It’s no secret among my friends and family that fall is my all-time favorite season. There’s just so much to love about it: the cooler temperatures, the vivid colors of the falling autumn leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and my favorite cardigan sweaters and boots. But those who know me well also know that winter is my second-favorite season, and there are so many things I enjoy about that time of year, especially the holidays.
I have always loved Christmastime and when I was a child my fervent wish was that every Christmas would be a white one. Living in Iowa, you’d think it was a given that the ground would be covered in snow, but that was not always the case. Now, as an adult, I still wish for a white Christmas and watch the weather forecast closely in the days leading up to Christmas Eve.
In my family, Christmas Eve was always the night we celebrated the most. We hosted a family gathering and then spent Christmas Day in a more leisurely, look-what-Santa-brought-eating-leftovers kind of way. About seven or eight years ago, I took over the hosting of our family on Christmas Eve. My dad and stepmom still host Thanksgiving and Easter at their house, but Christmas Eve is all mine. It felt like a right of passage and it made my favorite holiday even more special to me.
We have traditions that we’ve been following since I started hosting and I have no desire to change them anytime soon. Around Thanksgiving, I start baking the cookies I’ll want on hand for the holiday season. I always make gingersnaps, chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, sugar cookie cutouts, and some sort of almond bark-covered truffle. I put them in the freezer and on Christmas Eve morning, I pull out the ones I’ve been saving for our holiday celebration and arrange them on my Christmas platters.
Our dinner menu features a surf and turf double entrée. My dad always makes his prime rib and I’m in charge of the seafood. One of the things I love about our menu is that we all cook together at my house. Dad brings the beef and I’m in charge of preparing the king crab legs. I make sure to have appetizers on hand when my siblings and their families arrive so no one goes hungry while we’re putting the main meal together. We often round out the meal with a potato casserole of some kind, a vegetable such as asparagus, and a heaping basket of garlic bread.
I always set the dining room table on the morning of Christmas Eve. I have special green chargers to go under the dinner plates, cloth napkins, reindeer napkin rings, amber water goblets, and candles everywhere. Right before we eat, I often find myself standing in the dining room with the lights down low, basking in the candlelight and enjoying how pretty everything looks.
Once dinner is over, we move to the family room where we let the kids open their gifts one at a time. Once they’re done, we send them to the basement to hang out while the adults take turns opening their gifts. And when the gifts are all opened and the room is a sea of wrapping paper and bows, we make coffee and dig into those cookie platters! It’s a wonderful way to end the evening and I look forward to it every year.
I’m already looking ahead to December, and I might even have a to-do list started. Now bring on the snow. I’m already pining for that white Christmas.
Merry Christmas Giveaway from Tracey Garvis Graves!
Your choice of a copy of On the Island (her debut) or The Girl He Used to Know (her upcoming 2019 release). Such a hard decision because they are both SO GOOD!
This giveaway is open internationally.
On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Penguin on August 16, 2012
Genres: Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Romance, Survival
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When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.
T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments — instead of his friends.
Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter.
Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.
The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Publishing by St. Martin’s Press on April 2, 2019
Genres: Adult/Womens Fiction – Romance, Contemporary
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Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.
Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.
Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.