Traditions to Keep (& a gingerbread recipe!)

2013-12-15 18.38.05Twenty-one years ago we invited my best friend and her two little boys over to make gingerbread cookies with our 1 year old son. It’s a holiday tradition that has continued in my house every year since.

Our families grew, the cookies changed from innocent creations to being pulled apart on the trays and mutated into whatever was popular at the time and for their ages. We’ve had cookies that were anatomically correct and a few years, instead of men the cookies became guitars and swords.  And I have pictures of all seven kids growing up around my dining room table – smiling, happy and enjoying something together that they’ll remember forever.

This year, the oldest child is engaged and asked me if he could bring his fiance – because they want to continue our tradition and “it just wouldn’t be Christmas without coming and baking cookies!” Wow…I cried, and my heart swelled with pride – I’ve certainly done something right. This is certainly a tradition worth keeping and passing down.

Here is the Gingerbread recipe that was given to my by my mother-in-law twenty-one years ago and used every year since:

1 Cup margarine

1 Cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 Cup dark molasses

2 tbs vinegar

5 Cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp all-spice

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

Beat margarine until creamy. Beat in sugar and salt. Stir in eff, molasses and vinegar. Beat well. Sift flour, baking soda and spices together. Stir into molasses mixture. (Dough will be STIFF) Chill dough at least 3 hours. Roll dough to approx 1/8 inch thick (up to you, really) on a lightly floured board or pasty sheet. Cut shapes with cookie cutter, decorate if desired (we load them up with all kinds of candy!) Place on a greased cooked sheet one inch apart at 375 for 6 minutes – or until light brown and puffed up. Cool slightly and remove to wire rack. If you prefer, you can decorate with royal icing after they’ve cooled. This same recipe can be used in molds to make houses and trains too. Makes approx 8 dozen.

What traditions did you start years ago became permanent parts of your holiday celebrations?

And don’t forget…every comment earns a chance to win ONE of our holiday books up for grabs this month! Including mine:

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About Debora Dennis

A believer in second chances and that time should never be an obstacle to finding love, Debora writes time travels with modern snark and spice! When she's not writing, she's spending time with her family, reading, or trying to figure out a way to get chocolate into every dish she serves.

Reflections of Grandma

First off, man I feel old when I think of myself in terms of being a ‘grandma’. Then I just smile. Secondly I’m not that old. And third and most important, I can bribe somebody with fun and games and feel totally guilt free. And I only realized it today.

Our grandson is coming to visit and by the time you read this, he will have arrived. I’ve been shopping, cleaning, and well, every time I’m in the store I run across just one more little thing I’ve just got to buy him. Why? Because I want to. And it’s fun. I’m totally off the hook of parental responsibility.

As he grows when he thinks about Ya-Ya, that’s me, I want him to get excited and think about fun things. How being with Grandma relates to all things good in the world. So in that vein since we don’t get to spend actual Christmas with him, I’ve wrapped the presents so he gets to open one every day. They aren’t big things; they’re games we can play, activity books, and stuffed animals. Just so he’ll have something to look forward to every day. We’ll bake cookies, and play fetch with Lucy.

Some of my friends and family have the greatest stories about how wonderful their grandmothers were. And when he grows into adulthood and looks back on his life, I want him to think about me that way. So I guess my reflections have turned into aspirations. But that’s okay. If I’ve got to be grandma, I want to be at the top of Santa’s and my grandson’s nice list.

Do you have a favorite grandparent memory to share?

Don’t forget to comment so you can win a free ecopy of one of our holiday stories!

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Winter Wonders

IMG_1359You heard the newsman. There’s going to be snow! What’s the first thing you think of? Oh great, it’s time to bring out the shovel! Tell me that thought didn’t run through your head?

I always look forward to the winters in the North East, but once the first snowfall hits, I realize that it’s not as fun as when I was a kid. I used to love pressing my nose against the window, watching the fat snowflakes float down, or stand out and look up at the sky and pretend I’m flying through space, or even just jumping onto the fresh layer of snow and making snow angels. Seriously, where has time gone?

It’s been so long since I’ve sat down next to the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket and read a holiday story. Or even just stay in for the day to watch Christmas movies before Christmas arrives.

Now I catch myself glaring out the window at the fluffy white stuff covering the grounds and the salt trucks driving pass my house and chugging salt at my car. I’m not going to tell you that I have a bake-a-thon like most normal people around the holidays, because truthfully, I wouldn’t recommend inviting me into a kitchen around this time of year…as I’d be the one eating all the cookies before you can let them cool and package them up nice….DSC00881

Winter is wonderful! It brings the blues at time, but do you remember the wonderful things that occur around this time of year? Remember the first snowball fight you’ve ever had? The first time you’ve put on your fancy new snowboots? Or watch your dog traipse through your snow-covered lawn?

So I’ve decided that I’m going to take a day off. Shoot! Maybe I’ll take two days off and just curl up next to the fireplace with my mug of hot chocolate and a Christmas story to warm my heart.

What makes you happy around this time of  year?

Comment and enter to win a holiday story you can read right next to your fireplace! Remember to check out the other blogs!


About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Guest Post — Jennifer Snow

I’m so pleased to introduce Jennifer Snow, author of Harlequin’s Heartwarming Christmas Story, The Trouble with Mistletoe. Thanks for being here, Jennifer and sharing a bit of your life with us. For all our readers, Jennifer is giving away a copy of her new release, so come on in and leave a comment for a chance to win. 😀
For the Love of Mistletoe
Why I love to write holiday romances…
Beautifully crafted holiday romance stories have always been my favorite
novels to read-and not only during the holiday season, but all year round. And
I’ve come to discover that I’m not alone. Readers worldwide enjoy ‘love under
the mistletoe’ stories that evoke sincere emotions and reflect family and heart
and home. So, when I began writing, I decided that the best place to start
would be writing the kind of stories that I love to read. And it doesn’t hurt
that my real last name ‘Snow’ fits nicely on the coversJ
Holiday themed romances contain certain parameters that are helpful
in structuring the story. The specific timeline, for one, is useful in that the
journey usually begins sometime after Thanksgiving or December 1st and
concludes typically on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This provides a
framework for the story and gives both the author and the reader comfort,
knowing the happily ever after is simply weeks away.
The scenery in these novels also provide a familiar and uplifting
backdrop supporting the protagonist despite the hurdles and obstacles they face
on their way to finding love. The urgency of the upcoming holiday creates a
driving motivation for the characters to resolve their issues in time for their
desired mistletoe kiss.
Secondary characters that appear in these novels also tend to be
those that resonate with readers-children, parents, grandparents, close
friends. They enrich the story and provide a familiar support system that
readers can identify with in their own lives. They often help the hero and
heroine realize their love for one another and they encourage the union, making
it feel right on every level.
Ultimately, what better time for romance than the holiday season-a
time that in essence is the symbol of love and forgiveness? A time that is
focused on family and community and time spent with the people who matter most.
The holiday season embodies the true theme of any romance novel and provides a
fantastic foundation for writers.
My new series- A Brookhollow Story… from Harlequin Heartwarming
begins with a signature holiday title. The Trouble With Mistletoe explores what
can happen when love is given a second chance…under the mistletoe.
Finally, I just want to end this blog post with a shout-out to some
of my favorite holiday romance heroes in my favorite books and moviesJ
1)Jude Law’s character Graham in The Holiday-sexy, smart, single
dad-need I say more?
2)Hugh Grant’s character David, the Prime Minister in Love
Actually-cute yet powerful and tortured by his inappropriate feelings for one
of his staff…and the caroling for the children toward the end of the
3)Bill Pullman’s character Jack on While You Were Sleeping- Who
doesn’t love the ‘wrong brother’ trope?
**I’d love to hear your favorite holiday heroes. Leave a comment below
for a chance to win a copy of The Trouble With Mistletoe and one of my other
holiday titles-winner’s choice**
Jennifer Snow grew up on the East coast of Canada and now lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and two year old son, Jacob.
Writing with a goal of publication for eight years, she is happy to announce the release of her first novella through The Wild Rose Press Christmas 2011. A second to be released November 15th, 2012. Her first full length novel, Mistletoe Bachelors will be released throgh Secret Cravings Publishing November 28th, 2012.
Newest book deals include a series with Harlequin Heartwarming with the first book set to be released Nov/13.
Her contemporary romance fiction ranges from sweet to spicy and range in length from 20000-75000 words. She is currently working on a series of category contemporary romance fiction
Since leaving Brookhollow and her fiancé, Luke Dawson, twelve years earlier, Victoria Mason hasn’t looked back. She’s traded the small-town dream of marriage, kid and family Christmas dinners for late nights working at a high-powered acquisitions firm, lunches at trendy New York restaurants and jet-set vacations on the slopes.
So her latest work assignment, to acquire Brookhollow’s sporting-goods store, poses a challenge for Victoria, in more ways than one. Because it’s almost Christmas, and she’s got other holiday plans. And the owner is reluctant to sell. And the owner is Luke.
If she can just wrap up the deal before she gets caught up in her old life and her old love…or becomes trapped under the mistletoe. Again.
Buy LINKS ~~ Amazon and BN

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Making Christmas Sexy…

For me, Christmas is a holiday that’s all about friends and family and therefore not particularly sexy. But I’m a romance writer and I find that sort of sad, so I think everyone should take some time out to add a little sexiness to the festivities and the best way to do that is to resort to one of my favorite pastimes—reading romance.

So put the turkey (or goose in my case this year) in the oven, sneak back to bed, and snuggle up with a nice, sexy, Christmas themed romance. For me it would have to include a vampire or maybe a werewolf and a few strategically placed sprigs of mistletoe.

Or, even better, if you think you’re liable to be disturbed in the bedroom, then how about a nice, hot bubbly bath, and if you can sneak a bottle of cava (that’s Spanish champagne) and some chocolates in with you—all the better.



Probably a novella is best, as you’re unlikely to be granted enough time to read a full length novel. And it just so happens I have a Christmas themed novella, Mid-Winter Magic, perfect for the occasion.

So what’s your favorite way to make Christmas just a little bit sexy? Let me know for a chance to win an ecopy of some fabulous Christmas stories.

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

A Way to Remember

photo (5)Hi, all! Jennifer here.

I finally have my tree up. We decorated it last night! I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time—it was snowing out and I made hot chocolate. It made me want to curl up with a nice Christmas book afterwards. In fact, we have TWO up for giveaway here on the Heart-Shaped Glasses blog! Imagine that!

One of things I love to do each year is collect an ornament from where we have vacationed or taken a trip to during the year. We have ornaments from Montana, Bermuda, Martha’s Vineyard, Puerto Rico,  Wyoming, Maryland, Rhode Island, Chicago, Seattle, and more! It always brings a smile to my face when I unwrap one and remember where I bought it. It’s just one of those little traditions that serves as a nice memory of the years we traveled together.

Hope everyone has a nice memorable Christmas too. 🙂

Do you collect ornaments from places you visited? If not, do you collect other things as a remembrance?

**Don’t forget**

Every comment is entered to win one of the holiday books by authors from this very blog!

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN

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