Keeping the Lights On


 

I love decorating for the holidays both outside and inside. Pulling out the decorations every year always fills me with joy. Every item has a story attached to it. My music box snowman reminds me of my boys. I still remember finding it at a small local shop right after Christmas. The three little snowmen immediately reminded me of building a snowman (the few times there was enough snow in Dallas) with my three boys and my hubby. I don’t recall the price, but I remember the piece was expensive enough on sale I thought long and hard before buying it. I wandered around the shop and kept circling around to look at the music box before I finally picked it up.

Other pieces remind me of the person who gave me the item. The snowman and penguin spelling snow was a gift from my Aunt Wanda and Uncle Erlin. The geese came from my Aunt Mugs and Uncle Wayne. The crystal angel, the large size not the small, came from my BFF Lori. (She pointed out I got the larger one as did her mother and sister, while other friends got the smaller angel. ?) When I put out these gifts, I smile, think of these incredible people, and say a prayer of thanks for the difference they’ve made in my life.

Snow blocks

 

 


I put lights everywhere starting with my mantle and the behind the sofa table. The Christmas tree in the entry way adds a sparkle there. In the family room, I have candles, the penguin (that I bought because my youngest loves penguins), and another snowman with lights. My favorite thing to do during the holiday season is light the candles, turn on the other lights, turn off the overhead ones, and watch a Christmas movie.

The downside of having all the decorations and the lights is taking them down. Not that I don’t like and have connections to the items I have out the rest of the year, I do, but somehow removing the holiday décor makes me a little sad to return to the everyday. I guess that’s it. Taking down those decorations mean we go back to our everyday lives filled with work, responsibilities, and day-to-day activities. Too often it feels like the joy and wonder of the season gets packed up in the boxes along with the decorations and we go through the  post-holiday blues. Add winter to that with its shorter, colder days (however as I’m writing this it’s 68 degrees here in Dallas) and it’s a double whammy. But this year, I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be that way, and I’ve decided to make a change.

I’ll take down the Christmas trees and some of the decorations. But this year, I’m leaving up the lights/garland on my mantle and sofa table. I don’t know yet if whether I’ll replace the holiday with my non-holiday items or leave the snowmen out, but put away Santa and the stockings. I’ll see what speaks to me when I get started. The snowman and penguin lights could stay for a while since they’re wintery too. Hmmm, maybe I’ll switch from Christmas decorations to a winter theme at least until the end of February. I kind of like that idea. Hopefully it will help me hold onto the joy and light of the holidays longer. I want to embrace the hope that Jesus’s birth gives us, how His light that can shine through us, and can cut through any darkness.

Happy New Year and may your 2023 be blessed and full of memory making moments!

Giveaway:  To be entered in today’s random giveaway for wrist wallet and a signed copy of A Cure for the Vet, leave a comment on how you fight the post holiday blues.

Jessie geeks out on her Christmas carol : )

 

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have been enjoying a great, healthy and happy holiday with family and friends.

I had a nice, quiet Christmas on the farm with my girls. It got pretty cold on Christmas Eve, and we had some frozen pipes and some equipment that wouldn’t start, but all of the people and animals made it through. God is good!

I’m going to talk about a Christmas carol today and I just gonna warn you now, I can really geek out on hymns. Like, I might be going to embarrass myself. If you really want to see that, keep reading. : )
My mom was a music major and church organist/pianist. I play a bunch of different instruments, but the piano is my favorite and one of my very favorite things to do is sit at the piano and play through the hymnbook.
Hours fly by and I don’t even notice.
Unfortunately, I can’t sing (one of the things I am most looking forward to in Heaven is finally being able to sing in key – I am going to be in that choir and sing harmony at the top of my lungs. When I die, that’s the picture you need to have of me – singing with a huge smile on my face for my Jesus!)
So, I don’t sing words out loud, because I love my family, and I want them to allow me to keep living here, but I always sing every word of every verse in my head. Sometimes I repeat verses because I love them so much. (I told you I was going to geek out and embarrass myself!) I won’t say I have the entire hymnbook memorized, but…that’s mostly because I collect hymn books and have a ton of different ones.
Anyway, one of the reasons I love hymns is because there is so much doctrine in them.
Christmas carols are full of scripture as well and the carol I wanted to talk about today, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, is brimming with Bible.
Written by Charles Westley not long after his conversion, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is brimming with scriptural references, and, maybe because of his recent conversion, it also has a strong message of salvation.
I absolutely love this carol. It has so much more meaning to me now than it used to as I’ve read the Bible through over and over and recognized the phrases I have memorized from this hymn and realized how closely it lines with scripture. Almost every line is actually a Bible verse that Mr. Westley put into his own words…or not!
Let me show you!
Luke 2:13-14 says:And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!

And here are the first four lines of this carol:

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Wow. Do you see how closely the first four lines follow that scripture? (I do want to point out that the Bible says the angels were SAYING. There’s no mention of singing. That’s not to say they weren’t singing, but the Bible does not say they were.)

Then we have these four lines:

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

They are a paraphrase of these two verses in Luke 2:10-11And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Read this verse from Matthew 1:23 and see how closely verse 2 aligns with it:  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;

Christ the everlasting Lord;

Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Also, I Timothy says:  God was manifest in the flesh.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Isaiah 1:6 says:  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

And then we have verse three:

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Okay, and I admit, these next two lines are two of my favorites.

Malachi 4:2 says: Malachi 4:2, KJV: But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; 


Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.

Incidentally, if you love hymns too, you might know that The Comforter is Come also has a stanza based on Malachi 4:2.

We have these two verses from Corinthians and John:

I Corinthians 15:54 This mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 

John 3:7 Ye must be born again.

And Mr. Westley writes: 


Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

In Haggai 2:7 we read, And the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory,

And the song says:

Come, Desire of nations, come,

Fix in us Thy humble home;

Genesis 3:15 says, And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,

Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

I Corinthians 15:45-47 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,

Stamp Thine image in its place:

Second Adam from above,

Reinstate us in Thy love.

And, of course, those last few lines are showing salvation, talking about the old man – in the likeness of Adam – being removed, and “stamping” (don’t you love that?) Jesus on us instead. When we trust Christ and are “born again” God doesn’t see our sin anymore. When He looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. And all of it – the birth of Christ, His death and resurrection, was because of God’s great love for us. Such a fitting ending to a song that is basically Bible verses in poetic form. Be still my heart. : )

Just a beautiful hymn of doctrine and salvation, celebrating the birth of our Lord.

If you’ve made it this far, I suppose you can tell that hymns are one of my great passions. What a joy to get to talk about such a doctrine-rich carol with you today.

I wish you all a beautiful and prosperous New Year!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

 

I loved the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a kid (who didn’t?) and I loved watching the Rankin/Bass TV special. In fact, it’s still a Christmas tradition for me. I know all the lyrics and sing along. When they were young it drove my kids crazy, hey half of the fun, but now if I’m not singing they ask if I’m okay. ? Rudolph’s message of belonging, compassion, understanding, and everyone having something to contribute always hit home with me. I was a smart, liberal, knew-my-mind girl growing up in Dubuque, Iowa. I didn’t always fit in. I never went to homecoming or prom. In fact, I wasn’t even asked on a date in high school. I look back now and think I intimidated guys. Anyway, guess you can see why I identified with our little red nosed guy.

I was stunned to discover this classic Christmas tale that led to the Gene Autry song, was written by a Jewish man, Robert L. May. As a child, May skipped a couple grades in school, making him smaller and younger than his classmates. As a teacher, I can’t imagine how rough that was for him. Being physically smaller is difficult enough but add in developmental differences with his classmates, and  no wonder he didn’t fit in and viewed himself as a “nerdy loser.” Anyone else see foreshadowing here and a writer who would write what he knew? (Being an outsider and insecure?) Yup, me too.

Names considered other than Rudolph.

As an adult May dreamed of writing the great American novel but worked as a catalog copywriter in the advertising department for Montgomery Ward. (As an author, that sure hits home as I dreamed of writing novels while working countless other jobs to pay the bills.) In 1939, Montgomery Ward wanted to create a children’s book for its annual holiday promotion rather than give away purchased coloring book. May was given the job because of his talent for limericks and parodies. The only direction his boss gave him was to have an animal in it.

original cover of Robert L. May’s manuscript

May chose a reindeer for his main character because his daughter, Barbara loved the ones at Lincoln Park Zoo. When turned in the story of a red-nosed reindeer teased by his peers, who had exactly what Santa needed one foggy Christmas Eve, May’s boss asked him to come up with “something better.” (Okay, let’s admit May’s boss couldn’t tell an incredible children’s story from a hole in the ground.) May didn’t give up, and with the help someone in the art department and his sketches, they changed the boss’s mind. Click here to read May’s original manuscript. (It’s definitely worth checking out. 🙂 )

On its release in 1939, Montgomery Ward gave away 2.4 million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yup, million. In 1939. Think about that. Despite the book’s success, May who was heavily in debt because of his wife’s medical bills, received no additional compensation. However, that changed in 1947, when the head of Montgomery Ward returned the rights to May. Another event that year that changed May’s life and impacted the classic Christmas song coming to life was May’s sister married Johnny Marks, a songwriter. Long before Marks married May’s sister he’d read Rudolph’s story, and jotted down notes in his song ideas notebook.

Robert May autographs copies of his bestseller, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and a sequel, “Rudolph Shines Again,” on Dec. 11, 1969.

Marks added music to the story, and knew he had something special. However, Gene Autry apparently channeling May’s boss who “wanted something better” than Rudolph’s story, wasn’t keen on the song. Thankfully, his wife persuaded him to record the second biggest selling Christmas song of all time (White Christmas is number one) for the “B” side. (From my research, it appears If It Doesn’t Snow on Christmas was the “A” side and who’s even heard of that Christmas song? I hope he thanked his wife for her foresight.) Click here to listen to the Gene Autry song

 

Some articles I read claimed May and the Rudolph story is sad. I disagree. Yes, May had a difficult life, but he channeled that into something truly special. No, he never wrote the great American novel, but he wrote a great American Christmas carol that still inspires children and adults today. A pretty great legacy, I’d say. Plus, as an added bonus, Rudolph took care of May and his family for his life and beyond.

 

Now that I’ve learned the history behind the song, I love Rudolph’s story even more and it’s message seems even brighter.

 

 

CHRISTMAS CAROLS – Do You Hear What I Hear?

I grew up in a singing family. Not that we a group or anything — though being the next Trapp Family Singers was a secret dream of mine when I was a little kid — but we did fill the house with music. Like my mom, I sang in church choirs. I was also a member of various school choirs, had roles in school musicals, and sang backup in a few bands through college (in case you’re wondering, my daughter followed in my and my mom’s footsteps). As you can imagine, I sang a lot of Christmas songs during those years in choir and chorus. I still do sing them. In fact, Let It Snow is playing in the background as I’m writing this post 🙂

One of my favorite classic Christmas carols is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” My mother, a huge Bing Crosby fan, liked his version the best, and that’s the one I heard played non-stop during the holidays as a kid. I admit, Mom and I differed on our feelings about Bing. How, decades later, I wound up marrying a man who is a huge Bing Cosby fan, I’ll never know. I prefer the Carrie Underwood or Whitney Houston versions of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”. Whoever sings the song, however, you have to admit, it’s a very moving piece.

Despite singing this song hundreds of times, I admit to knowing nothing about its history until I researched for this post. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written in 1962 by Noel Regney (lyrics) and Gloria Shayne (music) who were married at the time. To my surprise, I learned the meaning behind the song wasn’t to celebrate Christmas but, rather, it was a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Apparently, Regney was asked to write a Christmas song, but he had reservations because of the commercialism associated with Christmas. He overcame his reservations to write some of the most beautiful lyrics there are and a holiday classic.

That, too, makes this song interesting and different from so many others. Noel and his wife Gloria collaborated on many songs together, but usually he wrote the music and she wrote the lyrics. The opposite of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It’s said that Noel drew his inspiration from watching babies being pushed in strollers on the sidewalks of New York City (Pray for peace people everywhere). Years later, his wife Shayne discussed the emotions surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis in an interview and said, “Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of war at the time.”

From now on, whenever I hear this song, I’ll remember the reason behind it, and that “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is much more than a nice little Christmas ditty. There is a timeless message in the words that is as meaningful today as it was sixty years ago.

And just in case you agree with my mom about Bing Cosby, here’s a link to a YouTube video of him singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Bing Cosby singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

CHRISTMAS CAROLS! – The First Noel

I think my favorite Christmas carol has always been The First Noel. It’s such a beautiful, very old song that tells the story of the night of Baby Jesus’s birth and how the event astounded the rich and poor alike, from shepherds to wise men bringing riches. I always get a lump in my throat to imagine such a scene and how the news affected so many people, especially in an age where getting news out took so long. This however, sped across the countryside carried by angels.

I put the carol in my latest book Hope’s Angel and my scarred hero played it on the violin. I just adore violin music. It really speaks to me. I found a violin version on YouTube that made the hair on my neck rise. Take a listen.

This song was written around 1400-1500 AD but the author’s name has long been lost. However, it was first set to music in 1823 by William B. Sandys and has been sung in churches and by many recording artists through the years. The First Noel was first recorded by The Columbia Quartet in December 1917. 

The inspiration for the story comes from dramatizations of favorite Bible stories for holidays which were called Miracle Plays and were very popular back in medieval times. The word Noel is French and means Christmas.

The First Noel by Gabby Barrett was so popular in 2020 that it was #78 in the top 100 chart for the first time.

Whether you say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or something else I wish you nothing but the best.

 

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men

CHRISTMAS CAROLS! I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

 

When I was thinking about what carol to share during out history of Christmas carols week, the one that first popped into my thoughts was I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

I don’t know what it is about this song that has always struck a chord with me, but it has.

I knew it was written by a poet, but I had no idea how the song came to be.


The story of this beloved carol begins with the story of a man who would at one time become known as America’s poet.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) on engraving from 1873

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in 1807 in Portland, Maine. He attended Bowdoin College, which was founded by his grandfather and his father was a trustee, then became a professor there. It was also while there he met Nathaniel Hawthorne, who became a lifelong friend  He studied in Europe before returning to America and Harvard College.

He married young, but his first wife, Mary, died of a miscarriage in 1835.

His second wife, Francis (Fanny) Appleton, was not easy for him to catch. In July 1839, he wrote: “Victory hangs doubtful. The lady says she will not! I say she shall! It is not pride, but the madness of passion.” He must have eventually wore down her defenses. On May 10, 1843, after seven years, Longfellow received a letter from Fanny Appleton agreeing to marry him. According to lore, he was too restless to take a carriage and walked ninety minutes to meet her at her house. They wed soon after, and her father purchased the Vassall-Craigie House, built in 1759, as a wedding gift. The house had once served as General George Washington’s headquarters during 1775-1776. Longfellow resided there the remainder of his life.

Fanny and Henry had six children: Charles, Ernest, Fanny (who died in infancy), Alice Mary, Edith, and Anne Allegra.

In July, 1861, Fanny was placing locks of the childrens’ hair into an envelope she intended to seal with hot wax while Henry took a nap. It is uncertain how it happened, but her dress caught fire. Henry awakened from his nap and tried to put out the fire with a rug, but it was too small. He finally stifled the flames with his body, but Fanny was badly burned. She died the next morning. Longfellow had also been burned so badly trying to save her he was unable to attend her funeral. His facial injuries led him to stop shaving and he wore his trademark beard the rest of his life.

The death of his beloved Fanny left him devastated. He found it hard to write for quite some time, consumed by his grief.

In 1863, without permission or blessing from Henry, Charles (who was still in his teens), joined the Union Army, leaving behind a letter that stated he felt it his duty to do what he could for his country. He traveled to Washington D.C., where he sought to enlist as a private with the 1st Massachusetts Artillery. Captain W. H. McCartney, commander of Battery A, wrote to Henry, requesting written permission for Charley to become a soldier. Henry granted the permission, then wrote to his friends Charles Sumner (senator from Massachusetts), John Andrew (governor of Massachusetts), and Edward Dalton (medical inspector of the Sixth Army Corps) to lobby for his son to become an officer. His efforts weren’t entirely necessary as Charley had already impressed his fellow soldiers and superiors with his skills, and on March 27, 1863, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, assigned to Company “G.”

Charley fell ill with “camp fever” (some think it may have been typhoid or malaria), and was sent home to recover, missing the Battle of Gettysburg, before he rejoined his unit in August.  In November, during the Battle of Mine Run, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and nicked his spine. Charley was carried into New Hope Church in Virginia, then transported to Rapidan River before being taken to Washington D.C., where Henry and Ernest traveled to take care of Charley.

On Christmas Day in 1863, Henry, the widowed father of five living children—the oldest of which had been almost paralyzed as he fought in a war that was tearing the country apart—sought to capture the dynamic and dissonance he felt in his heart and observed in the world around him. As he listened to the church bells in Cambridge ring out, he put pen to paper and wrote “Christmas Bells” a poem first published in February 1865 in Our Young Folks, a magazine published by Ticknor and Fields.

In 1872, English organist John Baptiste Calkin set the poem to music, accompanied  by a melody he had previously used. The Calkin version of the carol was long the standard. Other versions have been composed, the most popular being Johnny Marks version in 1956. Bing Crosby recorded the carol using Marks’ melody and verses 1, 2, 6, and 7.  The tune Marks composed has received more than 60 commercial recordings, with sales exceeding five million copies.

Longfellow wrote many lyric poems and became the most popular American poet of his day, as well as one lauded overseas. Yet, he was criticized for a writing style that could be too sentimental.

I, for one, am glad he ignored the critics and wrote “Christmas Bells.” It’s a carol that reminds us all to offer “peace on earth, good will to men” with its haunting, heartfelt lyrics.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching the newly released movie about this carol and Henry’s story. From Sight & Sound Film, I Heard the Bells is an incredible, heartwarming celebration of love, devotion, and hope.

And enjoy this beautiful version of the song by Rachel Day Hughes who plays Fanny in the movie:

From our home and hearts to yours –

Merry Christmas! 

The History of Christmas Carols and Caroling

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I’m really pleased to be kicking off our series of posts about Christmas Carols with some of the backstory behind caroling itself.

And what a backstory it is. The history of Christmas carols and caroling is as rich and diverse as the songs themselves. And whether you belt these out solo or when you’re with friends, learning where these songs and practices come from, and how they’ve survived and evolved over the centuries, can help you appreciate them even more.

First did you know the word carol means celebration? That means when we say Christmas carol we are actually saying Christmas celebration. And what better way to celebrate than to sing songs of adoration and hope.

Now for a quick overview of the history.

Although most people associate Christmas carols with the Christian faith, the act of caroling was originally a dance and the accompanying songs in a pagan celebration during the winter solstice.

Then, in the early days of England, the tradition of wassailing began. You may have heard the word wassail before but not known what it meant or thought it referred to a drink. The word wassail comes from the Old Norse words ves heill which translates to the phrase “be well and in good health”. At first wassailing was carried out by folks going house to house during the cold, dark winter months to deliver well wishes to the occupants totally apart from Christmas.

But in the late 13th century St. Francis of Assisi appropriated the practice for Christian purposes. He added carols to his nativity plays and Christmas mass, in fact he actively encouraged members of his church to embrace music as part of their worship and celebration not only in services but also in the home. And in doing so, he began to shift the focus to Christmas specific carols. However, the songs were passed down orally from person to person across generations for several hundred years until the late 16th century when some of them were finally collected and written down.

As time passed, composers produced more and more Christmas carols. Celebrating the Savior’s birth, these songs were reflections of the deep spiritual emotions around the Christ child and His mother Mary. These carols continued to grow in quantity and popularity until the 17th century when the Protestant Reformation swept over continental Europe. The reformation shifted worship practices towards a more austere focus and many of the carols were banned and lost to time.

Of course caroling did eventually make a return to favor and came back stronger than ever. While countries around the world have their own unique take on Christmas celebrations and traditions, today caroling is an almost universal part of the festivities.

There you have it – a quick overview of the history of carols and caroling. Over the next several days my Filly sisters will do a deeper dive into the stories behind some of our favorite individual carols. And I think some of the stories will surprise and touch you.

Wishing everyone a very joyous and blessed Christmas Day.

 

My Favorite Christmas Candy

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Whenever my BIG South Louisiana family gets together there is always, among other things, lots of amazing food. And that includes sweets. There are pecan pralines, coconut pralines, divinity, cookies, bars, fudge, fruit candies, brittles and novelty treats for the little ones like these gnomes and reindeers.

But one of my personal favorites is just plain old fashioned peanut butter fudge. Partly because it brings back such great memories for me. It is one of the first things my mom taught me to cook.  I remember her standing over me and my younger sister as we made batches of this sweet treat.  Sometimes it didn’t turn out quite right and we had to eat it with a spoon. And I’ll let you in on a secret – I actually enjoyed eating it this way and on a few occasions I deliberately sabotaged the batch so that it wouldn’t harden properly.  🙂

Anyway, here is the recipe – it’s very sweet so unfortunately I can’t eat it with as much abandon as I once did. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Shirley’s Peanut Butter Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 5 cups milk
  • 5 cups peanut butter (either creamy or chunky)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  • In a heavy 4 quart saucepan, combine sugar and salt
  • Stir in milk
  • Over a medium heat, stir constantly until mixture reaches a bubbly boil.
  • Continue to boil without stirring until mixture reaches a soft ball stage or 234 degrees.
  • Quickly stir in peanut butter until well mixed.
  • Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla – DO NOT STIR
  • Cool to 110 degrees.
  • Beat until fudge thickens and shine fades.
  • Quickly spread in a buttered 8” or 9” square pan.
  • Cool completely and then cut into squares.

So do you have a special treat that brings back memories for you?

I have several copies of The Holiday Courtship that I’d like to giveaway since I’m reissuing it under a new title and with a new cover so leave a comment and you just might end up with one of these.

 

Savoring Christmas

 

I’ve been writing in the Rodeo Romance series since 2013 when The Christmas Cowboy released.

When I wrote that first sweet romance about a saddle bronc rider and a focused corporate executive, I never imagined it would lead to a whole series of books.

But it has.

Each holiday season, I release a new book in the series and last week  Savoring Christmas released.

This story is a combination of hilarity and heartfelt moments that tug on your heartstrings.

Troy Lucas gave up his winning rodeo career to run the family ranch after the death of his grandfather. Now, being a rancher, a farrier, and even doing some team roping just for fun can’t seem to keep him satisfied. He didn’t think he’d miss his glory days in the rodeo when he came back home – in fact, there’s no where else he’d rather be. Still, he can’t deny the hole inside that keeps reminding him he’s hungry for something…more.

Chef Lark Gibson has only one thing on her mind: opening a restaurant in Portland. Until that day comes, Lark will take her food truck to as many events as possible and make sure her customers are always begging for more. The last thing she expected was to find herself distracted by a knight in dusty Wranglers, until a handsome cowboy comes to her rescue and catches her off-guard.

 

 

The idea for Troy and Lark’s story started when Troy first made an appearance in a book a few years ago as a quiet and shy farrier. I knew as soon as his character popped onto the page, I wanted him to have his own story and find his happily ever after.

Last year, when I was working on Remembering Christmas, I came around to the idea of Troy’s love interest running a food truck – because … well, why not? So I asked my reader group for food truck ideas. As soon as one of them (thanks, Stephanie R!) mentioned a tater tot truck, I knew that was what I wanted to include, and their sweet romance grew from there. (You might remember I wrote a whole blog about tater tots a few years ago.)

Josephine Blake from Covers & Cupcakes created this amazing cover for me and I couldn’t love it more. She took my request for a cowboy, a red-headed woman, a food truck, and a snowy background and turn them into something amazing.

EXCERPT:

“Are you hurt?” he asked, hunkering down beside her, not wanting her to feel rushed to move. He’d had the air knocked out of him often enough to know it was an uncomfortable, unsettling feeling.

When she didn’t answer, only inhaled a third breath, he started to worry. “Should I find a medic?”

She shook her head, sending that mane of finger-tempting hair into a lively dance. Troy kept his hands pressed to his thighs when he experienced a sudden, inexplicable need to brush the hair away from her face. With the verdant grass providing a sharp contrast to her red hair, it was all Troy could do not to snap a picture of her to make him smile on a lonely gray day. The woman could be her own Christmas decoration with her alabaster skin, red hair, and the green background.

Despite comparing her to holiday décor, she really was a beauty, even with her hair in a tangle and no makeup on her face, at least that he could see.

“Just take your time. No need to get in a hurry to move. If you need assistance, I’ll go find someone.” Troy wasn’t certain if her pale skin was natural because of her red hair, or if she was injured and trying to make light of it.

She pushed herself up into a sitting position. “That won’t be necessary, even if that was an exciting way to start the day,” she said in a mellow voice that flowed over him like rich honey warmed by the sun.

“Are you sure you aren’t hurt?” he asked, rising to his feet, then offering her his hands.

“Just my pride.” She latched onto his hands and Troy almost jumped back, feeling something charged, like a current of electricity, shoot up both of his arms. It was like grabbing onto an electrified wire. Instead of letting go, though, he tightened his fingers around hers and hauled her upright.

The woman appeared of average height for a female, not too tall or too short. She had a nice figure he tried not to ogle as he observed her bright blue T-shirt and a pair of dark gray cotton shorts with pockets on the legs. His gaze slid down the length of her to her blue sneakers, then started back up when he noticed blood trickling down her leg and over her knee.

“You’re hurt,” he said, reaching for the cuff of her shorts that fell just above her knee, hiding her injury from his view. He stopped before his fingers connected with the cloth and dropped his hand to his side. Touching a stranger that way seemed rather inappropriate. He certainly didn’t want her to wrongly assume he was a pervert who preyed on women who’d been bowled over by belligerent bovine running amok.

 

To me Savoring Christmas isn’t just about Troy enjoying the food Lark creates.

It’s about savoring the season and the people they love and care about. It’s about savoring moments that will become treasured memories. It’s about savoring the warmth in their hearts and the joy of selfless giving.

May we all savor this special time of year!

Just for fun, here’s a song my narrator, Luke Andreen, wrote for this series. Enjoy!

If you were going to write a song to go with one of your favorite things

(can be a book, movie, person, place, thing – whatever),

what would the song be about? 

Share your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Savoring Christmas and a $5 Amazon Gift Card!

Christmas Wishes & Cowboy Kisses

 

Sometimes an opportunity comes along that is just too fun to resist.

That was the case when I was invited to be part of the Christmas Wishes and Cowboy Kisses boxed set. It includes 23 never-before-published sweet romance stories that are all about … cowboys and Christmas! Seriously, what could be better?

This boxed set includes second chance romance, small-town sweethearts, swaggering rodeo stars, swoony single dads, and more, written by some of your favorite sweet romance authors including Liz Isaacson, Lacy Williams, Carolyne Aarsen, Melissa McClone, Kit Morgan, Laura Ashwood, Natalie Dean, Terri Lorah, Cynthia Woolf, Kathleen Ball, Macie St. James, Christina Butrum, Terri Grace, April Murdock, Hannah Jo Abbott, Amelia C. Adams, Josephine Blake, Heather Blanton, Catie Cahill, Parker J. Cole, RL Ashly, Christine Sterling, and me!

 

 

The book releases October 25 and you can get all 23 of these sweet stories for just 99 cents! Wow! It’s like Santa came early, right?

Make sure you pre-order now to get the book for just 99 cents. I don’t want you to miss out on this fun Rodeo Romance story or any of the other sweet cowboy romances!

My contribution to the boxed set is Taming Christmas.

Those who have read my Rodeo Romance series will recognize many of the characters. In fact, this story came to be from readers who often asked about one of the secondary characters, a bull rider named Huck. So this is Huck’s story of how he made such a bad first impression on Mara, that he proved to be unforgettable.

Here’s a fun snippet from the story when Huck meets Mara for the first time:

~*~

That left Huck facing the blonde who held a great deal of censure in her gorgeous blue eyes.

Before he could speak to her or offer an apology, though, Cort and Tate flanked him.

Tate removed his hat and politely tipped his head. “We’re so sorry, miss. Huck isn’t completely housebroken. His last girlfriend told him she’d rather bring home a feral cat than let him into her apartment again.”

“He’s been kicked in the head one too many times, miss. Don’t judge him too harshly,” Cort said with a pleading, boyish smile. “He doesn’t have the sense to know better, and he doesn’t possess the ambulatory skills of a drunken baboon.”

Huck’s hand curled into a fist as he considered how much attention it would draw if he tackled Cort and Tate and pummeled them into silence. Cort was several inches taller and many pounds heavier than he was, but as angry as he felt, Huck knew he could take him down.

Before he could start swinging, the blonde woman grinned. “He seems harmless enough, even if he’s about as smooth on his feet as a one-legged ostrich on ice.”

~*~

Read the entire first chapter of Taming Christmas here.

 

What about you?

What do you think would be a

funny way for a couple to meet? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a paperback copy of your choice of one of the Rodeo Romance sweet romances!