Category: Holiday Fun

Christmas Came Just the Same–Imperfections and All!

First, I wish everyone a blessed and happy 2018.

Last month I wrote about how doing less could make for a better holiday. I truly believe that, but this year I pushed the cutting back on the holiday production to the limits.

It was one of those years when my dear hubby and I couldn’t get our act together. It started with our tree, but continued all the way through New Year’s Day. Normally, we decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving, but this year everyone had other activities. Hubby and I kept saying we’d get it done, but three days before Christmas, there we were, still without a tree. While we did put one up and had lights, we never did put on the ornaments. But you know what? To paraphrase Dr. Seuss and my husband, “Christmas was just fine.”

I’ve spent years working to overcome my perfectionist nature. In the past I became upset when little things went wrong or didn’t get done because I felt everything had to be perfect. I missed opportunities to be present in the moment because I believed I had to be perfect.

This year I realized I do write what I know. My characters, especially my heroines, often struggle with trying to please everyone. They wrestle with the idea that their self-worth is tied to their accomplishments and others’ approval. They’re trying to be perfect. Those characters learn the journey can be as important as the destination.

Over the years while I’ve learned that lesson, I do backslide. (I felt guilty about cutting so many holiday corners, but not too guilty.) So, I’ve decided this year I’m making changes regarding New Year’s resolutions. My BFF Lori quotes a blog written by Jen Hatmaker on January 5, 2015 entitled “The Thing About Being More Awesome.” (If you want to read the blog go to http://www.Jenhatmaker.com.) She claims many resolutions set us up for failure and revolve around trying to be “more awesome.” We think we need to be the best author, mother, friend, spouse, and the list goes on. She insists, “The finish line to this particular rat race is THE GRAVE.” Lori and I joke about making a sign with the resolution Try To Be Less Awesome. Translation—quit trying to be perfect. So that’s what I’m going to do in 2018.

The best I can do is good enough, and I’m going to celebrate it. I’m giving myself permission to say yes to what gives me joy, no to what doesn’t, and to feel less guilty about both. Life is too short to live it any other way.

When my perfectionist starts nagging me, I plan to tell myself to quit trying to be more awesome. Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about what helps you when you find yourself trying to do too much, and be entered for a chance to win the ornament and a Leather and Lace scented candle from my favorite shop Rustic Ranch!

Updated: January 3, 2018 — 9:00 am

Facing Leftovers and Memories

 

I’m so pleased to be the first Filly to kick off 2018!  I hope each of you had a great holiday and the coming year will be even better.

Yesterday, as I wrote my blog for today, I began to think…”What in heck am I going to do with the leftovers from the holiday?  Be it candy and goodies, that I sure don’t need, to great food like ham and turkey with all the fixin’s.”  It made me wonder what and how the holiday season was celebrated during the 1800’s.  So, I pitched what I had planned to write and began checking

out the idea.  I’m thrilled to share with you some thought provoking ideas.

What kind of beverage who the pioneers drink to welcome in the New Year?

  • Champagne: used throughout the 1800’s
  • Ale cocktail: a mixed drink comprised of ale, ginger, and pepper beginning in 1838;
  • Apple brandy a/k/a Apple Jack: a  liquor distilled from apple cider;
  • Brandy sour: brandy, lime or lemon juice and carbonated water, from the 1860’s;
  • Brandy toddy: brandy mixed with hot water and sugar;
  • Cocktail: got its name by 1806 for any mixed alcoholic drink;
  • Martini: comprised of gin and vermouth also briefly known as a Martinez; and
  • Syllabub:  a drink I’d never heard of. It’s similar to eggnog, but made with white wine, brandy, sugar, and whipped cream. It was traditionally served at Christmas early in the century, especially in Charleston.

Tea:  The first Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, or A&P, opened in 1859 on Vesey Street in NYC.  Its rows of tea bins contained teas from around the world.  By 1880, there were 95 A&P stores from Boston to Milwaukee.

Coffee:  Although tea was the preferred beverage until the Civil War, coffee was lightened with Borden condensed milk as early as the 1860’s.  Yes, you read that correct, the condensed milk we use today.  Chase and Sanborn coffee was sold in sealed cans around 1878.  Maxwell canned coffee followed the following year.

Now, what would the kids enjoy, in the way of candy?

Pretty much the same as today…peanut brittle, fudge, pralines and popcorn balls.  After the mind 1800’s, gumdrops and jujube paste became available. Penny candy came in later.  Chocolate was available throughout the century; with milk chocolate being invented later.

Christmas dinner was just about the same as today, depending on the part of the country you came from and your wealth.  Turkey, chestnut dressing, roasted  pig, celery, hot rolls, cranberry sauce and potatoes.  Desserts ran today’s gamut…mincemeat pie, pumpkin pie, and one of my favorites being a Texas girl with a Southern mother, sweet potato pie.  We enjoyed mincemeat because of my Ohio born and raised Daddy.

One of my favorite items, which I’ve never tried, is beaten biscuits. Eaten in the South for breakfast prior to the Civil War, the name was derived from the dough, which had to be repeatedly pounded with a hammer or mallet to knead it.

In my story No Time for Love in the anthology Give Me a Cowboy, which was my first published work with Kensington, with fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, and the late DeWanna Pace, I used this for a scene.  Here is the back blurb: “Newspaperman Quinten Corbett wasn’t expecting his new apprentice to be female. Boston-born Kaire Renaulde is far too refined for a rough-and-tumble frontier town—and far too pretty for his peace of mind….’  It was fun to write and I hope you enjoyed if you’ve read the story.

I could write the rest of the day on interesting foods for the holiday in the 1800’s, but I think I’ll leave you to ponder over what I’ve tossed your way.  After all, I have eggnog left over and is waiting for me before an open fire, while my darlin’ hubby watches football.

In my neck of the woods, the Texas Panhandle, we celebrate New Year’s Day with a larrupin’ serving of black-eyed peas and cornbread.  When I was growing up, we also had corned beef and cabbage. Now, I confess that Mama won out.  Daddy, being from the North, said black-eyed peas were thrown to the hogs, but I guess to keep peace she added mincemeat pie to the holiday menu.  Such wonderful memories.

Is there any special meal you serve for New Year’s Eve or Day?

To two readers who leave a comment, I will be giving away their an autographed copy of Give Me  a Texan or if you already have read it, I’ll offer an eBook of your choice.

 

Updated: January 2, 2018 — 1:50 pm

Ten New Year Thoughts

What a difference a year…or four days…make. Decorations are put away and the good times stored in my memory. It’s time to look forward to the future and I do think this will be an easier year.

In 2018, I’ll reissue The Cowboy Who Came Calling in February (Book #2 of Texas Heroes) and TO CATCH A TEXAS STAR in July (Book #3.) Those will wind up the series in a fine fashion before I start releasing Outlaws Mail Order Brides in January 2019.

But whoa there! I’m getting ahead of myself. 2017 has a few a more days left.

I’m supposed to write about resolutions except I don’t make New Year resolutions. Never have. So here’s a compromise—I’m just going to call these Ten New Year’s thoughts.

  • I want to write more books that not only entertain but leave you with something to ponder.
  • I want to make this a fun year as much as I’m able.
  • I plan to dance in the rain and celebrate a milestone birthday. Never mind which one.
  • I plan to self-publish a short book or two on my own.
  • I want to give with my whole heart in everything I do. Life’s too short to hold back.
  • I want to do my part to help this earth by recycling, keeping my corner clean, and stamping out litter.
  • I want to do what I can to help the homeless people and pets.
  • I want to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person.
  • I want to listen with my heart instead of my ears.
  • I want to make my family proud every day.

There you have it. Ten thoughts for 2018—God willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m sure you have your own set of thoughts. I wish you peace, love, and harmony now and forever.

I’m giving away a Linda Broday 2018 small wall calendar. To enter the drawing, tell me about your weather or what Santa brought you or what book you’re reading. I’ll draw late Saturday.

 

 

The Week Between

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was one I looked forward to with great anticipation each year during my childhood.

It wasn’t just the break from school that made the week fun (although I so enjoyed the freedom of not being at school or being plagued with mountains of homework).

If there was more than an inch of snow on the ground (which was typically the case on our Eastern Oregon farm), it meant unlimited outdoor entertainment. We went sledding off the hill right outside our back door, skating on the pond, snowmobiling across the sagebrush on the other side of the canal, and we even built snow forts a time or two.

Because my parents had a big house with ample room for parking, we almost always hosted Christmas for our extended family. My mom’s family and dad’s family took turns coming.

One year in particular I remember well because Mom’s family had all come for Christmas. We barely had a dusting of snow on the ground, so we spent most of the day inside with nothing to do but play with new toys, eat yummy food, and wish it would snow.

But then, in that magical week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it snowed, and snowed. And then snowed some more. In an impromptu effort to wring every bit of fun we could from the holiday season, Daddy invited his family to come over for New Year’s Day.

Snowy fun, circa 1970-something. That’s my John Deere snowsuit in the back left side of the photo with the hood securely tied almost up to the nose.

Mom made a huge pot of chili and enough cinnamon rolls to feed a small army.  My aunts provided salads and sides along with oodles of desserts. Family began arriving late morning and we spent the rest of the day sledding, skating, and having a wonderful time. The cold and darkness didn’t even put an end to our fun. After warming up with chili and hot chocolate, some of my hardier cousins trouped back outside to sled in the dark.

I’ll never forget that special New Year’s Day or how much fun we had.

Do you have any special New Year’s Day memories from your childhood

(or maybe from a holiday with your children?) 

One lucky commenter will receive their choice of a digital copy of any one of my books.

Wishing you all a safe, peaceful, joyous New Year’s Day and a fabulous 2018!

Santa’s On His Way

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! It’s that day of the year when kids can hardly contain their excitement, knowing that it’s only mere hours before Santa will make his way to their house (if they’ve been good) to eat cookies, drink milk and leave toys beneath the tree. I can remember my parents ushering my sister and me off to bed as soon as we saw Santa on the radar during the weather report on the 10 p.m. news. The Santa tale includes him making his way down the fireplace chimney, which brings me to how I began to question this whole Santa thing when I was a kid.

One, how could Santa come down a chimney in the middle of winter without burning himself? And what if you didn’t have a chimney that would accommodate a man of that size? This last question came up because we had a wood-burning stove when I was a kid. There was no way that Santa was fitting down a stove pipe, escaping the fire in the stove and magically squeezing himself out the stove’s door along with his unburned bag of toys. When challenged by my questions, my mom said he came in through the back door. Again, I wasn’t buying it. I knew for a fact that Mom locked that door and checked it multiple times in classic OCD fashion before she went to bed. There was no way she was leaving it unlocked.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that kids figure out the Santa fib even earlier these days. Between their friends and the Internet, it’d be hard to not figure out. But even when we’re older and no longer believe in the existence of an actual Santa Claus, we still love the story and what it symbolizes — the magic of the season as seen through the eyes of a child on Christmas morning.

When and how did you figure out that Santa wasn’t real? Were you disappointed?

From the Milburn family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I hope your 2018 is happy, healthy, fun and prosperous.

Updated: December 20, 2017 — 9:17 pm

Christmas Nostalgia

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I always get nostalgic when I take the Christmas decorations out. So many memories attached to various pieces.  And while they all evoke fond thoughts of Christmas past, there are a few that are extra special to me.

The first is the little bubble light tree I’ve pictured below. I believe I’ve posted about this before, but one of my earliest Christmas memories is of raptly watching the dancing movement of these lights as this tree sat on the console table of my grandparents’ home.

The second one is our tree topper. This ornament that is a combination of angel, nativity and star has topped our tree for over 30 years.  I can still hear my children vying for the chance to be the one to set it in its place of honor and the lively debates over who did it ‘last year’.

And the last ones I want to share with you are these. They are two of the few surviving ornaments from the very first set hubby and I bought our first Christmas after we got married. Our tree was rather bare that year, and several of the decorations were handmade, but I was so very proud of how it looked.

There are many more memories that the decorations bring to mind, but I’ll leave it there.

I want to wish each of you a very joyous and blessed Christmas – here is my Christmas card to you.

Winter Wonder and a Party!

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS  and  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well, the celebration of the Four Seasons of 2017 is drawing to a close, so why not go out with a holly-jolly hoot and holler? The fillies are each gonna take part in a special Season-ender to show you our Christmas hearts and our best wishes for 2018. Let’s get those bells a-ringin’ and the mince pies in the oven, those reindeer fed and all stockings stuffed, nutmeg sprinkled on the eggnog and resolutions made.

JOIN US FOR SOME DOWN HOME CHRISTMAS CHEER.

WHEN? Monday, December 18, 2017 to January 4, 2018

And one final thank-you to photographer Kelli McCaslin of South Lake Tahoe for taking such glorious pictures for us!

Updated: December 16, 2017 — 6:13 pm

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?

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