I doubt He came to chants of angel choirs, or that His birth was heralded afar. We charge the tale as afterthought requires, convert a feeble candle to a star, bring Eastern kings to worship at the byre.
More like, some older woman from the inn sent Joseph to heat water at the fire, and helped the frightened girl to usher in the wrinkled, squalling Babe, and tore a clean old linen sheet to make the swaddling bands; then, having finished, left the girl serene and trudged back to her room to wash her hands.
I find the daily miracles of earth sufficient portents for a Savior's birth.
I love listening to Christmas music and watching holiday movies. There is something special about bells ringing, twinkling lights, and decorated trees to mark the end of another year. I feel a little melancholy to see the year end, but I am also filled with hope for the new year. I don’t like to look back and see that the year has passed in a foggy blur (been there, done that) so I now try to give each year a theme. For instance, 2007 and 2008 were filled with positive thoughts and gratefulness. Very exciting years for me. 2009 was about change, scary at times, but all good. I want 2010 to be about adventure…learning, exploring, taking risks. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
How about you? Can you sum up the last year or two? What did you do? What did you accomplish? Or did you focus on family and your home? Are you looking forward to the new year?
Pictures: My house in Sacramento after it SNOWED!!! And cute snowman my husband made for me.
This is the short romance I sold to Woman's World that appeared in the December 20, 2005 issue. I hope you enjoy. And may all your Christmas wishes and dreams come true!
The Christmas Wish
Carrie finished her work and hurried outside to catch the last bus. She hated working late, hated standing in the dark, freezing, as she waited for the crowded bus. Tonight would be worse than usual since it was Christmas Eve and the bus would be filled with shoppers.
When it finally arrived, the bus looked as if it couldn’t hold another passenger. Carrie took a deep breath and pushed her way through the crowd.
There wasn’t a single seat left, and not much in the way of standing room. She smiled and grabbed a spot in front of a man decked out in full Santa gear. As a child she’d loved her holiday visits to Santa and still remembered her disappointment the year her mother told her she was too big to sit on Santa’s knee.
The bus lurched forward and almost sent Carrie flying. Santa grabbed her arm and held her in place. “Thank you,” she said. “This is going to be a long ride.”
Santa smiled. “I’d offer you my seat, but with this bulky costume, I wouldn’t fit in the aisle.”
His voice was deep and smooth, and he sounded younger than she’d expected. His blue eyes twinkled when he smiled, making Carrie wish he’d pull off the fake beard so she could see his face. “That’s okay,” she said. “I’m fine.”
That wasn’t quite true. She was far from her family on the night before Christmas, and she’d be spending Christmas day alone for the very first time. Unexpected tears welled in her eyes at the thought of the lonely night and day ahead of her.
“Hey, are you sure you’re okay?”
Too choked up to speak, Carrie just nodded. Looking around at the other passengers, she saw that most of them were with someone else, chatting animatedly. Only she and Santa Claus seemed to be traveling alone.
The bus pulled to a stop and more passengers crowded on. Carrie let go of the pole and scooted back against Santa’s legs to make room for a woman with an armload of boxes. When the bus pulled away, she found herself sitting in Santa’s lap.
Before she could scramble to her feet, the woman with the boxes had taken her place at the pole and blocked Carrie in. “This is so embarrassing,” she said to Santa. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m not. You’re the best-looking female I’ve had on my lap all day. And as long as you’re here, why don’t you tell me your name and what you want for Christmas?”
Carrie laughed and brushed the tears from her eyes. “I’m too old to believe in Santa Claus.”
“It’s not a matter of age. It’s a matter of faith. Now what would you ask for if you could have anything?”
Carrie sobered as she thought of her greatest wish. “I’d wish I could be with my family for Christmas.”
“Where are they?”
“In Colorado. I just moved to Chicago to start a new job and I couldn’t afford to fly home. This will be my first Christmas alone.”
Santa looked thoughtful. “Well, my sleigh will be full tonight, so I can’t fly you home. But I might be able to offer you the next best thing.”
Carrie smiled at the thought of arriving on her parents’ rooftop in a sleigh. “And what would that be?”
“You could come spend Christmas with me and my family.”
Carrie turned to look at him, to see if he was serious. From the look in his eyes, he was. “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t even know you and your wife probably wouldn’t want a stranger in her house on Christmas.”
Santa shook his head. “I don’t have a wife—Christmas is at my parents’ home, complete with two brothers and a sister, and seven nieces and nephews. There will be plenty of chaperons, and I can guarantee you my mother would be thrilled if I brought someone home for the holiday.”
He grinned, and Carrie realized she’d seen that grin somewhere before. “Do I know you?”
Santa whispered conspiratorially, “I’m wearing this beard for a reason, but if you’ll promise not to say anything…” He pulled the beard down just long enough for her to get a good look at his face.
Her eyes widened. “You’re--”
He placed a finger across her lips. “Shhh. You promised.”
“What are you doing playing Santa Claus?” Carrie couldn’t believe she was sitting on the lap of a well-known news anchor and that he’d invited her home for Christmas. “And why are you riding the bus?”
“I played Santa for the kids at Children’s Hospital today, and I loaned my mother my SUV so she could pick up a large gift for my dad. So, do you accept my invitation?”
She had a choice between Christmas alone and Christmas with a large family and a man she’d admired each night on the evening news. It wasn’t a difficult decision. “If you’re sure, I’d love to accept.”
He nodded. “I’m sure. And if you’re not busy tonight, would you have dinner with me? And then could you help me wrap a bunch of packages I left until the last minute?”
“I’d love to. And I’m an expert wrapper.” Maybe there really was a Santa Claus after all, Carrie thought as she remembered his words. It’s a matter of faith.
Noodlers celebrate this last week of our Home for the Holidays theme with the following blogs:
Monday, December 21st: Tori ScottThe Christmas Wish Tuesday, December 22nd: Theresa Ragan TBA Wednesday, December 23rd: Delle JacobsVideo Christmas Card Thursday, December 24th: Karen Potter TBA Friday, December 25th: Diane GastonHappy Holidays to All
One of the things I enjoy doing during the holidays is buying books for myself and reading them. While my husband drives, I read. I picked up Diane Gaston's Gallant Officer, Forbidden Ladyand Terry Mclaughlin's A Small-Town Reunion, which I'm saving for the trip to Louisiana to visit family and friends.
Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady
The battlefields of Badajoz are nothing compared to the cutting tongues of polite society, but Jack Vernon has never been very "polite." A canvas is this brooding artist's preferred company—having once been the outlet for the horror he witnessed at war, it's now his fortune.
Painting the portrait of stunningly beautiful Ariana Blane is his biggest commission yet. Learning every curve of her body ignites feelings he thought were destroyed in battle. But he's not the only man who has Ariana in his sights….
A Small-Town Reunion
Addie Sutton's stained-glass window business may be this close to bankruptcy, but she won't give up, even if it means she'll have to see Devlin Chandler again. All right, so she's still in love with the bad-boy heir to the Chandler estate. Though Addie's too smart to go after a man she knows isn't right for her, especially with the tangled history between them.
But Dev's intent on pushing the envelope. He's always been attracted to the former housekeeper's daughter and wants to see where their relationship could lead. Addie tells him where—to heartbreak. Can he convince her that special something between them is worth taking a chance on?
What sort of books would you like to see on the shelves in 2010? Is there a particular time period, setting, or subgenre that you're hoping to see expand in the new year?
Every Christmas we have three traditional goodies that we make. First, I make sugar cookies made in the shapes of bells, trees, Santa, snowmen, candy canes and angels. Then I decorate them. When my girls were little, they were thrilled when they got to help frost the cookies and put sprinkles on them. Now they consider it a chore when they come to my house because they have already made them on their own. Here's the recipe for the BEST sugar cookies around.
Basic Sugar Cookies
4 cups flour 3 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 1 cup butter 1 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs 2 tsp. vanilla 1 T. milk
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cream together butter and sugar: add eggs and beat until smooth and fluffy. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk alternately. Chill cough until easy to handle. Roll out dough on floured board and cut to desired shape with cookie cutter. Decorate as desired.
Another favorite is Chocolate Nut Caramels. My grandmother made them when I was a kid, and we've passed the recipe down through the generations. These are a tasty treat.
Chocolate Nut Caramels
2 cups sugar 1 1/2 cups white corn syrup 2 cups cream 3 squares of bitter chocolate, cut in small pieces 1 cup butter 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts 2 tsp. vanilla
Combine sugar, syrup, butter and one cup of cream in a large pot such as a dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a brisk boil. Slowly add the remaining cup of cream so that the mixture doesn't stop boiling. Boil until a thread is brittle in cold water. Or if you have a candy thermometer, boil until it is a soft ball. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and nuts. Beat until the chocolate is melted. Add vanilla and pour into a shallow buttered pan to cool. When cool, but into 1 inch squares.
Finally, my husband makes Rozak. This is a nut roll that his dad used to make at Christmas. Since my father-in-law has passed away, my husband carries on the tradition. This is definitely a family favorite.
1 pound of light brown sugar 1/4 cup flour 1 large can of evaporated milk 1 stick butter 1 tsp. maple flavoring 3 1/2 cups ground walnuts 1/2 cup coconut My husband adds cinnamon to taste
Make roll dough mix or use Pillsbury dough from the dairy case. You will need enough dough for four large rolls. Roll the dough into a 9x14 rectangle.
Mix sugar, flour milk, and margarine and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Fold in remaining ingredients. Let mixture cool slightly before spreading on the rolled out dough. Roll up like a jellyroll. Pinch ends to hold filling. Place on a cookie lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Brush the with melted butter as soon as removed from the oven.
Give an Early Party to Start the Holiday Season by Debra Holland
For the last four years, my boyfriend, Don, and I have hosted a Christmas Open House on the first Sunday in December. By now, all our friends and family members know to keep that date in their calendars.
We invite about 125 people, so preparing for the party is a LOT of work. But it’s catered, so we don’t have to think about food--just all the other details. Don has a large beautiful house, and we have a Christmas tree in both the family room and the living room.
The green tree in the family room has colored lights and holds needlepoint and crocheted ornaments made by my grandmother. It’s a lovely tribute to her memory. The larger flocked tree in the living room has white lights and an assortment of bulbs and other decorations collected by both of us.
Before we began dating, Don and I had our own batches of Christmas decorations. But we’ve amassed a larger amount since we’re been together. Decorating the house and trees usually takes two and a half days and the efforts of both of us and several family members.
However, once the party’s over, we have a home that’s completely ready for the holidays, and we can relax and enjoy the beauty of the season. (Except for Christmas shopping and wrapping.) Many nights, Don and I turn on the tree lights and talk about our day while listening to Christmas music.
In the last few weeks, I’ve listened to several of my friends and family members bemoan that they hadn’t yet gotten their tree. I could see that still having “Decorate for Christmas” on their to-do list was causing them stress. Each time, I silently gave thanks that I had that major task behind me.
I’m not suggesting you have a huge party like we do. That’s probably too much work and expense for most people. A small party with a few friends or family members will still motivate you to get the house cleaned and ready for the holidays. If expense is a problem, invite a couple of friends over to enjoy hot apple cider or hot chocolate and some home-made cookies.
Once your party is over, you and your family will be able to enjoy the peace and joy of the season by relaxing in your own home.
‘Tis the season for giving. My favorite season—or, being a Florida girl who needs her sunny weather, my favorite holiday season. Christmas! Hanukah! Kwanzaa! Whatever your holiday celebration in December, it’s still a season of giving.
Most of us think about gift-giving at this time of year, but as much as I enjoy theh idea of presents, today I’d like to talk about a different type of giving. The one that involves your time, your compassion, and your desire to do good for others.
I’m talking about volunteering in your community. Whether it’s just something you do during the holidays (like, helping to serve Christmas dinner at a local shelter) or on a regular basis (like, weekly/monthly visits to a local crisis nursery or animal shelter), I truly believe it’s important for us to consider those who are less fortunate, and find some way to do our part to help them. We can’t all donate financially, and that’s okay. But we can find a few hours, at some point in the week or month or year, to count our blessings and do what we can to make someone else feel special.
As a writer and avid reader, I think about how life-altering it would be to lose my eyesight. The written word is an important part of my daily life. I’ve taken it for granted for many years, until I started volunteering at Minds Eye Radio Station for the Blind at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, Illinois. Find the station at www.mindseyeradio.org
Minds Eye provides special radios to the visually impaired in the metro St Louis area. These radios receive daily broadcasts of the written word, along with other special programs. Volunteers record or read live on-the-air segments featuring local and national newspapers, books, magazines, sale ads, and other articles or items of interest to Minds Eye listeners.
Naturally the station also reaches out to listeners and potential donors/volunteers in other ways as well, so it’s possible to give of your time in many ways. But for me, who relishes a stolen moment with a novel or my weekly Sports Illustrated, and who carves out time for textbooks and assigned reading in my master’s degree program, I find reading for those who can’t a rewarding endeavor.
Translating the written word to the spoken word is a blessing of mine that I can transfer to others. Giving two hours of my time on a weekly basis is one small gift I can give to someone who, if given the chance, would relish an opportunity to read for two hours themselves.
This holiday season, will you be able to find the time to show someone or a group of someones that they aren’t forgotten? Or take a few hours to do for another what you hope someone would do for you if the roles were reversed?
Maybe you already do. Maybe you need some help finding the right organization. Don’t sweat it, help is on the way. Check out the following websites and see what you can find.
My class and I have been listening to Christmas songs for 2 weeks now. Two local radio stations play them, and I created Bingo cards for each child. When a song plays, I tell the kids the title and they mark it. They started learning the names of the songs by the third day, which is great. We write the titles on the board, so they're learning spelling and correct capitalization of titles, too.
And we all have our favorites.
They like the Paul McCartney song that is played every five minutes and says the same thing over and over. And they like "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," though we've only heard it once.
Of course they like the Chipmunk song and Rudolph and Frosty. Surprisingly, they like "Carol of the Bells" by Mannheim Steamroller. They say it's on Guitar Hero or one of those. They like "Sleigh Ride," though last year we graphed it and saw it was the most played.
My favorites are "Do You Hear What I Hear?" though it's incredibly overplayed, and "We Need a Little Christmas," which is incredibly underplayed. "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was a favorite until that office supply store started playing it at back-to-school time. You might imagine I don't share that sentiment. I love anything from Bing Crosby because my mom used to play that album again and again.
What are some of your favorites? Which are some songs you wish you never heard again?
Noodlers ring in the season of good cheer with the following blogs:
Monday, December 14th: MJ FredrickFavorite Christmas Songs Tuesday, December 15th: Priscilla KissingerFamily Reunions for the Holidays Wednesday, December 16th: Debra Holland TBA Thursday, December 17th: Merrillee Whren TBA Friday, December 18th: Q&A : What sort of books would you like to see on the shelves in 2010?
When a writer provides a sense of hope for the protagonist's future at story's end satisfies me most as a reader. That ending can either be full-fledged happiness or just the hint that happiness is around the corner.
How about you? What makes a novel's ending satisfying to you as a reader or writer?
Looking for some extra decorating ideas for the holidays? Need a last-minute hostess gift? Try making a festive little candle lamp from a wine glass.
This has my holiday DIY project and it’s turned out to be a lot of fun. I bought a bunch of thrift store wineglasses ranging in price from twenty-five to ninety-nine cents, sheets of vellum and semi-transparent holiday giftwrap, a package of tealight candles and a glue stick—and I was set.
I also have some decorative scissors and a cherub hole punch, and now for fun I’ve started to add some trim to the base of the wine glasses. It’s also a great way to use up stray beads and scraps of ribbon.
Want to try making some of your own? You’ll find lampshade templates here, here and here. Most shades can be cut from an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper, although you’ll need to adjust the depth of shade to accommodate a taller glass.
Let’s light up the holidays together!
PS: To celebrate the holidays and the July 2010 release of Firefighter Daddy, my next Harlequin American Romance, I’m running a December contest on my blog, The Writer Side of Life. The prize is an autographed 2010 firefighter calendar and other goodies to be determined.
For some families, Christmas is an elegant and refined celebration. For my family, Christmas is a little… different. It’s not that we don’t want to act refined. We even have the china and crystal set on linen tablecloths to prove it. But we’re scattered from Louisiana to Georgia to Florida and now to Indiana and don’t see each other often. When we do get together, we sometimes become a little too connected to our inner children. A few of us, namely my sister Eileen and I, love to tease our siblings, which often leads to a more raucous than refined celebration of Christ’s birth. Stocking stuffing has become one of our quirky family traditions.
This tradition devolved over the past decades, when we decided that the stocking opening, which often yielded staples like socks, chewing gum, and Chapstick, needed a little pizzazz. Or maybe the impetus was the Christmas that will live in infamy when my older sister and I, who butted heads constantly as teenagers, received super-sized onions in our stockings (what Santa used in the Byrnes household to express his displeasure since coal was unavailable). Some of the more spectacular stocking stuffings over the years include a gummy candy tongue, a toy reindeer that dropped brown jellybeans, and bacon bandaids. One year, we all tapped into the same wavelength and gave each other pickle ornaments.
Sometimes the desire to laugh spills over into the regular gift exchange among siblings. My sister Eileen and I especially like to give an additional odd gift to our older sister whose sense of humor, at times, is smaller than the Grinch’s pre-Christmas heart. Who knew an enormous bar of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate and a small tub of double-salted Dutch licorice weren’t funny!
What would you like to find in your stocking Christmas morning? What, if anything, are you tempted to put in someone else’s stocking for a laugh?
Whenever I hear the words "Christmas cards," two things come to mind. The first is the beautiful written greetings friends and family mail to each other at this time of year. The second involves memories of my family's favorite activity during the school holidays.
The game of Hearts was serious, cutthroat business. We rarely played it on weekends; we reserved it for summer and Christmas vacations, for long stretches of lazy days when rivalries could simmer and conspiracies could ferment. Two decks of cards made the play twice as complicated and doubled the fun. Another source of entertainment was my parents. They'd played highly competitive card games throughout their courtship; now they skipped proper parental examples and got down to our level.
Cheating was difficult but not impossible. I still remember the afternoon my sister and I stacked those two decks so that every seventh card would be dealt to one particular brother in a combination that would tempt him to shoot the moon but end in inevitable, crushing disaster. And there was always the agony of the dealer's choice of passing combinations before the beginning of play. Two to the right, twice. Or one to the left, followed by three to the right. Or the deadliest decree of all: play the cards you're dealt.
I developed an early and serious love–hate relationship with the Queen of Spades.
Another Christmas memory I treasure is a weekend-long Hearts tournament with some high school friends at a family ski cabin. One chaperone refused to play, at first, and his son told us to quit inviting him. Finally we convinced him to join our game...and then our friend's father proceeded to shoot the moon with every hand, just as his son had warned us he'd do. I still wonder how he managed that trick.
Does your family enjoy games of Christmas cards? What are your favorites?
Terry McLaughlin is celebrating her first Christmas-time release:A Small-Town Reunion. She's still bemused–and amused–by the Christmas décor on the cover of a story set in July.
Last week I started my Christmas reading. My grandmother loved reading holiday romances, and she got me into it. Now, every year from Thanksgiving vacation to Christmas, I read Christmas themed books.
Last week I read the new Silhouette Romantic Suspense, with three novellas. The second one, about an undercover cop working as a mall Santa, was my favorite.
Now I’m reading a Superromance, Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry, about a single dad who moves in next to a female mechanic after his wife died. So far not very Christmasy, though, and I’m halfway through.
Next I have Moonlight and Mistletoe by Dawn Temple, about a woman who’s the illegitimate daughter of a famous television personality and the lawyer who tries to get her to sign an agreement, only to become trapped at her cabin. So far, I love it.
Then there’s Silent Night, a collection of romantic suspense by Dee Davis, Evelyn Rogers and Claudia Dane. I have to say I have no idea what it’s about, but I love Evelyn Rogers, so I bought it.
Last year I’d read the Virgin River books and was excited about the Virgin River Christmas book, but honestly, this year I couldn’t tell you what it was about.
I read A Town Called Christmas by Carrie Alexander, I think, and I remember the heroine being a part of a family who had a Christmas business. I don’t remember who the hero was, but it was a sweet story.
My favorite—and I hope I have time to reread it this year—is Santa’s Angel, about a man doing community service (that’s not exactly right, but I don’t remember the details, something like that) as a store Santa and a woman who is Santa’s elf. She finds herself falling for the Santa, but doesn’t know he’s also the man who she finds arrogant in real life. He goes to great extents to hide his true identity and I love watching the two of them fall in love.
Noodlers celebrate the Home for the Holidays theme with the following blogs for this week:
Monday, December 7th: MJ FredrickFavorite Christmas Books Tuesday, December 8th: Terry McLaughlin TBA Wednesday, December 9th: Maureen HardegreeStocking Stuffing Tradition Thursday, December 10th: Lee McKenzie TBA Friday, December 11th: Q&A: What makes a story ending satisfying to you as a reader?
During this first week of December, noodlers, honoring this month's Home for the Holidays theme, have waxed nostalgic about television and movies celebrating the holiday season and about Christmas tree tinsel.
What are some holiday traditions you and your family follow?
When I think back on the Christmas trees of my childhood, I recall fat multi-colored lights, my dad wearing a hideous green and red paisley shirt the day the family decorated the tree, and tinsel.
Today, it’s hard to find people who decorate with it, let alone locate a box of icicle tinsel in the aisles of decorations available for purchase. This past week, I looked everywhere for it from discount stores to craft stores to import stores and came back empty-handed. My guess is that its popularity waned as we became more busy, and perhaps more conscious about the impact of Christmas on the environment. Picking strands off your formerly fresh tree before recycling or removing the tinsel from your artificial tree expends more time and energy than most of us want to commit for a little nostalgia. Thanks to the internet, however, if you have the time and you like the look, you can still purchase tinsel http://www.christmasdepot.com/.
The two dueling methods of tinsel decorating are Single Strand Draping and Free Form Tossing. Single Strand Draping requires drapers to stand close to the tree and carefully lay each individual strand on branch needles. Control freaks and mothers who don’t like to cut tinsel from their vacuum roller bars favor this method. Free Form Tossing requires decorators to stand several feet away from the tree and simply toss multiple strands at once, allowing them to fall where they may. Procrastinators, artistic-types, and most children of single-strand-draping mothers prefer the free form toss. Can you guess which camp my siblings and I belonged to?
Do you or don’t you tinsel? If you do, which method do you use?
My Tivo to-do list is longer than usual this time of year, because of all the Christmas shows. There are the classic must-sees:
(My son watched The Grinch so much when he was little that I know it by heart. Except for the descriptions of the toys…)
I watched MERRY MADAGASCAR because I love King Julian and also the bush baby. Not as funny as I hoped.
I also love all the movies on Hallmark and ABC Family right now, especially the romances (duh.) Did you know there’s a Debbie Macomber one called MRS. MIRACLE? How awesome! The one I really loved last year was called The Christmas Card, about a woman who sends a Christmas card to a soldier and he comes to find her. Moonlight and Mistletoe was good, too.
What about the classic movies, you ask? Christmas Vacation is my favorite, and A Christmas Story (almost have that one memorized, too.) I like Elf and Miracle on 34th Street, but can take a pass on It’s a Wonderful Life. I LOVE A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, so much that I hunted it down on VHS to show my class (we only have VCRs). I’m looking forward to seeing Four Christmases, too.
What are your favorite Christmas shows/movies? And does anyone besides me remember the show THE NIGHT THE ANIMALS TALKED? I loved that as a kid, but never see it anymore.
Some of us are lucky enough to have a home life that’s as warm and bright as a log fire on a cold night. In the spirit of the season, we’d like to bring a smile to your faces this December as we celebrate the holidays with good cheer at our writing home—The Wet Noodle Posse.
Noodlers will blog about their favorite holiday shows and music, about tree-decorating, stocking stuffing, and family reunions. Please join us.
“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays, ‘Cause no matter how far away you roam, When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home”
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