Note from Cindy: I’ve been buddies with Susan Connell ever since I met her at an RWA conference many moons ago.  Her first Loveswept was about to come out and there was no way she was going to miss the national conference – even though she showed up in a wheel chair with a badly broken ankle.  That kind of grit drew me toward her immediately and we’ve been buddies ever since.  Susan writes hot contemporary romances in the tradition of Susan Mallery and Carly Phillips. Please join me in giving Susan a warm Topdown welcome :o)

Somewhere between posing with her new everything-princess bicycle and tripping through crumpled wrapping paper to the next gift, my grand niece had had it with the big Santa reveal. One more “say cheese” and, with the exasperation only a 3 year old can muster, Amity blurted out, “Daddy! It’s only Christmas!”

Cue the angel choir. We had just been delivered our epiphany. SLOW DOWN. BREATHE. ENJOY. FOR THIS IS THE GOOD STUFF.

And I was suddenly reminded of a summer afternoon about 25 years earlier when Cat, my then 8 year old daughter, needed a break from some highly energetic friends. I called her inside and put her in charge of making meatloaf for our dinner. That rented cottage on the Jersey shore was instantly transformed into a Zen temple. The sheer act of measuring spices, picking out bits of eggshell (“Mom, won’t they just melt or something?”) and squishing the mixture between her fingers for a good ten minutes proved to be the perfect activity for her.


I figured if it could work for Cat it could work for Amity. This time in the form of a deep dish cherry pie. So Christmas morning we dragged a chair to the kitchen counter, aproned up and, with her very own rolling pin she flattened the life out of the pre-made pie crust I gave her.

Amity the baker

Then, with infinite care, she spooned the pie filling, one cherry at a time, into my pie shell. She used that same concentration to punch out pastry snowflakes with her great-grandmother’s cookie cutter and place each one on the filling. Every now and then she would direct a beaming smile toward me. (This is what heaven looks like.) Some ideas, I found, are worth repeating.

Amity making pie

Kind of like bringing back classic love stories for a whole new generation of readers. While I’ve been writing a new book, I’m also bringing my older titles up to date. I’m re-editing, re-charging, re-covering and in some cases changing a few endings. If you’d like to read more about me and my e-books check out www.SUSANCONNELLBOOKS.COM


TiP cover

How about you? What Zen (I mean, quiet, hands on) activity do you indulge when you need some down time? I’d love to read your comments.  One commenter will receive an e-book copy of TROUBLE IN PARADISE AND PAGAN’S PARADISE free.

By the way, Cat’s meatloaf and Amity’s cherry pie were the best I’ve ever had.


About cindygerard

Cindy Gerard is a New York Times best-selling author of action packed romantic suspense novels. Learn more about Cindy at http://www.cindygerard.com
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  1. bkrahn007 says:

    Welcome, Susan! Hey that’s a great idea– take the kids into the kitchen and have them help you cook! Great activity and sooooo Zen. Thanks for the idea! Good parenting/grandparenting tips are precious and should be passed on whenever possible.

    My only Zen tip with kids is the gardening thing. Give them dirt and a trowel and something to plant in a flower bed or a pot. . . watch them calm down and feel better. I just wish I was closer to my grands so I could do this more than once every couple of years. And –oh!– the photo opportunities!

    Something else we’ve done is to buy (at the local garden store or order online) ladybugs and release them in the garden. Let the kids handle them and then encourage them to fly off onto the plants you want to protect. Or they can “help” the ladies crawl onto a few leaves of plants you want to protect. The little red and black bugs are adorable and help teach kids not to fear insects. Plus, what a great way to get them interested in helping the environment!

  2. Stonehawk says:

    I don’t have kids but the only downtime i have involves typing stories onto the computer for hours. i could do that all day and let the world pass by me. I’m still debating if I should contact someone in the publishing industry and see it I can get my stories published. Mind you I don’t like working underneath deadlines and having to submit ideas to the editor like story outlines before I can actulally type that idea down into story format. I prefer to let my mind think of ideas a day to type the story down after I come up with the idea. I don’t like story outlines anyway. hence me hesitating on having my stories published and working with people to get my stories published and even underneath deadlines. Oh well I figured I would just keep on typing my stories for fun till I make up my mind on what to do with them.

  3. Melynda says:

    My kids are older, teenage boys, love to help in the kitchen. This is awesome! My main Zen is reading. My hands on Zen is theatre & mosiac tile art.

    I’m looking forward to checking out your work!! :))

  4. Kristy says:

    Welcome 🙂

    I love watching kids in the kitchen, they have an enthusiasm that you can’t contain and no matter what the food tastes like you love it all the more because they have helped make it.

  5. Lyn Cote says:

    wonderful stories! Good luck on your backlist publishing!

  6. Hi Susan!! Good to see you here! For my Zen time I love to pick up my 4 yr old grandkids and just go for a walk. It is so much fun to see their eyes widen and listen to all their questions when you show them something in nature they have not seen before. Of course my camera is always with me! As far as cooking with them, they make instant oatmeal really well!! LOL!!

  7. Kristy – I tell them not to worry about it being perfect because the fun part is, YOU CAN EAT YOUR MISTAKES!

  8. Leanne Banks says:

    WELCOME SUSAN! Love those new covers to your fab books! Especially Trouble In Paradise. Beautiful job! I’m thrilled that readers will have the opportunity to enjoy your stories.:)

    Your niece sounds like so much fun and she has a great sunshiney smile!;) You’re a great aunt to help bake a pie.<3 I enjoy baking and cooking for downtime. Sometimes I don't feel like I have "time" for downtime, so we get take-out!lol xo, Leanne

  9. Welcome, Susan!

    I’ve always had trouble living in the moment. I have to school myself not to think about what comes next. Oddly enough, when I write, it’s in the moment. I have a very sketchy idea of the rest of the story, and that sometimes worries me. I have to remember that if I take care of this scene, this chapter, the rest will come. As the characters grow and fill out, the story unfolds. Maybe that’s why I find gardening with the grands much more “zen” than cooking. With cooking I feel pressured to get to the finished product.

  10. Wilma Frana says:

    My kids are all grown up and in homes of their own. My sons, as well as my daughters, all learned to cook, do laundry, etc.

    • Georgia Happy says:

      My Zen is quilting. This holiday season I was able to teach my 25-year-old daughter the basics (when my 3-year-old grandson was sleeping). It was a great way to connect with my adult child and even if quilting does not become a passion of hers like it is for me, she will always appreciate the time, effort and LOVE I put into the quilts I make for her.
      I do love your books! The humor you infuse into the stories make every one of them fun to read. Glad to hear you are working on a new one.

      • Quilting – That’s got to be in the top ten Zen things ever. A quilt symbolizes so many wonderful things and it’s great to hear that the art form is alive and well. I’m glad you like my books – thanks for telling me.

  11. Rossella says:

    it’s so nice to see you here ! may be the perfect ZEN moment will be for everyone …to read one of your books ! Despite my love for “papers” books , what I call the REAL books, I’m so enthusiastic at the idea that I can get the chance to read your books, dowloading them in a few seconds on my kindle sitting on my sofa in Rome, on the other side of the world! That is what I call the ZEN moment !

  12. Minna says:

    My zen is knitting and crocheting. Lately I’ve made quite a few Angry Birds. I only need so many pairs of gloves and mittens and such, so I make Angry Birds and swap them for stuff, like for more yarn!

  13. Ruth Harris says:

    Zen time is stretching on an exercise ball. Pathetic but it helps my back…too many hours sitting at the dang computer.

  14. loisgreiman says:

    Thanks for joining us, Susan. My Zen moments are usually spent outside, running, hiking, riding horse. Although I’m told dancing on tables is quite soothing.

  15. Beautiful kiddos in those lovely pics! Thanks for sharing them.
    Coincidentally my Zen is cherry pie. My mother taught me how to make it. And running…that’s so I can have some of the pie.

  16. Pat Forrdyce says:

    I loved your Christmas story. I could picture her little hands on hips, saying “DADDY”. I’m a retired Peds nurse, and every day of retirement is a Zen day! My favorite “downtime” thing Is to play scrabble on FB, and sit in front of my fire with a book. I have not read your novels, and am thrilled to meet you and look them up! Please make sure your grand niece know’s she’s famous!!!! Thank you so much, Susan.

  17. Pat Fordyce says:

    OOPS…Added an extra letter to my last name. Sorry.

  18. MJ says:

    I knit. My grandmother knitted. My strongest memories of her are of her with her knitting needles. My mother didn’t have the patience for the craft and my grandmother died when I was 15, so when I discovered that I really wanted to learn, I had to teach myself. Well there’s a book for everything and if there’s a knitting gene, I inherited it. Now whenever I get antsy or bored or need to occupy my hands in order to keep my mouth closed, I pick up a project.

    I have several knitting bags with one or more started projects that I will finish someday. I have a closet full of yarn that I just HAD to have. I have more needles and notions and still find myself buying another set for a specific project that I just have to get started. And somewhere along the way the members of my family end up with afghans and socks and sweaters and dishclothes and Christmas stockings and gloves and hats and… well you get the idea.

    I wonder if I’ll ever get to teach one of my sons, or nieces or nephews – or if a grandchild will remember me knitting and find they have a knitting gene of their own and just pick up a book and figure it out for themselves.

  19. Robin W says:

    My Zen is 2 garden tasks – weeding & pruning. They are quiet and the results are instantly recognizable. Plus they get rid of a lot of aggression and irritation.

  20. Kylie Brant says:

    I have a number of Zen moments–just relaxing and enjoying family and friends at tailgates; sitting down to play games with the grandkids; reading; and weeding–but only when it’s my idea, on my terms 🙂

  21. Nina Paules says:

    Susan! What a wonderful blog post. (and I love your covers. Are grandmothers really allowed to have covers that hot? 😉 )

    My zen is writing. There’s nothing like taking a short trip to a world you totally control to hang out with characters you love.

    Looking forward to your new book!


  22. NL Gassert says:

    Three kids, including a toddler. Homework assignments. Readings struggles. Soccer practice. Teenage drama. My ZEN, and I cannot believe I’m actually admitting to this, is going grocery shopping. I used to hate it, still don’t really care for it, but it’s the only time when I’m by myself and left alone.


  23. Love the story and those darling pictures. What lovely girls. One of my zen activities with my active granddaughters is to take them outside to feed the animals. They will often hand the goat some grain one piece at a time. I thought of that when you wrote about Amnity putting the cherries in the pie shell one at a time. It is so much fun to see what children will do.

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