Nov 30, 2016

Spreading the Christmas Cheer

I like to do something for a charity at Christmas. One year a friend of a friend was organising a Christmas present for each child at a school in Cambodia she'd visited - the little packages were mainly stationery supplies and a few personal grooming things. We loved that one. Another year I took my niece to the shops and we bought toys and treats for the dogs at the local RSPCA then dropped them off. (The lovely staff let my niece give treats to a few of the dogs herself to say thank you. That was awesome.)

This year - and last year - I've been involved in Share the Dignity's It's in the Bag campaign. In case you haven't heard of it, here's a little intro:

My sister did a collection at her work and brought the goodies to me, and I was the assembly point. I went through all the donations, put the bags together and bought the things that we needed to fill out each bag. It was so much fun! The photo below is the day she dropped the donations off (the shelves at the back are full of things donated as well.)

I've been making the bags up and dropping them off in batches, ensuring each one is brimming with good stuff. My last drop off will be this Friday (just slipping under the wire of the cut off date: Saturday), and it will take us to our grand total of 30 bags. Here are a few in their batches:

Of the thirty bags, five were for teenage girls - who also need sanitary supplies (and who often miss out in the present drives because people tend to give more for younger kids). The bags for teens have yellow ribbons so they can be sent in the right direction. Here's the contents of one of our yellow ribbon bags:

Do you have a favourite charity at Christmas? Or do you find it too busy and prefer to give at other times of the year? Or, if things are tight, which charity would you give to if you could?

Nov 28, 2016

Treadmill desk - 1 month down!

With the full knowledge of how bad a sedentary lifestyle is and, in an effort to get my butt out of the chair more often, I decided, after talking to LoveCat Bronwyn Jameson who also has one, I was going to get a treadmill desk.

My hubby suggested to just get a standing desk but I figured if I was going to stand I might as well walk, right?

I've had my treadmill desk for a month today.

This is how it arrived -

This was the sexy dude who put it together for me. I think I'll keep him :-)

This is it, all pristine and new and ready to go. It looks quite glorious in the sunshine there, doesn't it? Welcoming. Beckoning, even. Go on, step on, you know you want to try me....

And this is me on it the other day. Multi-tasking my butt off. Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming. Answering emails. Checking out Amazon and Goodreads and generally spending two hours a day on it doing my usual rounds of social media/procrastinaton enabling tools.

They recommend that you go 2k/hr as a good walking/typing speed but its actually much slower than my normal walking pace so it was just too weird. I walk at 4k/hr and its just right. I'm not writing any creative words, mind. Just short social media stuff. I dont think it would work for me actually trying to write. I'd definitely have to slow it down more just for the typos and I think I'd get frustrated with the speed. But I've gone from maybe walking 2k/day three days a week on my street walks and doing about 3-8k steps according to my fitbit to walking 8k most days (4-6 on interrupted days) and achiving about 14 -15k steps every day.

Do I feel fit and healthy and vital and springing around with energy? Maybe that'll come. But I know it's good for me and I really like being able to walk so many k's without feeling like I'm doing any exercise (which I really really hate!) all while accomplishing the things I would normally do sitting on my butt. There's something about the efficiency that is addictive to this multi-tasking addict. 

So its win/win all round for me. I'm just hoping I stick with it and its not some fad that will soon lose its gloss....

What about you? Ever been on a diet or a fitness kick or started a new hobby only to have the gloss wear off and abandon it a few weeks later. I know I have....

Nov 27, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Stefanie London

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Stefanie London but first ... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Amy Casey!

Can you please contact amy(at)amyandrews(dot)com(dot)au to receive your copy of Tis The Season to be Kissed.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Millionaire Under the Mistletoe.

It’s so nice when he’s naughty

Stella Jackson would rather stab herself in the eye with her own stiletto than return to England. Especially in winter. But to fulfill her grandfather’s last wish, she has to spend Christmas at the estate she inherited from him…with the one man she wishes she could forget.

Self-made millionaire Evan Foss wants one thing from Stella—her estate. But thanks to their rocky past, he’s the last person she’ll sell to. So when she takes him up on a bet, with the estate as the prize, Evan can’t believe his luck. The only problem is that seeing her now, sexy and all grown up, tempts Evan to finish what started years ago between them.

Set up:
Evan and Stella were childhood friends, but their relationship dissolved four years ago when they decided to sleep together and things didn't go according to plan. Now Stella is staying at the estate while she plans to sell it to anyone but him. Evan isn't prepared to take no for an answer. But there's a lot of UST (unresolved sexual tension) between them, which is getting in the way of business...


She placed the first few ornaments on the tree, spacing them out evenly and creating a subtle pattern. He followed her lead and they worked in silence. Occasionally, she would move one of the baubles he’d placed on the tree, if it didn’t look right. He smirked at the concentration with which she appraised their work. The process relaxed her. She knew each step and could focus on doing something rather than sifting through the confusion in her head.

You’re supposed to remember how it felt to be rejected. Not how good his hands or his lips were. Not how you were falling head over heels for him.

The tree came together slowly, piece by piece. They added the collection of old fashioned wooden ornaments that matched the set that Stella had back home; each piece finding its perfect spot among the bristles of the tree. The angel, the drummer boy, the rocking horse, the reindeer—they all had a place.

“I always put the decorations up here,” he said. “Though the staff aren’t nearly as fussy as you are.”

“Nothing wrong with doing it properly.”

“Nothing wrong with a little mess,” he countered. “It keeps life interesting.”

“I don’t like mess.” She frowned. “It’s…”



What were they even talking about anymore? He didn’t know just how much he’d shattered her poor, virgin heart back then…or maybe he did.

“It doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said.

She opened her lips to reply but his hungry kiss enveloped her, hot breath filling her mouth where a protest should’ve been. He crushed her to him, one arm snaking around her shoulders so that there was nothing between them but the clothes on their bodies. He tasted of tea and cinnamon.

A groan passed between them as their tongues met, and Stella melted against him. His tongue danced with hers, probing and exploring her with a gentle yet insistent curiosity. She tilted her head back, feeling him catch it in one hand. His fingers tangled in her hair, tugging her head back farther so that he could gain greater access to her mouth.

She was dizzy with lack of air and the pressure of his body against hers. Beneath her T-shirt her skin tingled, alight with the long-forgotten feeling. Her nipples beaded against the lace of her bra and she ached. Everywhere, she ached. 

It had been a long time…a very long time.


Ahhh sexy smooches and Christmas, what more could you want? I'm giving away an ebook copy of Millionaire Under the Mistletoe to one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is answer the following question in the comments below...

What's the best/wackiest/most unique holiday tradition that you partake in? If you don't celebrate Christmas you can absolutely pick a tradition from your favourite holiday :)

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and another smooch will be posted!

Nov 25, 2016

There she blows...!

Well, the lovecats are a well traveled lot and have been to some very interesting places...following on from Kandy's blog about her fabulous swimming holiday I wanted to share with you my recent experience of walking on/in a volcano!!

For years my husband has been saying he wanted to visit Hawaii's Big Island because of the active volcano there and for years I've been resisting it because geology doesn't interest me. But I finally capitulated, agreeing to volcano-watching in exchange for a nice beach and some R&R.

Being in New Zealand I'm used to volcanoes...the city I live in has over 50. All dormant. All quiet and now just dome shaped green hills. I can see one from my kitchen was going to take a lot to impress me!

Like swirls of cookie dough that have hardened
But the volcano in Hawaii is HUGE and slow and has been erupting for decades. It dominates the whole island, really. There is a tourist industry that thrives on it and even the weather is affected by a 'vog' (volcanic fog) that causes most afternoons to be overcast.

There is an actual village called Volcano which we reached via our lovely red mustang and a few hours driving from the main town on the island, Kona-Kailua. You can tell you're getting closer because the whole landscape changes completely from green rolling hills speckled with coffee plantations to dry black rock and...nothing. It is pretty barren and hot.

But we saw the active crater from a safe distance. Real lava!
Erupting volcano- a tourist ventured down there one drunken night a few years ago and it took 3 days to rescue him because it's so dangerous! (he wasn't in a good state when they finally found him)

Then we drove some more and cycled for 8 miles (and returned in the dark by the light of a head torch!) to see where the lava meets the sea in a fiery blast and plume of steam. It was absolutely amazing. Such a force of nature. And the cycle back in the dark was definitely a challenge!

A very hot day cycling!

When lava meets the ocean- mesmerising!

Lava Tube

On the second day we walked through lava tubes...where lava had once flowed then cooled and hollowed. They were taller than my husband!

We did a 6km walk around a crater rim and then onto the crater floor. This was a crater that had been created by an eruption in 1959. It took a long time for the area to cool down. It's safe to walk on now  but we were told that it was still warm deep down... It was like walking on a chocolate brownie with the crisp topping that crunched underfoot.
The crater aka chocolate brownie
It was an amazing place. I was totally blown away, particularly the lava in the ocean...I could have watched for hours...but it was dark and starting to get cold so we had to leave.

More crater floor

The Big Island is also the place where explorer Captain Cook was killed, so we trekked a few kms to see the memorial site of the exact spot where died. (side note: we had to go through a lot of bush on an overgrown path that was frequented by wild pigs. Of which there were a couple!! A little scary, but we were fine because I'd read in the guide book that you just had to bark at them and they'd run away. Cue: Mrs George barking wildly at a piglet and the Doc hanging his head in embarrassment....I won't live that down for a while!!)
Captain Cook memorial
The Big Island does amazing sunsets!

All in all it was a place that took me completely by surprise...amazing geology that I found I was completely enthralled by. Have you ever been to somewhere/done something you weren't enthusiastic about and been pleasantly surprised?

Nov 23, 2016

In the swim – Kandy Shepherd

They say an author reveals more about her or himself in what they write than they might realise. I have to say that I find this true of myself. For example, it surprises me how often my love of water and swimming seems to sneak into my stories. I’m not doing this on purpose—it just happens!

Curl Curl beach in Sydney on a flat surf day

 My first three books for Harlequin Romance are set in the fictional beachside town of Dolphin Bay (to be published together as an anthology Heart of the Bay by Harlequin Australia on December 12 in Australia and New Zealand.) Beaches and swimming pools, Sydney Harbour, the Yarra River, a fountain and even a bathtub have been significant in other stories, too, whether set in Australia, Indonesia, Greece or a fictional European principality. That the hero and heroine are usually not wearing much in the way of clothing while they’re in the water or on the beach adds to the sensuality of the story too!

North Sydney Pool, a favourite place to swim laps

 I’m not long back from enjoying a fabulous swimming holiday in Crete—my second with a company specialising in Greek open water swimming holidays. It’s an organised tour where you swim with a fully supervised group, divided into smaller ability groups, in the most glorious blue seas. The swim averages five kilometres a day, divided into two swims before and after lunches in Greek tavernas reached only by sea. (The group is The Big BlueSwim if anyone is interested.)

The beautiful blue waters of Crete

 People tend to react with shock when they hear this as I tend to be a somewhat indolent person, happy to loll about reading at any opportunity. Then they wonder if I’m a fantastic swimmer. I’m not. But I’m competent, can stay in the water a long time and am not frightened of deep water. On both the swims I’ve been in the slowest of the groups and very happy with that.

I swam with other swimmers from the US and Israel but mostly British folk where the swim holiday seems to be very popular. Why would an Australian want to swim in Greece they ask? No sharks or other scary creatures is one reply—another is that swimming in such a history soaked country as Greece is something special. I can’t wait to go again!

I couldn't stay out of this hotel pool on the Gold Coast, Queensland
But in the meantime the weather is heating up Down Under and there is no shortage of wonderful places to swim here at home.

How about you? Do you like swimming? Or have another favourite summer activity? Or winter activities? I’d love to hear your comments!

Nov 21, 2016

Remembering a great man & random skills

I've been in full marketing mode this month, with the release of Millionaire Under the Mistletoe happening last week. This story means a lot to me. To be fair, all my books mean a lot, but this one has a very personal element to it.

My grandfather was a huge influence on my life and he passed away while I was writing the original version of this book back in 2013.

Unfortunately he wasn't around to see me get published and live my dream of becoming an author. I try to remind myself that he had a very good eighty-something years, although that doesn't always ease the pain, does it?

My grand father was a very interesting guy. Originally born in Italy, he moved to Australia in the 1950's and made his home in Thornbury (or Torn-bury as he used to pronounce it since Italians are not so good with the 'th' sound). He worked as a draftsman. But his hobbies included watching hilarious Italian game shows and playing competitive table tennis, which he did well into his late 70's. He was also a national champion for downhill speed skating back in Italy. My dad now has a pair of his old skates sitting in his office.

One of the life lesson that he taught me was that no knowledge is ever wasted. He used to tell me to "Put it in your back pocket because you never know when you might need it."

I love this idea of a back pocket filled with a random collection of skills. So, in the spirit of honoring a great man, I present to you some random skills I have collected over the years:

  • Despite not having done any tap dancing for well over a decade, I can still do a time step without even thinking
  • I also still remember the five basic ballet positions and remember most of my barre exercises
  • I can count to ten in German (I also know how to say 'white and fluffy' for some random reason)
  • I can speak some very basic Italian, including counting and ordering food. I really wish I knew more, though. One day I'll go back to Italian class!
  • I'm a pretty good cook and can pick up most recipes. This one I'm particularly proud of because when I moved out of home I didn't even know how to boil pasta.
  • I'm self taught in graphic design and video editing. My sills are basic but I'm continuing to learn.
I'd love to know what some of your random skills are! Let me know in the comments.

Nov 20, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Amy Andrews

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Amy Andrews but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Laurie! 

Can you please contact mail (at) helenlacey (dot) com to receive your prize!

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Tis the Season To Be Kissed.

A bit of a retro smooch from a release that's 3 years old but as it's approaching Christmas I thought it was entirely appropriate! :-)

Tamara and Luke are snowed in at his family's Vermont cabin for New Years Eve. He's a soldier returning home from his latest stint in the middle-east, she's a romantically unlucky kindy teacher who thinks kissing is a gateway drug and is tipsy on egg nog at 9 in the morning because she doesn't know how to light the fire and her love life is a disatser but hey, at least the booze is keeping her warm.

They're drinking beer, eating Cheetos and playing Scrabble to pass the time and distract themselves form the raging sexual tension because Tamara is sworn off men and Luke is her friend's younger brother and five years might not be much of an age gap but she's at a different stage in her life than him and is only interested in guys ready to commit. Luke suggested strip Scrabble but Tamara is refusing to be drawn. Luke is playing dirty by coming up with every risque word in the dictionary!

Over the next fifteen minutes Tamara struggled to keep the game clean but it was difficult when her opponent seemed to find a suggestive word on his stand every round.
Come, breast, touch and moan were all on the board taunting her. When talk and dirty followed each other in quick succession she glanced at him sharply and the sudden smoulder in his gaze seemed to have leapt directly from the fire. Her throat was parched and she pulled at the material around her neck as the air around her grew thick and sludgy.
“Hot?” he asked and she wasn’t fooled by the innocent inquiry.
Tamara slapped an n next to an o on the board and glared at him as she said, “No.”
“Hey, two letters,” he tisked and she watched as he shook his head back and forth in slow motion. There was a smile in his eyes and he looked so damn sexy she wanted to grab his face and lay one right on his mouth. “That’s no way to build a board.”
Tamara didn’t care. She was hot. Very hot. So help her she wanted to strip all her clothes off and the glint in his eyes told her he knew it.
“I’m still open to strip Scrabble if you want to lose a couple of layers.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Your turn.”
Tamara was grateful when he returned his frank gaze to his letters. There was something disconcerting about being with a guy who didn’t appear to give a damn about the consequences. It was hard to keep up the mature responsible act in the face of such devil-may-care attitude.
He seemed to stare for an age at his tiles then he lifted those blue eyes and speared her with a look she was fast coming to recognise as trouble. Her pulse rate trebled as the seconds ticked by.
“Luke?” she prompted. The words felt tight and rough in her Cheeto-dry throat.
“My turn?” he murmured. “Okay.” Then in one swift move he whipped his t-shirt up and over his head.
Tamara stared at him flabbergasted. “Luke,” she squeaked.
The mature responsible thing to do would have been to tell him to get dressed immediately but firelight on acres of broad, tanned chest was too damn distracting and her eyes demanded she take full advantage. 
Her fingers itched to join them.
“Your turn.”
Tamara dragged her gaze back to his face. “Wha...?” she asked trying to clear a heavy fog from her mind and a jettison of oestrogen flooding her belly and rushing to the apex of her thighs.
He smiled at her. “Your turn,” he repeated as if he were talking to someone who’d been a little short-changed in the brains department.
But her gaze had already obeyed the powerful dictates of hormones and was back to warm skin and toned muscles.
“Can’t go?” he prompted. “That’s means I get another move right, if you forfeit?”
Tamara wasn’t capable of responding. In fact she barely heard him as his throat bobbed and beckoned with each word from his mouth, his carotid pulse sure and steady.
Finally she got the vampire thing!
She nodded her head absently because he seemed to be waiting for some response from her but when his gaze fanned across her mouth like the stroke of a feather, everything came back into sharp focus.
“Luke,” she murmured huskily as the carnal intent in his eyes turned them to blue flame.
It was meant as a warning but it came out sounding all breathy and needy. Like a plea. Luke certainly seemed to take it that way because he didn’t back off. Suddenly he was looming closer, breeching the board-width distance between them, his eyes locked on her mouth. Then his hand was sliding up her neck, gliding into her hair, his thumb tilting the angle of her jaw and his sheer masculine focus was utterly paralysing as his lips slowly descended onto hers.
The kiss was light. Tentative. Giving her plenty of room to back away. Which, in those few, lonely, endangered cells that existed in the more evolved area of her brain, she truly appreciated.
Because the rest of her was just pure animal.
She moaned and leaned into the kiss as her deprived system went into complete meltdown and Luke gave it the shot of testosterone she’d been craving. He tasted like beer and Cheetos – a truly intoxicating combination – but those damn insistent cells were yammering at the back of her brain and she dragged herself away before it escalated and they were naked on the rug going at it. 
She was breathing hard, her neck and face flushed as he watched her through those flammable eyes and she savoured the taste of him.
“No?” he queried, his voice soft and faintly burred and it was gratifying when he cleared it, to know he was as affected as she’d been by the kiss.
“Gateway drug,” she murmured desperately clinging to sensibilities that had been well and truly scrambled. She had to remember where she was and who she was with and not let a little horniness overrule common sense. 

Luke was having a hard time pulling himself back from the edge after just a tiny sip at her mouth. He wanted more.
He wanted it now.
And if she thought he was just going to give up on what he already knew could be a pretty great night then she was about to get a lesson in Jackson determination.
“Tamara...let’s not fight this. You’re here, I’m here, its New Year’s Eve, we have a snowed in cabin and a roaring fire. And I know,” he said quickly as she opened that delectable mouth which should still be kissing his but wasn’t because she thought too much, “that we’re different and we want different things out of our life right now. That you’re older than me and you’re my sister’s friend and you want a baby and a husband and the whole white picket fence thing and I’m not looking for any of that.”
He picked up her hand that was lying loosely in her lap and he brought it up to his heart so she could feel its heavy beat.
“I get that, I do,” he continued. “But right now... tonight...isn’t about any of that. It’s just a moment in time when two lonely people get to be there for each other, get to forget about all the crappy stuff that exists outside this cabin, stuff we don’t have a lot of control over and do something about what we do have control over.”
She furrowed her brow, her gaze falling to where his hand covered hers. He could see she was tempted, could feel her reluctance to break the connection that was coursing through her palm into his heart. But she wasn’t quite there yet.
“And how do we act in a few days’ time at Georgia’s birthday party?” she asked huskily.
He shrugged. “I’ll play it whatever way you want,” he smiled. “You want to tell Georgia we met here, that’s fine. You want to tell her we slept together I’m fine with that too. You want to keep it between us I’ll say, pleased to meet you ma’am and you’ll say likewise and only you and I will know we’ve seen each other naked. Because Tamara, I really, really want to see you naked.”
Luke watched her swallow. The pads of her fingers pressed into his chest a little as if she was fighting the urge to grab a handful of pec and haul him closer. And he felt the moment she let go too, the tension draining from her body, her hand becoming slack against his chest.
“Goddamn it,” she muttered, sweeping the board aside with her other hand and launching herself at him. 

 For your chance to win a digital copy of Tis The Season to be Kissed (must have an AMAZON account) tell me, what would be your fantasy Xmas location if money wasn't an issue?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a new smooch will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver