Sleigh Bell Serenade

I’ve shared before how inspiration can strike from anywhere when it comes to me writing a story.

Two Christmas seasons ago, I was happily decking my halls for the holidays and listening to a traditional Christmas music station.

A song started to play—one I’d never heard—and I literally stopped in the midst of hanging a holly garland and listened to Bing Crosby croon about a “Sleigh Bell Serenade.” If you’ve never heard the song, it’s so cute and you can listen to it on YouTube.

Anyway,  by the time the song ended, I knew I wanted to write a story with that title and have one of the main characters do something with sleighs or sleigh bells.

It wasn’t until I started writing The Snowman’s Sweetheart, which released in January of last year, that I figured out how to run with the sleigh bell idea. In this book, the hero, Ky, has a best friend named Bo who is a rancher, but also runs a sleigh tour business during the winter months.

Sleigh Bell Serenade is book two in the Winter Wishes sweet romance series, and shares the story of Bowen Jensen and Juniper Haynes, a hot-shot real estate agent who is really ready from a break from her big-city, fast-paced life.

The book releases tomorrow!

He keeps his heart heavily guarded.

She meets everyone with a friendly smile.

Will the attraction sizzling between them pull them into the space between their two worlds?

Burdened by too many responsibilities, Bowen Jensen struggles beneath their overwhelming weight. Between raising his teenage sister, running their family ranch, and managing Sleigh Bell Tours, he barely has time to sleep let alone do something just for himself. He can’t even recall his last date. Then a chance encounter with a beguiling woman leaves him pondering if there isn’t more to life than trudging through one lonely day after another.

Juniper Haynes appears to have it all with a successful real estate career and a picture-perfect life. In reality, she’s tired of dealing with demanding clients, wary of her so-called friends, and secretly longs for the peace she finds at her sister’s mountain home. After a magical New Year’s Eve kiss with a cowboy she barely knows, she realizes true happiness might only be found outside her comfort zone.

Can Bo and Juniper find the courage to embrace change and explore the possibility of a future together?

Find out in this sweet winter romance full of small-town charm, memorable characters, laughter, hope, and love.

 

Annoyed by his infatuation with Juniper, he took a step back, uncertain what to say.

Words had never easily come to him. He was more of a doer than a talker. In his younger years, his best friend, Ky, had always filled the gap since he could talk to anyone, anytime, about anything. Ky had received the gift of gab, while Bo had been given the gift of brawn and endurance.

But at that moment, an idea or two of something witty to say would have been helpful.

“Do you live around here?” Sassy asked as Bo stood there like one of the snow carvings that would fill the town next month at the Winter Fest.

“Cedar lives in Faraday with her husband. I live in Portland,” Juniper said. “I’m just visiting through the holidays.”

“So you’ll be around for New Year’s Eve?” Sassy asked.

Heaven help him if the girl decided to take it upon herself to ask Juniper to go out with him to ring in the new year.

Juniper nodded uncertainly.

“We’re hosting a little gathering of friends that night. Would you like to join us?” Cedar asked, smiling at Bo and then Sassy in invitation. “It’s very casual and informal. We’ll have finger foods and things like pizza and jalapeno poppers, and family-friendly games.”

“Why is this the …” Juniper started to speak, but Cedar gave her a quelling look that made her snap her mouth shut.

Bo might have laughed if he hadn’t been certain there was matchmaking afoot. Under normal circumstances, he would have run in the opposite direction as fast as possible, but he really wanted to see Juniper again. A party with her sister and friends seemed harmless enough.

“We’d love to come,” Sassy said with enthusiasm before he could respond. “Thank you for inviting us.”

Do you have a favorite winter memory?

Sleigh ride? Sledding? Nailing a smug sibling with a snowball? 
Share your comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Sleigh Bell Serenade!

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!

Auld Lang Syne — A History & Give-Away

Howdy!

Hope your Christmas was wonderful and hope these last few days of the year are filled with relaxation and perhaps planning for the year ahead.

Since it is so close to New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d continue our History of Christmas songs with the song most popular on New Year’s Eve, Auld Lang Syne.

It is to Scottish songwriter, Robert Burns, that the world owes its debt for the beautiful poem of Auld Lang Syne.  Interestingly, it’s become an  anthem that is recognized and sung all around the world.
 
.As the website at http://www.scotland.org says: “Auld Lang Syne is one of Scotland’s gifts to the world, recalling the love and kindness of days gone by, but in the communion of taking our neighbours’ hands, it also gives us a sense of belonging and fellowship to take into the future.”

 
Robert Burns penned the poem in 1788 and it is said to be set to an old folk song from the Lowland in Scots tradition, but interestingly, the melody sung the world round on New Year’s is not the original tune that the music was set to.  The older tune is said to be sung in Scotland as is their tradition.  I couldn’t find the original melody for this old song, but I wish I had — I’d love to hear what sounds like.

 
Another interesting fact is that it was Guy Lombardo who popularized the song and its use at the New Year’s event — although the song was brought to the United States by Scottish immigrants.  Lombardo started his broadcasts in 1929 — and it just somehow caught on — to the world at large.
 
In the words of Robert Burns, himself:
 
“… is not the Scots phrase, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, exceedingly expressive – there is an old song and tune which has often thrilled thro’ my soul”.
 
Robert Burns — a very handsome young man — who, though born a peasant, yet  lived with vigor.  However, and unfortunately for the world at large, he died young of rheumatic fever, even as his wife was giving birth to their 9th child.  He was only 37 years old.
 
When I heard he’d fathered nine children, I was shocked. And, to die so early, leaving a wife and nine children behind.  What a loss this was to the world.

But, let’s look at the song itself: 

The words to Auld Lang Syne — taken from the website:  http://www.scotland.org/ features/ / the-history-and-words-of-auld-langsyne

I’ve dug up the Scottish version of the song, as well as the English.  Do you have a piano?  A guitar?  Fancy singing along yourself? Here are the verses, and a translation of the words to Auld Lang Syne:
 
Scots Language version
 
Auld Lang Syne
 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.
 
Chorus
 
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,
 
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
 
Chorus
 
We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.
 
Chorus
 
We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.
 
Chorus
 
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.
 
Chorus
 
English translated version
 
Long, Long Ago

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago?
 
Chorus
 
And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago
 
And surely you’ll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.
 
Chorus
 
We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot
Since long, long ago.
 
Chorus
 
We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.
 
Chorus
 
And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.
 
Chorus

************************* 

It’s been a rough year for many of us.  And yet, in some ways, our spirits have risen up to the occasion.  It is my wish for you that this next year be a better and more promising year.  And, though we might still have a bit of a rough ride ahead of us, if we can keep loving one another and showing kindness throughout this next year, I think we’ll be okay.

And now, I promised you a give-away.  As some of you might know, I have a new release out this month, SHE CAPTURES MY HEART, which is book #2 in the new Medicine Man Series.

 

I’ll be giving away this book in e-book format to one of you bloggers.  All you have to do to enter into the drawing is leave a comment to this post.  Be sure to come to the blog tomorrow to see if you have won!

Hot Info:  This new book has been at the #1 spot on Amazon for the New Release Category of American Historical Romances for seven days now.  Below is the link to the book.

tinyurl.com/SHE-CAPTURES-MY-HEART

May your New Year be filled with good health, kindness and love!

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?”

A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Holiday Wishes

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone Here at Petticoats and Pistols!

While I have many fond memories of this holiday, one stands out in particular from when I was in first grade. For a class project, we made a cornucopia. Each of us brought in an item to be placed in the cornucopia. My contribution was a small, dried gourd. Growing up in Connecticut, our cornucopia was very traditional and looked a little like the one below.

The teacher also gave us a little lesson on the history or cornucopias, or, as it’s sometimes called, a horn of plenty. The name is Latin in its roots and the earliest references to cornucopias are found in Greek and Roman mythology. It’s become associated with the harvest (an often late summer and fall occurrence in the Northern hemisphere) and prosperity.

Original cornucopias were likely made of woven baskets or pottery. These days, people have become very creative, both with the material used to construct the cornucopias and what goes in them. Here’s some really clever ideas.

Lots of healthy fruits

 

Not so healthy candy, but yummy!

 

Pretty flowers

 

Pastry filled with Waldorf salad – my favorite

 

And if you have nothing on hand, use a paper bag 🙂

I hope whatever your plans are for the day and the long weekend, they’re filled with fun and joy and lots of good food. Whether you’re celebrating with family and friends over a big dinner on Thursday, watching football, Black Friday shopping, traveling, or simply enjoying a little R&R at home, we here at P&P wish you and yours all the best.

 

Celebrate Autumn’s Arrival

Can you believe it?

The first official day of fall here in the United States is tomorrow.

I love the autumn season. The crisp crunch of leaves beneath my boots. The spicy and loamy scents that waft on the afternoon breeze, and the pumpkin and spice scents that waft from my oven. The sounds of fans cheering at high school football games, and the brilliant array of colors as the leaves change from green to crimson, tangerine, and gold.

As the days grow shorter and we tend to spend more time at home, it’s a perfect time to host a get together, whether it’s inviting a friend over for lunch, or the whole gang over for a bonfire.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I used to work for a direct sales company that was all about making entertaining at home easier and more enjoyable for the hostess. I learned so many tips and tricks for entertaining that really do simplify things, I thought I’d share a few today.

 

 

THEMES

One of the easiest ways to entertain is to pick a theme for your gathering. It makes everything from decorations to food choices so much simpler.

For an autumn party theme, send out invitations shaped like fall leaves or use stationery with a pumpkin or apple theme.

Bring the colors of the season into your home using shades of crimson red, burgundy, sage and earthy greens, golden yellow, and deep orange. Use accent pillows or throws to really create that warm and cozy atmosphere we associate with fall.  (Side note: you can easily recover a pillow using a swatch of felt since the edges won’t fray. Cut a piece big enough to cover the entire pillow and glue the edges or simply connect the edges by stitching with a piece of thin ribbon.)

Decorations for your party can be something as basic as a few potted mums, bundles of wheat tied with raffia bows, or a pile of mini pumpkins and squash. You don’t have to get carried away with something fancy.

Your meal can be simple as well. Make a big pot of stew (check out Cheryl’s recipe for hamburger stew) or a filling casserole. Finish the meal with a pumpkin or apple dessert.

If you want the party to be a more hands-on experience, do a fun activity before the meal like apple picking or visiting a pumpkin patch.

Or host an autumn bonfire. Serve up hot dogs, potato wedges and mulled cider.

Here’s a list of party ideas from A to Z:

Apples

Back to School

Crafter’s Gathering

Decadent Desserts

End of Summer

Foliage & Fun

Game Night

Harvest Festival

Indian Summer

Jubilee

King’s Castle

Leaves & Laughter

Maze Daze

Nature’s Splendor

Oktoberfest

Pumpkins

Queen for a Day

Rag Time

Scarecrow

Tailgate

Under the Umbrella

Vintage

Wiener and Marshmallow Roast

X-ray Vision/Superheros

Yearbook

Zebra – everything is black and white

 

SCENTS

If I thought I could get away with it, I’d burn pumpkin scented candles all year long. Just think about walking into a home where the scents of pumpkin, apple, cinnamon or spices fill the air. It makes you think about fall and hayrides and pumpkin pie and all sorts of wonderful, comforting experiences.

The main thing to remember as you fill your home with the scents of fall is to stick with one scent at a time.

If you’re burning a sweet pumpkin candle in the kitchen, don’t light a heavily spiced candle a few feet away in the family room. Before you know it, you’ve got warring scents and quite possibly a headache.

DECOR

If you are looking to bring the autumn season into your home, a great place to start is by going outdoors. What fall leaves, branches or natural items, like grasses, pinecones or nuts, can you bring indoors for an inexpensive accent to your decor?

Use neutral tones highlighted with fall colors, focusing on the vivid jewel tones of autumn like rich red, warm gold, brilliant orange, deep green and pops of purple. This is not the time or the season to go all beige. Think bold, warm and rich when you are choosing accent colors.

Create a fall welcome at your front door by placing pumpkins on steps, a twiggy wreath around an exterior light or baskets filled with bright fall flowers like mums.

Use fall scents like pumpkin, cinnamon and apple throughout your home. Whatever scent you choose, make sure you stick with it consistently so you don’t have scents overpowering each other. No one wants to walk into a scent war-zone!

Fill bowls or baskets with nuts or pinecones for a fast fall accent. Place large leaves between a serving tray and a piece of glass (or a clear glass pate). You can use this as a centerpiece, serve warm mugs of cider on it or leave it on the coffee table as a conversation piece.

Keep your focus on warmth. Warm colors and cozy fabrics create a fantastic sense of welcome.

FLAVORS

If you are a pumpkin maniac (hand waving in the air), here are a few ideas to add pumpkins to your menu if you choose a pumpkin theme (or just really love pumpkin!).

• Make a simple pumpkin soup by adding about four cups of chicken broth to a 28-ounce can of pumpkin. Cook until bubbling and let simmer then stir in about 3 ounces of Feta cheese, season with salt and a pinch of nutmeg.

• Use canned pumpkin as a thickener. Add it to any type of chili or stew that needs a little thickening.

• Substitute canned pumpkin for half the fat in quick breads. This works well with cinnamon, citrus and chocolate. Or make your taste buds extra happy and make a loaf of pumpkin bread.

• Add canned pumpkin to half your cheesecake filling. Swirl it into the filling, but don’t mix, before baking to get an awesome design and incredible flavor.

• Mix canned pumpkin into softened ice cream then refreeze for a quick pumpkin dessert. Serve with gingersnaps and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

• Mix a heaping spoonful into grits, top with grated Parmesan cheese and a tiny dollop of butter.

• Mix canned pumpkin with one part apple cider and two parts ginger ale for a fun beverage.

You could also make pumpkin polenta, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin wedges, pumpkin roll or pumpkin seeds.

However you decide to entertain this fall, just remember to enjoy the experience and not get too wrapped up in the details. It’s all about connecting with your friends and loved ones that truly matters!

Speaking of connecting, I hope you’ll join me and the rest of the Love Train authors for a “welcome autumn” celebration tomorrow. The fun begins at 8 a.m. Pacific Time (9 Mountain, 10 Central, 11 Eastern). It will be a day full of fun, games, giveaways, and more!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2143576775865837

What’s your favorite way to entertain?

Casual? Rustic? Elegant? Classy? Whimsical?

Or if entertaining isn’t your thing,

what’s your favorite autumn flavor? 

 

Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of my newly released

Fall Into Love

collection of two autumn-themed sweet cowboy romances,

and a digital copy of my Savvy Autumn Entertaining guide!

 

 

Memorial Day 2022 – Thank you to those who gave it all

It rings a little hollow to thank those who gave it all on Memorial Day. They aren’t here anymore to appreciate any gratitude. However, I still feel it and respect and honor their sacrifice.

On this day, we’ll take a short break from our usual historical sharing. I have a free book I’d love to offer you and I hope you have a day to relax and reflect. You’ll find 94 books available here including mine, Wherever the Road Will Lead.

 

Thank you so much to all of you for joining us every day. Have a blessed day.

Henley Releases!

I’m incredibly excited about my new release that just came out on Friday!

Henley is a sweet historical western romance that is part of the new Love Train series. You’ll see several of our Fillies in the series. In fact, Pam Crooks released Book 1 just a few weeks ago. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read Christiana.

The books can be read in any order. The common thread between them all is that each heroine has a secret, and they all meet their hunky hero on the same train. You’ll see the conductor Henry, a baggage handler Willie, and a cute little pup named Scruffy in each story too.

Henley Jones and Doctor Evan Holt connect when they board the train in Omaha.

Love is a gamble, and heartbreak is a risk she’s willing to take.

Despite her dreams to set down roots, Henley Jones has never had a place to call home. She’s spent her life on riverboats and railroad cars, tagging along with her gambling father. A shoot-out during a card game results in his death, leaving Henley alone and nearly penniless. Out of luck and options, Henley agrees to travel across the country to the newly established town of Holiday, Oregon, to marry a stranger.

A demanding practice in a town clawing its way to respectability keeps Doctor Evan Holt rushing at a hectic pace. He’s far too busy to see to pressing matters like hiring competent help or finding a wife. When one of his patients orders a mail-order bride, Evan can’t decide if the man is crazy or brilliant. From the moment he meets her, Evan battles an unreasonable attraction to the beautiful, charming woman who seems to be hiding something from her past.

In a town flush with possibilities, will taking a chance on love end with heartache or a winning hand? Find out in this sweet western romance full of humor, hope, and love.

~*~

I thought it might be fun to share some quotes from the book.

 

The West was overflowing with gamblers.

They gambled on their dreams, and hopes, and families.

They gambled on opportunities to create better lives, or become better versions of themselves.

Most importantly, they gambled in the high-stakes game of love,

putting their hearts on the line, with no idea if they’d win or lose.

 

~*~

The child was as cooperative as a drunken donkey in a dynamite shack.

~*~

I’m starting to think there are rocks and tree stumps

smarter than Evan Holt.

~*~

Love might be the toughest gamble you’ll make, but it’s worth the risk.

 

Order your copy of Henley today!

It’s available on Amazon in digital and paperback formats, and you can read it in Kindle Unlimited!

 

What about you?

What do you think would be a neat secret for a heroine to keep from the hero? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a copy of Henley!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope you all are enjoying a very lovely Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day has always been somewhat special to me – my birthday falls on February 13 so I always conflate the two into one celebration. And I started the celebration with a gift to me – I wrapped up the book I was working on (Book 3 in my Amish of Hope’s Haven series) and was able to give myself a short breather before starting my next work – this one will be a fun western set historical romance!

Then, this past Friday me, my hubby and most of my kids and their families, 9 of us in total, went out to a  Cirque du Soleil performance. It was soooooo much fun!  And then yesterday, on my actual birthday, ALL the kids and their families came over and one of my sons-in-law cooked some meat on the grill for a great birthday lunch. My birthday cake was a yummy King cake, a tradition since my birthday always falls during Mardi Gras season. All in all a great birthday weekend.

But this post is supposed to be about Valentine’s Day, so I thought I’d bring you a quick list of Trivia, Fun Facts and Statistics around this romantic holiday.

 

  • Most everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is named for St. Valentine, but did you know there were actually two St. Valentine’s? Both lived during the third century
    One St. Valentine was a priest who helped Christians escape from Roman prisons. It is said he fell in love with a woman who visited him when he himself was thrown in prison and that he wrote her letters that he signed “From your Valentine.”
    The other was also a priest. This Valentine defied a Roman emperor who refused to allow his soldiers to marry because he believed it was too big a distraction. Valentine wed soldiers to their sweethearts in secret until he was eventually caught and executed.
  • The first Valentine’s celebration is thought to have taken place on February 14 in 1400. It happened in Paris when King Charles VI established the High Court of Love. Run entirely by women, this court with marriage contracts, infidelity, divorce and domestic abuse.

  • People have been sending Valentines for over 600 years. The first known record of a valentine is from 1415. It is from a poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife whom he refers to as his very gentle Valentine.
  • The first mass-produced Valentines cards came about in the 1840s. Before that Valentine’s Day missives were handwritten. Esther A. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, is credited with commercializing Valentine’s Day cards in America.
  • The first heart shaped box of candy was created by Richard Cadbury and introduced in 1861

 

  • And speaking of candy, we can’t talk about Valentine’s Day without mentioning conversation hearts. They were actually invented by Oliver Chase, a Boston pharmacist. He actually invented machine to make the way medical lozenges could be made. But it wasn’t long before he began using his machine to make candy, a more lucrative field. He actually founded the New England Confectionery Company or NECCO which is where we get NECCO wafers from. Eventually, in 1866 to be more specific, Oliver’s brother Daniel started printing the sweet little messages on the candy. Today over 8 billion conversation hearts are printed each year, and the manufacturer works year round to have enough ready for the holiday. (they have a shelf life of about 5 years)
  • The tradition of giving flowers to your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day began in the Victorian era

 

Some interesting stats (as of 2018)

  • Approximately 180 million cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day

 

  • Women buy about 85 percent of those cards (naturally!)
  • Men buy 73 percent of the Valentine’s Day flowers
  • According to the National Retail Foundation, American will spend more than 20 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day gifts. That number may not surprise you, but did you know that over 27 million Americans will give Valentine’s gifts to their pets.
  • More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold each year.
  • Each box of conversation hearts has about 45 unique sayings.

 

So there’s my short and sweet take on Valentine’s Day trivia. Did any of this surprise you? Do you have any tidbits or fun facts of your own to share? Or perhaps a story of your favorite Valentine’s Day experience?
Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a book from my backlist as well as a little Valentine’s Day surprise – a  book lover heart.