Saturday, December 24, 2016


This recipe is actually for one of my three daughters, and I'm sure they'll all know which one it is. It's for the daughter who for a brief moment was in a state of panic, thinking that due to unfortunate circumstances, Christmas dinner might be moved to her house. Her dad was the one to make the call. Though I couldn't hear her, I almost wet my pants, laughing at the thought of her expression. I could almost hear her – Me? Make Christmas dinner? But I can't cook!

I couldn't count the giggles I let out on that one.

All she would've needed to make would be the main entrĂ©es – the turkey, ham (or both), and the mashed potatoes, because that's all that's expected of the host. The rest of the family members always divvy up the side dishes and breads and goodies and bring those to the table. Nobody wants the hassle of keeping mashed potatoes fresh and warm during a one-hour drive, so the host always makes them.

But this particular daughter wouldn't know what to do with the turkey, and she'd be calling me – Do I have to peel the potatoes before I mash them?

It worked out that we didn't need to move Christmas dinner to her house after all, and I'm sure she sighed a thousand breaths of relief. But for any of you who get in a panic over Christmas dinner, here's the easiest last-minute one you can make. It will also work for you, daughter, if ever again there's the possibility of having Christmas dinner at your house. Although a few adults might quirk an eyebrow, the kids will love you for it. Who wants that boring stuffing and cranberry sauce with those awful red berries anyway?

Make a Christmas tree taco dinner.

First, you will need two-thirds of a yard of nice green fabric (honey, that's 24 inches, so don't buy a whole bolt.) Green construction paper would work as well, but you might need to tape about four sheets together to make it large enough. If you don't like that idea, and you have no fabric, use aluminum foil over cardboard and you will have a silver tree. Fold your 24 inches of fabric (or substitute) in half. Then cut the shape of Christmas tree branches out on the unfolded side. You did this in kindergarten, so I know you can do it. Unfold the fabric, and then you will have the shape of a very nice Christmas tree.

It is your choice if you want to put on any garland or not. You can string anything that you would put in a taco bar. Green olives, diced tomato, diced onion. You can make an all olive garland, or one that is all tomatoes, or one that alternates every other color.

You want nice big bulbs for the taco-bar tree, so for that you will use aluminum foil and cut a number of 8-inch circles, easily done by using a small dinner plate as a pattern. Then bring up the edge all around each circle, so that you are shaping them into a nice round bowl. These little bowls will be filled with diced onion, grated cheese, green olives, black olives, diced tomatoes, taco sauce (double your bowl for sauce so it doesn't leak), and anything else you'd like for tacos. Be sure to fill a few of the bowls with taco meat. Last, make a trunk-sized dish in more of a square shape and fill it with the taco meat. That will be the trunk of your tree.

Your dad and I would both love a meal like this, because quite frankly, by the time we're done having Thanksgiving with all of you, and Thanksgiving with a few other people, we are a bit tired of ham and turkey and all of that hoopla anyway. To look at the same meal again for Christmas is a bit of a bah-humbug, if you ask me.

Love, Mom

P.S. Merry Christmas!



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

MY NEW BFF--Teddy!

I remember thinking that once the last kid moved out, my house wouldn't be scattered with toys. Boy, was I wrong.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


November is here, and her chilled breath already waits outside our door. November in Minnesota sometimes brings shoveling from early snows, bulky coats and boots, and temporary goodbyes to bicycles and full blooming gardens. But November also brings families together as they huddle around the Thanksgiving table and swap holiday gift ideas for the coming month. Old recipes are pulled out, phones are ringing, and plans are made. I'll take the snow any day when it also brings such warm gatherings.

November also offers an added bonus –– the smile it puts on my husband's face because he's surrounded by snacks and food and grandchildren.

What does November mean to you? Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share that finds your table every November? Send it to me and I'll post it with your name on my blog.

Happy days to all of you!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

We Lost a Few, But Gained a Good One

This past year has brought a lot of sadness. Too many funerals and too many sorrows. The most recent sorrow came with the passing of Jada, who'd been our furry companion for almost fourteen years. 

That dog had such a personality. She was a mixed breed, part American Eskimo and part Pomeranian/Terrier. She loved to sit by my feet during the day as I worked at my desk, she was a wonderful listener when I needed to read something aloud (a thing writers and editors have to do from time to time), and she loved to play ball whenever I was willing. My husband always found time. He'd run around the yard with her for a short while every night. 

Jada's favorite trick, one that took notice throughout the neighborhood among many children and adults, was her jumping skills. When my husband squirted the hose to shoot water high into the air, Jada (up until two years ago) could jump a good twelve feet to catch a drip or two in her mouth. She had everyone laughing.

But the last couple of months of her life, she was pretty slow at play time. In fact, most often, she would just go get the ball thrown for her and then sit there to rest for a while.
There was no doubt her days were numbered, but I didn't want to face it.

But we don't always get what we want. 

For two weeks I moped around the house. Can you believe how hard it was to get involved in my writing when no one was at my feet? I'm amazed at what a habit that had become. After she was gone, it just felt wrong in my office. Something was missing, and though I tried to tell myself I could still work, I couldn't get myself to actually do it.

But last week I gave in and decided that if I was going to be me at all again, I needed a furry friend. Hence, Teddy has entered our family.

He's delightful. He let us know his first night here that he does not sleep at the foot of the bed. He sleeps right between me and my husband.

Have a great day, and if you are writing, painting, sewing, or tapping at a calculator, enjoy it. We never know how many we get. :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The State vs. Debi O’Neille, Case 55-cr-13-6514

Debi sat in the witness stand, her long hair in a neat fold on the back of her head. She wondered if she could avoid perjury by creatively answering the gray-haired, arrogant, no-necked prosecuting attorney’s questions.

“Didn’t you, in fact, use the word “looked” in your first chapter a total of three times, and similarly, the word “glanced” twice?”

Jerk. Of course he’d ask questions designed specifically for yes or no answers—only an idiot would misunderstand.

Idiot speaking here –“I always restrict those verbs to situations where absolutely necessary, but I didn’t count how many instances were necessary in this particular chapter.”

“Yes or no?” the attorney asked.

Geez, could they cut down on the furniture oil in this place? The lemon smell was nauseating. Debi clasped her hands tighter together in her lap, as if that would help her nerves. At least she wasn’t shaking. Not on the outside, anyway.

“I don’t recall the exact number of times,” she said. “Overused verbs can usually be avoided, because—”

In a half-turn toward the jury, the prosecutor said, “Ms O’Neille, a yes or no, please.”

“You don’t need to tell readers that a character is looking at something—”

“Your Honor, ple-e-ease,” the prosecutor said to the judge, who expelled a long sigh.

“Not when you're in that character’s point of view,” Debi continued, “and you describe the something being looked at.”

She had him there. He seemed a bit confused. He rubbed a finger over his brow. Oh how she wanted to smile.

“So by your own admission, it’s likely you didn’t need to use either looked or glanced in your writing, and yet you did; isn’t that true?”

Well holy cookies and ice cream—of course I did. Who doesn’t? “Again, sir, I don’t recall.” Oops. That might be a little white one. She didn’t remember how many times she’d used either word, but she did believe she’d used them. At least once. Or more.

“Ms O’Neille, would you like me to repeat the question?”

Which was …? “I’m sure I would have used them a time or two, but there are situations where it isn’t ridiculous for them to be included in a great sentence. For instance—”

“That will be all,” the attorney said, his shark gaze right on her. “No further questions.”

The heat of seven hells washed through Debi, a mixture of anger, frustration, and humiliation. Anger because she hated being cut off, as if what she had to say didn’t matter. Probably a lot of ex-husbands in the world had become exes for that very tactic. The frustration stemmed because she had a good answer, right on the tip of her tongue, and though no one was waiting for it, she wanted to let it out. The humiliation sprang from the collision of anger and frustration, which no doubt showed in bright flaming color on her face. She worked her hands in her lap. Would it be legal to ask to be excused?

She was saved from further worry when her own attorney addressed her. “Ms O’Neille, you looked like you had something to say at the end of that … battering interrogation.”

“Objection,” the prosecutor shouted.

The long-faced judge looked at the defense attorney. “Mr. Diehl, please rephrase your statement, and perhaps you could ask a question.”

“Yes, Your Honor.” He smiled then trained his dark eyes on her. “Would you please share what you had been about to say?”

“I was simply going to explain that there are times when looked and glanced aren’t errors in understanding how point of view works, so it’s only natural they’d show up in anyone’s writing, including mine. For instance, when the narration directs the reader to watch a character who is not the point-of-view character, but a secondary character who is glancing or looking about, then we can use those words. We wouldn’t be in that character’s point of view, and the point-of-view character would certainly notice and report if the other person looked in a certain direction or gazed at anything specific. The point-of-view character would describe that little action of the other character turning his attention to this or that, whatever the case may be.”

“So, to simplify, you’re saying that using looked and glanced in your work might have been a deliberate decision?”

“Exactly. You just can’t use them too close together in a paragraph or per page, or they’ll echo. You’ll see that when you read this transcript.” She nodded toward the court reporter.

The defense attorney smiled at the judge. “I have no more questions, Your Honor.”

When Debi stepped down from the witness stand, with all the smug arrogance of a true writer, she walked with an air of royalty, chin up and eyes welcoming to the many smiles she expected to see. “Case closed,” she said to no one in particular. “And so, I rest my case on the case of looked and glanced.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My A to Z non-theme reveal

Last year I truly enjoyed participating in the A-Z Blog Hop. It was my first year, and though I did get a tad overwhelmed toward the end of April, I was amazed at the massive number of connections made through this blog-a-thon. I met a lot of friends, and I’ve enjoyed chatting with them since.

This year I will be attending a writers’ conference in April, and I’ve also taken on a couple of big projects, so I won’t be joining the hop. It just wouldn’t work out with me being gone for an entire week through the month. I considered writing my posts in advance and scheduling them automatically, but I know I wouldn’t be able to check my blog and respond to comments and return visits to others. I suspect you all would forgive me, but I still can’t get myself to do that. The week of the conference is going to be busy, busy, busy, and I don’t want to complicate it with guilt.

Regardless, I will still be posting and visiting many of your blogs during the weeks that I’m not separated from my computer. I’m looking forward to reading as many A-Z posts as I can, and I wish you all luck in getting through the coming month with success.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Silvia Villalobos, a native of Romania who lives immersed in the laid-back vibe of Southern California, is a writer of mystery novels and short fiction. Her stories have appeared in The Riding Light Review, Pure Slush, and Red Fez, among other publications. Her debut novel, STRANGER OR FRIEND, will be released by Solstice Publishing and is now available for pre-order on Amazon. 

The Inspiration Behind the Novel

STRANGER OR FRIEND is the culmination of two lives at a confluence of cultures: an Eastern European immigrant—yours truly—married to a California native of Hispanic descent. The result is a fictionalized story, an observation, of intersecting cultures, newcomers, rejection, and acceptance. With the legal field as my background, it came to pass that Zoe, the main character, should be a lawyer, and after much deliberation, would travel from Los Angeles to Wyoming. This is the story of a woman going back home, only to find that home is no longer the place she remembers, or maybe a place she never really knew.

The Road to Publication

The road to publication is full of bends, climbs, and descents, a sinuous path of joy and heartbreak. Mine was no different. As I await release of my mystery novel, STRANGER OR FRIEND, available on amazon, I would like to offer a glimpse at this winding path.

How it All Began

Writing has always been a part of my life. As a child, I idolized Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu, and folk-tale writer Ion Creanga. They set my imagination loose and made it imperative that I put my thoughts on paper. 

In high school, an essay I wrote on Eminescu’s Evening Star, prompted a teacher to offer dreams-propelling praise, and that was when serious writing—mostly blurred thoughts and unfinished stories—began for me.

When family and work demanded my time, I took a break, but the writing bug kept biting. After a long pause, I joined The InternetWriting Workshop—an online critique group, staffed with volunteers and free of charge—the best decision of my writing life. It didn’t take long for the first critique to arrive, one of praise but also criticism and suggestions for improvement. Line by line I worked through my story, analyzing comments, editing, re-writing, learning.

The following year, when I began querying agents, there were requests for a partial manuscript, but never an offer. So, back to my critique group I went, with another novel, submitting chapters over the course of a year, writing short stories at the same time, submitting, editing, and reading. Always reading. Every rejection became another lesson, and to keep it from burning a hole through my heart, another submission went out the day the rejection came in.

It is no secret that agents prefer authors with a built-in following—not always, but most times—so, I decided to turn to independent publications for my short stories, and many were accepted.

After this small but important victory, I began shopping my novel to independent houses, and following months of querying I received an offer from Solstice Publishing. If ever excitement were uncontainable for the writer who began with a high school essay, that acceptance sure was.

Why Not Self Publish

It’s reassuring to know self-publishing is always an option. However, I wanted to step into the publishing business with a team by my side, people who know much more about the business side of things than I ever would, no matter the amounts of material I read on the subject. There are no guarantees for success, but if I were to take this step, I wanted it to be under the auspices of a publishing house. Personal preference.

What I Learned in the Process 

The road to publication is rarely short. Learning from rejections is part of the process. Working on one’s art and craft every day is not only rewarding but crucial. Reading, in and out of a preferred genre, and joining a critique group are essential, because writing is one thing and writing, well, is something else entirely. And please, arm yourself with patience. No editor likes impatient writers who just react to rejections.


This part will make your head spin, but with organization, it can be done. Sure, there are publicists who do this, and the big houses hire them, but not independent publishers. They help with marketing, but there is no publicist. My understanding is that big houses also expect writers to work on marketing, publicist or not, so it would serve a writer well to learn and thoroughly practice this part of the business.

Build your name brand (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Put together a Media Kit or Press Kit. This includes your bio, bibliography, cover art, photo(s) and links, all in one document. More on this below.

Do you have a blog? If you’re reading this, the answer is probably yes. A writer without a blog cuts herself way short. Post interesting articles, stay active within the blogging community. This will come in handy for blog tours. Look into organizing signing events in your area. What about the local radio and newspapers? Many outlets love to support local authors. I have a radio interview scheduled with my local station. This is when you will need a Press Kit. Editorial sites and radio stations expect a Press Kit. Get creative. Marketing is not only a way of doing, but a way of thinking in our service-driven society, as marketing books will tell you. 

Many thanks to Deb for hosting me, and the readers of this blog for reading my story. I’d be happy to answer any questions and elaborate on any points left unaddressed either here, at my blog, SilviaWrites, or website strangerorfriend.