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.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Holiday in Jacksonville, Oregon

            Early Thanksgiving morning, volunteers in Jacksonville, Oregon, begin adorning buildings in the tiny town with miles of fresh cedar garland in anticipation of the month long Victorian Christmas.  A huge tree is covered with lights and over-sized ornaments.  A parade through the center of town kicks off the celebration.

            A man brings his covered wagon, pulled by a beautiful pair of matched Belgians, offering rides for a fun experience and a different perspective.  Often, Victorian carolers leave their street corner to join passengers, asking all to sing with them.  Roasted chestnuts and hot apple cider are handed out as people walk along the festive main thoroughfare.  The mid-1800’s home of the Beekman family is opened for tours where guests are encouraged to sing Christmas carols next to the piano while viewing the tree, complete with candles, in the parlor.

            Father Christmas, in his long flowing red velvet robe, may be seen roaming the streets, often followed by his faithful elves.  For a private moment with the man of the season, you can visit the ‘North Pole’ where his wife sits quietly beside him before a lovely decorated tree.

            One of my favorite memories of this special time is when my now-grown granddaughter was two years old and loved watching those huge Belgian horses walk by.  Having snowflakes float down added to the enjoyment.

            This, and many other local holiday events my family and I enjoy, are featured in my novel.

            Wishing you all a joyous holiday season!

Diana Tobin
Author: Men of Maine series.
Facebook: Di's Maine Men

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Grateful, Thankful, Blessed

By D.S. Lucas (a.k.a. Part-Time Sunshine at

This Thanksgiving season, I’ve been pondering what these three words printed on fall decor, clothing, and signs mean together: Grateful, Thankful, Blessed.
At first, I thought they were merely synonymous and interchangeable, redundant to read on ceramic pumpkins, sweatshirts, and wall hangings. They all convey a sense of appreciation, but with further consideration, I can now see how they vary.  Here is my take on these adjectives, and no matter what definitions I attach, you may have other theories. No worries, there is no right or wrong. Basically, they are beautiful words, manifestations of contentment that the entire world has the opportunity to use. I feel powerfully humble and fulfilled when I can say, “I am grateful. I am thankful. I am blessed.”
Thankful is a feeling, a sudden recognition of relief and/or satisfaction. Feelings come in a moment, affecting us inside such as when we are happy, sad, thankful, bored, or excited. Feelings are fleeting and fly away like birds who’ve emptied the feeder. After the feeler has felt and the moment has passed, a new feeling can replace the old one.
But if the feeler keeps feeling and dwelling on a pain or perpetuates a pleasure, the feeling can fester or grow into a state of being.  Feelings that are habitually harbored or entertained can turn into personality traits.  For instance, if someone continues to sprout and protect her happy feathers she may be deemed as a cheerful, optimistic, upbeat bird. Those who stay cloaked in sadness can become morose, pessimistic, or depressed mourning doves; they could benefit by flying around with a flock of cheer. One who constantly masks his true feelings and hides his head in the ground like an ostrich might be shy or insecure.
Someone who continues to give thanks for things great and small becomes grateful, a giving personality trait. Gratefulness grows into gratitude which is an attitude. Being grateful is an active characteristic of someone whose cornucopia overflows and she knows it; this simply means she has more than enough, she is thankfully aware, and shares her plentiful goodness with others.
Gifts of gratitude don’t have to be monetary or charitable gifts, but they can be. Grateful people are generous beyond dollars, offering time, attention, praise, kindness, laughter and prayers. Hence, they show their appreciation for others. The concept of pay it forward can be read on their palms, their open, giving hands.
One who receives another’s gratitude gifts might be thankful and grateful or eventually become grateful. *There is no time frame when a person can grow into this virtuous state of being, but the older one gets the more practice she has of playing the piano keys of a song I call, “Thanksgiving: giving thanks.”  Grateful is how people act after they have accumulated enough thankful feelings and earn this upgraded appreciation reward. 
The last term I’ll attempt to define according to my perception is: blessed. Being blessed is a spiritual gift granted to the saints, sinners, faithful and non-believers. Every one of us is blessed whether we know it or not.
I think to be blessed in the context of this post is to be in a precise moment or position where God works through others in His time and way.  God’s way for me isn’t always what I would have chosen for myself, but I am working on my faith to trust His process.
Blessings, like feelings, are fleeting and will come and go all the livelong day.  I am impatient and enjoy immediate gratification, so I admit, when praying to God, I wish to be helped, healed, or given an answer right away, on my terms. I crave a quick drive-thru service of supreme blessings, the Beatitudes of comfort, protection, mercy, fulfillment, and peace.
God is not a fast-food worker though. He is in no hurry and has all the time in the world, literally.  He is my Savior, and I am his servant. He is God who bestows blessings when they best serve His purpose for my part in the story of life, the mystery in which He is both the author and omniscient narrator.
I have faith that this good, all-knowing God has a better plan than I do, so I continue to clasp my hands together to give thanks as much as I can every single day. The more thanks I give the more daily miracles I find.  Blessed revelations just pop out when I least expect them, and like Louis Armstrong, “I think to myself what a wonderful world.”
Blessings are present tense bridges between this world to the spiritual one where we’ve been invited to spend eternity. Earthly blessings are temporal. Heavenly ones last forever.
Paying attention is the key to finding those double rainbows on a rainy day.  But then I miss a lot of blessings because I’m also distracted and inattentive, often rushing through moments instead of savoring them. I’m working on slowing down.
Thankfulness and gratitude lead to a treasure map of blessings, a foretaste of thy kingdom come. You can’t buy blessings, but you can find them with an open mind, positive attitude, and faithful guide. I am thankful to be on this journey in which I hope to be more actively grateful. I am blessed in more ways than I even know. I pray to be more present and aware.
I hope to seed, nurture, and grow a gratitude garden. I’m no gardener and could serve life in green-thumb-prison for all the plants I’ve neglected, dehydrated, and ultimately killed, but I will give it my best shot to sprout some blessed blooms that I can share with you. 

May you all shine on and enjoy the trinity of being grateful, thankful, and blessed.

Author of The Pencil Sharpener

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mini Fruitcakes for People Who Hate Fruitcake

These little gem-colored treats are chewy and sweet but contain no cake. I’ve found that people who dislike fruitcake will gobble these up! They’re also quick and easy to make, a welcome addition to your holiday cookie repertoire. You can easily adapt the recipe to include your favorite dried and candied fruits.


2 cups chopped nuts: I use walnuts and pecans.

1 pounds pitted dates, cut into quarters

2 8-ounce packages of mixed diced candied fruit for fruitcake. In my grocery store, it’s called 

Fruitcake Mix.

I love the flavor of orange, so I added ½ cup candied orange peel, diced.

8 ounces shredded coconut. You can use sweetened or unsweetened—there’s plenty of sugar in this recipe as is.

a pinch of salt

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Combine all ingredients well, roll into small balls (Not gonna lie, it’s a sticky mess. Try oiling your hands first) and put into paper-lined mini-muffin tins. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 18 minutes until golden. Cool and serve. Makes three dozen.

 Rhonda Strong Gilmour
writing as Sadira Stone
Contemporary Romance with Heart and Heat

Monday, November 25, 2019

Poppy's Meat Pie

Christmastime always makes me think of my maternal grandfather, Poppy.  He loved the holidays and died just before Thanksgiving in 2007.  My twin boys were three at the time and only got to meet him once…while he was alive, that is.
            In mid-December of that year, Dan and I took them to my parents’ house in Florida for the weekend.  Twice during our visit, the boys’ gazes shot to my mom’s side at the same time.
            Both of them looked, but it was Geoffrey who spoke.  “Poppy,” he said, pointing.
            Each time, Mom nodded but said nothing.  The boys confirmed what she already sensed.
            Later that day, she, Dan, and I were talking by the pool.  The boys played close by.
            Geoffrey piped up, and his tone was adamant.  “No, no, Poppy.  Light on.”  He glanced to his side while his hands fiddled with a Spiderman action figure.  “No light off, Poppy.  Light on.”
            Dan gaped at him.  “Did he just say what I think he said?”
            Mom turned.  “What?”
            “I think he was talking to Poppy,” I said.
            Geoffrey’s gaze traveled up to a point about nine feet high, right beside the pool.  “Poppy, why are you flying?”
            Mom raised her eyebrows.  “Now I heard that!”
            Needless to say, the event made her weekend.
            On our return home, Geoffrey scampered into the house, then halted in front of our Christmas tree, whose lights were off.  He grinned.  “Hi, Poppy!”
            A minute later—by which time Geoffrey ignored the tree—Connor ran into the house.  He stopped and stared at the same spot his twin had.
            With a smile, he pointed to it.  “Poppy!”
            I felt my grandfather’s presence, strong as could be.  It was a reminder that those we’ve loved and lost are never far away.
            Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!
Judith Sterling

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Thanksgiving Magic by Helen C. Johannes

Last year we flew to Philadelphia to visit family. It was our first visit to the City of Brotherly Love, and we just happened to choose their coldest Thanksgiving ever. Being from northern climes, we knew how to dress for our typical get-around-town-in-the-car routine. But that didn’t prepare us for the ‘big city’ and having to walk 10-30 min. everywhere because parking is next to impossible. Brr.

We enjoyed the obligatory Philly Cheesesteak, visited the Liberty Bell, saw Ben Franklin’s grave, toured the fascinating Philadelphia Mint (amazing how they make coins), and learned how to use the commuter trains. Having visited London and ridden the Tube, this was pretty familiar territory. So was the basic drab, utilitarian nature of most stations and cars.

After a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner (which I didn’t have to make—yay!), we decided to spend Black Friday not shopping but seeing the Christmas offerings downtown. So we trudged 10 min. through the coldest morning of our stay, boarded the drab commuter train, and rode to see the Christmas Village, the Comcast show, and the Macy’s Dickens Village, stopping for supper at Reading Market. Exhausted by our full day out in the cold and wind, we trudged once more to the train station where we encountered…Thanksgiving Magic.

The drab, utilitarian train we’d ridden earlier that day had been transformed into a gift-wrapped wonder. We rode home in thankfulness for those who’d performed this magic.

Happy Holidays


Brave Men, Bold Women, Hearts in Search of Home


Friday, November 22, 2019

Let’s All Gather

This time of year always makes me think about gatherings, both of family and friends. Although loved ones certainly do visit on other occasions throughout the year, it’s the holidays that call us together. Folks tend to travel from far and near, making fellowship a priority. The ties that bind us become just a little bit stronger. And when I remember such gatherings during my childhood, I think about…the dining room table.

My mom usually hosted our family gatherings, and following the feast, the men inevitably retired to the living room while the women lingered around the table. My mom being of British descent, and tea being endemic, every female from the youngest to the eldest had a teacup in front of her. Conversation would range widely, from current news to relatives who were no longer with us. The tea leaves would be read, and stories would abound. I can’t help but wonder how those conversations contributed to the woman—and the writer—I am.

My mom has long since gone to join those deceased relations of whom we spoke. And I’ll admit, our gatherings had become little more than a fond memory for me. But life is funny. Recently I had a chance to get together with a cousin I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. We met not at my mother’s, but my daughter’s home. We sat around her dining room table sharing tea and stories of relations past and present. And, do you know what? The old feelings came flooding back—I felt the same comfortable sense of belonging and acceptance, and the tightening of those ties that bind.

I believe that pieces of those who went before us, travel with us. They are imparted in words shared, in laughter, and often in the wisdom of women. Maybe that’s why I love words so much. And maybe that’s why when we gather around a table, it means far more than a meal shared. This year, when you gather around your holiday tables, may the words you share come straight from the heart.

Christmastime On Donner’s Mountain
For most of her life, Becca Monroe’s been running. The urge to see what lay beyond the next horizon took her away from Donner’s Mountain and the man she loved. Now, back for what will surely be her grandfather’s last Christmas, she’s caught in a tangle of unresolved emotions that leave her torn between the impulse to flee and the desire to stay.

Jack Donner never stopped loving Becca, even though she deserted him. Better than anyone else, he knows how cruel it would be to fetter her wild spirit, and he doubts she could ever be happy living in one place, on his mountain.

Can memories of Christmases past remind Becca what truly matters? And can love convince Jack to give her one more chance, even if it means risking his battered heart?

On Amazon:

Happy Holidays
Laura Strickland