Traditions and Recipes #7

Sometimes you have to take a little bit of what’s worked in the past and blend it together with something new to get the results you’re looking for. And while I think the message is true in our daily lives, I think it takes on unique importance during the Christmas season. There are times when the old traditions we’ve enjoyed with our families and friends simply don’t produce the desired results anymore. But there are still parts of these familiar traditions we can salvage. And when we marry those to new traditions, we can find ourselves with new traditions to treasure for years to come.

It’s a lesson I was reminded of this week through my love of Christmas baking. I was given a bag of Hot Cocoa Flavored Hershey’s Kisses for my birthday. Milk chocolate filled with marshmallow cream is always a good thing, right? But I wanted to do something with them other than eat them by themselves. Why not make a Hot Cocoa Cookie? I make a cherry cookie every year that’s topped with a Hershey Kiss. Everyone enjoys them. And I’ve made Chocolate Snowball Cookies rolled in powdered sugar before baking. Those are fun and festive. I just needed a chocolate cookie dough for the base. Thumbprint cookies would offer the right consistency. I scoured my cookbooks for a chocolate thumbprint cookie that looked good. Finally, I found one in the Taste of Home Christmas Cookies and Candies book from 2008. They were called Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints.

I wouldn’t need the nuts to coat the cookie with or the caramel sauce for the topping. Although, I have to admit both of those sound amazing, and I may have to try them at some point. But for this recipe, I needed the base. I blended the new recipe base with the familiar elements of a couple of my traditional recipes and the results were exactly what I wanted. The finished cookies were reminiscent of a cup of homemade hot cocoa, and they were a big hit. I hope you enjoy them.

Happy Baking!

hot cocoa cookieshot cocoa

Christmas Quote Fun #3

santaLast week’s movie quote was from Santa Claus is coming to town. No, the story is gives for Santa Claus is not the story of the real Saint Nicholas, but it has some surprising times when Christmas’ true meaning shines through.

Here is the quote for this week. Remember to leave your answers in the comments. One randomly drawn name will be the winner of a family Christmas movie. Every time you answer one of the quotes correctly, you get your name entered in the drawing. You must live in the United States to win. The answer to this week’s quote and the winner of the movie will be announced next Wednesday.

Happy Christmas movie watching!

“Name.

Kris Kringle.

Name.

Sinter Klaas.

Name.

Pere Noel. Babbo Natale. Pelznickel. Topo Gigio.”

Traditions and Recipes #6

Sometimes you look at a recipe in a book or online and know it’s one you want to try. Other times you get the chance to try something at a get together and have to have the recipe to add to your collection. But there are times when a great recipe finds you out of necessity. Today’s recipe is like that.

My co-workers have always gotten to benefit from my love of baking. I can’t have all those cookies and sweets in my house. So, I bake them and take them to work with me. Then, people started requesting special orders and my baking hobby became a hobby business.

While hosting a shower for her sister, my co-worker Autumn made one such request. Snickerdoodles are a favorite of hers, and she wanted them made to look like sand dollars. I agreed, but I didn’t make Snickerdoodles. I didn’t have a tried and true recipe to use even though Snickerdoodles have always been a popular Christmas cookie.

With no recipe and a deadline looming, I hit the internet. I scoured site after site reading reviews to determine my best option. That’s when I found this recipe. It really is the best. Try it. I think you’ll agree. snickerdoodles

Christmas Quote Fun #2

Charlie Brown ChristmasLast week’s quote came from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Thank you to those who took time to answer! Remember for each right answer you get between now and December 19, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a fun family Christmas movie! The rules are simple. You must live in the United States, and please, no cheating by searching the internet. I’m trusting you on that one!

Here’s today’s quote:

“It wasn’t a hard decision to make. They chose, of course, the holiest night of the year, the night of profound love, which was the perfect night for giving. Christmas Eve? Christmas Eve.”

Remember to post your answers in the comments! Happy Christmas movie watching! And come back next week to find out which movie this quote is from!

Holiday Help Wanted!

christmasThe only thing better than getting cozy and watching the newest Hallmark Christmas movie is getting cozy and reading a great Christian Fiction Christmas book. I’d like to use my review days this month to highlight some great holiday reads.

Here’s where my “Holiday Help Wanted” comes in. Maybe you’re an author with a book that fits this description. Or maybe you’re just a person who loves to read as much as I do, and you’ve read the best CF Christmas book on the market. It doesn’t matter how you found this book. I want to know about it. It doesn’t mean I’ll be able to read them all before Christmas, but it will give me a place to start. So, think about your Christmas favorites and let me know the title and author in the comments. Thank you for your help!

Traditions and Recipes #5

There are hundreds of great Christmas traditions to choose from. Just the act of gift giving consists of more traditions than a single family could incorporate into their Christmas celebration. Some people let their children make huge lists and attempt to give them everything on it. Others choose the three gift method. One gift they need, one gift they want, and one gift to read or wear. Some open one gift on Christmas Eve, and some families open all their gifts that night. There is also the tradition of secret siblings enjoyed by many families.

Each of these traditions is wonderful. They bring their own special twist to the Christmas season. But the tradition that works for my family may not fit your family. That’s okay. We have to incorporate the things that work without allowing ourselves to feel guilty for leaving the ones that don’t to other families. Our celebrations don’t have to be just like everyone else’s.

It’s with this in mind that I chose today’s recipe. It’s a traditional gingerbread cookie recipe. I used to make it every year, but I found my family didn’t enjoy them. The ones I left for my own family would go stale before they could be eaten. It’s a great recipe, and they always turned out like they were supposed to. My family just didn’t like gingerbread. Maybe yours does.gingerbread

Christmas Quote Fun

Surprise! There is no writing quote today. In fact, I’m going to take the next three weeks before Christmas to mix it up a little bit. I love reading. My blog is dedicated to reading, writing, and faith. But I also love movies. I love comic book movies, movies adapted from books, and chick flicks/rom-coms. But this time of year, I love to watch Christmas movies. I’m addicted to Hallmark channel movies (much to my husband’s dismay). But I also enjoy more traditional Christmas movies.

So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to play a game. I’ll share a quote from a Christmas movie, and you get to guess what movie it’s from. Every right answer will get your name put into a drawing. On the nineteenth, I’ll announce the winner.

On a personal note, I had a sad moment this week. Frosty the Snowman came on. Every year when my kids were growing up we’d get fruit, popcorn, cheese cubes, and summer sausage together and make a picnic in front of the television to watch Frosty and Rudolph. They’re some of my best holiday memories.

This year only two of my kids are still at home. One was working that night. I asked the youngest who is mid-way through the teen years if he wanted to watch it with me. He said he was busy. I watched it alone.

It’s become apparent my years of sharing those simple joys with my kids has passed. Don’t forget to enjoy yours if you still have them.

Movie Quote of the Week: “It’s too early. I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.”

Know the movie? Put your answer in the comments. I’ll post a picture of the movie along with a new quote next week.

TBR . . . Later

IMG_4635Just when I think I have it under control, my TBR pile inexplicably grows. Well, I say inexplicably, but that’s not entirely true. I know why it grows. There’s a plethora of interesting looking books out there, and I lack self-control. But it’s more than that.

With the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself looking forward to four precious days off work. Four whole days to read, write, and get caught up on writing projects. I wanted to be honest with myself so I lowered it to three days. After all, Thanksgiving Day would put my focus on my family not my to-do list. I was blessed to spend the day listening to laughter and conversation with my entire family. It was more than a fair trade off with not being able to get work done.

Friday, I managed to complete a blog post and remind people on my social media feeds to check out the Literary Feast Facebook Fiction Party I’m participating in on Monday. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so at https://www.facebook.com/events/283923535583862/.) I also responded to some commenters on a guest blog post I did this week. And even though I refuse to Black Friday shop in town, I managed to finish over half my Christmas list through online shopping.  However, I struggled with a headache all day which left me unable to focus for actual writing or reading.  That’s day two.

Today, I admit I got distracted. I’ve never been a fan of cleaning, but I do want to decorate for Christmas in the coming weeks. I can’t do that if my house is a mess. So, I dusted and vacuumed and organized the front room in my house in preparation for our Christmas tree. I’m not putting it up today, but I did get my snowmen set out. And because we need to eat, I did my grocery shopping. I have to say I’m a fan of online shopping with same day pick-up. I shopped this morning and will go pick everything up this afternoon. Day three is half-way over, and I’ve not accomplished much.

Tomorrow I have church and an anniversary lunch for my in-laws. That will take a huge chunk out of the day. I know there won’t be a lot accomplished in the writing or reading departments. Then, it’s back to work on Monday. Four precious days off work, and I’m not going to have a lot to show for it.

Part of me is frustrated at myself for taking it so easy these last few days. I had a lot to accomplish. I’m working on book three and waiting for new edits from the publisher on book two. I’ve written a Christmas devotional and memory journal, and I’m planning a Christmas get-together as a trial run of how it will work as a women’s ministry tool. I needed to get things in order for that next weekend. I’m part of a group planning a women’s retreat as a ministry and fundraiser for our local church camp. I needed to get some work done on that as well. My posts for Monday’s Facebook party should already be written and scheduled. They aren’t. My list doesn’t even include reading the next book to review, but it should.

Then I think of the story of Mary and Martha. I know it related more specifically to giving ourselves so fully to preparing for Jesus that we miss our chance to really be with Him. But I think there’s an everyday message too.

I spent time with my husband, children, and grandson these last few days in addition to my parents and in-laws. We laughed a lot, and I watched my sons play with their nephew. His face lights up when his uncles are around. I spent a normal afternoon taking a walk at the mall with my mom and my grandmother. Her struggles with age and dementia left her needing a change of atmosphere yesterday, and I needed to get out of my house for a bit too. I decided to go with them, and knowing Granny’s days are diminishing, I’m glad for that memory of an ordinary afternoon with her.

I could have spent my time on my to-do list. I could have spent it on doing things. Those things need done, and they’re good things. Instead, I chose to spend it with the people I care about. And I think it’s like Jesus told Martha. Choosing the people is choosing “the good part”.  Everything on my to-do list and my TBR pile can be taken care of later.

Traditions and Recipes #4

Where I work food preferences are serious business. No, I do not work in a bakery or restaurant. I work in a doctor’s office. But bring a plate of sweets into the break room, and everyone suddenly turns into top rated food critics!

So far I’ve learned my team leader likes brownies but just the edge pieces. Everyone seems to like chewy chocolate chip cookies that are crispy around the edge. One of our nurse practitioners likes oatmeal raisin cookies, only she doesn’t like the raisins. So, I guess it’s really an oatmeal cookie. One lady in the billing office doesn’t like cake. She prefers pie. And one of the first things I learned was Rice Krispie treats are best when made the traditional way, no chocolate cereal or fun add-ins are wanted.

It’s these individual preferences that have inspired today’s recipe. Last week I shared the first sugar cookie recipe I ever used. Today I’m sharing an alternate recipe. These cookies are for those who like chewy sugar cookies. I’ve never tried to roll them out and cut them. So, I don’t know how or if they will work for that. I usually use a cookie scoop for a nice, round cookie. They can be frosted after cooling or sprinkled with festive colored sugar before they go in the oven.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. And if you don’t, you may prefer the one I posted last week!

cookies

Write Stuff Wednesday: Learing from Stanley Lieber

“The only advice anybody can give is, if you wanna be a writer, keep writing. And read all you can, read everything.” Stan Lee

Stanley Martin Lieber wanted to be a serious writer. So when he started writing comic books, he chose a new name, Stan Lee. Only the die-hard fans are likely to recognize Stanley Martin Lieber. But millions can tell you who Stan Lee was. With the influx of superhero movies Marvel has put out in recent years, I’d be willing to bet most people could even recognize Stan Lee even if they couldn’t tell you his name. He’d be “that old guy who shows up in every Marvel movie”, but they’d still recognize him.

Stan Lee created some of the most loved comic book characters of all time. You might scoff at considering comics in a discussion about writing. That attitude is part of the reason Stanley became Stan Lee. It’s also part of the reason Stan Lee wanted to make his comic book stories different. He wanted to give the characters and story lines depth. He wanted the heroes to have flaws and internal issues to overcome. He wanted the plots to appeal to more than just children.

Stan Lee accomplished that in his life. Some would even argue that comics have evolved to a point where they aren’t for children at all any more. I don’t think that’s true. As with any media, whether book, movie, television, music, or video game, comics have to be taken on a case by case basis. There are some that I don’t believe should be read by either children or adults due to the content. But that doesn’t mean comics as a whole are bad.

There are some very well-written comics with complex characters and stories. They rival the complexity of traditional books. I think Stan Lee did what he set out to do. He wrote and he kept writing. In the end, I think his work succeeded in elevating comics beyond what they’d previously been.  Stan Lee’s writing has influenced and inspired many, and I believe it will for years to come.

Stan Lee may have worried about the need to become a “serious” writer, but there are millions who are happy he wrote what he enjoyed writing about and in the way he chose to do it. And so my own lesson from Stan Lee doesn’t come from one of his comics but from his life. As a writer, I don’t need to worry about whether I’m a serious enough writer. I don’t need to worry about what the world will think of my stories. I need to write what I’m inspired to write. As a Christian I need to write what I feel God would have me write and in a way that brings Him honor.  There are people who may not think what I offer is worth a lot, but it doesn’t matter. I’m a writer and whatever that looks like, be it comic books, movie scripts, or novels, I simply need to “keep writing”.