and zero in on the easy answers. At least ten percent of each crossword can be completed quickly.
  • Check off each clue that you solve. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and allow you to focus on the remaining clues.
  • Become familiar with crosswordese, those short three- and four-letter words that puzzle constructors love to use. Some examples include eke, oreo, idea, area, olio, and idea.
  • Look for clues written in plural form. Using your pencil, write an S at the end of each grid entry. Often (but not always), the S will be correct.
  • Note the parts of speech in the clues. The answers will call for the same endings: ED, EST, or ING. Insert these endings into the grid entries.
  • Work with the intersections. If you are stumped by the ACROSS clue, look at the DOWN clue for hints.
  • Take a break if the puzzle starts to feel like work. The answers may come more quickly once you’ve taken a breather.
  • Don’t be afraid to use outside resources. Looking up answers in a dictionary, atlas, thesaurus, or the Internet is not cheating. You are learning something new and will likely reuse that information in a future puzzle. I like to keep a copy of The New Comprehensive A-Z Crossword Dictionary on hand. If I’m really stumped, I will visit Crossword Heaven on the Internet.

Any crossword experiences (and/or tips) to share?

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

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Brain Dead and Other Ailments

By Pamela Gibson

Anyone who’s ever had to write a book, a report, a poem, a speech—you name it—can remember a time when the words would not come. On those days the blank page stares back like a face in a mirror. You know it’s not going to go away unless a word magically appears or you drop dead.

Writer’s block happens to all of us. Some more than others.

One way to deal with it is to write down why you think you can’t do what you’re supposed to be doing. Not enough preparation. Too tired. Stress. Who cares what I think, anyway. Lazy. I’d rather eat chocolate. I can’t think. I’m brain dead.

Ah, brain dead. I actually experienced that once…or thought I did. It was years ago when I was a candidate for a job I really wanted and I had to give a speech in front of all the other finalists for the same job, plus the evaluation panel. It was called an assessment center and I was the only woman in the room. I couldn’t screw this up.

The topic wasn’t a surprise. “Tell us about yourself and why you’re the right candidate for the job.” It was the opening topic in all the assessment centers I’d ever participated in. It was a speech I didn’t have to write. Who doesn’t know about themselves?

It was my turn. I stood and faced the group. I folded my hands in front of me. I smiled. I opened my mouth. Nothing came out.

I couldn’t remember anything I had prepared. I couldn’t remember why I was there.

“What’s your name?” came the prompt. I felt heat creeping up my chest into my neck and cheeks.


The nervous shuffling of papers around the room told me people weren’t looking at me. It was too painful.

“Thank you,” I said.

I sat down and the next name was called.

Of course, I washed out.

Now I’m a full-time writer and when I look at a blank page and the words won’t come I think about that humiliating experience. When my breathing is normal again, I start writing and voila! Words appear on the page. They often need editing—lots of editing—but I can do that. Nobody is watching me. Nobody is judging me.

And I can look at the screen and quote the phrase on my favorite t-shirt, “Even if it’s crap, get it on the page.”

Or that famous phrase from Monty Python, “I’m not quite dead yet.”

My Soulmate books:

Scandal’s Child
Scandal’s Bride
Scandal’s Promise

Shadow of the Fox
Return of the Fox

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Life is Worth the Risk

Life is a fragile thing. We’ve had more than ample reason to see that this year.

As I write this, I’ve had my first COVID vaccination, and I’m waiting for the next. It gives me pause to ask myself, “Am I more secure than I was a year ago?” Maybe I’ll feel a bit more secure when I get the second shot, but will I BE more secure? Not really. The truth is, life was pretty fragile before I even heard the word COVID. It always has been.

I have always taken precautions: I’ve had every vaccination known to man (really–I travel), I eat sensibly, I exercise moderately, I stay away from contagion. Does that mean I won’t get sick? Nope. There’s always cancer, the ravages of age, the odd infection or the particularly aggressive virus. I wear my seat belt as well, and bought the safest car I could find. That won’t help if I encounter an out of control 18 wheeler on the Interstate. I lock my doors at night, and certain family members are quick to point out locks are easily breached. True. Someone who wants in badly enough will find a way in. My financial future can never be fully secured either. I can save, diversify, invest… There are many ways it can go bad.

So what do we do? The most dangerous thing to do is nothing. Doing nothing will stagnate me to death–physical or emotional. Someone once taught me the secret to success in life was to feel the fear and do it (whatever IT is) anyway. I take precautions and then let go and live my life. God is in charge and He will give me what He gives me. If things turn out to be challenging, He’ll pull me through.

So I will get that second shot, but continue to wear a mask, wash my hands, and avoid crowds in closed spaces. But I will go on living. And writing.

I truly believe love is the most terrifying thing of all because it demands that we place our vulnerability in the hands of another. The word “security” has no place in relationships. That’s why my tag line as a romance author is “Love is worth the risk.” My stories are full of people forced to let go, leap into the unknown, and let themselves love and be loved. Check them out!

Today I would take it a step further. I would say, “Life is worth the risk.”

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A Traveler’s Daydreams by Rebecca Heflin

I have a digital photo frame on my day-job desk. Best gift ever, by the way. Throughout my work-day it scrolls through hundreds of photos, and amid the family photos and photos of my garden, are photos from the many trips, both domestic and international I have taken. Many were taken with my husband, but there are a few I’ve taken with friends and family, even a few I’ve taken alone.

I love glancing over every-now-and-then to see what photo is displayed and remind myself where and when it was taken, and how much I enjoyed the trip.

In 2020, I thought I would be adding photos from a trip to New Zealand (a destination I have dreamed of reaching) and later in the year, a trip to the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and Easter Island, 2100 miles off the coast of Chile. But the pandemic had other ideas.

I love to travel. I love to see interesting new places, learn about new geographies, cultures, and food. I’ve visited some pretty spectacular places over the years. I’ve cruised around the Galapagos Islands, climbed the ruins of Machu Picchu, safaried in Tanzania, white-water rafted in Costa Rica, cruised through the Straits of Magellan in Patagonia, and observed over-wintering Monarch butterflies in Mexico. I’ve visited castles and museums in France, Ireland, England, and Scotland. Domestically, I’ve been to many of the nation’s iconic National Parks like Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite.

I’ve enjoyed Broadway shows in New York City, marveled at The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., gazed in awe at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame in L.A.  

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to see and experience these places and others, and a few of my trips have inspired my books. A trip to Costa Rica inspired RESCUING LACEY. My trips to England inspired THE PROMISE OF CHANGE. And a trip to Scotland in 2019 inspired and an idea I have waiting in the wings.

The 2020 international trips are on the back-burner until 2022, until the world has reached herd immunity. But we’re hoping to take a couple of domestic trips later this year, after more vaccinations are in the books.

In the meantime, I will relive my previous travels through these photos, and daydream about the day when travel resumes. I’d love to upload a slide show or video here, but WordPress is making it difficult by requiring very small file sizes. If you’re interested, you can see some of the photos from my trips on my Facebook page.

Do you like to travel? What are some of your favorite destinations?

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The Mardi Gras that Wasn’t

The Mardi Gras that Wasn’t:

            New Orleans, my hometown, had no Mardi Gras this year. We also faced the threat of multiple hurricanes in the fall as well as the cancellation of many festivals because of COVID. Many businesses have suffered, and as a teacher, I have faced multiple challenges in the classroom. The school board also added an extra half hour to our school day to “regain” that lost time.  Because of this time addition, the school board “gifted” us the Mardi Gras break. I told my husband I needed the rest; we also were determined to make the best of what could have been a dreary time. 

            This year, Valentine’s Day fell the weekend of my Mardi Gras break. This date is always special for hubby and me. That Saturday, we went to Mandina’s Restaurant in MIid-City, one of my favorite places. To create the celebratory mood, I wore my Queen of Hearts costume.  We drank glasses of Proseco, held hands, and kissed. Donning our masks, we stood under the picture of a streetcar and posed as the waiter took our picture.  I’m grateful that even during this bleak period, I’m still his Queen of Hearts and that he IS my heart. 

            Tuesday was Mardi Gras.  Hubby and I both donned costumes.  He wore his medieval knight outfit; I chose my skull and roses dress with skull stockings.  When I wear that, I call myself “the Black Death.” Another local restaurant, Ye Olde College Inn, boasted a special menu. Again donning masks, we ate a delicious meal, kissed, and took pictures.  We were cautious and stayed pretty isolated, but we decided to celebrate what we had, not what we didn’t have. In this time of COVID, we need to celebrate what remains, not what we’ve lost. 

            Many of my books also contain characters that seize the moment.  In Love at War, Nuala seizes the moment and fights the enemy. In From Ice Wagon to Club House, Jude Mooney follows his heart and meets the challenge of his time. In The Progeny, Jude’s descendants also rise to the challenge of their times with zest and grit. 

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Searching for a Perfectly Reasonable Job

Sometimes a job isn’t quite what you expect. One summer, I worked for a hydroponics expert. I had visions of spending my days with beautiful flowers, learning the intricacies of horticulture, nurturing a love of growing plants. Nope. I washed stones. Yup. A full summer of washing gravel. Granted I got very good at it. I am one very talented stone washer. (Not everyone is.) I also worked on a ship collecting core samples of sediment under Lake Erie. I didn’t actually collect the core samples; there was a big machine for that. My job was to hold the container for the person dividing the column into sections. It was a challenging job – I had to hold the container level and put the lid on correctly. I don’t think I had to worry about the label; that was someone else’s job. (Phew). But I do remember that the chef on the ship made the best French fries ever. Now, that was a great job.

Even though the jobs weren’t exactly what I expected, I can look back now and see how they were stepping stones to other jobs and opportunities that I might not otherwise have been offered. So even if a job isn’t ideal, learn what you can from it, take the opportunity to make connections, and keep it mind that you may be on a path to something greater.

Have you had a job that was less than stellar? Did it lead to bigger better things?

Love what you do and do what you love. Sounds perfectly reasonable, but chances are, you’ll find your passion in the last place you look. In Perfectly Reasonable, Trace is applying to medical school. With a little help from Margo, he plans to ace the dreaded medical school interview. Now he just has to convince Margo to help him!

PerfectlyReasonable (400)_edited-4

Margo MacMillan finished medical school, but in the process, her self-confidence and self-esteem took a beating. So for the sake of self-preservation, she’s stepped away from medicine to re-group. In the meantime, painting soothes her soul and pays the bills.

Trace Bennett set his sights on a medical degree and has to prepare the perfect medical school application. His big plan is to paint his condo for a little feng shui divine luck. When Margo shows up to paint, he realizes he’s found exactly what he’s looking for. He just has to convince Margo to share more than the art of medicine. She’s got it. He wants it. It’s Perfectly Reasonable



Enjoy an excerpt from Perfectly Reasonable ~

“So, you’re a doctor,” Trace said slowly.

Jeez. Back to that. “Yup.”

“How come a doctor is painting my living room?”

“Because you’re paying twice the usual fee,” Margo said with a cheeky grin.

“Shouldn’t you be…doctoring?”

Her smile slipped. He sounded like her mother. All that time, all that money, blah, blah, blah. “I could be, but at the moment, I’m painting.” She pointed to the paint sample hanging on the wall. “That’s the color I chose.”

He looked over. “I like it. Hopefully it will work.”

“I think it’ll work. Blue’s a neutral color. Looks good in this lighting and it’ll be a great backdrop with your metal furniture.”

“Hm-mm. I’m hoping it’ll be lucky.”


“Feng shui. Water and metal elements, á la blue paint and metal furniture, in the west and southwest rooms are supposed to bring divine luck this year. Good bye beige and wooden antiques.”

She smiled at him. He wants to get lucky? Look at those abs. Really, any color would do. “Sounds like you’ve researched this.”

He took a sip of coffee and set the cup down. “I have. I’m applying to medicine. Again. I’m giving it one last chance, and this time I’m doing it properly.”



“And you think feng shui will help?” She reached for a small tool in the outer pocket of the tote bag and used it to pry open the lid from the first can of paint.

“Couldn’t hurt. And I want to cover all the bases. If I can get a little divine luck on my side, I’m all for it.”

She smiled at him as she stirred the paint. Hopefully he had more than feng shui up his sleeve. “I’ll get this done and get you started. I’m happy to help.” Especially if it meant her bills would get paid.

“Are you? You could be handy.”

“Oh I’m definitely handy,” she said with a smile.

Buy link (free with Kindle Unlimited):

Award-winning author Linda O’Connor started writing romantic comedies when she needed a creative outlet other than subtly rearranging the displays at a local home décor store. Her books have enjoyed bestseller status. When not writing, she’s a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic. She shares her medical knowledge in fast-paced, well-written, sexy romances – with an unexpected twist. Her favourite prescription to write? Laugh every day. Love every minute.

Linda loves to connect with readers ~




Amazon Author Page:


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Jazz up pasta sauce

It’s an odd time – we may both pressed for time, or in lockdown and have plenty of time but no motivation. We want to eat healthy but crave more comfort food. You might be the one who decides what’s for dinner each night, and the only suggestions you get are “I don’t know” or “Takeaway”. I saw a meme recently: “Being an adult is having to decide what to cook for dinner every day until you die.” It can be like that!

Anyway, one food everyone will most likely eat is a sauce of tomatoes on pasta. It’s comforting, fast and fairly healthy. If you have a tin of tomatoes, pasta and cheese, you have a meal, so even in the barest lockdown pantry you should be able to make this. If you start the pasta water boiling you should be able to jazz up a sauce by the time the pasta is cooked and have a meal in 20 minutes. – faster than any takeaway!

But what if you are bored with it? I give you a list of healthy additions to liven it up and with the added benefit of using up vegetables that might have developed sentience in your fridge. All except a couple of suggestions are also vegan or vegetarian.

I’ve used a standard 400gm tin of crushed tomatoes, with enough pasta to feed four, however extra can be kept for leftovers. Passata or plain tinned tomatoes are usually cheaper than pasta sauce and lower in salt, fat, and sugars.

Ways to Jazz Up Pasta Sauces

  • while waiting for the pasta to cook, fry a diced onion and some sliced mushrooms before adding to the sauce.
  • add a different cheese such as parmesan or a vintage cheddar grated on top.
  • mix crumbled feta cheese through the hot noodles before adding the sauce.
  • add a variety of vegetables such as zucchini (grated or sliced thinly), beans, broccoli, cauliflower, or eggplant and cook in the sauce.
  • Add leftover roast vegetables.
  • Add a drained tin of beans – chickpea, kidney or four bean mix.
  • Leftover vegetables like mashed pumpkin or sweet potato can be stirred through successfully.
  • add different herbs, either fresh or dried such as rosemary, oregano, marjoram, parsley, or basil.
  • add a clove or two of crushed garlic.
  • add a sliced chilli, or ½ -1/4 teaspoon chilli powder or a drop or two of Tabasco sauce for a hot sauce.
  • add fried diced bacon and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
  • add a tin of tuna.
  • add a few sliced sun-dried tomatoes.
  • try a tablespoon of pesto stirred through.
  • try different noodles such as gnocchi (potato dumplings), ravioli (pasta filled with a meat or cheese mix), flavoured pastas such as herb and garlic, or corn or vegetables or different grains.
  • pour in a drained tin of marinara mix and 2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • add any leftover sliced meats.
  • pour in a bit of red wine for greater depth of flavour.
  • take off the heat and stir through some plain yogurt for a creamy taste.
  • throw frozen vegetables such as corn, spinach and peas in with the cooking pasta.
  • stir fry in water some grated or spiralized vegetables such as zucchini, carrot and capsicum and replace noodles.
  • Add in some roasted capsicum.
  • replace noodles with spaghetti squash.
  • use sauce on baked potatoes, or baked sweet potatoes.
  • Put noodles in a casserole dish, pour sauce and cheese on top and bake until golden on top.
  • Use leftover sauce and pasta – mix and put in a casserole dish, then pour a basic herby white cheese sauce on top and bake for a variation of lasagna.

About Cindy

Cindy Tomamichel is a multi genre author, with her SMP series Druid’s Portal a time travel action adventure romance set in Roman Britain. Short stories of fantasy, scifi and romance can be found on her website, where she blogs on aspects of world building. Her latest release -The Organized Author – provides much needed help for authors trying to navigate social media and build an author platform. Doing NaNo this year? Check out her free book NaNoWriMo Ready.

Contact Cindy on






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Savor All The Flavors of Romance

There is still time to take advantage of the Soulmate Publishing Authors Story Origin Group Promotion

Thanks to the coordination efforts of SMP Author Cindy Tomamichel, many SMP titles are featured in newsletters and shared on social media. Browse the gorgeous covers and find your next great read–or special gift.

All are free on Kindle Unlimited–and many are on sale.

Stop by and check out all the flavors of SMP romance out there.

The Unfinished Business Series has rolling 99 cents sales through the end of February!

Breakwater Beach
February 5-11

What are Captain Barrett’s plans for his wife, and for the man who is the new object of her affections?

***** so heartwarming, I couldn’t put it down.

The Widow’s Walk 
February 21-27

Was getting away enough?

*****I hope there is a sequel someday.
I want to be friends with the characters again.


Storm Watch
February 13-19

Will they survive the storm?

*****a rousing and endearing conclusion to a delightfully haunting romance. 

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Traveling Via the Internet, by Claire Davon

One of the greatest things about researching for my books is the multitude of interesting places I find in the course of my investigating. There is no end to the fascinating attractions this planet has to offer. Last year, before the world changed, I had started the process to renew my passport. Now I have a valid passport, but nowhere I can go—except via the Internet. Here are some picturesque locations I am dying to see when it is safe to travel again.

Iceland. The glaciers! The waterfalls! The Northern Lights! The Blue Lagoon! The geography! This interesting country sits on the boundary of two continental plates, in a cold and inclement part of the world and is all the more beautiful for its isolation. Throw in mischievous elves called Huldufólk and it has all the makings of a wonderful trip.

Lisbon, Portugal. With several hills, a gorgeous river, inclement climate, the ocean and beautiful old architecture, this eminently livable city is one I might just retire to one day. The stunning views and amazing buildings are worth a visit.

Rome. I mean, of course. I’ve never been to Rome, despite being Italian, and just going online and seeing the incredible ruins and sheer majesty of this ancient city is enough to have me longing to book a flight. The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the temples, the aqueducts, the Trevi Fountain and everything else that make this city rightly one of the best vacation spots in the world.

Ushuaia, Argentina. This city is called “The End of the World” because it is at the southernmost tip of Argentina and is the last civilized part of the world before Antarctica. In fact, many ships and airlines use this city as a starting point to get to our most unexplored continent. Just to say I’ve visited such a place would be intriguing.

There are so many interesting places. The Marble Caves in Chile. The Pyramids in Egypt. The Bock Casemates in Luxembourg. Cloud Gate in Chicago. Iguazu Falls in South America. The Great Wall of China. I want to see them all—and more.

Someday we’ll be able to travel again. Until then I am thrilled I can visit the above—and more I haven’t thought of yet—from the safety of my own living room. We can be armchair travelers until then. When it is safe, that new passport will see some use.

Stay safe, and hope to hear from you soon! Below is a little about my Soul Mate books and me.

My third Universe Chronicles series book is called Storming Time. Here’s a blurb and a buy link—if you’re interested!

Storming Time blurb:

A fast car, a little weather manipulation to cover his tracks, and Zared Hersh’s emergency extraction job is done. But when Hannah Nickels dives into his front seat, something about her aquamarine eyes strikes him like lightning.

Hannah’s been groomed to join Universe from the moment her time-freezing talent emerged. But recently, her power’s been glitchy.

In the relative safety of Universe HQ in Richmond, their relationship grows. But Hannah has a second, more dangerous power. And as her control slips, someone with a hidden agenda sets her up to fall—straight into Whisper’s trap.

Claire Davon

Claire Davon has written on and off for most of her life, starting with fan fiction when she was very young. She writes across a wide range of genres, and does not consider any of it off limits. Her novels can be found in the paranormal romance and contemporary romance sections, while her short stories run the gamut. If a story calls to her, she will write it. She currently lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time writing novels and short stories, as well as doing animal rescue and enjoying the sunshine. Claire can be found at:

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