At Home With...

Heidi Hormel pulls back the curtains and tells us what things are like at her house when an adventurous kitten nixes the idea of a Christmas tree...

For the last two years, my Christmas has been treeless. It’s not because I’ve been too busy writing books. Nope. It’s because I got a kitten last October, so no way I could have a tree last year. This year I had hoped, but he has not lost his kitten-ness.

If I was silly enough to put up even a small tree, I envision lots of broken ornaments, tinsel coming out of various feline body parts, and—the worst—a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation incident—where kitty chewed on an electrical cord… It did not end well.

Instead, I’ll do my usual mantel transformation and outdoor decorations along with a few blankets and pillows strewn around my living room.

Now, despite his shortcomings in the well-behaved kitty department, my Double Fanged Terror—or DFT, as I affectionately call the “kitten”—he has been good for my writing. He was the inspiration for a short story I had published in The Second and Third Nine Lives of Squeekie the Bookstore Cat (Volume 2).

Not to be outdone, the Feline Overlord, my older cat, has served as the inspiration for animals in my Angel Crossing Arizona series for Harlequin Western. She’s also “allowed” me to dress her up with a Santa hat and test out my knitting skills with cat sweaters.

Practicing these knitting skills is essential, since there are a few projects on this year’s gift list: a shawl, socks, and a wine bottle bag.

In my office, a converted bedroom at the back of my two-story condo overlooking an in-town woodland, I keep any decorations to a minimum because of my feline assistants. Although I saw a wall tree that might work.

You take removable hooks and place them on the wall to outline and fill in a tree, then place your Christmas balls on the hooks. (I saw the idea on Food Network’s The Kitchen.)

I’m considering this decoration to brighten up my work space because I keep my office door closed when I’m not working, so I’m always around with the spray bottle and a firm NO.

My office is so big and wonderful because I am a full time writer and editor, in addition to writing romances. Right now, between book contracts, I’ve upped my editing work and writing for trade magazines—if you want to know anything about storm sewers just ask me. I’ve been toiling away on my own now for more than 11 years, although my first book was not published until 2015.

While I love working from home and having myself as a boss—other than I’m really hard on me for taking sick days—there are pitfalls, and by pitfalls, I mean Christmas baking .

I’m the baker in my family and I start the ovens early. It’s so hard to keep myself from “testing” all of the treats. Right now, I’m cranking out pans of Chex Mix, which smell awesome.

On the plus side, since my office is on the second floor, I have to race up and down the steps to stir the Chex Mix, which does give me extra exercise. I’ll also be making butterscotch peanut butter Ritz bites, baklava, coconut macaroons, pecan tartlets, and buckeyes before the baking extravaganza is done.

Then on Christmas day, I’ll bring pounds of steamed and peeled shrimp to the family soiree.I’m the lucky one who peels all of the shrimp. It started years ago with my dad, and now we’re all so spoiled that we have to have them peeled. Of course, because I live near Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, the shrimp must be steamed in Old Bay.

Then there’s the food as decoration. My sister and I made a Nativity featuring Spam one year. We had such a great time building it and then sharing it with our family. Why Spam, you ask? Well, my last name is Hormel and Hormel Foods makes Spam. While family lore says we’re related, I’m never asked to any Spam events.

So, when do I get work done? Not much during the holiday season that starts in November and ends in January. I do my best by getting up early and fitting in work around wrapping, baking, and shopping JAs the big day(s) get closer, I’ll probably add a soundtrack to my writing, editing, and holiday prep. Most days I sit in a silent office, but for the holidays, I’ll fire up the classics — my favorite being Eartha Kitt’s version of Santa Baby.

One evening, I’ll make time to watch Elf. How can you not love a movie where the main character says, “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.

Despite being treeless, I got into the holiday spirit big time after my annual shopping extravaganza with my great niece and nephew. Not for their gifts, but for them to pick out gifts for their parents and grandparents. We take one day to find the perfect presents—and wrap them—from golf balls to bobble- heads.

We’ve been shopping annually for years—they’re teens now. Since the beginning, though, they’ve been as excited about handing out their gifts as getting gifts—that may be an exaggeration, but that’s how I feel as a proud auntie. .

Now that you’ve learned my “secrets” for working—or not—during Christmas, I want to wish one and all, Happy Holidays—which includes New Year’s Day, where our local custom is to gorge on pork and sauerkraut. My mouth is already watering.

Heidi's latest book, The Surgeon and the Cowgirl, is available now. To find out more about her and her writing visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

So what is Christmas like in your house? Do you have pets that mess with your decorations? Tell us in the comments, share your funny pet pics on Social Media or use #AtHomeWith to join the #PHS community's discussion.

#AtHomeWith #AmWriting #Cat #Writing #Writer #WritersLife #HeidiHormel #Shrimp #ChexMix #OldBay #SantaBaby #EarthaKitt #Elf #TheSurgeonandtheCowgirl #Ritz

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