Saturday, December 07, 2019

Holiday traditions

Holiday traditions are big at the Henry Household. Especially Christmas. Whether it’s baking cookies with the grandgirls, making snowmen, snowangles, or having the whole family over for that special dinner.  Whatever the season, it gets celebrated at our house.

One tradition that I don’t even have to bring to my family’s attention, is that of bringing in the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day. Immediately following dinner, everyone makes out their Christmas lists as the tables are cleared. When it’s just about time to say our goodbyes for the day, everyone helps put the extra tables and chairs away (we usually have at least 20 for dinner, and we set up in our large living room), and then, without asking, they rearrange the room to make room for the star attraction before traipsing out to the shed to bring in the tree.  And lo, once that is done, the decorating begins.  Of course that includes decorating the tree immediately, so my husband can arrange his trainsets and villages on the floor around the tree—one of the highlights of the decorations.

Once the decorations are up, it cookie-baking day.  Each grandgirl gets to bake their own special cookie, so it’s not necessarily a unique holiday goodie. But we do sit down in the afternoon to have a sort of high tea in the dining room, where we discuss the highlights of our day with each other, and sample our tasty accomplishments. Of course everyone goes home with a basket of cookies to share with their family.

Although my latest book, Ciara’s Homecoming Christmas doesn’t have a cookie baking day, it does have my 4-year-old twin matchmakers, helping to serve cookies at the New Eden Assisted Living facility where they attended the Christmas Caroling event.  I know everyone is familiar with Chocolate Chip Cookies, but here is a new spin on the old familiar recipe that will make at least 10 dozen for that major event or cookie exchange you’re attending over the holidays, or any time of year.  It just might be a great tradition to add to your list.

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies
By Carol Henry

Mix Dry Ingredients and set aside:
7 ¼ Cups Flour
3 Tablespoon Baking Soda
3 Tablespoon Salt

In Separate Bowl, Mix the following:
3 Cups Butter (softened)
2 ¼ Cups Brown Sugar (packed)
2 ¼ Cups Granulated Sugar
3 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla
6 Eggs

Blend well, until butter is fully incorporated.
Then mix in dry ingredients.

Add a 10 oz. packet of each of the following:
·         White Chocolate Chips
·         Milk Chocolate Chips
·         Dark Chocolate Chips.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out batter, roll in a ball, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake in pre-heated 375 °F oven, for 10 – 12 minutes. Let set on cookie sheet to cool for a few minutes before removing. Makes about 10 dozen.  Enjoy.

At a crossroads in her military career, coming home to Willow Springs, Vermont, is bitter sweet for Ciara Miller. Her parents have moved to Florida, her great aunt resides at New Eden Assisted Living, and her high school sweetheart is a widower raising twin girls.

Eight years ago, Tad Brownley, a lowly mechanic in his father's garage, felt he had nothing to offer Ciara, the love of his life, so he let her go to chase her dream to serve as a military nurse. Now she's back on leave and he still doesn't have much to offer or the time for a relationship no matter how fleeting.

Despite Tad's mother and Ciara's great aunt's matchmaking efforts, can their renewed romance sustain a long-term relationship? Or will her call to duty split them apart again?

Carol Henry
Destination: Romance—Exotic Romantic Suspense Adventures
Cairo Connection: #2 Best Romance Novel 2018 Preditors and Editor’s Reader’s Poll
Nothing Short of a Miracle: #1 Best Seller Amazon Encore Holiday Romance

Friday, December 06, 2019

Memories of Christmas past…

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love the preparations—gathering greenery, decorating, sending Christmas cards, and baking. Many years ago, I would start my holiday baking in late September. Yes, you’ve read correctly. This was a tradition that began with my mother. All the goodies would be carefully sealed and tucked away in our freezer until the holidays. A truly magical time.

As a child, I can vividly recall the glimmering holiday lights my dad would string up around the house, the smell of a fresh-cut pine tree (and trying to keep the falling pine needles from scattering all over the place), and the aroma of baking thumbprint cookies. These are only a few of my treasured memories—ones where I saw the same wonder in the glow of my own children’s’ eyes. Seeing the radiance of the holiday through their gaze is a wondrous moment to witness.

But most of all, I loved celebrating Christmas with songs of the season. Music has always lifted my spirits and is a great source of inspiration with my own writing. I’ve often stated that music is my muse. Therefore, it only made sense I would eventually write a story about the holiday season. As a writer of medieval time-travel romances, I loved researching certain holiday traditions of the time for my Highland holiday stories. I center these tales around food, winter, and love. Three powerful ingredients for a magical story and ones I treasure.

However you celebrate this joyful time of year, I wish you blessings of love and peace.

Eggnog Scones

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut up
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup eggnog

1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a large bowl. Whisk ingredients.

Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until the mixture looks like fine granules. Add sugar and toss to mix.

Add eggnog and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. For dough into a ball, put onto a lightly floured board, and give 10 to 12 kneads.

To make triangular scones, cut dough in half. Knead each half lightly into a ball and turn smooth side up. Pat or roll into a 6-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 or 8 wedges. Place wedges on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Topping: Combine 1 teaspoon sugar with 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg and sprinkle on wedges. Bake about 12 minutes, or until light brown on top.

Enjoy the holiday season in Scotland with this time-travel romance, To Weave a Highland Tapestry.

Patrick MacFhearguis, hardened by battles won and lost, desires what he can never have—peace within his heart and soul.  Yet, the ever-meddling Fae weave a new journey for him to conquer—a task this highlander is determined to resist.
When skilled weaver, Gwen Hywel, is commissioned to create a tapestry for the MacFhearguis clan, she embraces the assignment. While seeking out ideas, she finds herself clutching the one thread that can alter the tapestry of her life and heart.
Do they dare to unravel the past for a future of love?

Mary Morgan

Award-winning Celtic Paranormal Romance Author
Where history meets magic!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The Kid’s Table of Yore

Merry Christmas

I was officially orphaned in 1999. Since then, my Christmas spirit has been spiked with the bittersweet taste of melancholy. While I celebrate the season with fervor, I can’t seem to quell the emptiness I feel in the pit of my stomach. I believe it to be caused by “the sense of family” that seems to have lessened since my parents have moved on to a better place. 
My sister and I 

My sister and I both admit we don’t cut the mustard in the family unity department. We barely graduated from the kid’s table before we were thrust into the position of matriarchs.  In our defense, we are geographically challenged. We have sisters, brothers, daughters, granddaughters, and cousins living all the way from Baltimore, Maryland to San Diego, California.
Mom and Dad with my daughters Kirby and Dustan 

I miss my parents, the glue that held the family together. Every Christmas, my thoughts always drift back Omaha, Nebraska, a time when all seemed right in my world. (Mom and Dad always bragged they made life-long friends in Nebraska. We all agreed that was the place we were happiest as a family.)  My lips curl up at the edges and my heart pangs with a combination of angst and joy when I think of the Christmas mornings of yore spent in our happy Nebraskan home.
     Every year, Dad made my sister and I wait impatiently at the top of the stairs holding back the dog while he set up his Super 8 camera. (Thank you, Dad, we still have the movies.) When he finally gave the word, we would run down stairs, tear open our bounty of gifts, and then hit the streets to compare toys with our many friends. 
     Feeling nostalgic as usual, and longing to open a window into the past when my family was intact, and Christmases were magical and my dreams were boundless, I hit the internet in search of one Nebraskan family that held a special place in my heart.

The T’s lived directly across the street. Mr. and Mrs. T had three children. I was eight-years-old when the twins, two adorable towheaded girls with ice blue eyes, were born, and nine-years-old when their equally adorable, sandy, brown haired sister Nanny came along.  I patiently waited for them to walk, and then dressed them in ballet costumes and taught them to dance.

     I took them trick-or-treating every Halloween. I snapped many photos, for which they eagerly posed. I starred them in my Super 8 movies and many, many theatrical basement plays. They were smart little girls, willing actors, and always adorable. (I still have the movies and the pictures.)

     I enjoyed the twins and Nanny’s company as much as they enjoyed mine. When I was twelve, I talked their mother into allowing me to babysit while she ran errands. And by the time I was 13, I was the T’s regular babysitter. Though, I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. T were comforted knowing Mom was right across the street. 

     The last time I saw the T girls, as I called them, the twins were 7 and Nanny was 6. I remember that cold day in November of 1974 as if it were yesterday. The early morning sun glistened off the dusting of the new fallen snow. I stood in my front yard knee deep, with a smile on my face and a lump in my throat, staring at the house I had loved for six years—a lifetime in my young eyes. 

    I felt emotions ranging from excitement to remorse as the moving men loaded the last box on the truck. I crossed the street to say goodbye one last time to the little girls I wished were my own. I still remember their smiling faces as they waved good-bye, them too young and me too naive to understand the finality of our words. And then, my family drove off, in our blue Chevrolet station wagon with woodgrain paneling, never to return.  

     My parents kept in touch with the T’s over the years. I believe I wrote a letter or two, but boys and teenage things got in the way and I moved on with my life. We all did. Although the three little girls, that I once wished were mine, were ingrained in the back of my mind.

      I began my Christmas Google soul-searches several years ago, locating one friend after another, but the T family remained a mystery. I almost gave up, when, like a Christmas miracle, two of the names of the little girls I once wished were my own, popped up on Facebook. 

      I consulted my sister, prior to pushing that friend request button. 

     She said, “You should definitely try, but don’t be upset if they don’t respond. You were older and you really loved them, but they were so young when we moved away they may not remember you.” 

      With butterflies in my stomach, I left a little note, enclosed a vintage picture, and sent out two friendship requests. Within a day, my requests had been accepted, and I received a message of acknowledgement from both. 

      And now, not only do I have the peace of knowing their family is well and intact, but to paraphrase Nancy, I also have this: “I remember you dressing me like a mouse for a Christmas movie. You had the moms come to see it, and you made cookie cutter sandwiches. I did that for my kids because of that memory.” 

    After reading Nancy's words, just like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes. My mouth bowed into a smile, and something warm rolled down my cheek. I had forgotten about my basement production of “Santa Mouse” starring Nanny, and the cookie cutter sandwiches Mom taught me how to make.  Nancy's memory is one of my greatest Christmas gifts.

    I am elated we have reconnected, but there is one thing I am finding hard to fathom. The precious little girls that I once wished were mine, who have been frozen in time for forty-four years, are now beautiful adults with children of their own. I am slowly, but surely, getting used to the idea. 

     Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and peace and love to all!

Susan Antony

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Favorite Christmas Gift

For years I yearned for ice skates…not just any ice skates but I wanted the white ones, with white laces, figure skating ice skates.  I knew if I could have the white skates, I’d twirl and whirl like the Olympic figure skaters I loved to watch.  Looking back I’m sure my parent’s reluctance to buy me ice skates was mostly due to my growing feet.  From one year to the next my feet were changing size rapidly. I would imagine buying new skates every winter was not in our family budget.   

I did have my choice of hand me overs from my brothers….black and brown hockey skates. Sturdy and warm they kept me skimming along the ice of a nearby frozen pond. And then…

One Christmas morning, under the tree I found a heavy, square, box with my name on it.  After church and Christmas dinner we trooped out to the pond. In the Wisconsin cold and wind I felt nothing but anticipation for my first “real” skate. It was magical; my feet were so light, the skates brilliantly white, blades gleaming silver.  Not used to floating quite so much over the ice, I spent a good part of the first hour on my backside. Now it is a wonderful memory; a gift even better in reality then in my imaginings. 

Happy Winter Everyone! May you have joy on ice and anywhere else you happen to land!

By DeeDee Lane
Visit DeeDee on her website

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Our Very Own Ghosts of Christmas Past

It’s no surprise that The Christmas Carol is Charles Dickens’ most beloved work, far more popular than A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. And not simply because of its holiday theme. In fact, Dickens wrote and published four other Christmas tales, but only The Christmas Carol is still remembered and treasured. Today, one hundred seventy-six years after the iconic story first hit bookstores in London, if you call someone a “Scrooge,” they know it’s hardly a compliment. Even Ebenezer’s favorite expression, “humbug,” has lodged its way into the Christmas lexicon. This novella—before we ever had a name for such a book—has left an indelible impression on Western culture.

 But I believe the appeal of this little book goes far beyond its clever language—“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that”—and its parade of memorable spectral characters.

Dickens, through his miserly character of Ebenezer Scrooge— disenchanted, lonely, work-obsessed—has hit on a dilemma we all struggle with. For most of us mere mortals, Christmas does not often live up to our expectations, the holiday seldom as shining and bright as promised. And there’s always more work to be done.

More to the point, though, who isn’t haunted by their own version of Dicken’s ghosts? Who doesn’t have at least one personal horror story about the holidays? The truth is most of us are haunted—if you’ll excuse the pun—by one or more of our own ghosts of Christmas past, wearing us down like the chains the ghost of Marley dragged around in Dicken’s narrative.

So what’s to be done? Another holiday approaches with Godspeed and we must face it.

 “I wish…but it’s too late now.”

These words whispered by Ebenezer echo our own desperation. But, through his inventive story, Dickens proves that it is never too late—though it took four ghosts and a near death experience to convince old Scrooge. 

This Christmas, let’s not be so stubborn. As the sudden death of a close friend taught me recently, tomorrow is promised to no one. Though we may not be able to forget, we always have permission to forgive—both others and ourselves.

It’s not too late to make amends.

It’s not too late to say I’m sorry.

It’s never too late to say I love you.

I hope this year your Christmas season is shiny and bright, restful and blessed.

My ghosts? I have my share like everyone else, but most times I enjoy their company. Of course, I prefer to encounter them in the pages of The Christmas Carol or maybe even, my own ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake.  

Oh, and I almost forgot. Merry Christmas and, in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone.”

Randy Overbeck
Author of the new paranormal mystery,
Blood on the Chesapeake 
#1 of the Haunted Shores Mysteries series

Winner of the GOLD AWARD from Literary Titan!
FIVE STAR REVIEWS from, Long and Short Reviews and Literary Titan.
“Timely and original. A terrific one-sitting read!”—Hank Phillipi Ryan, Best Selling Author
“Kept me turning pages until the totally surprising conclusion.”—Kings River News and Reviews
“A tale to be savored in a darkened room, with an eye to all the possibilities lurking just out of sight.”—William Kent Krueger, Edgar Award Winner
A thrilling whodunit with a supernatural edge.”Future Mostly Mystery Magazine

Monday, December 02, 2019

The Sugarplum Fairy

When I was a little girl, we would visit my Grandmother's home for Christmas every year. My parents were divorced, so this would be my father's side of the family. My Grandmother would always have cakes, cookies, and a huge dinner spread, but the one thing I fondly remember is the sugarplum tree that sat on her coffee table. Full of red and green sugarplums, the tree fascinated a little girl with a horrible sweet tooth. They stuck tightly on the tree and I had to work to break them free with my little fingers coated in sugar.

One evening, after I ate all the red ones off the tree, I asked my Grandmother and Aunt for more. (Who likes the green ones? LOL) They said, "You'll have to wait for the sugarplum fairy to come tonight and put more candies on the tree."

You might say, a little girl with a vivid imagination and a love for sweets, was spellbound. A sugarplum fairy? No way! Santa Claus took a backseat to this new character introduced into my life. My Grandmother and Aunt laughed and I didn't understand at the time, but nonetheless, I was captivated.
Year after year, instead of wishing to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, I hoped to see the Sugarplum fairy. The story they told spoke of a fairy with sparkling wings and a tiny body. They said the fairy worked hard to put sugarplums back on the tree for me because she was so small. They said she made a tinkling sound while she worked. My Grandmother and Aunt would tell me the same story each Christmas and the next morning the little, plastic tree would be replenished with sugarplums.

I chuckle at the memories now, but every time I see sugarplums in the store, I think of those times. I always wanted to tell my own children about the sugarplum fairy, but the plastic trees disappeared and only resurfaced a few years ago. I often wonder where my Grandmother came up with the idea, but it stayed with me all these years.

As an adult, people ask where my imagination comes from. I can only say I was blessed with creative women in my life who encouraged fantastical creatures from a young age. It's no wonder I write paranormal romance!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Kristal Dawn Harris

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Traditions shared with our pets – Our Christmas Tree

Allergic to pine trees as I child, we had an aluminum silver tree with a color wheel that reflected colors over the tree’s shimmering branches. Not a pine but served the purpose. Santa left presents under it and we sang carols around it. Our special ornaments were hung on the tree along with candy canes and blue, green and red balls.

These days, you can’t tell the real trees from the artificial.  Our seven foot tree with large sweeping boughs to the ground is put up the day after Thanksgiving.   Since the Blue Spruce is artificial, no problems with pine needles and drying out. (If you look close at the picture, you can see Taco in front of the tree on a perch with Mystic looking on.)

Christmas ornaments are a family tradition. We receive a special ornament all our own each year. This tradition is handed down from generation to generation dating back to the pioneers.

Our tree will never be a fancy designer tree with matching babbles and bows, but it is decorated with years of love. Ornaments range from Keepsake Frosty Friends, to handmade ones by friends and family. I’d guess there are over 150 ornaments we hang every year while reminiscing where the decoration came from and playing Christmas carols, joined by our parrot, Taco, dog, Mystic, and turtle, Sammie.  (Pictured is Taco in front of our very large Christmas Cactus just before she bit off several blooms.) LOL  A relaxing and  memorable start to our sometimes crazy Christmas season.

Homemade candy is another scrumptious and fun tradition. Fantasy Fudge, Divinity and my all-time favorite Beaver Dams.  What are Beaver Dams you ask?  Simple and tasty.  Take a 12 oz. package of butterscotch chips, melt them in a double boiler, stir in half-package of crispy Chow Mein Noodles and one-half can (about 8 oz) of cocktail peanuts. Stir until all ingredients are covered with butterscotch. Spoon the concoction onto foil and let set. They look like beaver dams, thus the name.  They taste fantastic.

Wishing you love and laughter all of your days!

A peek at my upcoming release (12-9-19)  CHARM ME AGAIN. Daylan, a warlock, is being haunted, but what the ghost wants is a mystery. His magical powers bring him no closer to an answer—until he encounters Josie, a Yoga instructor.
But when she is kidnapped by an ancient Fae Warrior set on revenge Daylan must rescue her before the rogue claims her as his own. During his quest, his world spirals out of control, and a devastating curse comes to light. Could the ghost hold the answers he needs?
Can he break the age-old curse to save Josie and their future, or will Daylan lose her forever?

Snippet –
A huge evergreen wreath adorned the solid wooden carved door. This is different, I don’t remember mother decorating the front door for Christmas. Josie fingered the pine bough decoration while standing on the steps of her parent’s mansion in Evergreen, Colorado. It had been a long time. A few huge storybook snowflakes landed on her dark eyelashes and melted in her hair while others fluttered to the ground around her. Her hand poised to knock, she blew out a breath. “I can’t do this.” She turned to Daylan, who stood supportively beside her.