Merry Christmas from Vienna, Austria | Book Blogger Guest Post

December 10, 2016 Guest Post 1

Today I’m welcoming one of my dearest book blogging friends, Karin, from My Life… Karin wrote about the Christmas markets in Vienna a few years ago, and I’m so happy to have her back to talk about her beloved Christmas traditions and the differences between Christmas in the USA and Christmas in Austria. I’ve wanted to visit Austria since I saw The Sound of Music as a little girl, and Karin’s posts always make me want to visit even more! Thank you for sharing your Christmas with us, Karin!


Merry Christmas from Vienna, Austria
by Karin

Merry Christmas from Vienna, Austria to all you lovely readers and a big “Thank You!” to my dear friend Jana for asking me to, once again, be a part of her Christmas Countdown.

She also let me write about any Christmas related topic I wanted and so I decided to tell you a bit about my Christmas time.

Christmas in the USA and Austria is really different – at least it seems like it from my side of the pond.

Christmas time for me starts on December 1st. That’s the first day for Christmas tunes, visiting the Christmas markets (if you want to know about them in greater detail, I wrote a post for Jana 3 years ago) and especially it is the first day you open your advent calendar. I cannot remember a time I did not get one from my mum. There are many different kinds you can buy – filled with chocolates, spices, nail polishes, teas, etc. – but mine were always handmade by my mum. I can remember a year she made me 24 fir trees out of toilet paper rolls and a cut-out fir and filled them with different little goodies. I also often got a big wicker basket filled with packages but this year I got a stack of different colored boxes, filled with coupons (a mulled wine at a Christmas market), chocolates or tiny figurines.

A must during Christmas time is also visiting one, two, three or all (that would be around 20 in Vienna only) Christmas markets. The biggest one in Vienna is in front of city hall and the whole square is filled with tiny wooden huts where you can buy ornaments, toys, stuffed animals, mulled wine, jacket potatoes, chocolate covered strawberries (a must have each year), chocolates, jewelry and so many more things. Visiting means putting on lots and lots of layers to survive the cold (often it’s the only time during the year I put on a hat), exploring all the goodies they sell at the stalls and finishing with some yummy food (chocolate covered strawberries as dessert) and one, two, three cups of mulled wine in good company.

I graduated high school 12 years ago and we had a class system (not a course system). So all 20 students were together all day and the teachers came into our classroom. We also had one teacher who was “responsible” for the class and acted as an intermediator between students, teachers and parents. Our teacher taught Math and French and for 12 years now, we (our teacher and all 14 students of my graduation class) meet regularly during Christmas time to get some food and catch up on all the things that happened in our lives. It is such a lovely and nice tradition that we always find time in our busy lives to fit this evening in.

In case you did not know, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve aka December 24th. School holidays usually started on either the 22nd or the 23rd and for over 15 years now, me and all of my friends have a tradition of meeting in our favorite pub on the evening of the 23rd to celebrate Christmas together. We bring Christmas cookies and enjoy each other’s company. December 23rd is a date every one of my friends puts into their new calendar on January 1st because it’s our very own and very beloved tradition. It’s a chance for all of us to come together and catch up. Since we now have jobs and some have kids, we don’t see each other often during the year and we are never all together in one place at the same time. There are smaller groups that see each other regularly but on December 23rd we all, which means around 150 people, gather around and celebrate. Some people I’ve known for 20, 25 years and some just became friends 2 years ago – it does not matter, Christmas celebration starts on December 23rd.

On the day of Christmas Eve, me and my parents put up our Christmas tree. Yes, that’s right, Austrians only put it up on Christmas but we leave it up till January 6th or even longer. So during the morning we reorganize part of our living room, put up the tree, irritate my dog Felix because there is now a big tree in the apartment and decorate it while listening to Christmas music (until my mum gets antsy and demands that enough is enough and we switch back to a radio station). Decorating the tree is mine and mum’s job. My dad tolerates it that he is responsible for putting the tree up straight but after that he usually vanishes and is seen again at lunchtime.

For many years we had a fixed menu each Christmas – turkey with dumplings and red cabbage – but some years ago we decided to mix it up and now we are cooking something different each year. Last year we had homemade “Tafelspitz”, an Austrian specialty of slow cooked beef with lots of yummy side dishes. I insist on having a special kind of ice cream as dessert so that’s still there each year.

Christmas Eve is also really special for us because me and my parents exchange gifts around 5 pm and after some quality family time, some American friends come over to celebrate with us. So Christmas Eve for me means having an intimate time with my immediate family but a big party with good food and lots of laughs as well.

December 25th is the day we spend with the extended family. My mum’s mother and my dad’s dad live about an hour away from Vienna and we go to my grandmother’s for lunch and afterwards we drive 15 minutes to my grandpa and celebrate with my aunts, uncles and all the cousins. We enjoy coffee and Christmas cookies, visit my grandmother’s grave which includes a walk through a dark and quiet town and after that my grandpa goes to check if the “Christkind” – our version of Santa Claus – has arrived and lights the candles on the tree. Before opening the presents, we gather around to sing Silent Night (loud, in a high pitch and we usually are not sure which is the second and which is the third verse but still …).

December 26th is the day of rest in my family so me and my mum can usually be found on the couch reading one of our new books and my dad is usually somewhere in the apartment practicing his mandolin.

I love Christmas time and enjoy seeing the beautiful lights all over the city and I cannot wait to meet up with my old classmates, friends and family.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas with your loved ones and would love to hear your holiday traditions in the comments.

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How I Ramadan | Book Blogger Holiday Guest Post

December 9, 2016 Guest Post 0

One of the best things about A Bookish Little Christmas is that it celebrates all holidays, and not just Christmas! Today I’m welcoming my friend Angel (Avid Reader) to talk about Ramadan! I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of learning about the holidays and customs of other cultures and religions, so I’m really excited for you to meet Angel and learn more about this holiday that is so close to her heart. Do you celebrate Ramadan, too?


 

Hello there! My name is Angel and I am a book blogger over at Avid Reader! No, I won’t be talking about books today as I have actually been invited by the lovely Jana to talk to you guys about Ramadan! I know, I know, you guys are probably thinking “why are you talking about Ramadan? It’s Christmas time and that’s not really a holiday!” Well, I’m here to talk about it because technically it is a holiday, though not in the traditional sense of getting school/work off. I’ll explain what exactly Ramadan is in a bit but, because it’s special, I consider it like a holiday. Anyways, this post is essentially gonna break down how I Ramadan as I answer frequently asked questions and share some of my fave foods to eat during Ramadan. Hope you enjoy and learn a little something! Before we start going through everything, I’d like to remind you guys that I am only one person and can’t represent the entirety of Islam…. Ok now let’s go:

What is Ramadan? What do you do in Ramadan?
Well in the simplest of terms, Ramadan is basically the holy, obligatory month of fasting for all Muslims around the world. The specific timing of it changes every year if you’re looking at the Gregorian calendar (aka the January – December calendar). In actuality though, it’s always the same month in the Islamic year and that month is called Ramadan (I wonder why….lol).

So, uh, how long do you fast? What is fasting?
The length of hours of when a Muslim fasts depends on where you are in the world but you also fast in between sunrise and sunset. This past Ramadan, I fasted for about 16 hours and 25 mins per day. During the time of the fasting, you are not allowed to have any food or water and yes, that even means no water. You’re also not allowed to have sexual intercourse which, considering I’m nowhere near married, means nothing to me….

Is there anything else?
Yup! There are levels to fasting actually. Not eating, drinking and having sex is the first bar. The second bar is abstaining from saying, hearing, seeing, touching or doing anything bad. Some examples are: dressing modestly, not saying curse words, not watching anything bad *cough like Game of Thrones cough* ……That’s the level I’m at right now. I already dress pretty modestly, I don’t swear and don’t touch anything I shouldn’t (like wine or pork). The only thing I had to change was not listening or watching anything that included things that included excessive swearing/steamy scenes. Now the third level is the like ultimate level and it’s that you pretty much think of nothing except God. I’m not totally sure how far that goes but it’s typically scholars who get to that level so I say ask the internet AND the Imam in a nearby mosque what that third level means…

And that’s it for the questions! If y’all have any more questions, feel free to tweet/DM me! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll send you to someone or something who can hopefully help you. I also suggest you discuss any questions you may have about Islam with someone in a mosque or look it up in the Quran. Now to talk about my fave foods to eat during the month of Ramadan….

• Mushroom soup with garlic sprinkled on top
• Lamb, potatoes, carrots and rice
• Koshari – rice, lentils, macaroni, fried onions and a special kind of marinara-like sauce
• Goulash (the Middle Eastern version) – layers of filo bread with at least one layer of ground beef or spinach cooked in the middle

*wipes off drool from just thinking about the list of food* And that’s it for the food faves portion! I’m sorry I have no actual recipes for goulash but it seems everyone on the internet and their mother only post American or Hungarian versions/recipes of goulash that aren’t actually variations of what I know as goulash.

Anyways, I hope you guys enjoyed my post and learned at least one thing new, even if it is an awesome food you should try! Thank you to Jana for hosting me on her blog and letting me talk to you guys about how I Ramadan and thank YOU person who is reading this right now for checking out this post! I hope you all have a great day/night and tata for now!

~ Angel, Avid Reader

If you want to see/hear more from me, check out my Find Me page and follow me on the social media listed there! See you!

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That Artsy Librarian | I’m Graduating!!

December 8, 2016 About Me, Personal, That Artsy Librarian 8

ThatArtsyLibrarian

That Artsy Librarian is a feature all about my journey through graduate school as I work towards my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science.

Guys. I had to interrupt my Bookish Little Christmas event to express my excitement because tomorrow is graduation! FINALLY. I presented my capstone paper (basically a thesis) last night after working on it and researching like crazy for an entire semester.

In response to the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2013 national forum on the future of library services for teens and its resulting action report, I performed a study that aimed to discover what qualifications and skills teen librarians should possess in order to be successful in their careers. I analyzed the content of 200 job advertisements for teen librarian job positions in public libraries in the United States. My goal was to discover what the ideal teen librarian is like and whether or not libraries, scholars, and the American Library Association agree by comparing the study’s findings to contemporary literature on this topic. I collected job advertisements going back to January 2015 from three online job boards over the course of four months. I then organized the results into tables of various types of qualifications and skills and discussed the implications of the results and compared them to the literature. I also make recommendations for further research.

My professor/director of the department says I should submit it for publication because it’s so well done and informative! I’m seriously considering it because it was a ton of work. This is all SUPER exciting for me. I can’t believe that after 3.5 years of being a full time student (again), I’m finally done forever. I never have to do this again (I said this when I graduated with my Bachelor’s so…)! I have written hundreds of pages of literature reviews, case studies, analyses, discussions, marketing plans, research papers, proposed literature collections, and more. I’ve done projects in conjunction with local libraries. I’ve done multiple presentations and led discussions on several of them. I’ve done a bunch of group projects (ugh). I did an internship. And it’s FINALLY OVER! I don’t know that this will actually sink in until next semester starts and I find myself not getting ready for it.

I’m graduating with a 4.0 GPA, guys! This is the best Christmas present I could have given myself (see? I still swung this in a Christmas direction!)!

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Forever’s Holiday Celebration | Blog Tour

December 7, 2016 Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Guest Post 0

Forever’s Holiday Celebration | Blog Tour

Merry Christmas from five of Forever’s authors! Carolyn Brown, Paula Quinn, Debbie Mason, Hope Ramsay, and Oliva Miles have all published brand new Christmas romances and are here to share with us their holiday memories and favorite yummy recipes!


Merry Cowboy Christmas by Carolyn Brown
Series: Lucky Penny Ranch #3
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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THIS CHRISTMAS, SANTA’S WEARING A STETSON
Tis the night before Christmas and all through the house is the presence of one wickedly hot cowboy who’s come to stay for the holiday. Fiona Logan is downright shocked to return to her childhood home and find that the tall blond stranger who came to her rescue on an icy road will be sleeping just across the hall from her bedroom. Talk about temptation . . .

Jud Dawson never believed the Lucky Penny Ranch would live up to its name until now. Fiona is gorgeous, smart, funny, and everything he thought he’d never find. Now all he has to do is convince her to stick around town instead of hightailing it back to Houston. But with wild weather, nosy neighbors, and a new baby in the family, getting her to admit that she’s falling in love might just take a Christmas miracle.

Read more about Carolyn on her website.

Carolyn Brown’s Pumpkin Bread

Kids, grand children, great-grands, all coming home for the holidays—the aroma of pumpkin bread baking in the oven—everyone waiting for it to get done so they can slice it up while it’s still hot, slather butter or whipped cream cheese on it, and tell the age old stories about the holidays we’ve had in the house. That’s the stuff memories are made off and every time I smell pumpkin bread it puts a smile on my face for the whole day.

Pumpkin Bread

This makes 2 loaves and 8 muffins; Or it makes one Bundt cake

Ingredients:

½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
2 2/3 cups of sugar
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin (one 15-16 ounce can)
3 ½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
1 cup pecans (optional)
2/3 cup of cold strong black coffee
(NOTE: I use all butter if I’m out of shortening or even oil)

Directions:

1. Cream first four ingredients.
2. Add canned pumpkin.
3. Add dry ingredients alternately with coffee
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour for loaves or bundt cake, 25 minutes for muffins, or until they test done in the center.
5. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
6. Cool completely before frosting with Harvest Moon Frosting (below).

Harvest Moon Frosting

3 egg whites
1½ cups brown sugar
6 tablespoons water
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a double boiler. Cook 7 minutes, beating the whole time with an electric mixer, over the boiling water. The frosting will stand in peaks when done. Add vanilla. Beat until thick enough to spread.


A Highlander’s Christmas Kiss by Paula Quinn
Series: The MacGregors: Highland Heirs #5
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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A STRANGER’S SMILE

Christmas may be coming to Linavar, but Temperance Menzie is far from joyful. Grief-stricken over the death of her father at the hands of the Black Riders, she almost didn’t see the wounded stranger in the woods. And now she’s determined to give this braw, brooding Highlander the help she couldn’t give her father. But there’s a secret lurking in the depths of his blue-gray eyes. And Temperance won’t rest until she uncovers it . . .

A LOVER’S KISS

A killer for hire. It’s the last thing Cailean Grant ever thought he’d become, but being part of the Black Riders was his only way to survive. Now, his guilt grows day by day, along with his desire for the beautiful, brave lass nursing him back to health. As Christmas, the season of miracles, draws near and the truth of his identity threatens to come out, Cailean must risk the only thing he has left to lose-his heart.

Visit Paula’s website!

My dad used to live across the street from us. Every year, when my
kids were little, he would dress up like Santa, climb out his window
on the second floor, and hang Christmas lights on his fire escape. My
kids would watch from our window with wonder in their eyes, unaware
that it was grandpa. He would turn and wave to them, sending them into
little fits of breathlessness. Later, we would visit grandma and
grandpa’s for homemade cookies (left there for them by Santa). The
house was always fully decked out with every Christmas decoration
imaginable with Alvin and the Chipmunks on repeat while the kids
hunted down little “pre-Christmas” gifts he’d hide for them. I loved
witnessing the magic of Christmas and love through their eyes. Now
grown, my kids will sometimes still look out the window at his fire
escape and smile, remembering a grandpa who loved them beyond measure.

Grandpa’s Christmas Cookies (A favored Italian recipe)

Ingredients:

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
3½ cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

Directions:

1. Sift dry ingredients.
2. Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs; add
vanilla and dry ingredients.
3. Knead and add flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to hands.
4. Pinch off dough, roll in your hands to form a log and then twirl into
shape.
5. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

Icing

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 teaspoons water

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Stir until creamy. Dip cookies into icing and sprinkle with trim. Place on wire rack with wax paper on counter to collect the dripping icing and sprinkles.


Mistletoe Cottage by Debbie Mason
Series: Harmony House #1
October 25, 2016 from Forever
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‘Tis the season for love . . .
Sophie DiRossi loved growing up in Harmony Harbor. But after fleeing in disgrace many years ago, it is the last place she wants to be. Left homeless by a fire, she’s forced to go back to the small coastal town that harbors a million secrets, including her own. Sophie sees this secret reflected every day in her daughter’s blue eyes-and she must keep it hidden from the only man she has ever loved.

Sophie’s return is a shock for everyone . . . especially Liam Gallagher. The firefighter had some serious feelings for Sophie-and seeing her again sparks a desire so fierce it takes his breath away. Now Liam will do whatever it takes to show Sophie that they deserve a second chance at love, even if everything they’ve concealed threatens to keep them apart. In this special town at this special time of the year, Sophie and Liam can only hope for a little holiday magic…

Learn more about Debbie on her website!

One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is our tree trimming party. We’ve held one every year for the past thirty years. Though I don’t know if it qualifies as a party seeing as it’s just the immediate family. But we do make a thing of it with our favorite carols playing in the background, fire on (mostly for ambience), hot chocolate served in festive mugs, lots of holiday treats, and a special ornament for each of the kids and grandkids to open before the tree decorating gets under way.

But I think the most fun for all of us isn’t decorating the tree, it’s unpacking the ornaments. I’ve always tried to buy an ornament that’s uniquely suited to each of the kids, whether it was a sport they were into that year or a movie, book, or hobby they loved, so unwrapping each one brings back a lot of special memories. Here’s a peek at just some of the collection. I don’t think it will be long before we have to break from tradition and let the kids take some of the ornaments home to decorate their own trees. Either that or we’ll have to put up another tree.

And this one in my office doesn’t count. Every year, my family gifts me with an ornament too. This year they gave me these three adorable ornaments to celebrate the release of the first book in the new Harmony Harbor series, MISTLETOE COTTAGE, and the short story, CHRISTMAS WITH AN ANGEL.

Read more about Debbie on her website!


A Christmas Bride by Hope Ramsay
Series: Chapel of Love #1
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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A season of hope . . .
‘Tis the season in Shenandoah Falls and the first time Willow Peterson has been home in years. But she’s determined to fulfill the wishes of her recently deceased best friend and restore Eagle Hill Manor to its former glory-all in time to host the perfect holiday wedding. She just has to get the owner of the historic inn to hire her. Unfortunately, that means dealing with Scrooge himself…

After the death of his wife, David Lyndon has a bah-humbug approach to Christmas. But as December counts down and the wedding planning is in full swing, it’s harder and harder to stay immune to the charms of Willow, especially when he sees how much joy she brings his eight-year-old daughter. After a simple kiss under the mistletoe turns into something more, David is hoping he can turn the magic of the holiday season into the love of a lifetime.

Visit Hope’s website!

Every year for the last quarter-century, or possibly longer, I have set aside the Saturday closest to Christmas to bake gingerbread cookies with my children, and now, with my grandchildren. These are the only cookies I make at Christmas time, and the activity is more about family fun than turning out a perfect cookie. Usually I do most of the rolling, cutting, and baking. And the rest of the family does the decorating.

The magic is in the royal icing. The white icing is a snap to make, and it can be divided up into small bowls and colored with food dye, creating pots of colored cookie paint. I give each child (or adult) a watercolor paint brush and let them paint the icing onto the cookies. The kids have a blast, and the cookies always come out looking wonderfully homemade.

To me, cookie baking embodies everything I love about Christmas: kids, family, baking, and yummy desserts.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough
Makes about 6 Dozen

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup superfine sugar
1 egg at room temperature
½ cup unsulphured molasses

Directions:

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients – flour cocoa, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, backing soda, and salt.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat thoroughly.
3. On low speed, add the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
4. Cut the dough into thirds, pat into disks, wrap in plastic and chill until firm – 2 hours or overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about 1/16 inch thick and cut cookies with cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies to an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookie turn brown.
6. Let cool on sheets and then transfer to a wire rack. Decorate with royal icing.

Royal Icing

2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup water

Using a mixer, place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat at high speed until fluffy, thick & shiny (about 10 minutes.) Divide the icing into smaller bowls and color it using food coloring.


Christmas Comes to Main Street by Olivia Miles
Series: Briar Creek #5
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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The mistletoe is out, and the gloves are off . . .

‘Tis the worst season to be single, but Kara Hastings won’t let a little Christmas funk spoil the festive season. Sure, running her own bakery is a little harder than she expected, but she can handle it. And she’ll prove it to a certain infuriatingly handsome, bossy Big City guy. She may be sugar and spice, but she can kick his butt twice.

Nate Griffin is in Briar Creek only for the holidays, and he refuses to fall for the whole “small town, candy cane-scented Christmas Wonderland” thing. He’s more interested in the fresh-faced cookie chef who always knows exactly how to get under his skin. So when Nate challenges Kara in the town’s big holiday contest, it’s not just the competition that starts to heat up. If he’s not careful, Kara won’t just melt his icy resolve against a small-town Christmas . . . she’ll melt his heart too.

Find out more about Olivia on her website!

In my newest release, CHRISTMAS COMES TO MAIN STREET, my heroine owns a cookie bakery. As this story takes place over the holidays, I thought hard about a signature cookie she might make, and eventually I settled on charming snowflake cookies. Of course these are not just any old cut out cookie, though. No, Kara makes them by the dozen, sure to keep each one in the batch distinct in shape and decoration, because no two snowflakes are ever the same, after all! And it’s these snowflake cookies that she delivers every day to the inn in Briar Creek…where a Christmas visitor falls in love with more than just her cookies.

I hope you all enjoy these snowflake cookies as much as Nate does! :)

Kara’s Snowflake Cookies
(recipes courtesy of Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
2. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4 inch thick. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Cut out cookies. Transfer cookie dough on plastic wrap to a baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to freezer, freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet from freezer and transfer shapes to baking sheets lined with nonstick baking mats. Roll out scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.
4. Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, or more to thicken icing
Juice of 1 lemon
3 drops glycerin

Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar, lemon juice and glycerin (if using); beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Decorate each as you wish!

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Christmas Celebrated In Books | Author Julie Eshbaugh Guest Post

December 6, 2016 Guest Post 0

blc2016postheaderToday I’m welcoming Julie Eshbaugh, 2016 debut author of the amazing prehistoric fantasy Ivory and Bone (Have you read it yet? I really enjoyed it!). The sequel, Obsidian and Stars, is coming out on June 13, 2017 and I’m pretty excited to re-visit this world and the characters!

I love reading Christmas books, and Julie is here to highlight some magical Christmas scenes from the books we love so much! I’m currently reading my way through the Harry Potter books for the first time ever, and I’m looking forward to Christmas at Hogwarts especially!


Christmas Celebrated in Books by Julie Eshbaugh

I love encountering Christmas scenes in books, so when Jana asked if I’d like to contribute a Christmas guest post, I knew what my topic would be!

There’s something magical about celebrating a holiday with your favorite characters. Though the Harry Potter books might be the first to come to mind, there are many other books with Christmas scenes. Here is a list (in no particular order) of some of my favorite literary Christmases.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
by JK Rowling

“Christmas was coming. One morning in mid-December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow. The lake froze solid and the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban.”


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
by JK Rowling

“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head. He jumped out from under it.
“Good thinking,” said Luna seriously. “It’s often infested with nargles.”


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by JK Rowling

“But Hermione raised her wand, moved it in a circle through the air, and a wreath of Christmas roses blossomed before them. Harry caught it and laid it on his parent’s grave.
As soon as he stood up he wanted to leave: He did not think he could stand another moment there.”


A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”


The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”


Bridget Jones’s Diary
by Helen Fielding

“Come on,” said Mark Darcy.
“What?” I said.
“Don’t say ‘what.’ Bridget, say ‘pardon,’” hissed Mum.
“Mrs. Jones,” said Mark firmly. “I am taking Bridget away to celebrate what is left of the Baby Jesus’s birthday.”


Persuasion
by Jane Austen

“On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard in spite of all the noise of the others.”


Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott

“Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her mother’s promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book.”

Those are just a few of my favorites. I hope this little glimpse into fictional Christmases around the world and throughout time has helped you feel a little Christmas spirit in your heart! Whether you celebrate Christmas, another holiday, or just enjoy the wonders of the season, I wish you happiness and joy!


About Julie Eshbaugh

Julie Eshbaugh used to have trouble staying in one spot, having lived in places as varied as Utah, France, and New York City. She eventually returned home to the Philadelphia area, where she now lives in the house she grew up in with her husband and son. Early on, Julie focused her artistic energies on filmmaking and online video. She made two short films and spent several years producing a web series for teens that became an early YouTube hit and received several honors from the Webby Awards. Julie’s debut young adult novel, Ivory and Bone, will be published by HarperTeen in 2016.

Julie is a member of the group writing blog Pub(lishing) Crawl, where she posts regularly. You can also add Julie on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter, InstagramPinterest, and Facebook.

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Jingle Bell Harbor by Tracy Brogan | Mini Book Review

December 5, 2016 Adult Fiction, Book Review 0 ★★★★

Jingle Bell Harbor by Tracy Brogan | Mini Book ReviewJingle Bell Harbor by Tracy Brogan
Series: Bell Harbor #3.5
Published by Montlake Romance on October 20, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 111
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
As assistant buyer for the world’s second-largest Christmas store, Kelsey Parker feels like a holiday harlot. She’s contractually obligated to promote the yuletide season. All. Year. Long. And it’s taking a toll on her spirit. But when her clueless, self-absorbed boyfriend goes on their long-anticipated romantic vacation—without her!—Kelsey is beyond disappointed to find herself tromping through the Bell Harbor snow instead of lounging on a tropical beach.

Drew Hampton is considered quite a catch among the Bell Harbor bachelorettes, but when his high school dream girl, Kelsey Parker, shows up at his grandfather’s Christmas tree lot complaining about her love life, he decides it’s long past time to get her under the mistletoe himself.

As things heat up between the two, a surprise visitor arrives, making Kelsey an offer she can’t quite believe. Now she must decide what matters most, and she just may discover the key to her happiness.

This is a sweet, funny Christmas novella that’s perfect for getting you into the holiday spirit! I’ve not read any of the other Bell Harbor books, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. There’s not a lot to say about it because it’s such a short book, at jut over 100 pages. I read it in one sitting and had so much fun with the characters (Drew gives me heart eyes), the holiday festivities, the swoons, and the setting. The story did not feel rushed or compressed in order to fit into a novella. I loved Tracy’s writing and bought the rest of the Bell Harbor series because this one was so much fun. I can’t wait to read them! Consider this my seal of approval. If you’re looking for a magical dose of Christmas cheer, pick up this little gem and prepare to smile!

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The Debut Dish: December 2016, Issue #1 (+ Giveaways)

December 4, 2016 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 9

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

We interrupt A Bookish Little Christmas to give you some more recommendations for the last few reading weeks of 2016! This issue of The Debut Dish features Jenny Moyer (Flashfall), Gordon Jack (The Boomerang Effect), Sara Ella (Unblemished), and Sarah Everett (Everyone We’ve Been).


Flashfall by Jenny Moyer
November 15, 2016 from Henry Holt & C. BFYR
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

Describe your book in five words or less.
mining, kissing, suspenseful, magic, adventure

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene in FLASHFALL has kissing (LOL), and it occurs at a time when my characters have hit rock bottom and it seems all hope is lost. They are exiled to a terrifying wasteland where they are forced to mine or die, their only refuge is about to expire, and enemies are waiting for them on the other side of their sanctuary. Orion and Dram manage to find the light in their darkest moment, and it fuels their courage to fight against the odds.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
My kitchen, which was convenient because there was champagne close by. I did a lot of happy dancing in there that afternoon!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Reese’s peanut butter cups, McDonald’s french fries, fried pickles, donuts, all the cake ever . . .

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A stuffed animal bat one of my kids gave me in honor of the flash bats in FLASHFALL. It also reminds me of the bats we encountered when exploring caves for book research.


The Boomerang Effect by Gordon Jack
November 8, 2016 from HarperTEEN
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

It all started with a harmless prank. But now high school junior (and resident stoner) Lawrence Barry is one step away from reform school unless he participates in a mentorship program. His mentee? Spencer Knudsen, a Norwegian exchange student with Spock-like intelligence but the social skills of the periodic table.

Then disaster strikes—Homecoming week. When someone dressed as the school Viking mascot starts destroying the fairy tale–inspired floats, all suspicion falls on Lawrence. Add to the mix a demon Goth girl named Zoe, a Renaissance LARPing group, an overzealous yearbook editor, and three vindictive chickens, and Lawrence soon realizes that his situation may be a little out of control. But Spencer seems to have some answers. In fact, Spencer may be the one friend Lawrence never knew he needed.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Savant Saves Stoner From Self-destruction

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene in the book is when Lawrence (the stoner) and Audrey (his love interest) battle a group of cosplaying vampires after LARPing in the park.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At school (I’m a high school librarian).

What’s your favorite junk food?
Junior mints.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
It’s either my William Shakespeare finger puppet or my squirrel underpants.

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Unblemished by Sara Ella
October 11, 2016 from Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Flaws can become strengths.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I love the scene when the main character Eliyana is nearly kidnapped by this rotten dude. She’s about to be taken to a villain but at the last minute this guy she despises shows up and saves her.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in my kitchen. In my pajamas. Drinking coffee. I believe my agent’s exact words were “How would you feel about Thomas Nelson publishing your next three books?” Squeeeee!!!!!!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Um, chicken fingers. Always chicken fingers.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Is it odd my desk is my couch? I guess the oddest thing there is my 4-year-old’s sock.

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Everyone We’ve Been by Sarah Everett
October 4, 2016 from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Addison Sullivan has been in an accident. In its aftermath, she has memory lapses and starts talking to a boy that no one else can see. It gets so bad that she’s worried she’s going crazy.

Addie takes drastic measures to fill in the blanks and visits a shadowy medical facility that promises to “help with your memory.” But at the clinic, Addie unwittingly discovers it is not her first visit. And when she presses, she finds out that she had certain memories erased. She had a boy erased.

But why? Who was that boy, and what happened that was too devastating to live with? And even if she gets the answers she’s looking for, will she ever be able to feel like a whole person again?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girl sees boy others can’t.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a scene where two characters in the book spend a day doing Completely Mundane Things with Unwarranted Enthusiasm. It was so much fun to write!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was still a student at that time, so I was in class spacing out and refreshing my inbox a million times. They say a watched pot never boils, right? Well, a watched inbox NEVER has that beautiful (1). Except that Wednesday it did. An email from my agent popped up with good news and I spent the rest of the lecture internally freaking out and not being able to tell anyone. Okay, maybe I did stealthily send five or six all-caps texts.

What’s your favorite junk food?
The last year or so I’ve gotten addicted to Starbucks caramel frappuccinos.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A giant tennis ball with dozens of autographs.

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Unwrapping Bookish: My Top 5 Book Gifts | Author Elise Kova Guest Post

December 3, 2016 Guest Post 0

blc2016postheaderToday I’m welcome Elise Kova, author of the Air Awakens series, Golden Guard trilogy, and Loom Saga! I don’t know about you (of course I do), but I love getting beautiful books for Christmas that I know I will treasure always. There’s nothing quite as magical is opening a crisp, new, sparkly book from someone you care about. I always remember who gave me my books, and I smile and think of them each time I open one. See which books Elise has gotten the warm fuzzies from receiving!


The best presents are presents that will be used and cherished. Most of my friends and family who know me well realize that I’m not one for “stuff”. I try to live a fairly minimal lifestyle and put my money and time toward experiences. So, when I do ask for physical things, it’s usually because I really, truly, want them. Books hold true to this rule even more so because I generally prefer reading on my kindle. So the physical books I have are like more like collector’s items to me.

These are five of the best books I’ve ever been given for Christmas. They may not be the best books I’ve ever read, but they each have something special about them that’s earned them a place of prominence on my bookshelves.

1. The Legend of Zelda: The Hyrule Historia

Yep, I am the biggest Zelda geek you will ever meet and this was a highlight of my Christmas a year back.

 

2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Not only was this my favorite book of 2015, but the copy I own was gifted to me by a reader, making it extra special.

 

3. Dark Souls: Design Works by From Software

Most everyone knows I have a weakness for Dark Souls (really, anything From Software). Well, I also have a weakness for art books. I love to see everything from concept art to final illustration and all the sketches that are behind the finished products of video games and animation. Needless to say, this is one of my favorite books on my shelf.

 

4. A Man of His Word series by Dave Duncan

This series is one of my all-time favorites and was absolutely transformative for me when I read it in High School. I had the original prints of it and lent them to a friend, and never got them back (but, I hope my friend enjoyed them at least). Thankfully, my parents came through for me on a subsequent Christmas, getting me a republication.

 

poe5. The Complete Tales of Edgar Allen Poe

Fun fact! THE RAVEN was one of the first poems I ever memorized. I can’t quite recall all of it now, but the good thing is I have this book whenever I feel like refreshing my memory. I think we all had that dream at some point of owning a library filled with beautiful, gold-leaf, leather bound books – at least, I did. So when I got this book for Christmas in Jr High School I couldn’t have been happier. While I still don’t have that large beautiful library, I do treasure Poe’s works as some of my favorites among the classics.

What books do you want for Christmas – or any other religious/secular holiday – this year?

Let me know and say hi on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

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How Early Is too Early to Start Celebrating Christmas? | Blogger Guest Post

December 2, 2016 Guest Post 1

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Today I get to welcome Victoria from Doodles and Scraps (Addlepates and Book Nerds). Victoria guest posted last year all about Christmas in New Zealand, which was so fun I had to invite her back again! For the record… I start celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States, so I’m one of those people Victoria is annoyed with. :P I can’t help it, though, and that’s ok!


Hi everyone, I’m Victoria! Also known, by the end of this post, as the Christmas Grinch. When you look around the shops, or the radio, or even social media, Christmas is all over the place all the time. Halloween is over, then BAM, Christmas! November is TOO SOON people, Christmas doesn’t start until December!

victoriamallMy mum’s birthday is November 11th, so for our family you aren’t allowed anything even slightly Christmas until after then. Like, don’t even mention the word. I guess for America, Thanksgiving should be your same sort of date, right? And I think for everyone born in November/December, it’s the same feeling. Your birthday is important, let’s not skip over that! I love all sort of gift giving holidays, and your personal gift receiving day should never be dismissed because of Christmas. After the 11th, I stop getting mad at all the shops putting trees up and playing Christmas carols. Well, I only get mad internally. But it’s very important to note that this is NOT Christmas!

Not that any of the shops listen to my personal rule. Have you noticed how intense
places like the mall get about Christmas? Ours hangs Christmassy wreaths all over the place, and it has a tree that’s trying its best to touch the roof. Oh, and Santa comes to visit, of course! What’s Christmas without Santa? I went to a Christmas parade, just coincidentally after going to dinner nearby, and that was at the end of November, around the 25th. Who has a Christmas parade that early in the year?

Christmas, in my mind, starts December 1st (the day I’m writing this, actually). That’s when you get your advent calendar – wait, do people all over the world have those? Well, if you don’t, it’s this magical thing where you get to eat a chocolate every day leading up to Christmas. And you get a chocolate all of December, so it must be Christmas then, right? I don’t think you should be allowed to put up your tree until then, and even then that’s the absolute earliest. Christmas shopping? Why are you even thinking about it in November?

All of December, go absolutely crazy with the Christmas celebration stuff. I love people who go all-out with the lights, and the decorations. I mean, when you google “December”, everything that comes up is Christmas stuff! Let’s watch every Christmas movie to ever be made, and listen to Christmas carols non-stop. I know I called myself the Grinch at the start of this post, but I’m not really! Christmas is my favourite time of year, which is why I’m here doing a post for the second year in a row. Just don’t start celebrating too early, okay?

Thanks, Jana, for having me over on your blog! I can’t wait to hear your Christmas thoughts – am I being too harsh?

*Jana butts in* Yes, you’re being too harsh! I started buying Christmas presents in June and I put my tree up on November 25th!

Victoria is an 18-year-old blogger who talks about anything and everything in her life at Doodles and Scraps. She’s finishing high school, writing, reading, and watching too much YouTube to be healthy. You can find her on Twitter, Goodreads, Snapchat (@victoriajaynes), or email her at addlepatesandbooknerds@gmail.com!

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The 5th Annual A Bookish Little Christmas with That Artsy Reader Girl

December 1, 2016 Uncategorized 0

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, aka my favorite time of year! As I’m sure you’ve come to expect from me, today begins my 5th annual A Bookish Little Christmas event! I’ve got my Santa hat on, ready to present a festive and joyous event as we count down the days until Christmas.

The next few weeks will be filled with holiday book reviews, recipes, music, and personal posts from yours truly, plus I’ve rallied together a bunch of bookish friends who will be guest posting about a number of different holiday topics. You can look forward to posts on different winter holidays, holiday customs outside the USA, gift recommendations, and more. I’ve also invited some of your favorite authors to share all-new, holiday bonus scenes/content that compliment their books. They wrote this material just for my blog event, and I’m so thankful for that! Some authors chose to write about other holiday topics, both bookish and not.

Basically, this is going to be an amazing month! So grab a cup of cocoa, your favorite cozy blanket, and snuggle up for a warm winter’s night!

The more the merrier! If you would like to join in the festivities and guest post during the month of December, email me using the button on my sidebar and I’ll add you to the line-up! Celebrating Christmas is not required. You can write about any winter holiday, and on pretty much any holiday topic!

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