Posts Categorized: Guest Post

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, My! by Merrie Destefano | Author Guest Post (+ Lost Girls Giveaway)

January 4, 2017 Giveaway, Guest Post 8

Today I’m welcoming Merrie Destefano, author of Lost Girls, to the blog to talk a little about her experience writing her book! I am SUPER excited to read Merrie’s new book and plan to real soon. Read more about Merrie and her book after her post, plus enter to win a copy of Lost Girls for yourself!


Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, My!
by Merrie Destefano

Sometimes the process of writing is like being knee-deep in The Wizard of Oz. Have you ever seen that movie? It’s always been one of my favorites. In fact, when I was five-years-old, I went though this period where I would only answer to the name of Glinda. (Remember her? The good witch?) I also had an imaginary friend who was a bubble—like that crazy, magic bubble Glinda traveled in.

But writing is nothing like the character of Glinda. That girl knew what she was doing. She had All The Power. If she was writing, she’d just snap her fingers and, POW, a story would appear. It would be perfect.

No, writing is more like being the character of Dorothy. Lost, confused, angry, lonely, worried, and yet somehow being on a Very Important Mission the whole time.

And like Dorothy, there might be a point that you realize the other characters surrounding you are an awful lot like people you really know. You don’t set out to do that. It just kind of happens.

Like Dylan McCarthy in Lost Girls.

At first, I was just adding a love interest for my main character. But before I knew it, Dylan started wearing a skin that look a LOT like a Real Life Boy I had crushed on in seventh grade. My real-life crush sat next to me in English. (Swoon.) He. Was. Adorable. And he wrote poetry that could stop your heart. And then start it thundering again.

I swear, even our teacher had a crush on that boy.

And yes, I did drop my pencil once and he reached down to pick it up. But I was too embarrassed to let him do that. I dove faster than I thought I could move and snatched it up from the floor before he could get it.

I may have foiled my own chance at romance.

Maybe. Maybe he might have. In another world and in another universe, maybe, just maybe he might have picked up that blasted pencil and given me a smile. Just like Dylan did with Rachel. Maybe it could have been the beginning of something wonderful.

Maybe.

Meanwhile, I keep writing stories where maybe actually becomes true. That’s the best way for any story to end.

Maybe Dorothy will get to go home again…

Change that.

Dorothy goes home and all is well. She even gets to keep her little dog.


Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano
January 3, 2017 from Entangled Teen
Genres: YA contemporary, YA psychological thriller, YA dark contemporary
Add to Goodreads | Amazon

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.


About Merrie Destefano

Born in the Midwest, magazine editor Merrie Destefano currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat, and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

Website | Blog | Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Alyssa Susanna’s Holiday Baking Bonanza | Book Blogger Guest Post

December 23, 2016 Guest Post 2

Today I’m welcoming one of my very good book blogging friends, Alyssa Susanna (of The Eater of Books), to the blog to share her holiday baking traditions! I love how she and her mother enjoy baking together each year,and that they’ve melded American Christmas customs with Trinidadian ones! You might want to grab some treats of your own before reading this post because it’s sure to make you hungry!


Alyssa Susanna’s Holiday Baking Bonanza

Hello friends! Today I’m sharing something near and dear to my heart – my holiday baking traditions! Well, traditions that my mother and I keep. My family and I are Trinidadian, so we do a mix of “American” baked goods, and Trinidadian baked goods. Next year if I’m fortunate, Jana might let me come back, and I’ll share what a Trinidadian Christmas is like! But for now, dessert! Please note – while we do make all of these, we give away at least half, to family and friends! Also note – my mother is the mastermind here. I love baking, and I always have a hand in the holiday baking, but my mom is the genius.

So, here we go! Up first:

Trinidadian Christmas Fruit Cake

 

This is different from your usual fruit cake! It has raisins, currants, prunes, cherries, walnuts, Trinidad White Oak Rum. It’s often a favorite in the house, especially when all the Trini relatives come over!

 

Peanut Butter Crinkles

 

These are fairly “American”, but we love them because they are really easy to make, and the chocolate center is delicious! When you get the texture of the cookie right, it’s dreamy.

 

Tropical Nut Cookies

 

These are a classic, and a “secret family recipe”. My mother adapted a recipe she got from a lady in church, about twenty years ago. These are the most sought-after cookies that we make! My mother and I usually make four to six dozens! These disappear very quickly.

 

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

 

These are simple and so addicting! Melted milk chocolate chips, melted white chocolate chips, and Christmas-y sprinkles, if you want. Unfortunately they do take some time and the yield isn’t high, but these are perfect to snack on while watching the Christmas football games.

 

Peppermint Bark

 

These are simple and so addicting! Melted milk chocolate chips, melted white chocolate chips, and Christmas-y sprinkles, if you want. Unfortunately they do take some time and the yield isn’t high, but these are perfect to snack on while watching the Christmas football games.

 

Chocolate Fudge

 

Chocolate fudge is another one of the baked goods that we don’t love, but we make it to supplement what we give away. It IS tasty but so sweet! You need it in small doses.

We make MANY more different types of cookies, but I’ll round off with my favorite…

 

Snowball Cookies!

 

I love these! They are petite and so yummy. I love them so much, I’m going to share the recipe with you! I have been using this Nestle recipe that I found in the local grocery store, about ten years ago. So it’s Nestle’s recipe! Enjoy.

Ingredients:

1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1¾ cups chocolate chips/holiday shapes/morsels
½ cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
Powdered sugar

Instructions:

PREHEAT oven to 375°F.
BEAT butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour; stir in morsels and nuts. Shape level tablespoons of dough into 1¼-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Sift powdered sugar over the hot cookies on baking sheets. Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely on wire racks or wax paper.

Thanks for indulging! I hope you all have a wonderful (and sweet!) holiday season. In the comments, share some of your favorite holiday treats!


Christmas Sweets for My Sweeties | Book Blogger Guest Post

December 22, 2016 Guest Post 2

Today I’m welcoming my friend Brooke (of Brooke Reports) to the blog! Brooke has one of the cutest Christmas posts ever, and I’m so delighted she chose this topic! I remember baking/buying yummy treats and doorbell ditching them on my the front porches of my highschool crushes. Have you ever done that? Brooke is pairing up some of her book boyfriends with a yummy holiday treat… recipes included!


Sweets for My Sweeties
by Brooke at Brooke Reports

Okay, so originally I was going to write a post about all the fictional boys that I’d love to kiss under the mistletoe….but the list ended up being six pages long—so I scratched that.

Then I thought, oh! I know, a shorter list would totally be, “fictional characters I’d pair up together under the mistletoe.” But—I got WAY too jealous over my near perfect matches :P

So, I decided to go a much sweeter route—a post I like to call “Sweets for my Sweeties.” These hunks can spice up any holiday, here are some recipes inspired by some of my favorites!

 

Four from the Divergent Series

Holiday Oreo Cookie Balls

He’s a tough guy on the outside, like a hard chocolate shell if you will, but a big softie on the inside.



Fowler from Reign of Shadows

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This boy. I could eat him up. He is an absolute dream. He faces so many struggles. He is layered and full of surprises just like a Peanut Butter Blossom.

 

Logan from Defiance

Gingerbread Cookies

He is into Rachel. She is a redhead. Do you see where I’m going with this holiday treat? Gingerbread it is!

 

Adam Wilde from If I Stay

Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Where is this swoony-singer?! What are him and Mia up to? I this all American boy is baking up some sugar cookies with his favorite girl this season.

 

Julian from Caraval

Salted Caramels

He is sexy and sweet and complicated and he is the epitome of decadence. Sea Salt Caramels. Yes. Right?! Yes.

 

Ren from Nightshade

Peppermint Bark

Throwing it back to the old school bad boy, Ren from Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. He is spicy and sweet and definitely has a little bite to his bark! Peppermint bark!

What sweets would you give your sweeties?


Cooke’s Twelfth Night | Saving Hamlet Christmas Bonus by Molly Booth

December 19, 2016 Guest Post 0

A big Christmassy welcome to Molly Booth, 2016 debut author of Saving Hamlet! I was so excited when Molly told me her idea for A Bookish Little Christmas because I LOVE time travel and I really loved this idea of having Cooke (a guy from Elizabethan England) write a letter to Emma (our modern-day main character) during Christmastime in his time. Seriously, how fun is this?


Cooke’s Twelfth Night
by Molly Booth

It is London, late 1601. Alexander Cooke, actor at the Globe Playhouse, prepares to play a new role with Shakespeare and the Chamberlain’s Men. He sorely misses his futuristic friend, Emma Allen. Unsure how to feel better, he fitfully writes her a letter.

My Dearest, Em

Emma, Emma, wherefore art thou, Emma? Deny thy time and refuse thy name. Though in sooth, I love thy real name, even if it doth keep us parted. My friend, much time hath passed since I last saw thee. The sun riseth, and I miss thee. It seteth, and I miss thee more. I write this letter to ease my aching mind — my heart, I fear, groweth so weary and cold there is naught to do for comfort.

I fear, also, that I am growing too dramatic.

Our company hath abandoned our Globe for the season, and we play indoors, lit by candle light. Master Shakespeare hath written a new play, “What You Will,” and I know thou wouldst like it. ’Tis a comedy, but if it twere a stream, the river bed would be of tragedy. We rehearse madly, for in a fortnight, we play for Queen Elizabeth and the Italian Duke Orsini. Art thou impressed?

I play a young woman, Viola, grieving for the loss of her twin brother. She disguiseth herself as a young lord to work for the Duke Orsino (Master Shakespeare flatters our Italian visitor with great subtlety). Naturally, Viola falleth in love with Orsino, and once again, the play ends with my marriage to Burbage.

I remember thee, when I am Viola. I remember thy spirit, thy clumsy, gentle ways. I remember thy grief after Master Wick’s passing. I feel the grief that bears down in my breast when I think of how we are parted. It feels wrong, though I know a shift in time cannot be right?

How shall I send this letter? Down a trap door? Up through heaven? By thunderstorm? By cannon?

Like all of Master Shakespeare’s plays, there is truth and beauty in this new one that bring tears and comfort:

O time, thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me to un’tie.

O — thou must knowest this play, as thou knowest all secrets of our future. So, couldst thou send us the final title? Master Shakespeare hath just discovered that another playwright hath new a play also called “What You Will.” He is not pleased.

I prithee. Do not stay away so long.

Cooke

Copyright © Molly Booth 2016


Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth
November 1, 2016 from Disney-Hyperion
Add to Goodreads | Amazon

I wanted sophomore year to be different, but this was a little much.

Emma Allen couldn’t be more excited to start her sophomore year. Not only is she the assistant stage manager for the drama club’s production of Hamlet, but her crush Brandon is directing, and she’s rocking a new haircut that’s sure to get his attention. But soon after school starts, everything goes haywire. Emma’s suddenly promoted to stage manager, her best friend, Lulu, stops talking to her, and Josh—the sweet soccer player who’s been cast as the lead—turns out to be a disaster. It’s up to Emma to fix it all, but she has no clue where to start.

One night after rehearsal, Emma stays behind to think through her life’s latest crises and distractedly falls through the stage’s trap door…landing in the basement of the Globe Theater.

It’s London, 1601, and with her awesome new pixie cut, everyone thinks Emma’s a boy—even Will Shakespeare himself. Dropped into the middle of the original production of Hamlet, Emma gamely plays her role as backstage assistant, jumping at the chance to experience theatre history and rub shoulders with legends. But the Globe’s Hamlet has its own problems, and once Emma starts traveling back and forth through time, things get really confusing. In which reality does she belong? And can she possibly save two epically tragic productions of Hamlet before time runs out?


About Molly Booth

Molly Booth grew up homeschooled in Massachusetts with her four boisterous siblings. She stage managed for three different community theatres in high school. Her first college was Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, MA; she then went on to study writing, literature, and Elizabethan history on a very cold hill at Marlboro College in Vermont. There, she wrote the first drafts of Saving Hamlet, her debut novel, coming 11/1/16 from Disney Hyperion. Her second book, Nothing Happened, will be coming spring 2018.

Molly also writes for The Mary Sue, and sometimes other sites like HelloGiggles, The Tempest, and McSweeney’s.  She spends most of her time snuggling her adorable dog Suzie, pet rats Meg and Marigold, and Harriet the queen cat.

Website | Twitter | Facebook


Mary E. Pearson’s Christmas Traditions | Author Guest Post

December 15, 2016 Guest Post 0

Mary E. Pearson is one of my very favorite authors (I LOVED The Kiss of Deception), so I was delighted when she accepted my request for a Christmas guest post this month!

This is not the first time Mary has guest posted on my blog. Did you see the post about the world of the Remnant Chronicles that she wrote for the Beauty of Darkness blog tour earlier this year? She posted some REALLY pretty pictures! Anyway, today we get to read about Mary’s Christmas traditions! She even included a really yummy sounding recipe. :)


Mary E. Pearson’s Christmas Traditions

“The tradition I had eschewed was now all that sustained me. I lifted my hands to the gods, but my songs flowed from that which was memorized to something new, utterances of another tongue . . . my voice rose, braided with the words of a thousand years . . . a prayer woven not of sounds alone, but of stars and dust and evermore.” –The Kiss of Deception

 

Tradition. The Christmas holiday is rich with it.

At the beginning of the Remnant Chronicles, Lia spurned tradition. I understand that. As we are growing into adulthood and making our own choices, we don’t want our decisions hampered by the expectation, “but this is how we have always done it.” Yes, we do need to sometimes break tradition! Finding new ways of doing things is what keeps our world vibrant and fresh and growing in positive ways. And yet . . .

There is a common history in tradition too, and the best of traditions can recall our past, help us to slow down and reflect even as we are bustling forward, and at no other time of the year, does tradition slow down the speeding train, help me reflect, and bring me more comfort than at Christmas. Sometimes those traditions can be something as simple as baking a cookie, hanging a particular ornament, looking at twinkling lights, singing a carol, watching a Christmas movie I’ve seen a hundred times, or hearing the jingle of a bell outside a store with a red bucket filling with donations, and the message, Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

Yes, sometimes the memories are bittersweet too—I am reminded of a death, a lost relationship, or profound changes in the world just since the previous holiday, but the same tradition that can cause bittersweet pause can also help me take a breath, regroup, and gain strength for the challenges of a coming year. Making plans to move forward also requires grounding.

In The Kiss of Deception, when Lia was at her lowest point, in the middle of a battlefield facing unfathomable loss, she returned to traditions she had shunned, drawing strength from them in her own unique way, honoring the past while at the same time, vowing to change the future. The traditions gave her grounding and a sense of direction.

Almost twenty years ago, my father passed away just before Christmas. My mother died just a few short years later. They had both loved Christmas and always made a big deal of it and their presence was sorely missed those first holidays without them. As families grow, and blend, and change, new traditions are born, but our family still carries on many of the traditions my parents passed on to us, as their parents had to them, and every year those traditions give me moments of joy, bittersweet pause, and also comfort. I reflect on them as I stir a bowl of fudge, balance on a ladder hanging lights, or address a holiday card, thinking of Christmases past, when times were different, for both better and worse.

One particular holiday tradition that seemed to be uniquely my mother’s was making a holiday treat that wasn’t traditional at all. It wasn’t fudge, or a decorated sugar cookie, or a spiced mulled wine. It was something she called Corn Flake Chews. Yep, nothing fancy about it. But the stranger thing is, it’s made with peanut butter, and yes, corn flakes, neither of which I like, but it is one holiday treat that somehow works a strange Christmas magic to make me love and devour them. It mystifies even me.

Every year as I make up a batch I think of my mother and how small sweet miracles can happen, and that reminds me larger miracles can happen too, and I lick the spoon and reflect, and regroup, and am filled with gratitude for small humble treats, and tradition.

And so with that thought, I’d like share, from my household to yours, this simple but grand holiday sweetness that I promise will be devoured by one and all.

 

Christmas Corn Flake Chews

1 Cup sugar
1 Cup light corn syrup

1 Cup chunk peanut butter
6 Cups Corn Flakes
1/2 Cup chopped Red and Green M&M’s

(or double this whole recipe like I do—it is that yummy)

Bring the first two ingredients just to boil (do not overcook!) Remove from heat and blend in the peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Pour mixture over corn flakes and stir until flakes are well-coated. Sprinkle in chopped M&Ms (reserve 2T for later)

Pour and spread evenly into greased pan. Sprinkle top with reserved M&Ms. Use a sheet of wax paper to lightly press warm mixture down so it is even in pan. Cool, cut into 1or 2 inch squares, and enjoy!

I wish you all a happy holiday filled with traditions old and new, miracles both large and small, and quiet moments of reflection that will strengthen you for the coming year.

And always the refrain, Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

xo,
Mary


About Mary E. Pearson

Mary E. Pearson is the award-winning author of The Jenna Fox Chronicles, The Miles Between, A Room on Lorelei, and Scribbler of Dreams.  She writes full-time from her home office in California where she lives with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Website | Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Pinterest

 


Five Amazing Gift Ideas for Writers | Book Blogger Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

December 14, 2016 Bookish Finds, Giveaway, Guest Post 12

I am beyond excited to have Bonnie from A Backwards Story on the blog today to present her ideas for writer gifts. It’s easy to buy bookworms presents: Barnes & Noble or Amazon gift cards, pretty copies of books they love, accessories with books on them, items with book/reading quotes on them… etc. But what do you get a writer? Enter Bonnie! She has some wonderful ideas for you, and I’m so excited to share them with you.


Gift Ideas for Writers
By Bonnie at A Backwards Story

Are you looking for the perfect gift for a writer in your life?

As a fellow writer, I know we aren’t an easy bunch to shop for! We ask for strange things like our favorite brand of pen or correction pencil (or for us old-fashioned hand-writers in the bunch, even fun journals/notebooks!), and our friends and family stare at us like we’re crazy because, really, who wants pencils for Christmas?

THIS GIRL, for one!

But there are a lot of other cool gift ideas that are fun, affordable, and surprising!

Here are five gift ideas for writers–and as an extra special bonus, there’s a discount code for one of the gifts from Storiarts AND a chance to win another gift from Evie Seo!

Keep reading to hear more!!!

 

1. Idea Books

I found the two of these last year and thought they were the coolest, especially the BRIGHT IDEAS one because it’s COLOR CODED. Think of it like an already-prepped Bullet Journal, but easier to get to if you don’t color in tabs for yourself because you can just flip to the color for the the section you want. There are sections for hot ideas, wisps of dreamy memories, and more!

And the other one is just fun because, really, ideas can be evil, too. I mean, some authors ENJOY killing their darlings, right!? Well, okay, and it just helps you organize your ideas that you jot down on the train as you commute to work. Was it a good idea? A bad one? Not sure yet? There’s a spot to comment at the bottom!!)

(BRIGHT IDEAS: ISBN 978-1-4521-3914-2)
(EVIL SCHEMES: ISBN 8-25703-12160-5)

 

2. Writing Gloves

I don’t know about anyone else, but my hands get COLD when I’m writing in the winter. And cramp up. Since I write by hand, that’s not good at all! Thankfully, if I’m on my computer, I get a little bit of computer heat if I’m plugged in. But what about when I’m not?

I’m obsessed with these gloves by Storiarts and really want to pick up a pair for myself. (I’m torn between the Alice in Wonderland pair and the Peter Pan pair and just can’t make up my mind! I meant to ask for them for Christmas this year, but forgot…oops!!)

I have a lot of fingerless gloves, but the knit ones so easily found at stores can be scratchy, and they usually don’t have the thumb cut out.

What attracts me to the Storiarts Gloves is the way they’re more cottonish and will feel like a regular article of clothing. PLUS the thumbs are cut out. AND they have bookish references! #winwin

Ready to see these gloves in action?

From text to cool designs such as white rabbits and pixies, there’s always something to stare at while you’re wearing these gloves!

The gloves retail at $26, BUT Storiarts is so fantastic, that they’re giving out a special discount for our readers!!!

If you want these gloves–for yourself or a friend–
add discount code

ThatArtsyReaderGirl

(it’s not case sensitive!) to get 10% off your purchase!

This code is valid once per customer through the month of December!

If you order by December 19th, you’re guaranteed to have US Delivery in time for Christmas/Chanukah!

 

3. Story Cubes

Turn writing into a game! Especially when Writer’s Block is running rampant.

I saw Rory’s Story Cubes at the store recently, and thought they were adorable! Not to mention fun. And there are different packs, so whether you’re writing a novel about traveling to a foreign country or having a daring adventure, there’s something for every writer.

The pair I own, however, is wooden, and just has an old-fashioned, quaint, whimsical feel that I love as a fantasy writer, the Magic and Fairy-Tale Dice. You can special order it locally from stores such as Barnes and Noble, or buy it online from places such as Amazon (Though if you can support a local business and keep them around, that’s always personally my first go-to! The ISBN is 978-1856699198). My copy came from a Japanese bookstore in New York City called Kinokuniya.

What’s cool about this game is the fact that it’s not JUST a game. It can also be used as a tool for writers. Having writer’s block or looking for a cool element to include in the WIP you’re outlining? Throw some dice, invent a few words, and see where you wind up!

Additionally, this is a fun game to play with your friends, or even with kids, and it will never be the same story twice.

The game’s tagline is:

Revive the art of storytelling using these nine beautifully illustrated wooden dice to create the most imaginative, funny, and bizarre stories. This is the perfect family game that will stimulate the imaginations of children and adults alike. Ideal for playing by a log fire.

Here’s an old video review I did featuring the Magic and Fairy-Tale Dice:

These dice double as a game that can be played with friends and family members. Plus, they’re small and portable, and great to bring along on long car rides!

 

4. Writers actually DO like pens and notebooks!
There is no such thing as “too many!”

I’ve always LOVED getting notebooks and pens as gifts. I often see Kooky pens at A.C. Moore’s and Hallmark, and sometimes buy them even now. Pens with cute designs or pencils with interesting erasers are unique and fun, too. I always save the most interesting writing instruments for special occasions. When I was younger, I collected sets of Lisa Frank pens and wrote with them most frequently. (Does Lisa Frank even still exist? IDK!)

Fun notebooks with cute designs are inspirational, too. I’d rather pick up something with a design over a plain cover notebook any day, especially if it’s reminiscent of the project I’m working on.

Now, I know a lot of writers type and don’t write by hand, but it doesn’t mean they don’t still need to jot down ideas from time to time! Especially small, compact notebooks that fit into a purse. Or what if they’re at work and don’t want to whip out their computer at lunch? My one co-worker (Who just won NaNoWriMo 2016!!!) writes in her notebook every day at lunch. To her, every free minute is a writing minute!

 

5. Pen and Pencil Holders

Where are you going to put all those cute, fancy pens? Whether you’re a writer or a student, you’re going to want a cute case, right?

Until recently, I had no clue of where to go to find a cute case. I always looked during Back to School, but everything was plain or too kiddie.

Luckily, I was gifted a pouch by a publisher, and another by my awesome #OTSPSecretSister:

(I have no clue where my Sister got that case, but see all those zippers? It has THREE compartments to hold stuff. It’s amazing and my favorite thing ever!!!)

But not every writer can have a great pouch just fall into their laps.

That’s where great online shops such as Etsy and RedBubble come into play! My favorite shop belongs to Evie Seo, whose mugs, tote bags, and other book-themed offerings have made social media waves. If you’ve ever been to a big bookish event such as YALL or BookCon, you’ve probably seen at least one person sporting Evie’s designs!

Evie’s Studio Pouches make the PERFECT writing utensil bags for writers! (They also make great cosmetic bags!)

They come in Medium and Large sizes. The medium is a perfectly sized pencil pouch, while the larger one can also be a book sleeve in addition to all the utensils it can fit inside!

Here are some great examples of these stylish bags at work:

Can you see why Evie’s designs are my favorites!?

I love that she can be very fairy tale-ish and full of whimsy, or super bookish with quotes from favorite novels! There’s definitely something for everyone in her shop!

How about a GIVEAWAY!?

To make this holiday season even better for the writer in your life (or yourself, if you’re a writer!!), Evie Seo has graciously offered up a Studio Pouch with a design of choice to one lucky writer!!!!

Happy Holidays, Bookworms!

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Christmas In What You Always Wanted by Kristin Rae | Bonus Scene (+ Giveaway)

December 12, 2016 Giveaway, Guest Post 1

I am SOOOO excited to have Kristin Rae here on the blog today! Guys, I love Kristin. Her debut, Wish You Were Italian, is one of my favorite books ever and her sophomore novel, What You Always Wanted is super adorable too!

Today Kristin is presenting this exclusive Christmas bonus scene of What You Always Wanted, and it’s pretty perfect. It’s pretty much as perfect as the Wish You Were Italian bonus scene she wrote for my blog last year. Can you tell I can’t get enough of her novels? I always want more! Thank you so much, Kristin, for writing this sweet scene for my blog!


What You Always Wanted Bonus Scene
by Kristin Rae


“So … what first?” I ask, sinking into the couch with my legs folded under me.
After closing the last blackout curtain so there’s no glare on the screen from the setting sun, Jesse plops down next to me and takes my hand in his. “How about this?”

I rub the soft, squishy skin between his thumb and pointer finger, leaning toward him until our shoulders touch but stopping short of resting my head against him. Yeah, I know we danced most of the day at the playhouse—by “dancing,” I mean “kissing”—but being able to snuggle against him on a couch in the dark when I was only dreaming about the possibility twenty-four hours ago … it’s not totally computing.

“This is nice,” I say, and he makes a noise of agreement as he settles deeper into the back cushion. “But I guess I mostly meant which movie do you want to watch?” With one hand, I pull my bag from the floor and dump the movie selection across our laps.

“It’s a Wonderful Life? The Bishop’s Wife? Are these Christmas movies?” he asks with an implied groan, which I ignore.

“Yes! Just a few of my favorites.” I let go of his hand and sort the DVDs. “I was thinking we could start with White Christmas because there’s dancing, and one of the characters does this crazy thing where she taps her toe at light speed, and I want you to show me if that’s even physically possible, then we could balance out the dancing after that with The Shop Around the Corner—”

“Hold on.” He stops me with a finger to my lips, and a little chill travels down to my toes. “Why did you ask what I wanted to watch if you had everything planned out through—” He counts the movies. “—tomorrow morning?”

I laugh, tugging a throw blanket over my legs to warm my nerves. “Well, I wasn’t expecting to watch all of them in one go.”

“Maddie. Christmas is over. It’s New Year’s Day. Radio stations have stopped playing holiday music. We’ve all moved on.” He looks me in the eye with a straight face. “You can too.”

My mouth drops open in exaggerated surprise, but it turns into a smile when he laughs. “The season needs to last loooongerrrr,” I say. “It has the best movies, the best music, best weather. And besides, we didn’t really get to experience it, like … I mean …”

“Like boyfriend and girlfriend, you mean?” He’s not laughing anymore, but a corner of his mouth stays up in a sly-looking half-smile.

I mirror him. “Maybe.”

“Best weather?” he asks, like he just registered everything else I said. “How ya figure?”

“Cold, sometimes rainy or windy, chance of snow. It just feels … Christmassy, you know?”

“If by chance of snow, you mean point zero zero zero zero two percent chance, then I totally know what you’re talking about.” He pulls the blanket so it covers his legs too and acts like he’s nestling against me for warmth. “So Christmassy.”

I go ahead and lean my head on his as we continue to hold hands under the blanket. Because I can. I smile to myself and listen to us breathe, memorize the feel of his hand in mine.

“All I’m asking is for one more day, Jesse,” I plead as playfully as possible so it doesn’t sound like begging. “One day with you where it still feels like there’s some Christmas magic leftover.”

“Okay. As your boyfriend, I will do this for you. The holiday season has been extended one more day.”

I sit up to study his face. He just called himself my boyfriend. And it didn’t freak him out. And it didn’t freak me out.

“You sure? Because as your girlfriend, I don’t want you to be completely miserable with the first movie we watch together as an official couple.”

“I can’t promise I won’t fall asleep at some point, but I can promise I’ll be the opposite of miserable as long as I can do this.” He tightens his grip on our interlaced fingers, indicating he’s content just to be here with me, holding hands. “Hang on. I’ll be right back.”

He disappears into the hall, and I hear him clomp down the stairs, then back up a minute later. “Close your eyes,” he calls from outside the room. “Okay?”

“They’re closed.”

“Keep ‘em shut.” He makes some racket up near the TV, and for a second I think he might be switching movie choices on me. Like I’d let him get away with that.

It gets brighter on the other side of my eyelids, and I scrunch my eyebrows together. Not because it’s that bright, but because I’m so confused by what he could be doing.

“Okay. Open.”

He stands proudly in front of the TV, which he’s draped with a string of colored Christmas lights. They’re covering part of the screen, but I don’t care. He’s so adorably sweet, I almost can’t stand it.

I hop up off the couch, and before wrapping my arms around him, I lean in and give the tiny round scar on his cheek a quick kiss. Merry Christmas to me.

Have you read What You Always Wanted?
You really should because how cute are Maddie and Jesse?

What You Always Wanted by Kristin Rae
Series: If Only… #8
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s on March 29, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Add to Goodreads | Amazon

If only…he was the boy she’s been dreaming of.

Theatre girl Maddie Brooks has always had high standards for guys. But she has yet to find one who can live up to the classic Hollywood heartthrobs, especially the dreamy song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. When Maddie begins to carpool with Jesse Morales, her new neighbor and star pitcher of the baseball team, she’s struck by his wit, good looks, and love for his family—but a guy so into sports is definitely not her style. Then Maddie discovers that Jesse was raised as a dancer and still practices in the community theatre’s dance studio to keep in shape. Perhaps her perfect dream guy exists after all! But when it becomes clear that baseball—not dance—is Jesse’s passion, can Maddie find a way to let her dream guy go and appreciate the charms of the amazing guy in front of her?

This fun, high school theatre romance in the If Only line is for anyone who has ever wished for that impossibly perfect guy.


About Kristin Rae

Lover of books, music, chocolate, and crafty things. My young adult contemporary novels WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN, and WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED are out now, from Bloomsbury. Represented by Marietta Zacker of the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

Website | Twitter

 

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Merry Christmas from Vienna, Austria | Book Blogger Guest Post

December 10, 2016 Guest Post 2

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.


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!


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!