Category: Holiday Fun

Christmas Confections by Shanna Hatfield

Christmas has always been such a beautiful, blessed, wonderful season to me.

A tradition that my mom taught me, one I still carry on, is to bake goodies, infused with love, and share with family and friends.

One year, I spent hours and hours making elaborately frosted sugar cookies. In particular, I recall a little rocking horse that I’d painstakingly decorated with tiny little reins and a saddle accented with mini holly and berries made of icing.

Then my dad and brothers came in for supper and made short work of my creations!

I still make sugar cookies (a recipe I spent years experimenting with until I got it just right), although I don’t spend hours decorating them like I used to.

Sugar Cookies

I also love to make cinnamon rolls and share them with our neighbors when the rolls are warm from the oven and icing is melting into sweet pools all around them.

Cinnamon Rolls

I have an overflowing recipe box with all the traditional sweets I typically make during the holidays.

But while I was researching details for my latest release, I found so many more recipes I’d love to try.

The heroine in the story is a Swedish baker. My goodness! I think I gained five pounds (or ten) just writing about all the delightful pastries and goodies she created in her bakery.

Confection long

The Christmas Confection is book 6 in the Hardman Holidays series, set in the old western town of Hardman, Oregon.

2017 Christmas Confection

Will a sweet baker soften a hardened man’s heart?

 Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.

Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.

Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.

Excerpt:

“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him.  “There are two other things I’d like.”

“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.

“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”

Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”

The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”

Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”

“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.

“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.

Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”

Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”

He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”

~ Giveaway ~

red bowed packages on white background

Make sure you enter this drawing for a chance to win a mystery box of Christmas goodies!

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Wishing you all a bright, beautiful, holiday season!

What’s one thing do you always look forward to baking or eating each Christmas?

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Have you ever noticed that some of those old family recipes never taste as good as you remember from your childhood?  Those early cooks didn’t waste a thing, as anyone who inherited a recipe for giblet pie will attest. I also have a recipe that calls for one quart of nice buttermilk. As soon as I find buttermilk that meets that criteria, I’ll try it.

I especially like the old-time recipes for sourdough biscuits. Here’s a recipe from The Oregon Trail Cookbook:

“Mix one-half cup sourdough starter with one cup milk. Cover and set it in the wagon near the baby to keep warm … pinch off pieces of dough the size of the baby’s hand.”

Early cooks didn’t have the accurate measuring devices we have today and had to make do with what was handy—even if it was the baby.

If you’re in the mood to drag out an old family recipe this Thanksgiving, here are some weights and measures used by pioneer cooks that might help: 

Tumblerful=Two Cups

Wineglass=1/4 Cup

Pound of eggs=8 to 9 large eggs, 10-12 smaller ones

Butter the size of an egg=1/4 cup

Butter the size of a walnut=2 Tablespoons

Dash=1/8 teaspoon

Pinch=1/8 teaspoon

Dram=3/4 teaspoon

Scruple= (an apothecary weight=1/4 teaspoon

Gill=1/2 Cup

Old-time tablespoon=4 modern teaspoons

Old-time teaspoons=1/4 modern teaspoon

2 Coffee Cups=1 pint

As for the size of the baby, you’re on your own.

                                                                Weights from Christmas in the Old West by Sam Travers

 

Chuck wagon or trail recipes call for a different type of measurement

Li’l bitty-1/4 tsp

Passle-1/2 tsp

Pittance-1/3 tsp

Dib-1/3 tsp

Crumble-1/8 tsp

A Wave at It-1/16 tsp

Heap-Rounded cupful     

Whole Heap-2 Rounded cupfuls

Bunch-6 items

However you measure it,

here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving is a “whole heap” of fun!

 

For Your Christmas Reading Pleasure

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iTunes author page

Updated: November 12, 2017 — 9:29 am

Welcome Guest – Erica Vetsch!!!

Are you anticipating Christmas yet? Only about six weeks to go. (I know, it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, but…Christmas!!)

This month, my newest novel, A Child’s Christmas Wish released. This story is set in the pioneer town of Berne, Minnesota, and the characters are immigrants from Switzerland. And if anyone knows how to celebrate Christmas, it’s the Swiss. Even in the harsh realities of frontier living, they found a way to celebrate the joys of the season.

One of the Swiss Christmas traditions I found most interesting was the widespread use of Advent Calendars. Swiss parents use Advent Calendars to teach their children patience and anticipation in equal measure. They want their children to learn that anticipating an event can heighten the joy of its arrival.

Swiss Advent calendars can take many forms from opening a little window to reveal the day to lighting a new candle each night to building a Christmas train, adding a car each day.

In fact, in some Swiss villages, the whole town becomes an Advent Calendar. Each evening beginning on the first of December, a different citizen hosts the day’s Advent party by decorating and opening one of the ground-floor windows of their home. Hot drinks and treats are served through the window to their friends and neighbors, carols are sung, and much fun is had by all. The next night, it is someone else’s turn to host.

Doesn’t that sound like a great way to bring a neighborhood together?

I love that so many of these traditions were brought to this country by immigrants brave enough to strike out for the New World, bringing the best of the Old World with them as they traveled.

Questions for you:

  1. Do you have any Christmas Traditions based upon your family’s origins?
  2. Do you have a special Christmas recipe that you only bring out during the holidays?
  3. Do you use an Advent Calendar?

Answer any or all of these questions in the comments to be entered to win a copy of A Child’s Christmas Wish.

About the book:

A Baby for Christmas The only Christmas gift Oscar Rabb’s four-year-old daughter prays for is one the widower can’t provide: a baby sibling. And when his neighbor’s house burns down, he’s willing to open his home to pregnant and widowed Kate Amaker and her in-laws—but not his heart. Even if his little girl’s convinced Kate’s unborn child is the answer to her wish.

Kate quickly sees the generous but aloof Oscar has little interest in growing closer to his houseguests. Still, she intends to make the coming Christmas a season to remember for his daughter. And as Oscar starts to open up to her, Kate can’t help picturing just how wonderful the holidays—and a future together—might be.

About the author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, http://www.ericavetsch.com where you can learn about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!

Fall Into Romance by Shanna Hatfield

Like many of you, I love the autumn season. In our little corner of the world, we have four very distinct seasons and in the last few weeks it has definitely transitioned into fall.

The leaves have set aside their verdant shades of green and seemingly overnight slipped on the jeweled hues of crimson, gold, amber, and tangerine.

The air smells spicy and rich, laced with a hint of wood smoke from the neighbor’s fireplace. It’s cool enough to dig out my sweaters and scarves, to unearth my warm lap blanket I like to curl up under in the evenings when the early dusk brings nose-nipping temperatures.

Then there are the glorious, wondrous flavors of fall… pumpkin and caramel and apple. Yum. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

In an effort to capture some of the sweetest, most wonderful aspects of fall, a group of sweet romance authors got together and wrote ten brand-new novellas all centered around a Fall Festival that raises funds for an animal shelter while finding homes for pets. The stories are bundled together in a boxed set.

The stories all take place in the fictional town of Romance, Oregon. If it really existed, visitors would find it about an hour south of Portland, where autumn is particularly beautiful and the sights, sounds, and scents of fall weave around the romance lingering in the air.

My contribution to the boxed set is Blown Into Romance, the story of a free-spirited artist and a feet-firmly-on-the-ground rancher.  And piglets! Five of them, to be exact, all named after characters from a favorite children’s book. Winnie, the mama pig, and her four babies (Roo, Tigger, Eeyore, and Robin) need a home and Brooke needs a little company in her newly-opened blown glass shop.

(See the disaster coming… five pigs in a blown glass shop?)

I wanted Brooke to adopt something other than a dog or a cat. How much crazier could she get than five pigs?

Luckily for her, Blayne Grundy knows about pigs as well as cattle and horses. He offers her a hand when she needs it most and soon realizes she’s stolen his heart.

Blurb —

Artist Brooke Roberts spent her life without roots, wandering from town to town. When she seeks refuge from a freak storm in the town of Romance, she decides to stay and open a blown glass studio. Determined to immerse herself in the community, she adopts a family of pigs. Brooke is unprepared for the chaos and comfort they bring to her world, or the dashing cowboy who rescues her heart.

Solid, dependable Blayne Grundy runs a busy ranch, volunteers on various committees, and takes in stray animals too large to stay at the local animal rescue. Then a chance encounter with a beautiful, beguiling woman leaves him so befuddled, he can barely remember his own name. His predictable organized life is about to be blown away by free-spirited Brooke.

A sweet, lighthearted novella, Blown Into Romance highlights the mighty power of love and letting go.

 

Excerpt —

She arched an eyebrow. “Did you adopt a new pet, too?”

“I’m actually more of a temporary home before a permanent place can be found. Brent had a donkey and a bunch of chickens that needed a place to go. Grams handled the chickens, but I’m in charge of the donkey.”

“A donkey, huh?” Brooke grinned again. “That might be incentive to visit your ranch.”

“Kong would like to think it is.”

A laugh spilled out of her. “You named the donkey Kong? Are you kidding me?”

“Nope. That was his name before Brent took him in. I’m not sure if Donkey Kong or King Kong would have been worse.”

“Okay, you win. I have to meet this donkey. I have a project I need to finish and it has to be shipped Thursday morning. If it works with your schedule, I could come out that evening.” Brooke walked Blayne over to his pickup.

“That will work great. In case you think about changing your mind, I could probably come up with a more compelling reason for you to come.” He looked at her with an intense light glowing in his eyes.

Rather than back away from him, as he feared, she stood her ground. “What reason might that be cowboy?”

“Just this one.” Blayne stepped close to her, holding her gaze. He wrapped one hand around her waist and slid the other into her messy hair. Before she could protest or pull away, his lips skimmed across hers in a light, tentative kiss. When she moved closer to him, he kissed her again. The long, lingering kiss erupted an explosion of fireworks behind his eyes while her body turned limp in his arms.

When he lifted his head, he kissed her cheek and slowly released his hold on her, making sure she was steady on her feet before backing away. “I’ll let you consider if that’s a compelling reason. If not, let me know. I can come back later and do a better job.”

Giveaway —

If you could adopt ANY pet, what would it be? Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Fall Into Romance. Three lucky winners will be chosen!

Fall Into Romance is available for a limited time for just 99 cents at these online retailers:

Kobo

A ma zon

iBooks

Google Play

B&N

 

Happy Labor Day!!!

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

By the time this post goes up it’ll be Labor Day and I certainly hope you all are able to take the opportunity to have a relaxing day with family and friends.

Around our house, Labor Day usually means outdoor cookouts. But for my family, instead of BBQs and picnics, we like to send the summer out with a seafood boil.  This year it’s going to be shrimp.

I love a good seafood boil.  In addition to the shrimp and appropriate seasonings, the pot this year will contain corn, potatoes, sausage, mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, garlic, lemons and limes- a veritable banquet!

Here’s a photo taken from a prior Labor Day feast – doesn’t it look yummy?

 

Of course, no feast would be complete without a great dessert.  So  today I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite summer treats. It’s a sort of trifle that my family calls a punch bowl cake.  It’s super easy to make and as a bonus, especially on these hot summer days, it’s no bake!

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pre-made angel food cake
  • 1 large tub of whipped topping
  • 1 package of either vanilla or cheesecake flavored instant pudding (6 serving size)
  • Approx 1 lb berries of your choice (I prefer strawberries but I’ve made it with mixed berries as well)

Directions

  • Prepare pudding according to directions.
  • Mix together with whipped topping and set aside
  • Tear cake into bite-sized pieces
  • In a large bowl, layer ingredients as follows:
  • 1/3 each of angel food cake, berries and then cream mixture
  • Repeat twice more
  • If desired, garnish top with additional berries, nuts or grated chocolate
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve

So what about you? Do you have any special Labor Day traditions? Any favorite end of summer foods?  Share your answers and I’ll put you in the running for a copy of any book in my backlist.

Updated: September 5, 2017 — 2:11 pm

Summer Escapes

Being a California gal, the beach and ocean take top priority with me.  I thought you might like to know about some of my favorite spots:

Cambria-This little town is nestled among Monterey pines. My favorite place to watch the sunset is on a bench that sits atop a cliff overlooking Moonstone beach.  Once, while my husband and I were sitting there enjoying a glass of wine, a bagpiper appeared and played Amazing Grace.   For a moment, I thought I was at a funeral, but I know he meant well.

 Ventura—This seaside town is only an hour away from my house, so it’s a perfect place to spend a weekend or summer day.  August is county fair time.  If you can stand the heights, the Ferris wheel offers great views of the ocean.  If you’re into antiques, Ventura is the place to go.  I found a beautiful iron gate there that had been ripped out of an old house.  It now adorns my wine cellar.  This town also has great museums, bookstores, restaurants and wineries.   You can even see Erle Stanley Gardner’s law office where he wrote the drafts for his first Perry Mason novels.  Speaking of mysteries, Ventura is where I got the inspiration for my Undercover Ladies series.

Morro Bay-The scenery is beautiful and the weather nearly always perfect. There are shops and museums to explore and of course our favorite Art in the Park event which takes place every Memorial Day weekend. It’s also fun to watch the antics of sea lions and otters, but the real attraction is the dining. 

 For a change of pace, sometimes we head for the mountains.  Our favorites include:

 Mammoth—This is mainly a ski resort, but we enjoy going there in the summer in our RV and relaxing by the lake.  The mountain air is good for the soul, and fishing and hiking is great.  Before going, you might want to make sure your health insurance is up-to-date.  My husband once fell out of a boat and hit his head, my son fell off a bicycle and I had an unpleasant encounter with a bee hive.  In case you’re wondering, Mammoth also has a great ER.

Big Bear- We once rented a cabin on the lake for a week.  It had a large wooden enclosed porch that seemed like the perfect place for the two grandbabies to play.  Big mistake; We ended up having to pull hundreds of splinters out of their little legs and hands.  On a brighter note, Big Bear has miles of bicycle paths to explore and a great night life.  They tell me the rock climbing is out of this world, but I’m too chicken to try.  The village offers some great shopping and dining.  Just watch out for those wooden porches. 

Tell us about your favorite summer get-away.

 

 

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: June 18, 2017 — 9:21 am

A Post-Christmas Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I’ve got a bone to pick with you. On Christmas morning, I didn’t find a drop-dead gorgeous cowboy with a sinful smile lounging on my sofa or a Lexus (new or used) in my driveway. In fact, I didn’t find anything except a few bird droppings.

I don’t know if you got my name on the naughty list by mistake, but I can assure you that I’ve been a perfect angel. Really, really perfect. Ask around. Everyone I’ve murdered was only made up people, even though I modeled them precisely after live ones right down to their beady little eyes. And I only shot the ones who needed it. I can’t help it if there were a lot. I’m sure you understand that, you being the kindly old gentleman you are.

(I just wish you’d give up smoking that horrible pipe though. It’s not good for your health. And it’s not a good example to set for the children. Mrs. Claus should’ve taken you in hand long ago. I’ll bet you’re a stubborn old coot though.)

Now, I know you want to correct this oversight so I’m giving you another chance.

I’d still make room for that handsome cowboy anytime you can swing it. And you can definitely wiggle back into my good graces by delivering a diamond ring (30 karats would be nice. I don’t want to be too greedy.) and pad my bank account. A few million should cover it and I would be sooooo appreciative. Writers have to spend a lot on promotion you know.

But, if those are not an option…..can you just give me a few more hours in the day this next year? I have books out in February, May, August, October, and November and I can use all the time I can get.

Plus, I have deadlines to meet for new ones. Yikes!

Thank you, Santa, for all you do! I really mean that. You’re a saint!

Sincerely and with much love,

Linda Broday

 

Updated: December 23, 2016 — 1:15 pm

Ed Picked Winners!

A big Texas thanks to everyone who stopped by to put in a good word for Ed with Santa. He scoffed when I told him he would be getting a lump of coal this year, but the cute factor evidently saved him.

As a small token of his appreciation, he plucked two names from my Stetson (before shredding the hat).

Susan P and Kathleen O,

Ed drew your names! He’s sending each of you a Wishing for a Cowboy ebook. The Christmas anthology from Prairie Rose Publications contains not only heartwarming tales from eight popular authors, but also recipes for all kinds of Christmas goodies. He’ll be in touch shortly, ladies.

Ed, Miss Li’l Ol’ Biddy, Dog, Underdog, and I wish everyone the merriest of Christmases and much health, love, and laughter in the new year.

 

Miss Li'l Ol' Biddy

Miss Li’l Ol’ Biddy

Dog

Dog

Underdog

Underdog

Ed Christmas 2016

Ed

 

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Dear Santa: I Can Explain

Kathleen Rice Adams

 

Dear Santa,

Ed's teethI was framed.

You’ve probably heard by now that I’ve been bad this year. All those things? I didn’t do them.

For example, I did not snap at my brother, repeatedly. I was showing him what good dental hygiene looks like. And anyway, if he hadn’t tried to usurp my spot in Mom’s lap, somebody who wasn’t me never would’ve snapped.

I also didn’t hop onto the kitchen counter. I climbed up there using a stool. If Mom hadn’t left the stool in such a convenient spot, that wouldn’t have happened, either.

The trash bag incident was the fault of a marauding pack of wild Chihuahuas who broke into the house while I was occupied trying to remove a squirrel from the premises. Have you ever seen the mess marauding Chihuahuas make? It isn’t pretty.

As for the bathroom trashcan… That was my brother. He’s always committing crimes and then pointing the paw at me. Let me tell you, Santa, he’s no angel. I was just trying to clean up the disaster.

Ed cuteWhen I dragged the roast out of the shopping bag, I was trying to help Mom put away the groceries. Do you realize how flimsy the packaging is on meat? Someone at the grocery store needs to address that.

Likewise, I did not rip open the bag of dog food. “Ripping” is too strong a word. I carefully chewed off a corner—and I only did that so Mom wouldn’t have to wrestle the bag open on her own.

As for peeing in the house… That rule simply isn’t fair. Mom pees in the house. I’ve tried to teach her to go outside, but she’s stubborn. And besides, there’s no DNA evidence to support her claim that she caught me in the act.

I did not drag the clean sheets out of the laundry basket, scruff them into a pile, and lie on them. Everybody knows sheets are much more comfortable on the bed.

Neither did I hide Mom’s shoe. I was redecorating, and Mom left her shoes in a spot that completely destroyed the aesthetic. One shoe created a pleasing avant-garde effect. Two shoes was one too many.

Ed's earsMom was also to blame when someone bit her nose. She shouldn’t have tried to trim my toenails. I go to great trouble to grow my nails to the precise length required for gardening (which, by the way, isn’t being bad, despite Mom’s insistence she hadn’t planned to put a plant in that spot). It was just a tiny little nip, anyway.

I did not leave teeth marks on the corner of a book. I was checking to make sure Mom’s editor hadn’t missed anything embarrassing. (Mom is notorious for mixing up words like “desert” and “dessert,” you know.) I had to turn the page somehow.

And speaking of her editor… I admit I typed a message into a chatroom where Mom was conversing with the Prairie Rose honchos. I can explain that, though: The minute Mom stepped away from her desk, I could tell gossip was about to erupt. Was I supposed to sit quietly and let them savage Mom while her back was turned?

Ed's profileThe accusation that I ate the tamale Mom was going to have for lunch is nothing more than a vicious rumor. There is not the slightest bit of evidence a tamale was ever on that plate.

I also did not find a chicken bone in the yard and attempt to run off and gnaw on it. That was another case of me trying to tidy up the place. Indoors isn’t the only part of the environment around here that could use a good cleaning.

In my defense, I should mention that I try to atone for all the bad things I don’t do by being a fierce watchdog. Nobody gets into my house—not burglars, rapists, ax-murderers, or Mom’s family. (You can’t be too careful, and some of Mom’s relatives look pretty sketchy.)

Ed on Santa's listI hope you will keep all of this in mind when you decide who’s been naughty and nice this year. Just to be sure there’s no mistake, I belong on the “nice” list. If you have to put someone around here on the naughty list, I think it should be pretty clear by now that Mom’s the real troublemaker.

Love,
Ed

P.S.
I hope you will bring me my own treats. Otherwise, my brothers and sister will just claim I stole theirs. I would never, ever, contemplate snatching a treat out of someone else’s mouth, no matter what the others say.

P.S.S.
If the cookies and milk are gone when you get here, it’s because there’s a marauding cat in the neighborhood, too.

 

(Ed would like to convince someone to vouch for him to Santa, and he’s willing to stoop to bribery to do so. Leave a comment telling him what you want for Christmas. He’ll pick two commenters and send each an ebook version of the Christmas anthology Wishing for a Cowboy.)

 

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