Happy Birthday, Janga! Wishing you sunshine, smiles, and happily ever afters today and always.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Today's Special - - Kandy Shepherd



It's always a delight to host Kandy Shepherd, especially when she has a new book out. I've been thoroughly charmed by her Dolphin Bay series for Harlequin Romance. The stories are more sweet than spicy but packed with emotion as characters are given second chances, life-changing opportunities and, if the stars align, a deep enduring love. Her stories never fail to leave me with a sigh and a smile. 

You can read about Kandy and her books at her website and connect with her online at facebook and twitter

Welcome back, Kandy!



Sunshine for Christmas
Kandy Shepherd

For many years I worked as a magazine editor and one of the biggest challenges for us was making an Australian Christmas feature look, well, Australian! Even Down Under many of the holiday decorating themes reference the northern hemisphere winter—snow covered landscapes, cozy log fires, red robins, glowing lanterns showing the way home through the dark, and tables groaning with rich dishes just right for the cold weather.

Trouble is, Christmas Down Under is in summer—and it’s usually darn hot. Where I live in Australia, Christmas (for those who celebrate it) is about blue skies, sunshine, sunburn, the incessant thrum of cicadas and evenings so long it’s not dark enough to see the Christmas lights until bedtime. We’ve just had the hottest spring on record so predictions for December 25 see the mercury soaring.


The climate suits not heavy roasts and dense fruit cakes but a barbecue with turkey and ham recipes adapted for outdoor cooking. Or seafood and salads.  And something cool and icy for dessert.  Christmas at the beach is a tradition for many, with families and friends arriving early to stake out their spot on the sand. No chance of kids getting bored when they can frolic in the waves!

Alternatively, at my house, you swelter in the kitchen and prepare a full-on traditional English style Christmas feast. My English-born husband insists on it. I have to admit Christmas wouldn’t seem Christmas to me without that festive meal with all the trimmings. Family favorites are demanded and provided—and appreciated by family and friends!

I’ve enjoyed a winter Christmas in both the UK and the US and it is a totally different experience to an Aussie-style festive celebration. Do I prefer one over the other? Deep down, I have to admit I love the frosty festivities. My ideal would be a cold Christmas and then a flight back to Australia to enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebration in Sydney—where the entire city becomes party central and millions of dollars worth of fireworks explode in the summer sky. But that’s another story!



My heroine, Lizzie Dumont, in my December Harlequin Romance A Diamond in Her Stocking didn’t grow up with happy memories of Christmas: “Her family Christmas had always seen the sad cliché of every bitterness and conflict getting a good airing over the roast turkey and plum pudding.” But as an adult, she embraces Christmas as a joyous celebration and (like me!) has enjoyed the festive season in both the Australian summer and the European winter.

But for Lizzie, the ultimate festive celebration is when she becomes a Christmas bride. The cover might give you a clue as to where the wedding takes place!




What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season?  Do you dream about a hot Christmas or a cold one? Have you ever broken with tradition? I’d love to hear your festive season stories!

One  randomly chosen person leaving a comment will receive a print copy of A Diamond in Her Stocking. (open internationally)


39 comments:

  1. Hi,

    I am sweltering right this moment. I think I would be ill facing a heavy, hot meal for Christmas. Bring on the cold drinks, salads & fruit thank you.

    I must admit to partying hard on New Years in Sydney many a year. (In my younger days.) Now I just sound old.

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    1. I must admit to partying hard on New Years in Sydney many a year. (In my younger days.) Now I just sound old.

      LOL! Right there with you, Mary. Nowadays, I'm lucky to stay awake until midnight!

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    2. Hi Mary, heavy, traditional food is just too much in very hot weather isn't it! I must admit I don't stay awake for too long after the fireworks on Sydney Harbour...

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    3. Thank you so much for having me here PJ! It's always fun to be at the Dish.

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  2. I love the whole feeling of Christmas. The music and all the decorations. The best part is having family all come together for Christmas dinner.
    Carol L
    Luky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. You'd fit right in at my house, Carol! :)

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    2. As they say Carol: It's not what's on the table on Christmas Day it's who is sitting around it. Family together at Christmas is what it's all about, isn't it!

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  3. I live in southwest Florida and can honestly say that I love a warm Christmas. It's so much fun to see Christmas lights on the palm trees and to be able to celebrate Christmas day at the beach! I lived in cold weather for so many years and can honestly say the cold weather took away a lot of the enjoyment of the holidays for me.

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    1. I loved many things about living in southwest Florida but I have to say a warm Christmas wasn't one of them. The rest of the year I wanted warm, sunny beaches but on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I always longed for big, white, fluffy flakes.

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    2. Christmas lights on palm trees is lovely! I think for Australians a cold weather Christmas is quite the novelty!

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  4. I love giving and getting Christmas cards. I've done Christmas in shorts and tank top while BBQ'ing. And I've done the snowed-in kind. Both are good fun. Living in Florida, the nice cold Christmas is a gift.

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    1. I love Christmas cards too, Sally. Getting one from a friend far away always fills me with joy.

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    2. I love getting Christmas cards Sally, and proudly display them. Sad to say, in recent years, my Christmas cards have been sent with a "better late than never" philosophy with hopes they'll make it by Christmas Day. This year I'll do better...

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  5. the holiday movies on tv and the food (US reader)

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    1. Do you have a favorite holiday movie? Mine are It's a Wonderful Life and Love Actually.

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    2. Even in the summer, I enjoy the holiday movies jcp. I'm with PJ on her choices. My husband and I asked each other yesterday was it too soon to watch Love Actually. We agreed it wasn't!

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  6. My Midwestern family celebrated Christmas in southern Florida two years when I was a teenager. I liked being on the beach on Christmas and going to an outdoor New Year's Eve party. I live in Virginia and Christmas can be a warm day, a cold day, or snowy. We grill steaks no matter the weather on Christmas day. I cook the traditional holiday dinner on Christmas Eve so we have ham to make Hoppin' John for the New Year's celebrations. Hoppin' John is a Southern US traditional dish made with leftover Christmas ham, peppers, onions, hot sauce, and blackeyed peas over rice.

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    1. I love blackeyed peas! It's my New Year's Day meal too but with cornbread and no rice.

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    2. Thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions Laura. I have to say Hoppin' John sounds like a great way to use up leftover ham. I must look up a recipe!

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  7. for me it would not be the same without a cold snowy Christmas.

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    1. It definitely takes some getting used to if you've grown up in a snowy climate.

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    2. Cold and snowy does seem to be the ideal Christmas doesn't it Peggy!

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  8. I love everything about Christmas, but the best part is getting together with my scattered family. I'm so excited to see everyone in a few weeks. A cold Christmas is always best!

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    1. That's the one thing I really miss about Christmas. My family is scattered across several states and one foreign country. It's been a long time since we were all able to be together for the holiday.

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    2. I hope you and all your family have a wonderful Christmas Day Pam. I can just imagine all the chatter with you get together!

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  9. The best thing about Christmas is being with family. I don't mind the cold and I like having a white Christmas. We've had one or two blizzards on Christmas Day, but it just added to the beauty of snow.

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    1. Even though I want it gone the next day, I do love snow on Christmas Day. :)

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    2. I've enjoyed a few cold, frosty Christmases Kim, but only one snowy one and it was magic! Being snug and cosy inside during a blizzard must indeed, as you say, add to the magic.

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    1. I'm busy putting out decorations tonight! :)

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    2. Me too, bn100, I have a collection ranging back years and every year I buy one new one. Unpacking the decorations to put up every year brings lots of memories with it.

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  11. I think the best thing about Christmas is being with family and friends. Since I live in the Midwest, it is usually cold at Christmas, so I like the warm food and drinks. This year, I am spending Christmas and New Year's in Arizona, so it will be warm.

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    1. Hope you enjoy your warm Christmas, Cathy!

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    2. I hope you enjoy the warm weather in Arizona as a change, Cathy. Being with family and friends is heartwarming too!

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  12. Hi Kandy and PJ!
    You ladies made me think :) Also being from Australia, I usually enjoy the swelter with Kandy. But I've broken with tradition three times (and I'm sure these will make you laugh knowing my penchant for travel!)
    1. Christmas Day on a felucca sail boat, cruising down the Nile near Luxor in Egypt in 2002. (Stunning! But let's not get into hygiene).
    2. Christmas Day in Morzine-Avoriaz, a French ski resort town in the Portes de Soleil region of France in 2006 where I spent a ski season. It was a white Christmas, during which I was employed as a chalet chef and had to cook for the first time ever a 'traditional English Christmas dinner' for our chalet guests. Make bread sauce?? Aussie reaction: What the -- is bread sauce???
    3. An orphan's Christmas in New York City in 2012. I took myself to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. I then wandered around NY and bought Mulligatawny Soup for Christmas Dinner from the soup shop that inspired the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi"!!!

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  13. Wow, Joanne, those are three utterly memorable ways to celebrate Christmas! On a felucca sail in Egypt really is quite something as are the other two. Thanks for sharing your globe-trotting Christmas adventures.

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  14. Having grown up in the Northeast US, Christmas should be cold and snowy. We now live in the mid-South of the US and it is a bit unpredictable. This year has been cold and we have had a bit of snow already, but it is now in the 60's. We'll have to wait to see what this year will bring.
    Growing up, we would attend midnight mass then go to my mother's parents' for a large "breakfast." My mom was one of 9 children and most of her siblings had 4 or 5 children (I am oldest of 6). This made for a large, fun gathering. We would get home about 2:30 or 3AM. Sometimes Santa had arrived (never did figure out how my parents managed that) and we would open our gifts before going to bed. This worked well, since everyone could sleep in the next morning. Christmas Day, we would go to my other grandparents' house for a big Christmas dinner. My dad was one of 7 siblings, but we only had 4 cousins there unlike the 50+ on the other side of the family. I loved the smell of dinner cooking, my grandmother's home canned green beans, filled cookies and pies, the warmth of the house, and the fun of playing with the old toys on the porch. It all made for a full and enjoyable day.
    When I graduated from college, I joined the Peace Corps and spent 3 years in the Philippines. The holiday was celebrated so differently and it was the first time I missed a family Christmas. It made for a bad case of homesickness. My paternal grandmother, bless her soul, mailed me a Sugar Cream Pie (a french-canadian specialty of hers). Amazingly it survived the weeks it took to get to me. I sat in my room Christmas day and ate practically the whole thing. She will never know how much that pie meant to me. As much as I missed home, it was nice to see and experience how the holidays were celebrated in a different culture.
    I hope you have an enjoyable holiday season. Have a good Chriatmas no matter how or where you celebrate it.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your wonderful Christmas memories Librarypat. After your childhood celebrations your first Christmas away from home must have been so different, no wonder you were homesick. My family also went to midnight mass and we walked to the church in the Australian summer dark with flashlights which seemed such an adventure. Sometimes it would be so hot the cicadas would be chirping all night, in competition with the church choir. I wish you all the best for a wonderful festive season whatever the weather may bring!

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  16. Thanks so much PJ for having me at the Dish - and thank you everyone for your comments, I really enjoyed reading them. However you celebrate the festive season, in whatever climate, I wish you all the happiest times!

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