A Christmas Story – Open Hearts

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Merry Christmas! Here’s a sweet story I wrote one year as a Gift of Writing for my writing group, The Saskatchewan Romance Writers. This year I’m sharing it here on my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Open Hearts

For Abigail Kelley working retail at Christmas equaled worst job ever. Small talk? With strangers? Not her strong suit. Even on a good day and good days were harder to find than Waldo. But a girl had to eat and she’d already proven she was a glutton for punishment. Besides it worked nicely with the whole ‘sucker’ theme she had going on this year. Broke, adrift, and one blinking engine light away from over and done.

She glanced at her watch. Ten minutes until closing time on December 23rd. The supersized big box store across the street was crammed to the rafters with late night shoppers. Not a soul crossed the street to browse at Adornments and Jewels with its swaying antique sign and out-dated window display. No one crossed the threshold where the dusty tiny bell waited to announce eager shoppers, or any shopper, and the scarred counters shined in preparation for inquisitive customers. Indeed, it was quiet as a mouse.

The quiet didn’t bother Abby, in fact, she preferred it. But noise equalled customers and paying customers equalled commissions. A pay check meant no more blinking engine light. No more blinking engine light meant the open road and finding her way back to the place she left her self-respect. She swiped her polishing cloth over the gleaming countertop glass as she leaned in and wondered over all the pretty baubles. Her mom would love the vintage silver locket. Maybe next year…

The tinkling of the bell startled her and she tripped as she turned to face the door. Clumsy as always. She stuck her dust rag out of sight and shoved a bunch of curls out of her eyes and got her first glimpse of the shoppers.

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Need An Easy Supper Recipe?

‘Tis the season! We’re decorating gingerbread houses today. Gingerbread houses are one of my favorite things. I love walking past bakeries and seeing them in windows. Or seeing them in restaurants or displayed at parties. Some of them are so elaborate. We also have gingerbread men and women waiting to be decorated.

And because we’re all so busy, here’s an easy recipe to make things a little simpler.

Apricot Chicken

  • Whole warehouse package of skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • One package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 Cup of French Dressing
  • 1 Cup of Apricot Jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place thighs in a casserole dish, mix together remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Cover. Bake for a couple of hours.

I made this the other night and it was delicious! Kind of like sweet and sour chicken. Yummy!

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Our Christmas Tree Tradition

TWRP 25 Days BannerThe Wild Rose Press is giving away 25 $25 gift certificates this December. That’s a lot of books! All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter at The Wild Rose Press blog. Each day there are entertaining posts about all things Christmas.

Today is my day and I’m talking about Christmas trees. Come over and join me and enter to win.

I love Christmas trees and I put up two of them each year. One real tree and one artificial tree. I display my ornament collection on the real tree and my kids creative talents on the other tree. All the ornaments they’ve ever made hang there. So many wonderful memories.

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You can also win here on my blog. I’m giving away a digital copy of my romantic suspense, Backlash.

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So head on over and enter to win! Also comment here for a chance to win Backlash. Do you have a real tree or prefer an artificial one? Or no tree?

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Keeping Warm Canada Style!

So, with the windchill, it feels like -45 degrees outside this morning. Yep, you read that correctly.  Does it matter at this point that’s Celsius not Fahrenheit. Nope, didn’t think so. It’s okay though, it’s supposed to warm up to -35 by this afternoon.

If you didn’t know we have some unique Canadian clothing companies here that know about staying warm. Here’s a little bit of Canada for you on a frigid cold day!

Canada Goose 

Manitobah Mukluks

Burton X Manitobah: Memento Snowboard Boot

The Bay’s Olympic Edition Stripped Mittens

If you like Tacos at your house as much as we like Tacos at ours you need this bulk Taco seasoning recipe. So much better than the packaged stuff. An excellent idea for a cold winter’s night.

Bulk Taco Seasoning Mix

Amount: ¾ cups

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup dried onions, minced
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tbsp salt (or less depending on your preferences)
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp dried garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tsp beef bouillon granules
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano

Instructions:

Combine ingredients. Store in airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year.

Add 2 tbsp to 1 lb of cooked and drained beef and 1/3 – ½ cup water and cook until done.

Stay warm. Stay safe. And have a great weekend!

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Holiday Movie Favorites

“Tis the time of year to watch Christmas movies. I have my personal romantic favorites like Love Actually,  The Holidays, The Family Man, etc. I also love to watch Casablanca this time of year. Because it’s fun to get all cuddly on the couch and force your husband to watch with you while he pretends not to enjoy it. It’s a couples tradition. Everyone likes holiday movies? Don’t they? I did a short poll at our house the other night when miracles of miracles we all happened to be there at the same time.

brown paper packagesOur Favorite Christmas Movies (Youngest to Oldest):

  • Daughter: Christmas Vacation
  • Son:  Home Alone
  • Me:  The Sound of Music
  • Husband:  Elf

 

I adore Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the 1965 version and when my son was little he called it the Captain and the Barness show. So cute. I miss those years. Anyhoo, It so happens that this year–have you heard about this–NBC is putting on The Sound of Music Live! With Carrie Underwood playing the role of Maria.It’s live on December 5th. I’m excited. The more times I get to here the My Favorite Things song the better. But apparently, not everyone is a fan. Carrie Underwood is getting hate tweets for even attempting to play Maria.

Sigh.

How much happier would life be for everyone if we did our best to lift people up rather then tear them down?

On a happier note! My publisher The Wild Rose Press is giving away a $25 gift certificate every day this December. All you have to do is go to their blog, check it out and enter the Rafflecopter. Easy peasy.

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What’s your favorite holiday movie?

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Hots Drinks and Book Review

tea timeIt’s December and that can mean chilly nights. In fact, today there is a Winter Storm Warning for my small part of the Canadian prairies. Nothing warms a cold winter day or night more than a book, BUT while your reading you might choose to sip a warm beverage. I’m a fan of several hot drinks.

I love the peppermint tea from David’s Tea. My husband and I drink this in the evening some nights and the scent is so fresh and addicting. I also love hot chocolate, see below. Who can forget about hot apple cider this time of year? I love making a big batch for guests in my crock pot. Chai tea lattes! And it’s always fun to add a snip of Bailey’s, Kahlua, or Peppermint Schnapps to the various mixes.

Now for the book part. My book club the Sanity Seekers read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain for our November selection. I picked it. Since it was my pick I figured I should review it.

The Paris Wife Nov 2013I’m always intrigued by books of fiction based on real people, events, and well fact. Hadley Richardson was Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. The story is told in Hadley’s point of view which peaked my interest as much has been made of Hemingway’s women. Their time together was short but huge at the same time. There were parts of this book that fascinated me. I thoroughly enjoyed McLain’s style and her writing. I’ve read other fiction based on fact but none that read as smoothing or believably as this. I loved the setting of Paris in the 1920’s. Loved the parts that talked of writing. But reading about their relationship and how they lived their lives was hard work at times particularly towards the end. And parts of the book dragged along. There was no temptation to stay up late and read all the way through, but the necessity of having to put it aside for a while and think about what you’d read. There is no happy ending for these two although I like to think Hadley found hers with her second husband, I wonder if Hemingway ever truly did. If he came close I’m betting it was with Hadley. But that’s probably the romantic in me.

I would definitely recommend this book.

Now about that hot chocolate. Although I haven’t been much for experimenting in the past, I’m trying to eat less of certain foods and cut others out altogether. Like cow milk and refined sugar. Which creates challenges when craving hot chocolate. It’s actually easy enough to replace the milk with coconut milk or almond mild, but the hot chocolate mix is another story. Until I found the following recipe in our local paper:

Hot Chocolate Recipe

  • 6 to 7 medjool dates
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups hot water

Method: Mix all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Adjust quantities to suit taste. Serves 2 Adapted from Ashley Clark: www.naturallyashley.com

I used hot almond milk instead of hot chocolate. It was wonderously thick and frothy but very sweet. If I were to make it again I think I’d use less dates and more cacao powder. Also, from using the medjool dates in my smoothies as a natural sweetner, I put them in the blender first with a little liquid and puree as I find they don’t blend up well and the end result is chunky.

Which hot drink is your favorite? Read any good books lately?

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