Category: Holiday

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?

Christmas Roses

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving. Mine was lovely – I feel truly blessed.
As for today’s post, I’m going to break from my usual western-themed subject matter to tell you about another project I’m part of.

Shreveport, Louisiana is home to the national headquarters of the American Rose Society.  The Gardens of the American Rose Center are located on a 118-acre tract of wooded land and is the nation’s largest park dedicated to roses. The park features in excess of 65 individual rose gardens and somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 rosebushes. In addition the park is also filled with other plants, fountains and sculptures. And every year during the month of December, they transform the place into a winter wonderland known as Christmas in Roseland. It’s a magical place filled with lights, festive displays, entertainment, photos with Santa Claus and lots more.

As it happens, the Shreveport area is also where my local chapter of Romance Writers of America©, the NOLA STARs, is based. Last spring we decided to undertake a project where a number of our members would pen original short stories for an anthology and we wanted to feature the American Rose Society as part of the project. So nine of our members set out to write these stories with the only restrictions given is that each story be set during the Christmas Season and that there be some mention of the Rose Center as part of it. The result is a collection titled American Roses. Though the stories all contain those same two elements we started with, they are all as different as the authors who penned them. And I deviated from my normal setting to create a contemporary story. My contribution is titled A Crossword Puzzle Christmas and is a play on the ‘friends to lovers’ trope.  I had such fun writing it!

One of the neat things about this collection is that all of the authors have donated their stories – none will be collecting royalties. Instead, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Rose Society and the remainder will go back to our chapter.

And now, as a reward to you for reading through all of this, I’m going to give away a copy of the collection to one of the visitors who leaves a comment on this post between now and Tuesday afternoon. Just tell me your favorite rose-related memory or what variety/color of rose is your favorite and why.

CHRISTMAS ROSES

Come visit a place where love blooms and holiday magic fills the air…

Set against the background of the Gardens of the American Rose Center, these stories of hope and holiday cheer are sure to warm your heart and put you in a festive mood.

There’s no better gift than finding love among the roses. In this collection, you’ll find second chances at love, couples who find more than friendship under the mistletoe, and holiday reunions that bring the joy of the season. So grab a cup of hot cocoa and curl up with Christmas Roses.

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Updated: December 1, 2017 — 1:27 am

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

Happy Halloween!

 

Today is one of the happiest days for children and adults, outside of Christmas and birthdays. Or at least that’s my opinion.  I’m fortunate to share my blog with Fellow Filly Shanna Hatfield.  I’m going to blog about some history and fun facts; before turning it over to Shanna to tell you a little about her special Pumpkins Cookies, yummy!

To my surprise, Halloween has roots in age-old European traditions. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.  In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns. Around the world, as days grow shorter and nights get colder, people continue to usher in the season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

In the late 1800’s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration.  In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion, yes with a “B”, annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all about how Halloween traditions fit in with young women identifying their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday…with luck by next Halloween…be married. In the 18th century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

Another fascinating tradition was when young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; and, some also tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water.

One of the beloved events is our church’s Trunk or Treat which is a safe and fun environment for kids to go trick or treating out of the trunk of member’s cars in the parking lot. It’s open to the public, not just the youth of our home church.

I’m happy to have Shanna Hatfield chiming in with one of her favorite Halloween treats.

“I’m a pumpkin fanatic! The fascination with pumpkin treats started with my aunt’s decadent pumpkin roll and ends with pumpkin pie (which I would eat any time of year). This recipe for pumpkin cookies is a fast, easy way to satisfy a pumpkin craving… and a sweet tooth! Happy Haunting!”

From Shanna Hatfield, USA Today Bestselling Author

Pumpkin Cookies

1 box of spice cake mix

1 small can of pumpkin pie filling

1 cup cream cheese frosting

toppings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix and pumpkin until thoroughly blended.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment and drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the cookie sheet.

Bake about ten minutes, until the cookies are just set, but not yet starting to brown.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Warm cream cheese frosting in the microwave for about 12 seconds, or until thin enough to pour. Drizzle over cookies. Top with toffee bits, cinnamon, sprinkles or candied nuts if you want to get all fancy-pants (which I generally do).

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give away a copy

of any of my eBooks from Amazon!  Happy Holiday, Phyliss

 

And, thank you, Shanna, for sharing your recipe with us. 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated: October 21, 2017 — 10:15 am

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

Happy 4th of July, 2017

 

Some Interesting Facts about the 4th of July

  • In 1777 thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening  fell, on July 4th in Bristol, Rhode Island.  Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships in port were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
  • In 1778, from his headquarters at Ross Hall, near New Brunswick, NJ, General George Washington marked July 4th with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute.  Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.  In 1779, July 4th fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5th.
  • In 1781 the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4th as a state celebration.
  • In 1783, Moravians in Salem. NC, held a celebration of July 4th with a challenging music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was titled The Psalm of Joy. This is recognized as the first recorded celebration and is still celebrated there today.
  • In 1870 the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
  • In 1938 Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.

Thank you Wikipedia for these interesting facts.  But, one of the lesser known facts I found was:  In a bizarre, though perhaps apt, twist of fate, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826. “The publication of the Declaration of Independence may have accidentally made the Fourth of July the official day of independence for America, but the deaths of two of its founders cemented its creation of the date’s designation….”

                                                                                                                                      Danny Gallagher

How do you celebrate the 4th of July?

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY TO ALL!

 

 

 

 

Updated: July 3, 2017 — 2:06 pm
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