Welcome! Kick off your shoes, get comfy and join in as we chat about books, romance and the ups and downs of everyday life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Romancing the Holidays - Theresa Romain

THERESA ROMAIN












The Hour Six winner of
a book, a mug and English Christmas crackers
is

Armenia Fox

Congratulations!  



Hour Three — The Gift of...Scandal?

In my new historical romance, SEASON FOR SURRENDER, a holiday house party blends notorious and proper guests for two weeks of games, wagers, and—of course—romance.

At this party, everything isn’t quite as it seems. The hero, Lord Xavier, is known for debauchery, but his reputation has far outstripped reality. This Christmas, he’s begun to suspect that what he would like most of all is to be taken seriously. As for the bluestocking heroine, Louisa Oliver? She’s used to being overlooked, but at Xavier’s house party, she discovers a confidence she never knew she had.

Here’s a little snippet from a party game Xavier’s guests were playing. Louisa, a keen observer, was asked to guess what everyone wanted for Christmas:

“What do I want?”

Louisa turned her way and regarded Jane with close interest. “A scandal.”

Jane hooted. “Everyone knows that. What else?”

Louisa grinned. “A bigger scandal.”

Xavier raised his eyebrows. “She’s got you there, Jane.”

As everyone else laughed, he gave Louisa a little smile. Lovely work. She noticed a startling amount, and he would enjoy the entertainment. As long as she didn’t turn her deep eyes his way.

“And I?” Lockwood this time. “What do I want for Christmas, Miss Oliver?”

God, Xavier had taught him nothing. The way Lockwood was waggling his brows, he looked like some old roué from a comic opera.

Louisa looked him up and down, cool as ever. “A scandal for you, too. But you want it to be someone else’s.”

“Dash it,” called Freddie Pellington, “they can’t all want a scandal.” Pellington had impeccably styled curly hair, which covered a completely empty head.

“Naturally we all want to see some scandal, Pellington,” confirmed Lady Irving in a carrying voice. “That’s why we’ve come to spend Christmas with Xavier, you ninny.”

Of course, scandal eventually erupts, though not in the form anyone expects. And of course, Louisa figured out what Xavier wants most for Christmas: to be seen, known, and loved for himself. She wants the same, and over the course of the book they find a way to get, and give, the gift they most desire.

It seems natural to talk about giving at this time of year, since gifts are a part of so many winter holidays. And it seemed natural, too, to make giving a part of this “Romancing the Holidays” event. Public libraries and women’s shelters are struggling with budget cuts and increased demand for services. They may be able to fund essentials, but there’s little left for extras. As four book-lovers, Grace and Vanessa and Victoria and I wanted to help out a few of these wonderful agencies with a book donation. And thanks to the master-planning of Grace, the generosity of Kensington Publishing, and the nominations from you lovely readers who signed up at holiday-gala.com, it’s going to happen today.

Thanks so much to PJ and Andrea for hosting us today at The Romance Dish, and thanks to all of you who are stopping by to chat!

For this hour, do tell: what’s the best gift you ever received? At any age, on any occasion.





The Hour Five winner of
a stocking filled with
Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight
His Mistletoe Bride
Season for Surrender
and
What Happens at Christmas
is

Beth Mills

Congratulations, Beth!


Hour Two — Revisiting Our Favorites



When Victoria, Grace, Vanessa, and I were planning this event, we batted around the idea of all building something out of books. First and foremost, because it’s fun. (Most likely, it’s been far too long since you played with blocks.) And secondly, because it’s satisfying. Jetting off to see the Eiffel Tower in person is hardly an impulse move for me. But making the Eiffel Tower out of romance novels? That I can do.

As I stacked up this book-Christmas-tree recently, here’s what else I found: building with books is a way to revisit beloved stories I might not have thought of for a while. All these books are on my shelves for a reason: I’ve loved them enough not only to buy and read them, but to keep them. And when building time was over, it was hard to put them all back in their places. Some of these wonderful stories made their way back to my nightstand instead.

Maybe it’s extra-fitting to make a festive tree out of books, since the holidays are a season to dust off sweet memories. For me, a favorite tradition is decorating a tree with my family. As we unpack the ornaments, we talk about where we got each one, and why, and whether there’s a funny story to go along with it. (There usually is.)

Of course, Christmas isn’t the only holiday being celebrated this time of year. Hanukkah, Muharram, Kwanzaa, and Bodhi Day also fall near the end of the year, each with their own unique traditions and symbols. Though sometimes these weeks can become hectic and stressful with special events, there’s a flip side to that. People do things they don’t do at other times of year: decorate their homes, cook traditional foods, look for just the right gift to make someone feel appreciated, or simply try to be kinder than usual. At their heart, all these observances can help us connect with one another.

What’s your favorite holiday symbol or tradition? Or to go back to building with books: what book do you most enjoy rereading? Let us know how you reconnect with loved ones or favorite stories this time of year.







The Hour Four winner of 
What Happens at Christmas
by Victoria Alexander
is

Jennifer McQuiston

Congratulations, Jennifer! 




Hour One — Welcome to Romancing the Holidays!!!


Buon Natale, In Desserts

In my family, the holiday traditions include both the odd—like stuffing a toy skeleton into the Christmas tree branches when my mom isn’t looking—and the edible. Homemade pralines, sugar cookies, ravioli, and above all, cuccidatis.

These little pastries are basically pie-crust dough around a fruit filling. The Sicilian branch of my family has been making them every Christmas since at least my great-grandmother’s generation. Nani used mincemeat (yes, really) in the filling—so we kids tended to nibble the tinted frosting off the top and leave the insides alone.

When Nani got older, my great-aunt took over the tradition. And then, about 15 years ago, my mother and I decided to give cuccidatis a try with a sweeter filling (read: no mincemeat). While I snipped up dried apricots and apples in addition to the usual figs, candied fruit, slivered almonds, and brandy, she rolled out a truly luscious pastry dough and mixed up the buttery-sweet frosting.




From our cuccidati experiment, we learned that no one minded a little tinkering with tradition, as long as the results tasted good. And boy, did they. My guess is that over time, a lot of our family recipes have gone through variations as each cook puts his or her stamp on them. It’s all a matter of taste (ha!).

My mom and I have now become the family’s designated cuccidati-bakers. It takes both of us, because it takes a long time to seal, cut, and frost everything. (Also, I can’t for the life of me make a decent pastry dough, so that’s up to her.) Working together with my mom? That’s the best part of the tradition. And it sure doesn’t hurt that we wind up with delicious desserts too.

What’s your favorite holiday food tradition? Is there someone in your family who’s responsible for keeping it up?







199 comments:

  1. Mincemeat cookies.. Can taste them now. My grandmother made the best ones I have tasted yet.

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    1. Holly, how intriguing that your favorite recipe had mincemeat in it! As kids, we dreaded the mincemeat cuccidati filling. I'd be curious to try it again as an adult. Do you know your grandmother's recipe?

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  2. PJ and Andrea, thank you for hosting this event all day! And Grace, thanks for such a lovely kickoff to Romancing the Holidays this morning.

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  3. when i was little my great grandma would send an ornament and pj every year and we would get to open them on christmas eve . Now i do the same thing with my kids

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    1. Jennifer, how fun to open a little something on Christmas Eve! We do that too in my family; we usually get into the stockings on Christmas Eve.

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  4. I used to bake until the freezer was full, and we had a huge freezer. No mas. The occasional bite of marzipan does for me now.

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    1. Ooh, marzipan. That is good stuff. Grace, I know what you mean: the act of baking is--I can't believe I'm about to say this!--sometimes even sweeter than eating the treats themselves.

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  5. our only food tradition is whoever the kids wake first has to make the coffee

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    1. Bwahaha, Jennifer. I love it! (Except that I would wind up having to make the coffee every morning.)

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  6. My Mom made the best pies of anyone in the family. She taught me how to make them, including her special crust. So, I have been the family pie maker for many years and I love it. My sons each have their favorite pies, apple and pumpkin, and I'm always baking them when we're together. While they are not my favorite, I decided to treat myself and make my favorite pecan pie for Thanksgiving. It turned out to be delicious and I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get my grandchildren to take an interest in learning how to make them. I always laugh at my sister who hates to cook. Her suggestion is, don't forget, Mrs. Smith's pies are right in the freezer aisle at the grocery store! ;-)

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    1. Connie, a homemade pecan pie is a wonderful food creation. I wish I could figure out the secret of a successful pie crust! Your sons are a lucky bunch to have their favorite homemade pies. :)

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    2. Theresa-
      My Mom searched for years for a great pie crust and finally discovered one last year. The secret is vodka in the dough!! I know it sounds funny, but it works!! She found it in the magazine 'Cooks Illustrated'; which I think you can find their recipes online.

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    3. Vodka in the dough?! I'd never have come up with that on my own. Thanks for the tip, QuenKne!

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  7. Welcome Theresa!My girls LOVE to make Christmas cookies, and my husband loves to eat them, so that is usally a shared family activity. My mother used to make/bake ornament cookies with me (i.e. high salt content that hardened and then we painted them and hung them on the tree). I loved making those with her.

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    1. Wow, salt-dough ornaments--I haven't thought of those in years, but I used to make them all the time! Thanks for the lovely reminder. Enjoy making those Christmas cookies! :)

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  8. My Aunty Ruth would send us a box of her chocolate pecan toffee cookies every year from Minnesota. They were my Dad's favorites and he would always hide a few of them. When I got married she stopped sending them to him and sent them to me. Her baby brother was not happy, but I always made sure my Dad got some. Now that she is gone my son makes the cookies. She never shared the recipe until she met my oldest son, she taught him to make them and gave him the recipe. The tradition continues.

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    1. Ann, what a cool tradition shared across generations. I'm glad she passed along her special recipe. Does your son make them the same way she did?

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    2. He does it just as she taught him, including using Blue Bonnet margarine, she swore it was the best for baking. He is so picky he won't make them if one of us brings home the correct margarine, lol

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    3. Ha! How funny. Those chefs, so exacting in their demands! :)

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  9. Since it is just me around the house,I stopped baking. Now that my mother lives with me, i occasionally bake.Neither of us are big on baked goods any more,mom has to be careful with her pre diabetes and I just need to loose so much weight that no more...

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    1. Holly, it can be a challenge to find baked-good recipes for special diets. Hope you can discover a new food tradition that suits you and your mom!

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  10. I am trying to bake healthier...NOT an easy task...
    But I admit... I love all that holiday goodies....(except FRUITCAKE)

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    1. Ha! Holly, I know you're not alone in your feelings about fruitcake. :) Baking healthier is a goal of mine too. I pretty much always use applesauce instead of cooking oil when making breads and cakes, and no one can tell the difference! Do you have a favorite healthy-baking trick?

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    2. I now use lowfat everything. NOT non fat but low and yes, applesauce is a great substitution. I tried to change up the butter in my butter cookies but eeech they came out so bad, back to real butter for me!

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    3. Thanks for the tips! I've never had good luck with fat substitutions in cookies either. Guess that's where we'll have our splurges. :)

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    4. I posted below that we use honey in place of sugar. makes moister cookies ets. and a nice taste to breads.

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    5. I like the honey idea, used it this year and not I found molasses is a bit healthier and fruit pureed etc

      Great tips!

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  11. I usually make a cheesecake and purchase eclairs, cream puffs and cannolis from a bakery.

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    1. Kim, what a fun mix of treats. The French and Italians know how to design a pastry, don't they?

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  12. Our holiday was never complete without my granparents shortbread. This would be annual thing to help with at Christmas time as far back as I can remember it started with my Papa and when he got sick my Nana too over. All us kids would love to help with his holiday treats. Now none of us make it. My oldest cousin has the recipe and she makes it and usually gives some to me to share witht my side of the family.. I miss those days..

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    1. Kathleen, what a lovely memory tied with that tradition. I'm so glad someone carries on the recipe. Have you ever tried making the shortbread yourself?

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  13. Every year the minions request butterscotch chow mien noodle cookies. We call the cookies reindeer droppings, and the rest of the world calls them Haystacks. I like to try something new each year as well, and I am not sure what it will be this year. Santa also hides something in the tree for the DD.
    That is awesome that you have something you can bake with your Mom, some people have mothers who are a wee bit dominating in the kitchen.

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    1. Gayle, what a yummy-sounding recipe! Though I think I'd be more likely to try them with the name "haystacks." :)

      In my family, my father is the main cook; he loves cooking and is excellent at it, so my mom happily stepped aside. She's quite good at making desserts, though. My sister and I took after her with our sweet teeth.

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  14. I love the Sicilian cookies, Theresa! My Italian side of the family used to go to South Street in Philadelphia every year to the Italian bakeries, and buy huge trays of cookies. They were always very electrically colored and delicious!

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    1. Oh, yum, Vanessa! Glad you've run across these and given them a try. We do have a lot of fun tinting the frosting--whoever's around gets to pick the colors. (Once my grandfather picked orange and green, because those are his favorite colors. It made for a Halloweeny Christmas.)

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  15. It's just not Christmas without pumpkin pie, applesauce raisin cookies and jelly thumbprint cookies. Every year my grandmother makes batches and batches of goodies and when we all get together at Christmas Eve she hands everyone a basket full.

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    1. Danielle, I can't imagine a better greeting than being handed a basket of homemade treats. :) Those recipes sound delicious!

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  16. The traditional chanukah dish at our house was potato latkes, aka, potato pancakes. My dad made them every year, peeling and shredding a bag of potatoes, and later standing over the stove, frying them up. I think my sister continued the tradition but she might make a healthier version these days. :)

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    1. How cool, pophyn! Potato dishes can be a lot of work, but so well worth it, especially one with such traditional significance as latkes. How does your sister change the recipe to make it a bit healthier?

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    2. I suspect she doesn't fry them in as much oil, first off. And I think the recipe called for eggs so she would use less than called for, or none at all. Her family is vegetarian and while she doesn't strictly avoid eggs, she uses them sparingly.

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    3. Good tips, pophyn--thanks! That's great that she's been able to adapt the recipe for her family's dietary needs.

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  17. Stop! Stop! Ya'll are making me hungry! All these things sound so delicious!

    Hmm, my family really didn't have any food traditions, other than my mother making pecan pies. And I mean MANY pies, lol. She would bake up 20 or more and hand them out to families along with the purchased gifts.

    I'm not much of a kitchen person so I haven't carried since her passing 10 yrs ago, but ya'll making me feel guilty for not creating such memories for my own kids,lol.

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    1. brbalways, wow--that is a LOT of pies. I bet everyone on your mother's gift list looked forward to the holidays! Please, don't feel guilt if baking's not your thing. You and your kids are building your own traditions and memories.

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    2. i'm not a baker either and yet somehow my daughter loves to bake shes 10 and does all the baking with smiles on her face so there hope for the future

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    3. *smiles* Jennifer

      Both of my youngesst love the kitchen (boy 13 and girl 14) so maybe I'll dig up some recipes and buy so ingredients and let them have at it.

      Thanks for the idea!

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    4. There you go--let the kids do the baking! What a fun idea, Jennifer. (My daughter loves to bake, though at her young age, this really just means standing next to me and tasting all the ingredients.)

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  18. Those look awesome, in your photo! Cheesecake is my favorite! With Cherries!

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    1. Ahh, cheesecake--such good stuff! My husband and daughter don't eat it, so it's been a long time since I've had one at home. You're right, the cherries on top make the recipe complete.

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  19. Every year my mom made this great date nut roll, which was basically dates, pecans, and carmelized sugar. My dad and I were the only ones who truly enjoyed it. After my mom died last year, I inherited all of her cookbooks. Finally was able to go through them without too much emotion and I found that recipe. I'm tempted to try making it, but I may be the only one who eats it, and I don't think that much sugar is good for you!

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    1. Kima, I'm sorry for your loss, and glad you came across some treasured memories. Any recipe that includes caramelized sugar sounds good to me. Maybe you can make a half-batch for your first try at the tradition?

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    2. I agree with Theresa, go with smaller batch and think of the healthier side of nuts & dates, not the sugar!! Hey, it's Christmas. Gotta have a few in remembrance of Mom! :D

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  20. Yes we have one it is special gingerbread cookies that my grandmother use to make every Christmas she passed away this year Jan,so the task has now fallen to my little sister she is a brilliant chef,so I am sure she will be able to live up to it!

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    1. Desere, best of luck to your sister! That's great that she's able to carry on the family tradition. It's wonderful to have a brilliant chef in the family, isn't it?

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  21. I use to love to bake for the holidays. when I was in high school/college a different cookie several evenings a week in December, when I started working I'd have a baking wknd where I'd do all my baking btwn a Sat/Sun with holiday music going the whole time. There were several that had to be made each year (or I'd hear about it), some I'd switch around & a new one or two to try out so that there were always around 10 different cookies each year. Now day, nobody wants to have them around the house -- they're watching what they eat, trying to loose weight, etc -- so I don't bother making them anymore. part of the fun & joy was in the baking, but part of it was in the pleasure that of others enjoying them.

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    1. gamistress66, that sounds like such a fun baking tradition. I wonder if you can continue it, and give away what you bake to people on your gift list who would enjoy it? I love the process of baking--music, delicious smells, turning raw ingredients into something new--but I couldn't (ok, shouldn't) eat everything I bake. I give a lot of edible presents.

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  22. In our family, Jello Cookies mean Christmas! The recipe was one that my mom found in a Jello recipe book ages ago & I remember how much fun we used to have making them every year. My sisters and I all learned to make them, but it's become the expectation that I will be the one making mass quantities to bring to mom's house on Christmas. I don't mind a bit. They're easy to make since they're just a variation of a spritz press cookie & my kids LOVE helping me out with them. In fact, we added our own "twist" last year. Growing up, my mom ONLY used lime or raspberry Jello. You had green trees or red flowers. That was it. My kids came up with a few new ideas & they were a hit. We now use the blue raspberry jello to make "ornaments" that are sprinkled with silver flakes, cranberry jello to make a different flower & we added green wreaths. It's tons of fun to make these with my kids & I hope it's a memory they'll treasure.

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    1. How cool, Michelle! I've never had Jello cookies, but you've got me intrigued now. They sound like a lot of fun to make and decorate. With all those new colors and flavors, your kids have taken the tradition and made it their own. :)

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  23. My family the tradition is cheese cake :)! Every year I make 4 cheese cakes 2 oreo, 1 strawberry, and 1 plain. My family loves them I can't even walk into my dads door right before someone is pulling them out of my hand to cut them up :)

    A older one is every year my grandmother has the younger kids come down and make cut out cookies. I use to love that as a kid she always had so many different shapes. The past few years she hasn't been up to it so its been a tradition I've missed. I think my kids would have enjoyed it as much as I did

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    1. Savannah, ha--isn't it nice to have your baking SO appreciated that it's grabbed out of your hands? Wow. :)

      And what a lovely tradition of cutting cookies out with your grandmother. Maybe there are some ways she can share that without wearing herself out, like directing someone else in the dough-making--or just admiring the finished products?

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  24. When my daughter was home last week she made sure she pulled out the 3 cookie recipes I always make for Christmas. Lovely one she is, she is not here to help any longer. I always add a couple different recipes to the mix and we pack "baskets" for the neighbors and this year will make sure a super-size box goes home with my daughter when she goes back to school early because she has to work through break.

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    1. Pennie, that's going to be a care package she will always remember!

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  25. My mother is the keeper of our family food traditions. Fortunately my niece has taken a great interest in learning her recipes.

    Our Christmas dinner always includes chicken and dumplings made completely from scratch. And for dessert (all made completely from scratch - no cake mixes for my mother) Lane Cake, Japanese Fruit Cake, Cherry Pie and Chocolate Pie.

    Also at Christmas my mother makes batches of divinity, potato chip cookies, fudge, and peanut butter balls to be given to the fire and police departments when they come around on Christmas Eve with Santa Claus perched on a throne on the back of a fire truck. She has done this every year since 9/11. The decorative tins and containers she uses are always returned to her clean and ready for the next year!

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    1. Fire fighters and santa!? Great combo!! lol

      Hmm, curious about the potato chip cookies. I will have to look those up!!

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    2. Louisa, I'm so impressed by all that scratch cooking! Christmas dinner with your mother must be a delicious event. And it sounds like the first responders are fans, too, if they're returning their tins for a refill. Ha!

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  26. Theresa, we use honey in place of regular sugar in a lot of baking the unprocessed is so expensive, but holds onto all the good properties it has. Use to make ham and cheese bread, just smear on a bit of mustard and go.Applesauce cake is so yummy also.

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    1. Holly, you are inspiring me with your baking tips. Thanks!

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    2. Try using the flavored honeys also. There is Huckleberry for 1 Try making sugar cookies and replacing some of the sugar with it, makes a nice unique flavor twist.

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  27. A while back i made cinnamon rolls, put the cinnamon in with the flour and used a bit more than you do when sprinkling on top of dough, then as it mixed up it was cinnamon dough, spread with pumpkin butter i found at walmart and no sugar added either .No icing and they were soft, and just right, not too sweet and a nice brown color.

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    1. That's another clever idea, to put the cinnamon into the dough. I'm sure my family would be glad to taste-test the recipe!

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    2. Use nutmeg instead and use cream cheese instead of butter.. have a different version.

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    3. I am so impressed by all your baking tips, Holly. Thanks! These are really clever, and they sound very tasty.

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  28. My Mom is in charge of making a variety of Christmas cookies. But there is one kind - can't remember the name - where they have to be made in little tins and flipped out of the tins when they're hot. So my older sister is always the one that gets stuck doing the flipping. She started doing it years ago, and I don't want to take that away from her (and I also don't want burnt finger tips for Christmas!) lol.

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    1. Ha, QuenKne--I wouldn't want burnt fingertips for Christmas either! Are they madeleines that your mom and sister make? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madeleine_(cake)

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  29. Gingerbread cookies are a must! I love decorating them, though I'm still learning the ability to make the fancy ones! haha ; )

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    1. Nat, they all taste good, no matter how fancy. ;)

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  30. Replies
    1. Holly, we used to make that variation on gingerbread too--actually, using Steen's Cane Syrup (any other Southerners run across that?) instead of molasses. As a kid, the flavor was too much for me, but I'd probably love them now.

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    2. No I have not used that brand of cane syrup..We have used Karo for years.Use to make candy, Divinity, fudge, peanut brittle. Got out of that now.

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  31. Our family favorite is Congo Bars, a chocolate chip/nut/brown sugar bar cookie. Mmmmmmm

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    1. LSUReader, that sounds like the perfect dessert. And snack. And breakfast...

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  32. When I was little my grandma would send us a whole box of homemade cookies every Christmas. We live in Florida and she lived in Michigan. all of my sister's, brother and I would wait on pins and needles for the box to come in the mail! My grandmother is now 97 years old and is not able to bake anymore, so I have taken over baking her Christmas cookies now. I love doing it. There is one kind that are called Christmas Wreaths and they are very green, so everyone walks around with green teeth. Nobody cares, because they are so good! Thanks for doing such a great giveaway!

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    1. Mary, I love the image of the green teeth! That's wonderful that you were able to take over the baking from your grandmother. She can enjoy the tradition in a whole new way.

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  33. The holidays wouldn't be the same without a few treats. I make Oreo Truffles and Chai Spice Eggnog Cookies and Chex Trash Mix. My mother-in-law makes a wonderful fruitcake (really!). And my Mom makes bourbon balls.

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    1. Susan, your family must be full of great bakers (and happy eaters!). Cookies with eggnog in them? I'm going to have to hunt for a recipe like that. I am a big eggnog fan.

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  34. My favorite holiday tradition is the lights. Love to drive around and look at the decorated houses. As far as books, Jane Eyre is my all time favorite, and I enjoy watching the various movie versions that have been produced over the years. Bonnie Rzucidlo

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    1. Bonnie, what a great story Jane Eyre is. Do you have a favorite movie version? Mine is the BBC version with Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds.

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    2. That's a tough question. It seems like when the casting is right, it's not true to the novel and vice versa. I think my favorite version is the one with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. Bonnie

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    3. Yeah, that's true--good casting and true to the plot are a tricky balance, since Jane Eyre has such a complex story. I haven't seen the one with Toby Stephens, so I'll have to check that out!

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  35. Congrats, Jennifer McQuiston!!


    Theresa, my favorite re-reads are Ashes In the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss and any thing by Johanna Lyndsey.

    Hmm, book/tree talk made me think maybe I should get a mini tree for my 'office' (half my bedroom) and instead of xmas ornaments hang all the lovely author given book marks that I recieved this year. *nods*

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    1. brbalways, I'd love to see that book-ornament tree! Please take a picture of it. :)

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    2. If budget allows for it, I will try to get it posted and give you a 'nudge'.

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  36. I love making Christmas cookies, the house smells just wonderful.

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    1. Ingeborg, the smell is half the fun, isn't it? When I'm not baking, I love the Yankee Candles Christmas Cookie scent.

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  37. Building with books reminds me of my brother and me every Christmas. We would get UPS packages from relatives during Christmas break. They always contained wrapped gifts. We would put them under the tree and build our own cities and drive my brothers hot wheels around our package cities. We did this same silly game for year and we still laugh about driving te bat mobile under the tree.

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    1. Ann, it's not Christmas until the Batmobile arrives, right? I'm sure I've heard that saying before. :)

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  38. I enjoy making cutout cookies with my grandchildren using their great-grandmother's cookie cutters. Some of these cutters were made by my father-in-law and a couple of them were used by my husband when he was little and helped his Mom cutout cookies. The grandchildren love to make the cookies and decorate them. Of course, many of them pop into their little mouths but they do decorate special ones to leave for Santa or a special one for their Mom and Dad. I love traditions like this.

    As for a book I would like to re-read. Many years ago, I enjoy reading James Michner's "Alaska." It was an incredibly absorbing and informative novel. I am hoping to buy a copy of it one day for my son to read. Unfortunately, with the hours he works these days, it may be awhile yet before he can find the time. Isn't that a shame? To me, nothing is sadder than not finding the time to read!

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    1. You have heirloom cookie cutters? That is so cool! How fun to recall those memories while you're making cookies with the little ones. (And I agree--I can't imagine not finding time to read!)

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  39. Every year my kiddo's make a new ornament or buy a new one my youngest is only 2 so he bought his last year.
    But it so much fun to look at years past and to add the new one each year. My oldest is 5 and he loves point out the ones he made before :)

    And I love the book tower!! I see a Julia Quinn in there and she happens to be one of my favorite re-read authors. Her Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas :)!!

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    1. savannah, they're going to love looking back at those ornaments every year to see what they liked or could make. It's like a family history on your tree!

      Yep, glad you could spot a title or two in my book-tree. Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas are in there too!

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  40. if I tried building something with books I'd prob get hung up & detoured reading so that I'd end up with the half completed whatever & a pile of books instead ;)

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    1. gamistress66, I managed to restrain myself long enough to take this picture. Then I gleefully sorted through the stack and put a massive pile onto my nightstand!

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  41. I found myself reading Christmas stories around the holidays! I happened to finish Victoria Alexander's "what happens at Christmas" yesterday and I am starting Vanessa Kelly's "His Mistletoe Bride" right now (on lunch). Lucky they came into the library just in time!

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    1. Jessica, I hope you enjoy His Mistletoe Bride!

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    2. I will let you know when I am done, although I don't doubt I will love it!!

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    3. Jessica, yay! I love to read holiday books this time of year too (probably no surprise, since I write them!). I absolutely loved HIS MISTLETOE BRIDE, especially the heroine--so smart, and with an unshakable sense of right and wrong. And WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS was hilarious, wasn't it? Just when you thought the house party couldn't get more complicated...

      If you're still looking for holiday reads, be sure check out Grace Burrowes's romances too. She's written two beautiful ones: LADY SOPHIE'S CHRISTMAS WISH and LADY LOUISA'S CHRISTMAS KNIGHT.

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    4. I absolutely will! Thank you!

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  42. Putting up the Christmas tree is one of my favorite traditions. We make 4 minute fudge and drink eggnog as we unpack each ornament and reminisce about where each one came from - we still have our homemade ornaments from kindergarten (40+ years ago!).

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    1. Ooh, I like your food tradition blended with your decorating tradition! That's got to be fun, to look at all the ornaments you made as kids. (My personal favorite is one my now-grown brother made long ago from a Dixie cup and pipe cleaner. He thought it was gorgeous work when he was 5!)

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  43. Theresa, I love your tree! What fun to see which books you built into it. Well done, girlfriend!

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    1. Vanessa,

      You noticed who she put on TOP, didn't ya? Haha, but it is cool!

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    2. brbalways, that's the perk of being the one who builds the tree. :)

      Vanessa, glad you like the tree! I enjoy our book-building challenges. And figuring out how to make it look like a Christmas tree (and not just a pyramid) WAS a challenge. Did you see whose book is on the right side, 6th row up? :)

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  44. Hi Teresa!

    The first year my husband and I were married I told him that the "youngest" in the family had to put the star on the top of the tree (I was being sneaky because he's younger than I am!). When our first son was born two years later the beginning of December my husband "helped" him wiht putting the star on and then two years later our second son who was 5 months old took over the task (again with a little help from Dad).

    After my younger son graduated from college he wasn't able to get a flight home for Chirstmas and for the first time since he had been born wouldn't be "home for the holidays!" We were just getting ready to put the star on when there was a knock on the door and he was standing there "decorated" with ribbons and bows and was so excited that there was a last minute cancellation and our family would be "complete"! It was once again going to be a "perfect" Christmas! And it was until he reached up to put the star on the tree and it went crashing over!

    Even with the crushed ornament littering the floor it was a wonderful Chirstmas and one we never let him forget and today both our sons have their own youngest child put the star on the top of their Christmas trees - and make sure they are holding onto the tree while their little ones are doing it!

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    1. we always have the youngest put the star on here to but last year out star holder broke so grandpa permently attached it to the tree it made for sad face from my youngest daughter this year

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    2. Jeanne, that is SUCH a wonderful surprise! Despite the smashed tree, that makes for a Christmas to remember. (Actually, the smashed tree makes it even MORE of a Christmas to remember!)

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    3. Theresa -

      The best thing is that I got a great picture of it falling down!

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  45. My favorite Christmas tradition is decorating the tree. It is so much fun! Although I do admit that I bought a kids tree for them to decorate and then I decorate the big tree on my own. I am a bit of of control freak.

    I started reading A Christmas Carol to my son a few years ago and he just asked me last night when we were going to start reading it this year. Looking forward to Dec 1st so we can start.

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    1. Hee, AuburnGirl! I understand those control freak tendencies. I've been known to shuffle the ornaments around after DD hangs them all on one part of the tree.

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  46. i always want to make a christmas tree out of books but no one around here will let me :(

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    1. Well, everyone on this comment thread would heartily approve! I'd love to see it. Maybe you could make one and take some pics before the non-book-tree-ites make you take it apart?

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  47. That tree is great.. I am not one for re-reading books, but I will tell you I read one by Fern Michaels last year called Christmas at Timberwoods. It was such a different story, It took plasce in a Mall and on Christmas Eve..

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    1. Kathleen, I don't reread nearly as many books as I'd like to, just because of time. But at Christmas, there are a few favorites I like to reread. Thanks for the Fern Michaels recommendation!

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  48. My favorite Christmas symbol is the snowman. I love the saying "Let it snow, let it snow, Let it snow". It is always with a snowman. My all time favorite book is "Broken Wing" by Judith James. Thanks again for doing such a great giveaway!

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    1. Mary, there's something special about a white Christmas, isn't there? Do you live in a place that gets a lot of snow?

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  49. I have an entire shelf of Regency set Christmas romances and anthologies. I always pull them out during the holidays to reread. They keep me in the Christmas spirit when working retail gets me down!! I just finished Mary Balogh's recent reissue of A Christmas Bride and Christmas Beau - wonderfully poignant and sweet stories!

    Suzanne Enoch's latest is a Christmas set romance. Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke is now one of my very favorite Christmas reads! Absolutely incredible romance!

    Our favorite family tradition is setting up my Dad's Christmas train set around the tree at Mom's. We lost Dad fifteen years ago and the train is a wonderful reminder of how much he loved Christmas.

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    1. Louisa, what a great idea to keep a shelf of Christmas stories. Mary Balogh writes holiday tales so beautifully, doesn't she? I read A Christmas Promise last year and absolutely loved it.

      That's a beautiful reminder to bring out a train set in honor of your dad. He sounds like he had a great sense of fun!

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  50. I love the "book tree" idea. I saw a picture of one online the other day & thought to myself, "Time to start collecting green books!".
    One of our favorite Christmas traditions is to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy. What?! Strange,huh? My husband is in the Army & has a crazy schedule. Watching movies is something we never have time for on our busy weekends. So, we needed to find time to sit down as a family and watch our favorite trilogy. The week of Christmas is the one time of year we know the kids will be home & hubby will take leave. We watch Fellowship of the Ring & The Two Towers on Christmas Eve & watch Return of the King on Christmas Day. It's a tradition that is uniquely ours & one that we really enjoy.

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    1. Michelle, that's a great movie tradition! All those movies originally came out in December, so I think of them as winter or holiday movies. There's nothing like sitting down with a cup of hot chocolate and savoring the downfall of Mordor with loved ones.

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  51. My personal favorite Christmas tradition (different from family traditions) is rereading Christmas books. Many of the rereads are romances and mysteries, but there are also a lot of children's books in the mix--ranging from The Birds' Christmas Carol, a sentimental Victorian tearjerker by Kate Douglas Wiggin (author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm), which my mother loved as a child and read to us when we were children, to Barbara Robinson's ever delightful The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to newer favorites such as Olivier Dunrea's Bear Noel about the white bear who on Christmas Eve brings gifts to all the animals who gather on that one night in perfect harmony and Winter Lights in which Anna Grossnickle Hines celebrates in poems and quilts the holiday lights of Santa Lucia, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Chinese New Year along with other winter lights such as the moon, a candle, and the aurora borealis--"A billowing curtain of swirling, swooping light."

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    1. Janga, that is a fantastic list. Thank you for all the holiday-book recommendations! You've thought of something for all ages.

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  52. Oh darn I'm late to the party and I have to go out today - the holidays mess with my computer time lol. I give a tree trimming party every year and now my grown daughter has one too. I've been doing this for close to 30 years and it's always a blast. I've been collecting ornaments for over 40 years and they are all so special to me.

    I'm not much of a rereader - I love the excitement of a new book and there are so many of them out there that I want to read.

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    1. Catslady, a tree-trimming party sounds like so much fun! Do you have special foods or music you like to bring out while you trim the tree?

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  53. Hi

    I am slowly collecting Santas - mostly old world figures and ones that are interesting. My tradition is to pick a new one up every year and display it.

    Great book tree!

    Pam

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    1. Pam, thanks! That must be fun, to build a collection over the years. I didn't inherit the decorating gene myself, unfortunately, but I love to see it expressed by others.

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  54. I reread a lot but my all time favorites are A Rose for Maggie by Kathleen Korbel and Sunshine and Shadow by Sharon & Tom Curtis.
    Lighting the menorahs for Channukah was a special time when my girls were little. They have their own homes and menorahs now and the grandkids light them.

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    1. CherylR, thanks for sharing your favorites! And what a lovely Chanukah tradition to see passed down to your grandkids.

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  55. If any of you have not yet read Theresa's two Christmas books, Season for Temptation and Season for Surrender, I highly recommend them! They are both on my Christmas keeper shelf!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I love Christmas books!

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  56. My family calls me the Christmas elf. I start on my baking and candy making the week after Thanksgiving and am usually making something every night until Christmas. I think they'd probably disown me if they didn't get a package of goodies in the mail from my kitchen! lol

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    1. They are lucky to have a Christmas Elf like you in their family, PJ!

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    2. Christmas goodies are the best. I agree that your family is lucky to have you!

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  57. We have a particular thumb print cookie that includes grape filling and sprinkling with nuts and has almond extract in the dough. It's a very light dough so you have to be really careful or they get hard instead of melt in your mouth. They're a lot of work but delicious.

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    1. I should have said grape jelly filling lol.

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    2. Hey, grape filling could be interesting. :) Those sound good, catslady! I like to use almond extract when baking pastries--it's unexpected and quite yummy.

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  58. Christmas lights in the city are fun. I don't cook/bake anything special for the the holidays though.

    As for the best present, does the water pump for my car that I asked my family for one year count?

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    1. infinitieh, that definitely counts! There's nothing sweeter than getting exactly what you need. One year, I asked for nothing except for help with home repairs. :)

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  59. The best gift I ever received was when my brother-in-law made a fabulous sign for our house that read: The Fischer B&B. It has wooden cutouts with a beach theme. This was to celebrate our move to Florida from Virginia when we retired. We had lived around the corner from my sister and her husband for many years. Our children played together and we have always been very close. When they came to visit Florida, he brought that with him. My sister thought it was silly, but I love the sign and it hangs with pride in our home. It has become even more special to us as we lost this lovely man two years ago to Parkinson's disease. The fact that he cared enough to celebrate our new home with us meant everything. We all miss him so much.

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    1. Connie, I'm sorry for your loss--he sounds like a lovely man, to think of a way to make your new home even more welcoming. Glad you still have the sign to remember him by.

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  60. Congrats, Beth Mills!!


    Ladies of Romance Dish...it has been fun!! But this is MY middle of the night (I work grave yards) and I MUST get some sleep for tonights shift.

    Hoping I can swing back in for last little bits.

    Party on!!
    *smiles*

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    1. brbalways, thank you for stopping by! The party continues until 9 pm ET. :)

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  61. As silly as this sounds, my best gift was a teddy bear I received at about age 5. As I was growing up my mom and brother would pretend to be his "voice." I still have Teddy decades later, though my mom and brother are gone. But he still makes me smile every time I see him, and he has a place of honor in his own little chair in my library. Bonnie

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    1. Bonnie, that doesn't sound silly at all! Your bear is full of family memories. That's lovely that you still have him--and in your library (the best room in the house!).

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  62. when i was a little girl I wanted a barbie house ... my mom was a single mom of 4 and money was tight to say the least .. I knew that no matter how bad i wanted it mom couldnt afford it . so my older brother collected scrap wood and built me one ... all my friend who had got an actual barbie townhouse wanted mine cause he painted it up so pretty .

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    1. Jennifer, what a great brother! He must have been quite a handyman as a kid.

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  63. Best Christmas gift I ever received was the Cabbage Patch Doll my mom had to hunt down along with all the other crazies.

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    1. Ha! Oh, it wasn't Christmas that year without a Cabbage Patch Doll. You were a lucky girl! :)

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  64. Oh, that's an easy question. When I was about ten I got a cat for Christmas. Now my parents weren't really pet people but I had begged for years and years and was totally surprised. It was a wild barn cat and not a tiny kitten but it was my beginning with animals and in later years started helping with ferals/strays. I've also had two wonderful dogs.

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  65. The best gift I ever received was a silver Tiffany Key necklace from my husband. We had just celebrated our 25th anniversary that April and we didn't exchange gifts because we had other things to pay for. He bought a lottery scratcher at the gas station and won. He took the money and surprised me with the key to his heart in silver for our 25 years together at Christmas.

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    1. I'm going to have to get another box of kleenex if y'all keep telling stories like this. What a special gift!

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    2. *swoons* Ann, your husband could be a romance-novel hero with that gesture. How lovely!

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  66. The best present I ever received was my Kindle. My husband bought it for me for Valentine's Day a few years ago. At the time, I was worried about our upcoming transfer & not looking forward to "thinning out" my book collection. My husband figured if I had a Kindle, I could continue my book collection & it wouldn't be an issue on "moving days". It was such a great idea, we bought one for our son, my bookworm, that Christmas. Now we never have to worry that our book obsession will cause us to go over the mandated weight limit. :)

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    1. Now there's a husband who knows his wife well! :)

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    2. Indeed! The best gift for a book-lover is always related to books, isn't it? I got my Kindle last Christmas (a gift to myself, using gift cards) and really enjoy it.

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    3. The funny thing is, when he did this for me I gave up 2 bookcases & the books that were on them. He was looking at the stacks of books I have in our room the other day (I'm still a goner for a beautiful cover and a favorite author!) and said, "I think I'm going to buy you a bookcase for Christmas." lol He's such a patient guy!

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  67. the best was several years ago. my mom had to have unplanned heart surgery on christmas eve day. So being able to see her awake and mostly aware (she was still loopy from the meds) & doing well on Christmas morning even if it was in CICU was definately one of the best presents ever :)

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    1. What a beautiful Christmas gift.

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    2. Oh, how perfect! So glad your mom came through the surgery ok--the best gift possible.

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  68. LOVE your book tree, it looks awesome! The best gift was the computer my parents gave me last year =)

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    1. Thanks, Nat! And ohhh yes, a computer that works well is a great gift--especially if you haven't had one. (Says the writer whose ancient computer died suddenly earlier this year. In a way, I wasn't sorry to see it go!)

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  69. I have received many wonderful Christmas gifts over the years. My most treasured are a baby doll, a bride doll and a teddy bear all given to me by my paternal grandfather for my very first Christmas. I still have all three (the bride doll has lost her original dress due to age - 55 this Christmas and her hair - to an unfortunate hair cut given by an exuberant 5 year old) The teddy bear, Bernie, has traveled all over the world with me. I treasure these because I have no real memories of this grandfather. He died when I was three. But these three old toys remind me of his love.

    My most recent treasured Christmas gifts are the newest Stephen King novels given to me by my niece and nephew. I have always given them books as gifts and the last few years they have responded in kind. I love our shared interest in books and hope I have helped to foster it in them.

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    1. Louisa, what a wonderful gift from your grandfather. I hope his spirit knows how much love and joy his thoughtfulness has brought you over the years.

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    2. Oh, I hope so too, PJ ! Bernie has even traveled with me to Wales, where my grandfather's parents came from!

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    3. Louisa, that's so lovely that you've had those gifts almost your whole life. And now to have a new book-gifting tradition in your family? Such fun.

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  70. I received 30 yellow roses on my 30th birthday! of course that was 16 years ago. but still a memorable one..

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    1. My favorite flower! Thirty roses of any color is a pretty spectacular gift!

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    2. Yellow roses are my favorite, too! So beautiful!

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    3. Wow--that's quite a gift, Holly! Someone wanted you to have a marvelous birthday. :)

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  71. I also have to say my best gift was a Kindle from my husband. I had spent months trying to decide which ereader to get and just gave up even looking. My husband really surprised me when I opened a Christmas present from him and it was a Kindle. I use it every single day and I don't worry where I will put one more book in my small house.

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    1. Isn't it great to know that you can have your book with you always?!

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    2. Yay! Cindy, the thing I like the most about it is how I can read hands-free. Now I can read while I'm cooking, or brushing my teeth...yeah, I might be a book addict. :)

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  72. I once got a plane ticket to Amsterdam. I was visiting my cousin and she had to work for Christmas and so she paid for a ticket so that I could go with her and not be alone.

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    1. Jane, wow! What a great silver lining to a holiday work schedule. How was it to celebrate Christmas in Amsterdam?

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  73. I am so glad that you are supporting public libraries. I am on the board of our local Friends of the Library.

    It is hard to identify my best gift. I know that I really enjoy my Blackberry because I can keep in touch with everyone, surf the web, and read downloaded books. I would have to say, though, that the best gift of all is having my family with me at Christmas!

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    1. cheryl c, do you live close to your family? I'm far from most of my relatives, so Christmas is a great time to get together. I love that too.

      And yay for Friends of the Library! I've been a Friend of my local library for several years. I couldn't get by without a great public library.

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  74. My favorite gift was from my dad and it was the last gift he ever gave me although I didn't know it at the time. It's a St. Louis Cardinal's Christmas ornament that he found in the hospital gift shop and thought I would like since I'm an avid Cardinals fan. At the time, I was thrilled mainly because my mom made such a big deal that dad picked it out himself and he didn't shop...ever. When he died unexpectedly just a couple of weeks after Christmas, that ornament took on a whole new meaning. I hang it every year on the front of my tree where I can always see it. Even when I was moving and didn't put a tree up, I got that ornament out and hung it up.

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    1. ...reaching for the tissues again.

      Kima, I'm so sorry for your loss. My dad died eight years ago and I miss him every single day. I'm sure that ornament is a treasured possession.

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    2. I'm seconding PJ here--wow, Kima, what a special gift. Your dad was thinking of you with love in giving you that ornament.

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  75. My favorite gift is being with my family, but my favorite present was a computer and an ereader.

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    1. Kim, that's a good distinction. It's not the same celebration without loved ones around--but after the holidays are over, how wonderful to have a device to make your life easier!

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    2. Oops, just tried to leave a comment and somehow my computer ate it. Sorry if this shows up twice, Kim!

      That's a great distinction you make. It's just not the same holiday celebration without family around--but then once the holidays are over, it's nice to have a device that makes life easier!

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  76. My favorite gift now and as a child was being with family on Christmas day....
    What a great giveaway..
    tarenn98 at yahoo dot com

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    1. AprilR, can't argue with that! Hope it's a wonderful Christmas for you.

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  77. Theresa, thank you so much for spending the last three hours with us! I hope your holidays will be filled with delicious food, great books and much laughter and love.

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    1. Thank you so much, PJ! I wish you all the same, for a wonderful holiday season. You've been a wonderful hostess--it's such a pleasure to be a part of this event on The Romance Dish today!

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  78. *****ALERT*****

    For some reason, Blogger is not displaying the second page of comments. Please do not leave any more comments on this post. Please use the post directly above to leave comments for Theresa Romain.

    I have moved some comments and Theresa's replies to the post above so that they will display.

    Thank you!




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