Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

6 a.m.

I am not a morning person.

My mother is. Sadly, I did not inherit her genes in that regard. My ideal morning, any day of the week, involves sleeping until around 8:45ish, perhaps a shower and some personal grooming if we’re feeling especially ambitions, and then popping down to one of my favorite cafes for a 4-hour writing sesh. This happens maybe three times a month if I am very lucky, and yes, I do indeed feel blessed on those occasions.

But this January, I didn’t do a great job in the boundary-setting department, and I ended up with more writing projects on my plate than I could handle. The healthy thing to do would have been to drop or delay one project. So, of course, I looked at my calendar, looked at all the things I had to do, and decided that if I could wake up at 6am every day for the month of January, I could get it all done and keep my sanity.

I told my writing group, in order to keep accountability. Then I told my partner, who responded, “Why would you lie to your writing group? You’ve never woken up at 6am in your life.”

That is not true. I can bounce out of bed pretty quickly if I know we’re about to go on vacation.

In fact, for many years I had a job that required me to wake up at 6am, because I had to commute for over an hour to get to the Chicago suburbs. But that was a long time ago. Since then, I’ve lost my early-morning mojo.

Dear reader, the first day I tried to meet my goal, I rolled over and hit the snooze button. The second day, I got serious. I got set up with an accountability partner, and we sent each other pictures of ourselves hard at work every morning. I dreaded having to send the Text of Shame in the event that I stayed in bed.

It worked. I got up at 6am every single day in January, I finished everything I needed to do, and I became mildly stressed, but not overwhelmed or exhausted.

And I learned to appreciate the beauty of those quiet mornings. I love how quiet the street is outside my window. I love watching the snow fall, whisper-soft, before dawn. I love how snuggly the cat is, first thing in the morning. I love knowing that I’ve done something creative before work starts.

I never did become a morning person. I never quite got used to it; my body protested every day. But I did get to see another facet of the day, a slice of life that’s only available to morning people. I got a small taste of that powerful stillness, that feeling of knowing that even if the day’s bustle and noise hasn’t started yet, I have begun.

I’m trying 7am for February. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe 7:30.

~Julie Danvers

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Dinner and a Holiday Movie

Movies have always been one of my favorite holiday traditions. No matter how the holidays change – and they’ve changed drastically for many of us, this year – I still get that same feeling of excitement from watching Christmas movies. The cheesier, the better. Nothing helps me to find holiday cheer more than re-watching a classic, unless it’s finding something new. Preferably with something tasty to snack on.

I thought this might be a good time to compile a list of my favorite holiday movies, paired with some food and drink recommendations. Consider me your Seasonal Sommelier, if you will! And I’d be delighted to hear about some of your favorite dinner-and-a-movie combinations, too!

Come to think of it, I believe I also asked people to share their favorite hot beverage recipes in my last blog post. Spoiler alert: Most of my posts are going to end up being about food.

Without further ado:

1. A Christmas Prince: Enjoy it with a charcuterie board to snack on. To drink: Eggnog. I am obsessed with all three of the Christmas Prince movies. I know I’m very late to the party on this one, as they’ve been out since 2017, but these are some of the best Christmas Romance movies I’ve ever seen, and I’m prepared to go down fighting over this.

2 Elf: This one calls for candy. The kinds of things that might go on a gingerbread house are best: gumdrops, licorice, perhaps some jelly beans. To drink: hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles. This is a movie where people pour maple syrup on spaghetti, so the dining options need to offer maximum sugar.

3. Happiest Season: Some sort of pretentious biscuit or pastry, like a financier, and tea. The biscuits should be fancy enough to impress Mary Steenburgen’s character, and the tea should be something complex, because people are complex. If you haven’t heard of Happiest Season, it’s a newer film that is absolutely destined to become a classic, because many of us know that sometimes it is can be very, very hard to be yourself on Christmas. Also it has Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek! If that doesn’t sell you on gay holiday romance, I don’t know what will.

4. Home Alone: Macaroni and cheese, paired with a really excellent red wine. If it was nutritious enough to help Kevin McCallister defend his home against bandits, it should sustain you through a viewing of a holiday classic.

5. Home Alone 2: Pizza and a soda. Preferably delivered to your living room by Tim Curry himself.

6. Die Hard: hors d’oeuvres and punch, so that you can feel like you’re right there at that office holiday party before it all goes wrong.

7. A Christmas Carol: (Any version, from the original 1938 film to A Muppet Christmas Carol): Christmas goose, of course. The largest in the store. And a mug of mulled wine for afterward.

8. Love Actually: Lobster and white wine, actually. Parts of this movie are problematic, but remember the nativity play with the Christmas Lobster?

9. Krampus: Christmas cookies and wassail. The Krampus comes for those who don’t keep the Christmas spirit alive, so you’ll want to make sure things are extra Christmassy during your viewing.

10, It’s a Wonderful Life: Something traditional, like coffee and grandma’s stollen. If, like me, your grandma wasn’t the baking type, then choose something that leaves you feeling connected to your family/family of choice and community. I have seen this movie approximately five billion times, and I still love every bit of it. This year, I’ll watch it while munching on a stollen recipe shared by my awesome online writing group. No matter how far apart we may be, our friendship fills our hearts with warm stories and our bellies with warm meals. I’m lucky to have much to be grateful for in life, but most of all, I’m grateful for the love and connection that writing has brought me – from readers, from other writers, and from the wonderful stories we share with each other.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Mug Collection Time!

It’s getting to be that cozy time of year, which means that I get to spend a lot of time with my mugs.

I’m not much of a collector. But I do love my mug collection. It’s not particularly fancy, but it’s mine, and each one means something personal to me.

There are few things that I love more than sipping a hot beverage out of one of my favorite mugs. With a cat in my lap. And something wonderful to read close at hand.

A fireplace and a blanket wouldn’t go amiss, either. Alas, I don’t have a fireplace. I suppose one mustn’t get spoiled.

I’m glad to have the chance to show off my mug collection here. I think there’s something about mugs that pulls us to have powerful emotional attachments to them. You rarely hear someone talk about how much they enjoy drinking out of their favorite wine glass or plastic tumbler. But so often, I’ve seen people pull mugs from a cupboard with a smile, or close their eyes in bliss as they sink back into a sofa with a mug of something wonderful. I once worked at an agency that prided itself on providing real mugs for the staff – “real mugs” was always spoken in hushed tones, implying that we employees were far too valuable to suffer the use of paper cups. (In case you’re wondering, yes: we all should have been paid more. Still, it was a nice gesture.)

Maybe many of us find mugs soothing because we drink from them in soothing circumstances. If we’re drinking out of a mug, we’re probably at home. Or somewhere nice. Or at least somewhere nice enough that we can pretend we’re comfortable. For me, the pleasure of a mug in my hand is as much about the warmth of the beverage as the warmth of the memories that come up.

I’d love to know more about your favorite cold-weather beverage and favorite mug in the comments. I’ll post some of the ones I love to sip from best while I’m reading.

Fans of the show Good Omens may recognize the characters Aziraphael and Crowley as cats. The second I saw this mug, I knew I needed it in my life.

The blue mug with white polka-dots holds a lovely vanilla earl grey as well as some very fond memories. It was gifted to me at my wedding shower by my cousin’s grandmother, a woman of exquisite taste, ample fortune, and boundless personality. This woman was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a real, live Lady Catherine de Bourgh in my family. We weren’t quite related – she was my cousin’s grandmother, not mine. But she gave me some really lovely presents over the years, and all of them were among some of the nicest things I’ve ever owned. She passed away last year, well into her nineties, and I think of her every time I use this mug.

The third mug in this photo is from graduate school. It’s not quite as sentimental as the others, but it does bring up some warm thoughts of old friends.

I’m sure this sly devil needs no introduction. This was acquired during a trip my mother and I took to Bath.

And finally….

I only meant to post the mug, but as I looked at the photo, I realized that everything in it is rather telling of my personality. That is a puzzle made out of photos of my cat in the background, and I really did need that much whipped cream on my cocoa. To those who might disagree, all I can say is that clearly one of us attended the Vulcan Science Academy and therefore must have something as simple as cocoa down to…well, a science.

Hope to see some of your own favorite hot drinks below! (Perhaps also with recipes, she said greedily…)

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Pets

Of Cats and Other Things

Meet the love of my life.

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His formal name is Akira Purrosawa, after one of my favorite film directors. His informal names include Hobbes, Hobbsey-Wobbsie, Widdle Kitty Widdershins, His Nibs, and Wee Baby. Among others.

Mostly, we call him Kitty.

Kitty is probably the handsomest member of my family. He definitely has the most charisma. I’ve never seen him get self-conscious when he walks into a room, which is more than I can say for myself.

But he’s getting on in years, and so three days ago, I bought him an expensive water fountain to help him stay hydrated. If you have a cat of your own, then you already know that the amount of money one spends on an item for a cat is inversely related to how much the cat actually uses that item. I believe this is Newton’s Third Law of Cats. It’s not a total loss: he adores the box the fountain came in.

I’ve tried changing the water settings. I’ve tried putting treats near the fountain. I’ve tried getting down on all fours to show him how the fountain is supposed to work (I will not be sharing pictures of this). But no dice. Kitty is not interested. He doesn’t care that this fountain is better for his health. All he knows is that there is a Strange Thing in his Territory, and he didn’t ask for it to be put there, and he can’t make it go away.

As frustrated as I am with trying to get him to drink from this fountain, I also get it. I’m tired of change, too.

I began working from home in March, and I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do my job online. But at the time, making the change from going to an office every day to working out of a corner of my bedroom was terrifying. I didn’t know that everything was going to be all right, or that some things might even be better now that I was online. All I knew was that a Strange Thing was happening, and I didn’t ask for it, and I couldn’t make it go away.

I think that’s the hardest part about change: you can’t control it. And a lot of the time, that’s ok. Sometimes it’s actually better not to have control, because things end up working out better than expected. But I know that I usually appreciate that most in hindsight, rather than while I’m going through a change.

When I have the advantage of hindsight, maybe I’ll be able to appreciate how I’ve spent significantly more time with my partner over the past few months. Or how I’ve had more time to write, now that I’m not commuting. Or how my values have become clearer to me during a time of much-needed social change.

Or perhaps, instead of waiting for hindsight, I can simply accept the changes and appreciate those things now.

After all, that’s essentially what I’m asking my cat to do. A fountain may seem like a small thing, but he’s such a habitual creature that it’s a huge alteration to his world. And yet I’ve caught him taking tentative laps a couple of times, before skittering off to hide from the Scary Thing that Gives Water. This is better for you, I want to tell him. This is just a change. It’s normal. It’s part of life.

I try to remember that, too, while working from home. It’s just change. It’s normal. It’s part of life.

So Kitty and I are both working on coping with change. I’m not sure which of us has it easier at the moment. Probably Kitty: at least he doesn’t have any writing deadlines. But if anyone has ideas about how to make a cat fountain more appealing, I know that Kitty would love some tips.

Update: SUCCESS! About an hour after I finished writing this post, I noticed Kitty staring at his fountain. I stood next to him and he just hunkered down against my leg for about 5 minutes. looking at the fountain and then back at me. Then he slooowly began to paw at the water, and ended up taking a long drink. And I realized something that I completely forgot as I was writing my post, which is that change is far easier to handle when you have a friend around.