2014 – Planning Out the New Year by Pepper Phillips

Goals 2014

I admit I love lists…and spreadsheets.

In my computer I have a ‘House’ worksheet. It is huge!

Cleaning Schedule, Books I own, Books I read, To-Do list, Errand list (oh yeah, I have passed by the bank four times because I was thinking of something else while driving). Calendar for the year that runs down the page with Birthdays and Anniversaries keyed in and other important appointments. My Wal-Mart shopping list where the items are keyed in according to aisle…then they change things around and I can’t find anything.  Plus lots of other information I deem necessary to run my life.

Then there is my writing life.  I have several spreadsheets keeping track of my career.  Sales, Progress, Plan…some are new, designed by other wonderful women who love spreadsheets, and some are mine.

Yesterday I sat down and planned out the first six months of 2014. Which books I would finish or start and finish and the list is impressive. I hope I can stick to it this year. Last year was a dud in my book. I hit a brick wall on one book and it’s still not finished. However, it is down for February.

Right now I’m stalled on my NANO book, which isn’t nearly at 50k words, it wasn’t supposed to be that length as it’s a novella. Plans were that I would finish it by the end of the year. I have two days.

Can I do it? Yes, if I work like a demon for two days. But then there is other work, some of which I must finish today, so my morning is already planned out.

I’m comfortable with a list, it keeps me on track, they help me accomplish what I want to get done…like writing this blog for the day. It’s on the list.

I was telling a grandkid the other day that before my hubby and I married, we made a list of things we wanted to accomplish together. We hit every item on that list except for the last one. Instead of retiring to operate a hunting and fishing lodge, we expanded into something bigger but we still house and feed people.

I can’t imagine living without a goal to strive to…this year’s goal is to get my stories out there.

What are your goals for the new year?

 

Image credit: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

The naughty Elf

I was at my daughter’s house two weeks ago and faced my first snow storm in years. To occupy the girls on a no-school day, their mother decided to start decorating the house for Christmas. Full of energy and enthusiasm the little girls brought up from the basement the many boxes where reeds, trees, socks and other ornaments have been stowed at the end of the previous season.

Suddenly, we saw the nine year old grab a box and stare at the red elf inside it. The smile on her face disappeared to be replaced by a scowl.

photo (2)My daughter grumbled. “Oh, oh.”

“Mom, what is the naughty elf doing here?” Her wrists clenched on her hips, my granddaughter darted accusing glares at her mom. “Mom, you and Dad lied to us.”

My gaze flitting from mother to daughter, I tried to understand the problem.

“Oh God.” Obviously my poor daughter felt terrible.

“This elf is the one who goes to Santa Claus at night to report that we have been good or bad,” the seven year old explained with a pout. “We leave cookies for him and carrots for his reindeer.”

“At least we thought he was going to Santa.” The nine year old pursed her lips and pointed a finger at her Mom. “I bet Daddy has been eating the cookies and you the carrots. Right, Mom?”

Poor Mom nodded. “Let me explain.”

“No.” Nine year old ran to her room and banged the door behind her. We all followed.

“Darling,” I said to my granddaughter. “You two are very lucky girls. You have a Mom and Dad who love you very much and spoil you rotten. Many children don’t have so many toys. I never had toys like you while growing up. Just a ball, once, and my sister a doll. Dad gave us books only and no one else gave us anything.”

“Really? No toys, only books?” Both girls looked at me with pity.

Why couldn’t I have stopped at that? Unfortunately, I am a writer who always feels the need to elaborate… and mess up everything.

“Well you see, Christmas is about the birth of Baby Jesus. All the rest is a legend. A nice story like Cinderella, or the Little Mermaid, or Santa Claus. They are nice stories, but they don’t IMGP2311exist, of course.”

“What?” The seven year old screamed. “Santa Claus doesn’t exist? No way.” It was her turn to run to her room and bang her door.

“Oh God, I messed it.”

“Yes, Mom. You killed Santa Claus.”

It took me half an hour to try to reconcile Christmas, Santa Claus and loving Mom and Dad. I also assured my darling little one that grandma adored her and I promised that all she wrote in her letter to Santa Claus will be fulfilled by grandma and grandpa.

“So now we are big kids,” my seven year old said with her chin raised. “But I am not going to tell Kelsey and Heather the truth about Santa Clause and the naughty Elf. They are two months younger than me.”

Do your little ones still believe in Santa Claus?

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Merry Christmas!

Christmas is special to me, to all of us, if you celebrate Christmas. It is a time of worship, a time for our families to gather and enjoy a day of rest and cherish loved ones. It’s a special time to give thanks for many blessings.
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Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be spent with family. I couldn’t be happier to be able to do so. Our traditional dinner is out the window again this year. This year is Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Alfredo, roasted Asparagus and salad for those who don’t like Asparagus. I love it. Since time hasn’t allowed me to bake fresh bread, I picked up some scrumptious garlic/parmesan rolls. If you only knew how much I love bread, you’d know that may be the first item on my plate. Ha, ha!
I managed to make Pumpkin Tarts, Pecan Tarts, both with sugar and with Splenda. I sure hope it warms a bit tomorrow, if not grilling out is going to be a challenge. I’ve grilled out in the rain, so the guys shouldn’t be too bad off. 🙂
I’m sure we’ll all be super busy tomorrow and Christmas. So…I’ll make this short and sweet. We’ll talk later unless time allows a few minutes to log on and check out friends and their goings on. I hope I find a few minutes to kick back with a cup of Russian Tea. Wonderful, flavorful and comforting.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! Whatever you celebrate, I hope it’s a wonderful day.
Also wishing everyone a safe and fabulous Christmas. I hope you get all you ever dreamed of. I wish you love, butterflies and music.
Please check out our Christmas on Main Street boxed set if you haven’t already. You’re going to love the stories!

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.
My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.
You can find links on my website here. http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books

12 Days of Christmas: Fact & Fiction by Joan Reeves

Holiday_SpokenJust about everyone knows the Christmas standard, The Twelve Days Of Christmas, but do you know the fiction and the facts regarding this song?

I’m the kind of person who likes to dig for facts about things. The origin of a creative work is of great interest to me. I hope it is for you too.

In 1995, an essay entitled An Underground Catechism was posted by Father Hal Stockert on the online Catholic Information Network. Purporting to be the truth behind the popular song The Twelve Days of Christmas, the article resulted in a storm of controversy and was subsequently found to be not historically accurate, resulting in the article being withdrawn.

The article was published again a few years ago and amended to read:

“It has come to our attention that this tale is made up of both fact and fiction. Hopefully it will be accepted in the spirit it was written. As an encouragement to people to keep their faith alive, when it is easy, and when any outward expressions of their faith could mean their life. Today there are still people living under similar conditions, may this tale give them courage, and determination to use any creative means at their disposal to keep their faith alive.”

The essay by Father Stockert has been debunked by many people on the Internet through the years. As a Christian, I wish Father Stockert had posted the essay as his interpretation of the significance of the numbers from one to twelve, symbolic of the religious significance of the twelve days between Christmas Day and Epiphany, January 6, when the three wise men arrived on the scene.

I did a little research and offer you:

The True History of The 12 Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas is an English Christmas carol that enumerates a series of gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. Although first published in England in 1780, the song may be French in origin.

The song, whose specific origins are obviously unknown, may have begun as a Twelfth Night “memories and forfeits” game. A leader would recite a verse, each of the players repeat the verse, then the leader would add another verse, etc. until a player would make a mistake. The player who messed up the verses would have to pay a penalty, or forfeit, such as a kiss or a sweet.

The 12 days in the song are the 12 days starting Christmas Day. In some traditions, the first day is the day after Christmas, December 26, commonly called Boxing Day in England. (This day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day, the feast day of St. Stephen Protomartyr.) The 12th day is the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6.

Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking.”

In 1910, the song came to the United States, courtesy of Emily Brown, of the Downer Teacher’s College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who had found the song in an English music store. She is said to have used the song for the school Christmas pageant.

This Christmas, I’d like to share with you Father Stockert’s essay. One can only assume that he must have come by this explanation of the song at some point in his life and thought it to be the true record of the song’s history. Whether you find it spiritually rewarding or just a footnote as another Internet urban myth debunked, at least you’ll be entertained and learn the true history of the song, along with a little world history and Christian history in the bargain.

Father Stockert’s Essay

To most, the Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is a nonsense rhyme set to music, but it’s more than just a repetitious melody about a bunch of strange gifts.

From 1558 to 1829, after Henry VIII abolished Catholicism and established the Church of England in order to facilitate and legalize his marriage to Anne Boleyn, Catholics in England were banned from any private or public practice of their faith. It was a crime to be a Catholic.

The Twelve Days of Christmas was written as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. A memory aid was necessary since to be caught with anything in writing that indicated adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned but also could get you hanged or beheaded.

The gifts mentioned in the song had hidden meanings. The true love mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The me who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so….”

The symbolism of the song in its entirety:

Day 1
A Partridge in a Pear Tree = Jesus Christ, Our Lord

Day 2
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments

Day 3
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Love, the Theological Virtues

Day 4
4 Calling Birds = the 4 Gospels and/or the 4 Evangelists
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Originally this was a colly bird. Colly means black as coal so a colly bird was probably a black bird.

Day 5
5 Golden Rings = the first 5 Books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy give the history of man’s fall from grace. Originally this was a gold-ringed pheasant, another bird which re-establishes the first seven verses as being birds.

Day 6
6 Geese A-laying = the 6 Days of Creation

Day 7
7 Swans A-swimming = the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit: the 7 Sacraments
Prophecy, Ministry, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leading, and Compassion

Day 8
8 Maids A-milking = the 8 Beatitudes
Blessed are: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Day 9
9 Ladies Dancing = the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control

Day 10
10 Lords A-leaping = the 10 Commandments

Day 11
11 Pipers Piping = the 11 Faithful Apostles
Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James bar Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas bar James. The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

Day 12
12 Drummers Drumming = the 12 Points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell (the grave).
5. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
6. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
7. I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8. the holy catholic (universal) Church, 9. the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins, 11. the resurrection of the body, and
12. and life everlasting.

Please accept my good wishes for you and yours. Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year to you.

(Joan Reeves writes funny, sexy Romance Novels. Make some time for you this holiday season and enjoy one of her novels, perhaps Nobody’s Cinderella, a Christmas Romantic Comedy, available at ebook sellers. Audio editions are available at Audible and iTunes. For more information, visit SlingWords, Joan’s Blog, or her Website.)

LOOKING TOWARD THE LIGHT ~ Yule, Christmas & Hogmanay Celebrations~aka:WE SCOTS HAVE FUN

This Friday is the Winter Solstice, the close of the dark half of the year and the rekindling of the light half, which begins on Saturday. I love this time of year, not only because Yule & Christmas celebrations are in full swing, most of which are joyous, but because the resurgence of the light fills me with renewed energy and more than a little hope that the New Year will bring more blessings.

I am a light person. I wouldn’t fare well in Alaska where there is no respite from the light during the sun season, but I’m not one for complete balance either. I like more light than dark. Yule, Christmas and Scottish Hogmanay are all celebrations of light and hope, love and joy.
holly-berry
In Celtic traditions, evergreen boughs are traditionally brought in to decorate the home and remind us of the greenness past and to come. Fires are lit to capture the essence of the sun and to celebrate it. Holly is traditionally venerated because it stays green year round and its berries, red and white, are seen as representative of the Deity. I love the symbology, the richness of the season and most of all sharing it with those I love.
Hogmanay
I come from Scottish and Norse traditions and love everything about them. HOGMANAY is a uniquely Scottish celebration. There are some loose translations for the term, including: “Great love day”, “New Morning”, “Man is Born-or-ReBorn”. Yule is a Norse festival and the New Year is called, “Yules”.  As many of you know northern Scotland, especially the Isles, has a strong Norse influence, making their festivals a dramatic joy to behold. I embrace it all!
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Here’s a photo of the Norse Up-Hella-A held in Scotland (Shetland) as part of the Yule Fire Festival. The farther north (Shetland and Orkney are far north) the more noticeable and powerful the coming light is and the fire festivals hold huge significance. In southern Scotland fireballs are thrown into the air for Hogmanay. Hospitality is always huge, but especially on New Year’s Eve when a “tall, dark, handsome stranger” at your door carrying a piece of coal (prosperity-comfort) and cake (fulfillment) is a good omen. Blonds…not so good (left over from Viking raids). This is the tradition of “first footing” and although no one much cares about hair color anymore, gifts of warmth, food and probably whisky are given to all those entering the home.

Cleaning is still a Hogmanay tradition. The idea is to say goodbye to the old year and its sorrows by sweeping away the old and those things no longer needed and welcoming in the new with a clean heart and the open arms of hospitality.

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More recently (1788) the singing of Scottish poet, Robert Burns’, Auld Lang Syne is sung to an even older (1700 or so) Scottish tune. In the last 20 years the Loony Dook has been practiced on New Years Day morning when people get dressed up in their finery, go down to the River Forth, strip and take a dip. I won’t be doing that, no matter how much Scotland’s bonny river banks may be calling.

We will celebrate the Solstice, Christmas and Hogmanay with those we love this year. We will each light a home-made candle and help lay the fire. We will sing and dance and welcome the New Year with joy in our hearts and hope for even better days. We will eat Krumkake (Norwegian cookies) and Macski’s Haggis (National dish of Scotland) and  smoked salmon. And I think more than one glass will be raised to you and all those we hold dear.
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Merry Christmas, Happy Yule and a “Guid New Year” at Hogmany to you All!

Krumkake Recipe (handed down by my grandfather):

3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup flour. Beat eggs until light and gradually add remaining ingredients. Drop 1 Tbs into the center of a heated krumkake iron. Savor the goodness.

Scottish Haggis, Neeps & Tatties:

Simple and delicious, prepare one Macski’s hagggis per instructions and serve with buttered mashed potatoes, boiled & mashed rutabagas or parsnips, and a wee dram of your favorite Scotch whisky.

A traditional Yule Ball plays a part in A Potters Woods Christmas, a Christmas short story that is part of Authors of Main Street Christmas bundle.

Christmas Traditions

Emma-036

My oldest, Emma, in 2005.

I’ve always loved Christmas. As a kid the days of December seemed to drag on endlessly as I waited for the Big Day to arrive. When Christmas Eve finally came, I’d sneak toys and games into bed with me because I was too excited to sleep. If I was still awake at midnight, I’d listen for the clatter of reindeer hooves on the roof. I could’ve sworn I heard them!

Now, as a working mom, preparing for the Big Day is hectic and stressful. It sneaks up on me—I look at a calendar and suddenly realize I’ve got less than two weeks to get all my shopping done. Plus I need to write up a bunch of Christmas cards, my kid needs a costume for her school performance, and of course there’s baking to do.

By Christmas Eve hopefully it will all come together. With my kids, I’ve carried on some of the traditions from my childhood. On Christmas Eve we watch the Grinch cartoon (and their current favourite holiday movie, Elf), light a fire in the fireplace (after assuring the kids the fire will be out before Santa comes down the chimney), stuff ourselves with goodies, and leave out cookies and milk for Santa before bed. They’re too excited to sleep, but eventually hubby and I are able to finish wrapping gifts while we watch whatever version of A Christmas Carol is on TV, and then collapse into bed.

All the work and stress are worthwhile when Christmas morning arrives and (if they wait for me to get up) I watch the girls bound into the living room to see what Santa brought. First on the agenda: check that Santa’s plate and glass are empty. Next, dump out the stockings, then begin tearing into the presents under the tree. I love seeing the joy on their faces when they unwrap a toy they’d been hoping to get. After a morning of playing and tucking into chocolate treats, they put on their pretty dresses and we head out to visit their grandparents, who shower them with more presents. The final highlight of the day is the sumptuous turkey dinner, prepared by my mother and mother-in-law on alternating years.

Since I love the yuletide season, it was a joy to write A Baby for untitledChristmas as part of the Christmas on Main Street boxed set—a collection of eleven wonderful seasonal stories at a bargain price!

What Christmas traditions do you most look forward to?

The Scents of Christmas — Jill James

More than the excitement of presents, more than the sound of carols, even more than the visual impact of snapshots, it is the smells and scents that take us back in an instant to a specific time and place. And nowhere are scent memories more prevalent than the holidays.

tangerines-736920-mThe pungent-sweet scent of tangerines transport me instantly to the Christmases of my childhood in the ’60s in Baltimore, Maryland. Back before I moved to California, land of sunshine and year-round fruit, I lived in Baltimore in the 1960s. Land of ice and snow and no global reach of food that we don’t even think twice about today. No pomegranates from Brazil and tomatoes from Venezuela.  Once summer died there were no more oranges and tangerines until next summer. But, every Christmas one magically appeared in my Christmas stocking, along with a handful of walnuts.

I don’t know where my mom got them and why I didn’t see them until Christmas Day, that is part of the magic of Christmas past. But even today, I’ll stop in the grocery store and inhale the scent of a box of Clementine’s or Cuties and think of snow, and cold, and the big, round lump in the toe of a red Christmas stocking. The thrill of the taste of sunshine in the dead of winter. The slowness of eating one section at a time to make the happiness last. Letting the juice linger on my tongue for as long as it lasted.

Second to tangerines was the smell of my mother baking Christmas cookies. She was an amazing cook. She could take odds and ends in the refrigerator and turn it into a meal. She cooked from scratch and unfortunately did not pass down the cooking skills to me. She couldn’t bake a cake or pie to save her life, but she could make awesome cookies.

Here is a recipe that has been handed down in my family since at least 1900.

butter cookiesGrandma Svehla’s Bohemian Butter Cookies
(Mom never wanted me to share the family recipe, but I believe great food should be shared.)

1 pound of butter
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (lemon or almond are nice too.)
4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder

Mix butter and sugar until creamed together. Add egg and vanilla and mix.
Slowly add flour and baking powder. Mix completely. Refrigerate for an hour.

Drop by spoonfull on to greased cookie sheet. Mash with wet fork for pattern on top. Sprinkle with colored sugar. (for ADD kids or those who can’t have Red 40, just use regular sugar.)

Bake 7-9 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes about six dozen cookies.

*These are very rich. I usually eat 2 or 3 with my morning tea or coffee.

Happy Holidays and happy holiday memories from:
Jill James,
writer of contemporary and paranormal romance

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