Friday, November 30, 2018

The Book Signing of Christmas Past

As I approach my second book’s release date (BLOOD MONEY, TWRP) on December 10, 2018, I can only think back to my very first book signing last year for my very first book, and make a list and check it twice for future signings:
·        If outside, the temperature should be ABOVE freezing
·        Portable heaters should be present and nearby, as in under my feet
·        Free hot-chocolate should be plentiful
·        Cute Christmas costumes should be replaced by scarves, hats, gloves…and thermal underwear!
·        And last but not least, beg for a backup plan to move the venue inside if the snowflakes threaten

Weather in East Tennessee is unpredictable, to say the least, but wouldn’t you know on that long-anticipated day, the temperature dropped so low that vendors cancelled right and left at our local Christmas street festival. Even the Humane Society thought it too inhumane to bring promised pets for petting. Not me. I was riding a high on the thoughts of autographing my book, and I never considered for one minute that no one would come. Kudos to those few die-hard friends that did, and to one very special lady who drove hours just to support me--that was definitely the highlight of my first book signing; but alas, after three hours, my fingers grew so numb, I barely could sign my name−and those I did mirrored chicken-scratch. I was only too happy to call it quits. I cannot state it enough: book signings in “fowl” weather should be inside…even Santa was cold!

Solstice by Brenda Whiteside

Years ago, when my son was in what I like to call his adult rebellious stage, we started a new tradition. He’d decided Christmas was a commercialized holiday that had little resemblance to what the occasion was supposed to represent. We had just moved to a small farm with him and his soon-to-be wife. Knowing that her family was very traditional when it came to Christmas, and that I’d have to share them on the day, I decided to embrace the idea of returning to the root of the winter holiday…Solstice.

After doing my research, I proposed we celebrate the winter solstice in the manner of farmers and native Americans, before the holiday took the form it has now. On my mother’s side, we have both Choctaw and Chickasaw blood. We’re all card-carrying Indians. My idea was applauded and the tradition lives on, although the farm doesn’t. Our celebration is a mish-mash of European and native influences.

Solstice is about decorating the house in greens to lift the deadness of winter. It is about putting up an evergreen tree to lift our spirits (and maybe protect some wood nymphs who come in from the cold). The winter solstice is about exchanging gifts and opening them in the morning. In bygone days of the holiday, a shaman would visit at night and leave gifts. The shaman wore red and was very wise. It is about a big meal on the eve of Solstice. When we had the farm, we tried to cook everything we grew. And after dinner, we build a fire. We sit around the fire and we have a ceremony, adopted from American Indian tradition, that speaks to the past year and the future.

I now have a granddaughter. As I predicted way back when, they spend Christmas Day evening with my DIL’s side of the family. But we have Solstice. Two wonderful, warm, festive days with them.

Brenda Whiteside

Author of romantic suspense.
Discover adventure and love, suspense and
empowerment, sensual pleasures and
laugh out loud fun.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Celebrating Chanukah with Jennifer Wilck

In our house, we celebrate Chanukah. Through the years, many things about our celebration have changed. When the kids were young, we of course made a big deal about the holiday. We’d play music, serve latkes (potato pancakes), play dreidel and on a few of the eight nights, give presents. As the kids have gotten older, our traditions have changed.

The entire family gets together one night to exchange gifts with the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We all bring our menorahs—candelabras with room for nine candles—and we take big group photos of everyone lighting the candles.

We get together with friends one night and our photos over the years show how much the kids have grown (and how willing or unwilling they are now to smile).

One of the eight nights is dedicated to giving back. Instead of presents for ourselves, we donate to a charity. Some years we’ve made blankets and quilts for our local animal shelter. Other years we’ve sent money to a charity we all agree on—a small miracle in and of itself, since we rarely all can agree on anything. Once when the kids were little, we went to the toy store, bought toys and games for kids who didn’t have any, and brought them to a local preschool.

My specialty for Chanukah is making fried Oreos. The holiday celebrates the miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights, so our traditional foods are those made with lots of oil, like donuts. Several years ago, my husband and I went to a county fair and had fried Oreos. We loved them, and since they are deep fried, they fit the holiday perfectly. I found a recipe online to make them and ever since then, family and friends have demanded them every year.

Now that one of my daughters is away at college, I mail her gifts early, trying to figure out the exact right time so that everything arrives on time and we can celebrate with her over FaceTime. Technology is terrific for that, but I confess to missing having her home and celebrating in person. Luckily for me, you younger daughter, who has this last year at home before she leaves for college as well, still likes the traditions we have, even playing with some of her baby Chanukah toys that I find and put out along with the decorations.

So whatever you celebrate, and however you do so, I wish you and your family happy and healthy times together!

Jennifer Wilck

The Smile of an Angel by Janet Fogg

I have never, ever, been a good sleeper. Even when young I slept very lightly and would awaken in the silent, early morning hours, my mind busy with my own version of instant replay. Sometimes I’d tiptoe out of the bedroom I shared with my sister to curl up on the couch and enjoy a few rare hours of privacy and quiet. If it was close to Christmas I would plug in the tree lights and that gentle, multi-colored glow illuminated my thoughts.
     When I was nine or ten years old I was awake but warm in bed when I heard a scrape and muffled thud. I slipped out from beneath the blanket and met my mom in the hallway. Together, we peeked into the living room. The Christmas tree had tipped over and ornaments now decorated the carpet. The two of us quietly pushed the tree straight, tightened the screws that pressed into the tree trunk to hold it upright, and used a couple of dishtowels to sop up the water that had spilled from the stand. My dad, three brothers, and sister slept on.
     The silver angel atop the tree tilted drunkenly to one side as she supervised our efforts. She’d been pulled sideways by the fall and the weight of her power cord. Mom carefully straightened our cherished tree topper as I scampered behind the tree to plug in the cord. Haloed now by faint blue, the angel smiled down at us, her heart glowing.
     That angel is with us still though a hole now pierces her bodice, the heat from the bulb having melted through the old plastic decades ago. So the angel has retired. Each year she briefly supervises my sister’s Christmas decorating efforts when fragile old ornaments are unwrapped and admired, reminding us of our youth and of our mother taken from us, too young. The angel’s smile is as sweet as I remember, yet it was long ago that she plummeted to the carpet and long ago that my mom died. My tears, though, are as fresh as the day we lost her and the hole in my heart is as real as the angel’s. It shall never mend.
     And now, with the holiday season upon us, I thought I would share that long-ago adventure I shared with my mom. In a few days I’ll visit my darling sister. We’ll hug and weep a little and our love will take flight as we cherish the memory of our mother’s gentle smile, now the smile of an angel.

A Serenade to Die For by Janet Fogg and David Jackson
Soliloquy, a 2010 Holt Medallion Award Winner

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Mistletoe and KyAnn Waters

How did Mistletoe come to mean a kiss?

Although many sources say that kissing under the mistletoe is an English custom, there's another explanation for its origin. In Norse mythology there is a story of a loving, if overprotective, mother.

Frigga was mother to the Norse god Balder, the best loved of all the gods. Frigga was the goddess of love and beauty and she loved her son. To ensure no harm would come to him, she went through the world securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements--fire, water, air, and earth--that they would not harm her beloved Balder.

Leave it to Loki, a mischievous spirit, to find the loophole. Mistletoe and an arrow made from its wood. To make the prank even nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder's brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder's hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder's heart and Balder fell dead.
Frigga's tears became the mistletoe's white berries. In the version of the story with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the murderous reputation of Mistletoe, making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.

So hang some mistletoe and pucker up!

Information gleaned from numerous online searches for mistletoe lore.

*previously posted on other blogs

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Pearls ‘n Chocolate Cookies by Jana Richards

A Holiday Treat

560 ml. (2 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour
150 ml. (2/3 cup) cocoa
5 ml. (1 tsp.) baking soda
2 ml. (1/2 tsp.) salt
228 grams (1 cup) butter, softened
175 ml. (¾ cup) granulated sugar
150 ml. (2/3 cup) brown sugar, firmly packed
5 ml. (1 tsp.) vanilla
2 eggs
375 ml. (1 ½ cups) white chocolate baking pieces or chips

Preheat oven to 175 C. (350 F). In small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla; beat until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add flour mixture and stir until combined. Stir in white chocolate pieces. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cooking sheets and bake for 9-10 minutes. Allow to stand 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets and cooling completely. 

Makes about 2 ½ to 3 dozen cookies.

Baker’s note: Makes a very stiff batter that’s hard to mix, but it all turns out okay in the end. I pulled the cookies from the oven when the tops were still slightly unset, which made a nice soft cookie. Gorgeously chocolatey!

Jana Richards
Laugh. Cry. Love. Feel the Romance

Monday, November 26, 2018

C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S GIFT GAME! By Cj Fosdick

C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S GIFT GAME!   By Cj Fosdick

          When the number of adults exchanging gifts in your family grows faster than your Christmas budget, or you exchange with co-workers, or a group of friends, you may find this annual gift-game delivers a “creative fun quotient” that is also easy on the budget.

          After you establish an affordable price by consensus, start with finding a gift that begins with the letter “C” the first year. Move to “H” the following year, and continue each subsequent year until you have used up the word, Christmas. With friends, we did this for nine years, choosing mostly gag gifts under $5. With family, we budgeted not more than $25. Each participant bought just one gift or made one gift that didn’t exceed the price limit and began with the sequential letter in the word, CHRISTMAS.  It doesn’t matter how many adults participate or if the number varies, but nobody ever got left with their own present when there were at least 6 to 8 players.   
Number blank Christmas tags-or just blank strips of paper-from 1 to whatever the number of participants. Place all wrapped, tag less gifts under the tree and then draw a number from Santa’s hat or a bowl the host passes around. Whoever holds number 1 gets to choose the first gift from the pile. Number 2 chooses either a gift from the pile…or steals the gift from number 1.

If there is a steal, the “victim” gets to choose another gift to replace the one stolen from him. And so on down the number line, one by one. Choose or steal. Nobody can “re-steal” his original gift, but he could persuade his spouse to do so when their turn is up. To reward the most inspired or in-demand gift, the hostess has the option of awarding a bonus gift of wine or a white elephant of her choosing at the end. Variations on the game can be exchanging gifts using letters from other words, like Holidays, Snowman, Noel, etc. 

Children were exempt from this game in our family. They opened their stash of gifts first and while they were playing with them, the adults played the Christmas letter game. Once these children graduated from school, they were anxious to join in the letter game that produced such gifts as frozen steaks for “S,” and Twenty bow ties made from dollar bills for the letter “T”.

Cj    Happy Holidays!


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