Thursday, October 30, 2008

From pumpkins to Santa in 10 seconds flat

The holiday season has now been officially compressed into approximately ten seconds and I, for one, am nowhere near ready. I did buy a Christmas gift when visiting a winery in Ohio back in August. One gift, a stocking stuffer really. That's it. I have a long, long way to go. I suspect many of you are in the same boat.

This year, though, thanks to a bunch of elves who work with my friend and publicist Nancy Berland in Oklahoma, we're going to help you find a little serenity during the holidays. Really.

In just a few days you will be able to go to www.sherrylwoods.com or to www.welcometoserenitybook.com and find everything from recipes for your favorite Thanksgiving comfort foods to a drink with some kick for the new year. There will be decorating tips, positive ways to beat the holiday blues
and best of all for those of us who haven't made even a dent in our shopping, there will be gift ideas. Lots and lots of gift ideas. Sadly, there will be no personal shopper assigned to you to actually get that shopping done, but we have taken a lot of the stress out of the hunt for the perfect presents for even your hard-to-please family members. A lot of these ideas are available online, so you'll be able to shop in your PJs with a cup of hot chocolate close by.

And if you find better sites or more wonderful gifts, I hope you'll share them with us. Tell us all about your favorite traditions, too, by clicking on comments below. Share your tips for beating the holiday rush at the mall, for finding the best deal, for explaining to the kids why Santa's sack might be a little less jam-packed this year.

Just stop by here whenever you have a minute to spare, share your holiday frustrations, your joyous moments when the perfect gift appears like magic. Because the one thing that's just as good as finding a little serenity during this harried time of year is sharing it with a friend.

And I hope when you have more than a couple of minutes to spare, you'll sit down with the latest book in the Sweet Magnolias series, WELCOME TO SERENITY, which will be in stores by Tuesday, November 25. Library Journal calls it "a story that sparkles with holiday fun," so it may be just the thing after a tough day at the mall...or in the parking lot.

Sherryl Woods

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do a little dance...

I think I've been way too serious lately, so I'm going to take a moment to talk about something that probably matters only to me and a few millions others: who's going to win on Dancing With the Stars.

You see, I had a breakthrough moment while watching Monday night's show. Until that instant I hadn't been able to figure out why I wasn't avidly in favor of any particular couple. And then football great Warren Sapp came on the floor and I knew. Only he and a handful of others were actually cutting loose and having fun. Even Cloris Leachman, who --let's admit it -- isn't the best dancer, has hung around because she's so obviously having a ball on the dance floor. I was so excited -- about my insight as much as Warren Sapp's performance -- that I immediately picked up the phone and voted for him several times.

Since I'm being insightful, I also have a theory about why this show is watched by millions of viewers each week. I think it has something to do with those of us who have two left feet and wish we were as graceful and agile on a dance floor as the pros on this show. I used to volunteer with Miami City Ballet for the same reason. Just watching the dancers made me feel graceful. Which I'm not. Or maybe I thought I'd become graceful. Which I never did.

So we tune in on Monday night to watch celebrities who aren't trained dancers suddenly glide around the floor and we believe with a little time and effort -- and the help of a really sexy professional dancer -- we, too, would be able to dance. The show is selling the fantasy, just the way romance novels do. But what really makes it work is seeing a guy like Warren Sapp -- or Emmitt Smith or Jerry Rice or Helio (whose last name I can't remember or pronounce) -- leave their comfort zone on the football field or racetrack and get down with the music. And when they do, it makes it doubly disappointing when someone with a musical background such as Susan Lucci, Toni Braxton or Lance Bass performs in a self-conscious way.

To be honest, at this point I have no idea who's likely to win this season and so far, I don't really care. I do know, though, that it's likely to be someone who's having fun on the dance floor, someone who feeds my fantasy that I can do it, too.
So, come on, contestants, get with it. Get out there and dance. Stir up the competition. Have some fun. Make us care.

Otherwise, the party might very well be over for this series.

Do you have a favorite couple on Dancing With the Stars this season? Do you think maybe the judges have been so tough on the celebrities in the past that it's getting harder for the producers to lure them onto the show? Do you even care about any of this? Click on comments below and chime in.

Sherryl Woods

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Toning down the trash talk

Generally speaking when people are engaged in public trash talk, it's on a football field or basketball court. These days it has spilled over into our national election and, frankly, I'm sick to death of it.

It's one thing for the candidates for any office, and most especially for president of the United States, to disagree, sometimes vehemently, with an opponent on the issues. If everyone agreed with everyone else on every strategy for the country, there'd be no need for an election. What I'm fed up with is the trash talk that goes beyond character and straight to character assassination. These are the nasty innuendoes and outright lies tossed around by a candidate designed to whip the public into a frenzy and feed into their worst fears. You know exactly the ones I mean:

* The deliberate use at too many rallies of Barack Obama's middle name -- Hussein -- not as a simple fact, but strictly because it raises the sceptre of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and encourages all the biases that go along with it.

* Tossing out Obama's "relationship" with a '60s protestor and deliberately describing the man as a terrorist, because it stirs all those fears that lie deep in our hearts since September 11. Now if Barack Obama and this man had been conducting protests, bombings or anything else side by side in the '60s, this would certainly be a legitimate character issue. The truth, however, is that Obama was only eight back then, and in the years since Obama has been acquainted with this man, he is a respected college professor and part of the Chicago political establishment.

Apparently this week even Senator John McCain realized that perhaps he was feeding the hysteria of misconceptions. A decent man by all reports, he belatedly tried to quell the outrageous rhetoric at his rallies...and was booed by his own supporters. Frankly, this scares the living daylights out of me.

It is way past time to tone down this kind of trash talk and stick to the issues that matter to everyone of us who live on Main Street, who have dwindling savings thanks to the financial crisis, who are scared about our jobs, who are dealing with aging parents who need prescriptions and kids who're ready for college.

We need leaders who understand that any candidate running for the highest office in the land should be treated respectfully and with dignity. One of them will be in office in November and it is the duty of the other one to make the rest of us be at peace with that. Fostering fear and hatred isn't the way to unite a country. It's the lowest way to lead us down a very slippery slope.

Stick to the facts. Discuss your plans. Give us hope. Is that so complicated for a politician to grasp?

Sherryl Woods

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's a family tradition!

Just last night I was thinking about traditions, though not exactly in the, well, traditional sense. I was joking with a neighbor who was vacationing in North Carolina's Outer Banks. She'd called from the parking lot at Wal-Mart, where her husband was shopping...as he does every single Friday evening on his way home from work. I told her to tell him I was glad he was sticking with tradition, even far from home.

Perhaps his tradition is really little more than habit, but it is a reminder that we are rapidly approaching a season in which family traditions are a big deal. From Halloween through the New Year, I suspect all of us do things we started in childhood and have continued with our own families.

In my neighborhood here, for instance, the Halloween decorations are already up. Yards are filled with pumpkins -- real and plastic. Bats hang from trees. Giant spiders spin huge webs. For someone whose family never went overboard for this particular holiday, it's rather amazing to see half the town transformed into some sort of haunted community. And it's all a bit like the town of Serenity in my Sweet Magnolias series.

Serenity is a town which loves its holidays, which makes the Christmas festivities the perfect theme for WELCOME TO SERENITY, which hits stores around Thanksgiving.

Because of that I'm launching a new website just for the holidays. You'll be able to link to it from my website, www.sherrylwoods.com, and there will be more information on this site as well as soon as it goes online at the beginning of November. The focus will be on finding serenity during the holidays. It will be filled with easy and inexpensive decorating tips, gift ideas and websites, and tons of recipes. There's even a list of ideas for chasing away the holiday blues.

I'm also hoping all of you will share your favorite holiday traditions and recipes with us, as well. Since it won't kick off until around November 1, you can get started now by sharing your Halloween traditions right here. Do you gather all the neighborhood kids and bob for apples? Is there a neighborhood costume party? Are there traditions that you no longer do because of safety concerns...popcorn balls or candy apples for trick or treat, for instance? Click on comments below and share your favorite ideas that put you into the Halloween spirit.

And start thinking about those favorite things that make all of the upcoming holidays special for your family. I want to hear about the decoration you made for your mom when you were in kindergarten, the one that always hangs front and center on the tree. I want to hear about caroling excursions or Aunt Jane's fruit cake. Tell us about the first turkey you roasted or the rolls that somehow never make it into the oven on Thanksgiving. Sharing your favorite memories may spark traditions for the rest of us...or make us chuckle...or shed a tear.

There's a reason we cling to traditions. And now there's a place to share them. I really hope to hear from you.

Sherryl Woods

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