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.

Reading – Year in Review

Today I was scanning through my Goodreads bookshelf and realized I’ve read some great books this year!

Unlike some novelists, I love reading nonfiction. I like books on business, marketing, parenting, and faith.  I read several non-fiction books for writers, including The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke and 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron. One of the best books I read this year was a non-fiction book titled The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. I recommended it to several people at work, and they also loved it.

I read several Christian novels this year. I especially like romances with a good dose of comedy like Wish You Were Here by Beth K. Vogt and Sandwich with a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips. I also read Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade, one of my favorite authors. I love her voice, and she creates some of the best heroes around.

I read sweet romances, including The Husband School by Kristine Rolofson and A Little Bit Cupid (which I highly recommend) by our very own Jennifer Shirk.

And when I wanted something different from all that romance, I read Proof, a great medical thriller by Jordyn Redwood.

Over Thanksgiving break, I read three different Christmas novellas. Mistletoe Magic by Terri Weldon and Faith House by Robin Patchen, two talented authors from my local writers group, and Muffins and Mistletoe by an extremely talented Heart Shaped Glasses author, Debora Dennis. There’s nothing better to get you in the holiday spirit than a great Christmas romance.

Well, those are some of the amazing books I read in 2013. I can’t wait to see what wonderful books 2014 has in store for me. What are some of the books you read this year?

About Julie Jarnagin

Julie Jarnagin is a multi-published author of inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and young son who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.com

Back-to-School for Adults

Learning

My son started preK this year. It was exciting and a more-than-a-little scary to drop him off on his first day, but he’s not the only one in the family who is working to learn more this year. As an author, I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills. Whether you’re a writer or have a different passion like learning new languages, improving your health and fitness, or couponing, living a life where we’re always striving to learn more and better ourselves can help us live more successful, fulfilled lives. Here are a few of my favorite ways to learn something new.

  1. Read a book. Whether it’s a book on writing or a great novel, reading broadens our horizons and teaches us valuable lessons.
  2. Go to a conference. I’ll be headed to a conference later this month, and I can’t wait to connect with like-minded people and hear experts teach. There is nothing like being able to escape the expectations of your daily life to immerse yourself something you love to do.
  3. Take an online class. If conference fees and airfare are too much of an investment, check out some of the free and cost effective online classes available. Online classes can provide access and sometimes even feedback from some of the biggest names in the field.
  4. Find a group or support system. I have a stellar writers’ group in my area and another amazing group online (waving to all my wonderful critique partners). Whether it’s face-to-face or through the computer, having a group of peers who constantly push and encourage us is vital to growing and improving.

What about you? What’s your favorite way to learn something new?

About Julie Jarnagin

Julie Jarnagin is a multi-published author of inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and young son who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.com

Guest Post — Robin Bielman

Hi everyone! I’m so happy to be back on Heart Shaped Glasses! I love this month’s theme! Huge thanks to all the gals and especially to Bethanne for inviting me here today.

~*~ Treasured Places ~*~

I love to travel. Actually, I take that back. I love being in new and/or favorite places. The getting there is often hard for this motion sickness afflicted girl. Not that I’m going to let that stop me! I have plans. Big plans. Plans that involve a tower in Paris and a coast in Amalfi and a few places in between.

Until then (cross your fingers everyone!), I do have a few favorite places here in the states. Places my family and I have traveled to that have been the perfect setting for fun, adventure, and lasting memories.

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The first time I saw the Grand Canyon, my breath literally caught. I was in total awe. Pictures just don’t do its grandness justice. While there, we got to experience beautiful blue sky and snow. It was magical both ways and the only time I wished I could blink and be back in our cabin was when my then eleven-year-old thought it would be funny to get waaay too close to the edge of the trail we were hiking on. Talk about my heart dropping to my feet. In my newest release, Risky Surrender, the setting is Arizona and there’s a scene at the canyon’s El Tovar Hotel Dining Room. We had dinner there one night and the view of the rim was amazing.
DSCN0254Besides Europe, my travel bucket list includes as many national parks as I can get to. We’re fortunate to live within a half-day’s drive to Yosemite and once again, we were in awe of the natural beauty surrounding us. We hiked and went river rafting. Laughed and wondered how we’d react if we saw a bear. (We didn’t.)

Our most favorite spot so far, though, is Hawaii. We love Maui and Kauai and have been fortunate to visit a few times. We love going on adventures in between lying out by the pool and spending time at the beach, and these pictures are from our last trip to Kauai. We took a hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls along the Na Pali Coast. That first picture is the easy part of our trail. As we got closer to the falls, the terrain grew rugged and slippery and we pretty much had to follow a stream to the waterfall since there was no obvious path. The trail ends at the foot of the waterfall (picture #2) and it’s spectacular. We jumped in despite the water being freezing cold and then hiked our way back. The hike took most of the day and I’ll always remember it.

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(You guys! In the middle of writing this, I took a quick break to eat dinner. Chinese take-out. And guess what my fortune said? You will discover an unexpected treasure. I thought that tied in nicely with my title of this post and had to share. J)

Okay, so lastly we recently decided to play tourist in our own backyard and hike to the Hollywood sign. We brought our dog, Harry, and we trekked up the wide-open trail. A far cry from Hanakapi’ai. And I loved this little sign! Especially because really, anyone could get to that point.  Our little Harry (he’s a mini labradoodle) was barely out of breath.

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So tell me, where’s the one place you’ve visited that you’ll treasure forever? Leave me a comment and you’ll be entered to win a digital copy of the first book in my Risk It series, Worth the Risk.

About Risky Surrender

Risky Surrender- 1600She was in search of an ancient treasure…and stole his heart instead.

Archeologist Lucy Davenport made a promise to retrieve an elusive piece of history buried in the walls of an iconic Indian village. But when she draws unwanted attention that interferes with her secret plans, she’s forced to risk it all with a man who threatens not only her goal, but the walls she’s carefully constructed around her heart. 

Keats McCall is an environmental preservationist navigating the globe on behalf of heritage protection. When he catches Lucy at his latest project, he suspects she’s up to something. She’s secretive, sexy as hell—and has trouble written all over her. He devises a plan to keep her close so he can keep an eye on her. But what he isn’t prepared for is just how close he wants to get.

BUY LINKS:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Risky-Surrender-Entangled-After-ebook/dp/B00EGJE3MC/ref=pd_sim_sbs_kstore_1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/risky-surrender-robin-bielman/1116394349?ean=9781622662395

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/risky-surrender/id687063778?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/risky-surrender

Robin in velvet pastel haze 620About Robin Bielman…

Robin Bielman lives in Southern California with her high school sweetheart husband, two sons, and crazy-cute mini labradoodle, Harry. When not attached to her laptop, she can almost always be found with her nose in a book. She also loves to run, hike, and dip her toes in the ocean. Writing is a dream come true, and she still pinches herself to be sure it’s real.

She is also the author of Kissing the Maid of Honor and Worth the Risk and Yours At Midnight from Entangled’s Ever After line. She loves to connect with readers. Visit her online:

 

http://robinbielman.com

Twitter @RobinBielman

http://facebook.com/RobinBielmanWriter

http://goodreads.com/robinbielman

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 Blogger — Shelley Munro

Earthquakes, Art Deco Napier and New Zealand

Earthquakes have been in the news recently in my home country of New Zealand, since another large one struck Seddon in the South Island yesterday. Aftershocks rippled through the region and into the Wellington area of the North Island. Luckily for me, I live in Auckland and have yet to experience the earth moving in this manner. We have fields of volcanoes in my city, but that’s another blog post!

Napier-Masonic Hotel exteriorBack in 1931 at 10:47am an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck the seaside town of Napier in the North Island of New Zealand. Fires broke out and soon destroyed the buildings that had survived the earthquake. 157 people died in Napier due to the earthquake and the resulting fires.

Instead of rebuilding the Victorian-style town immediately, the locals formed a planning committee and made a careful plan for their new town. After much research, they decided to build in the new Art Deco style. This was a practical decision because the buildings were square in shape and robust. Most desirable should there be another earthquake! The Art Deco style was also cheap to build, which was a must in the current economical climate of the depression. The third reason for choosing Art Deco was that it was very fashionable.

Napier-Colenso BuildingThe Market Reserve building was the first of the new Art Deco style structures to be constructed after the quake. The builders were instructed to use rivets on the steel frame instead of welding in the normal method. The planning committee wanted as much noise as possible to send a message of hope to the residents. Rebuilding had commenced!

These days Napier is a modern town, but the Art Deco buildings remain as a feature and bring lots of tourists to the area. My hero and heroine in my contemporary romance, One Night of Misbehavior visited the Napier area for a weekend, and like me, the heroine rather liked the plain, blocky style of the buildings and the decoration that comes from intricate zigzags, starbursts and Egyptian and Mayan designs on the facades.

Napier-MusiciansMy hero and heroine visit the Art Deco store to purchase clothes to wear to a 1920s costume party. The Art Deco flavor of Napier is enhanced with music, souvenirs, cars and costumes. Even the fountain is an Art Deco design to blend with the town buildings. Visitors can take a walking tour around the different buildings or do a self-guided tour. It’s a pleasant walk with lots of cafes and pubs along the way when you require a break. There’s also a long stretch of beach to amble along, and if you’re a fan of wine, the local wine-growing region shouldn’t be missed.Napier-vintage car

If you’re ever down this end of the world, I highly recommend a visit to Napier, or if a trip to New Zealand isn’t on the cards, grab one of my New Zealand set books and do some armchair traveling instead. J

New Zealand is a beautiful country. If you were to visit New Zealand what part would you visit first? What would you like to do first?

~*~*~

Shelley Munro is tall and curvaceous with blue eyes and a smile that turns masculine heads everywhere she goes. She’s a university tutor and an explorer/treasure hunter during her vacations. Skilled with weapons and combat, she is currently in talks with a producer about a television series based on her world adventures.

Shelley is also a writer blessed with a VERY vivid imagination and lives with her own hero in New Zealand. She writes mainly erotic romance in the contemporary, paranormal and historical genres for publishers Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at the following links:

WEBSITE: http://www.shelleymunro.com

BLOG: http://www.shelleymunro.com/blog

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/ShelleyMunroAuthor

GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/ShelleyMunro

PINTEREST: http://www.pinterest.com/ShelleyMunro

TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/ShelleyMunro

NEW ZEALAND SET BOOKS: http://www.shelleymunro.com/books-by-theme/#newzealandsetting

 

One Night, FINAL200x300Shelley’s Latest book: One Night of Misbehavior

He wears his scars on the outside. She keeps hers safe inside.

Charlotte Dixon ignores her stepmother’s edict and, in an act of disobedience, attends one of the social events of the year—a masquerade costume ball. Charlotte’s naughtiness escalates when she dances and smooches with a sexy mystery man. The night of anonymous passion that follows makes her yearn for a different life, but the next day she’s back to her dull routine of household management.

Advertising tycoon, Ash Marlborough is about to set a private investigator on the trail of his nameless princess when she waltzes right into his place of work. Charlotte is shocked to meet her masked man in the flesh, and even more perturbed when he asks her out on a date. Despite craving another night of sexy loving, she doesn’t have time for a man, not when she wants to reinvent herself and grasp a new, improved life with both hands. But Ash knows what he wants, and he’s determined to win the heart of his princess. Let the dance of seduction commence.

Warning: Contains a conniving stepmother, selfish stepsisters, a grandmother with fairy godmother tendencies and a sexy masked man who is willing to face them all for the love of a good woman.

Purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CB8801A

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.

Like Oil and Water

palms-on-the-beach-wallpaper

It NEVER looks so peaceful!!

Let’s face it…

After starting this blog entry three different times, I have to to admit, I’m not a summer person. I don’t like the heat. I’m not a fan of humidity.

My stories don’t often include The Beach…or boats, towels, pails, or pina coladas.

Once in a great while. That’s it for me. Like my story, Dark Summer, which takes place in Belize, during the late summer months. And also, Flashback, which is an early summer story set on the banks of North Carolina.

Give me a cozy cabin story, anyday. A hike through high altitudes when the rest of the country is sweltering, but I am enjoying wonderful 70 degree air. That’s me….

I remember being a kid and visiting Lake Michigan, during the winter months. Snow banks, ice, and COLD wind, blowing off the water.

Sybils_Cabin_Winter_Rear_2There are many things to like about summer, and I can enjoy a summer day just as much if not more than a winter day [when my husband’s with me], but over all, I’m a fall/winter kind-of-gal.

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.

  • Our LATEST Buzz!

    Cyn D. Blackburn's Wrapped Up in You releases on November 13. *** The first two books in the Cupid's Cafe series were released in June by Lori Sizemore and Landra Graf *** Lori Sizemore's Infamous was released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, A PROPOSAL & PUMPKIN PIE is on sale for .99 through Thanksgiving.