Family Christmas

In elementary school, one of our teachers used to ask the class to write a paper about the meaning of Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? This sentence still echoes in my ears after so many years. I had no trouble filling the pages, writing how my grandparents organized Christmas for their family of six children and families. Christmas meant getting together with the many cousins, enjoying a fun time, a delicious dinner, innumerable cookies and desserts. “Christmas is family time,” my grandmother often repeated. Yet she always added to her guest list the friends and neighbors that were on their own on Christmas day.  

And then my grandfather passed. A year later, my mother took over. The Christmas get-together moved to my parents’ house, with my grandmother’s menu and a few new recipes. By then I was married with small children. So were the invited cousins. The reunions continued, with thirty guests attending, all related — my children playing with their relatives, creating life-long bonds of friendship within the family.

When my dad passed, Mom lost the desire and energy to prepare big gatherings. It was my turn to maintain the tradition that came with a lot of work but so much joy for children and parents. For the last thirty years, I’ve been starting the cooking and baking three weeks before Christmas. Even after we retired and moved to Florida, our children and relatives kept visiting for the holidays. This year, I will entertain twenty-five guests on Christmas Eve, relatives and a few lonely friends. My daughter will handle the Christmas Day dinner. The family reunion continues with my grandchildren befriending the cousins’ kids.

Christmas meant family togetherness for church, dinner, and play, when I was a school kid, and it still has the same meaning. My grandmother must be smiling from up there at my grandchildren and her many descendants bonding together.

Yes, the holiday preparations can be exhausting. What do you do after a long day of preparation? Wouldn’t it be nice to lounge in front of a fire or curl onto a couch or even in bed with a sweet romance novel, forget the latest lousy news and escape into a warm Christmas story that would cheer you up and reassure you there is still love in this world?
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Here are a few warm Christmas stories to lift your heart:

 

 

A little FREE Loving and a lot of Gingerbread!

One of my favorite things around the holidays is baking! When I was a little girl, my mother used to make a house out of cardboard, and we used to cover it in chocolate and stick candies all over it. Later, when I was an adult, I added to it.

I started baking my own gingerbread to make the house. Now, let me tell you that I was doing this before you could buy Gingerbread house kits! Personally, I absolutely love baking the Gingerbread so my entire house smells so yummy! This year, my daughter and I are going to make the gingerbread and bake it ahead of time so when my grandkids are here next weekend, they can help to decorate one to take home with them!

I was lucky that many years ago, I found stone molds made by Pampered Chef, and I have made sure to take good care of them through the years so that every year I can make one of these lovely concoctions!

I also have the gingerbread train, and one time, I made an entire village, with six buildings, and a 20 car train! I donated that one, and I sure wish I could find the pictures because man, was it impressive! But this is similar to what the house will look like when we are done with it this year.

If you’re interested in making your own gingerbread, here is a great recipe that goes with the gingerbread molds that I use!

INGREDIENTS

3 cups all-purpose flour 1 12 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 12 teaspoon baking soda 12 teaspoon salt 14 teaspoon ground cloves 12 cup vegetable shortening 12 cup sugar 12 cup molasses 1 egg

Lightly spray the mold with nonstick cooking spray; blot out any excess oil using a paper towel. Combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, and cloves; mix well. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and sugar until blended. Add molasses and egg; beat until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture; mix well. Shape dough into a ball; divide the dough into 2 portions. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap; chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Press 1 portion of dough firmly into prepared mold, filling all sections. Holding a serrated knife parallel to the surface of the mold cut excess dough from mold. Bake 17-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to cooling rack. Cool in the mold for 5 minutes. Carefully remove cookie pieces from mold; cool completely. Cool mold completely before filling with the remaining dough. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.

Check out two of my Holiday Romances!

Tangled in Tinsel

Mistletoe & Cocoa Kisses

Holidays Decorations

Most of us decorate our houses for Christmas and the holidays. I get my fake tree up the first weekend of December to put myself in the holiday mood.

But do you decorate your house for other holidays?

My daughter has made it a tradition to decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Spiders and pumpkins are set in the front yard, at the door, and in the living room.

Three years ago, when I screamed after hitting my head against a spider dangling from a lamp in the kitchen, the kids squealed in delight, and made sure they multiplied their cute decorations—I call them disgusting.

Two days before Halloween, my grandchildren invite a dozen of friends who arrive in costume and with a pumpkin to carve and decorate in the backyard. Pizza is served to the hard-working artists and at the end of the party, they fill their basket with candies.

On the following weekend, the Halloween decorations disappear in a plastic container and the Thanksgiving ones come out. This time the celebration is a family gathering with adults and children around a big table. During the traditional dinner of turkey, green beans and sweet potatoes, and dessert of pumpkin pies and pecan pies, each guest, grandparents, parents and children take turns telling us what they are most grateful for.

Setting traditions and building memories is important to raise happy children according to my daughter, a pediatrician who knows her business.

Leonardo, My Hero

Leonardo da Vinci: a man of many talents and ambitions. Did he have ADD?


If Leonardo da Vinci was an American child in the 80s, 90s, or maybe even now, it’s a good chance he would have been diagnosed with ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder. Clinically, that means the person has a problem, that he has trouble concentrating and controlling impulses. To me, it just means his brain is working faster and over a wider spectrum than ‘normal’ folks. The standard remedy for this is medication. I don’t believe this lack of focus is a fault, but only a character aspect. And if it’s not broke, don’t (try to) fix it.
Leonardo is my hero. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I think of how much this guy did. And no, I don’t think he was, or needed to be, medicated. So what if he couldn’t/wouldn’t focus on whether he wanted to be a painter, mathematician, inventor, sculptor, cartographer (mapmaker), geologist, musician, engineer, writer… He still accomplished a lot in his short (67 years) lifespan.
Shoot! Sympathize with him? I identify with him! Do I want to be a gardener, author, publisher, photographer, create colorful memes, crochet, cross-breed roses, invent a fool-proof gopher/slug/deer deterrent, design web pages, crochet afghans or sweaters… How about all of them because I can’t/won’t focus, either.
I felt so strongly about the bad press ‘over-stimulated’ folks received that I – while in author mode – made sure some of my characters had the same trait.
Here’s an excerpt from Aye, I am a Fairy:
“You know, it may seem like I’m a bit hyper,” she said suddenly. “I mean, look at me; I’ve got at least five different projects going on here. But it’s okay. When I get bored or stumped with one, I just move on to the next one. Mom told me it was because I was ‘highly intelligent.’ She didn’t believe in all that attention deficit disorder stuff. She had the same thing going on when she was in school. She’d finish her work early, get bored and start doodling or daydreaming, and then miss what the teacher had just said. Her mother told those teachers that they weren’t going fast enough for her daughter, and if they wanted to really help her, they would give her something else to do when she was finished with the assignments. So, they let her go to the music room and play the piano. The music teacher showed her the basics. Mom took off from there with just a stack of music books to guide her. Man, she was motivated. She’d rip right through her schoolwork just so she could go do her thing in the music room. Her grades went up and, even though she never did anything with it, she learned how to play piano pretty well. Me, I just drew and doodled until high school. Then, once I started being home-schooled, I dropped the doodling and blasted through everything so I could go to college early, get my degree, and make enough money that I didn’t have to worry about bills.”
Oh, and I created a time traveler named Leonardo da Vinci the Elder for NAKED IN THE WINTER WIND, the first book I wrote in The Fairies Saga series. He’s not the same as his son, but quite the character, just the same.
Yup, writing novels doesn’t produce new hardy and unusual roses nor warm my lap like an afghan (unless my laptop overheats), but it does let me create a whole universe of people with literally hundreds of different temperaments and body styles. And I can put them in any part of the world or time of creation. My folks may lack social security numbers, but they will still raise a heart rate, bring a tear, or bring a chuckle from the readers.
And I couldn’t have done any of this if I had been able to focus.

Now, over to publisher mode: I (as Chill Out! Books) released two CHRISTMAS box sets this month. If life has settled into a new normal for you, kick back and enjoy eighteen holiday-themed romances. First is a set with NEW stories. Check out UNFORGETTABLE CHRISTMAS PROMISES.

Indulge in Romance!! NEW stories & only 99cents or read for free with KINDLE UNLIMITED

And a Christmas Gift for you from THE AUTHORS’S BILLBOARD: A free box set! Check out FESTIVE CHRISTMAS NIGHTS, the fifth book in the Fabulous Freebies Collection series.

Eight classic holiday love stories by six of THE AUTHORS’ BILLBOARD ladies: FESTIVE CHRISTMAS NIGHTS