Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cookies and Candy and Holiday Treats by Diane Perkins

I was looking on Kathryn Caskie's website, because I remembered she had this easy recipe for a Christmas treat - Quick Peppermint Bark. I read the recipe--I often read recipes--and then I didn't think of it again until I went grocery shopping.

So Kathy's recipe called for candy canes -- I bought candy canes. It called for white chocolate but all I remembered was chocolate, so I bought semi-sweet chocolate. I forgot that the recipe called for peppermint oil, but when I got home, my daughter reminded me I had peppermint essential oil in my aromatherapy kit, so I used that. Kathy's recipe said to break the candy canes into quarter inch pieces- I pulverized mine! Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly.... Kathy's (in the photo) looked a lot prettier than mine. I'd show you mine, but we ate it all. Tasted terrific!!

I am so NOT A COOK, but I did get that hankering for Christmas baking, so my daughter and I decided to make the sugar cookie recipe that my mother used to make--from my old Betty Crocker cookbook. This time I remembered all the right ingredients.
Here they are:

So, what is your favorite Holiday food? Your favorite holiday cookie? I have to admit, my favorite are the sugar cookies!

May your holiday be filled with family, friends, and lots of holiday food!


Sunday, December 17, 2006


I've never been a big Adam Sandler fan, but if you haven't seen the movie "CLICK" I highly recommend that you watch it with your family over the holidays.

I'm not going to spoil the movie for anyone, but I will say that after watching CLICK this weekend I credit this movie for reminding me of something very important - life is what happens while you're making other plans.

In this fast-paced world we live in, I know I'm not the only one who feels as if their life is permanently stuck in fast forward. Life today runs on a much faster track for all of us. We all have careers, families, obligations that have to be met. If you're like me, most days zoom by in a complete blur.

Sad, isn't it? That life today seems to be moving way too fast?

Even worse, how do you put on the brakes?

I don't have an answer for that question. But thanks to CLICK I have made myself a holiday promise.

Instead of clicking through the holidays at my normal break-neck speed this year; instead of fretting over whether or not someone is going to like the present I got them (and I always do;) instead of agonizing because I didn't go on that diet and I know I look too fat in the outfit I'm wearing; instead of worrying that the ham is too dry, the green beans are too salty, and the pumpkin pie is too runny; instead of focusing on a million other trivial things that are SO not important in the overall scheme of things - what I am going to do is: play with my grandkids as long as they want to play without once feeling the need to jump up and clear the dishes; make it a point to tell my daughter and my son-in-law what incredible people I think they are and how proud I am that they are such wonderful parents; give my husband a big hug and a kiss every time I see him for putting up with my annoying (and too fat) butt all these years; but most of all I'm going to hit pause on my universal control long enough to close my eyes, clasp my hands, and say a sincere prayer of thanks for my wonderful family.

Happy Holidays to you and your wonderful family, everyone!

May your New Year be the best ever!

Candy Halliday

Shari's Favorite things

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is hauling up the boxes of ornaments and collectables. Over the past 35 years my husband and I have collected several boxes worth of decorations and, well, just fun things. Here are a few of my favorites.

My two children are now adults, but I kept their red felt, white fur-trimmed, Christmas stockings. I still hang them from the fireplace mantle, and there are now two little stockings attached to my daughter’s, which my grandsons think are pretty cool.

A wall hanging of a snowman in his stovepipe hat, made by my mother.

A quart canning jar stuffed full of cinnamon-apple potpourri and a string of multi-colored lights, which marvelously scents the kitchen when plugged in, made by my oldest grandson.

A nativity scene I bought when I fell in love with the joyful look on Mary’s face. Somehow the set has survived children’s slippery hands and large dogs’ excited tails – no missing pieces, not a chip anywhere. Truly blessed!

A large, yellow M&M with brown antlers and a red nose, that scolds whoever reaches into the candy dish on which it stands.

A snowman dressed in a Green Bay Packers jersey and a green and gold knit hat, that plays Jingle Bells when you squeeze his hand.

I also have a collection of angels and nutcrackers that I’m having a bit of trouble finding shelf space for this year.

Such are the things that make me smile when I take them out of the box and spread them throughout the house. I’m sure you have your favorites, too! I’d love to hear about them!

Shari Anton

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Traditions and Blessings


In reading over the past few entries in this blog, it seems there’s a theme.  Guess it comes with the time of year.  That said, I’ll throw in my two cents.  First of all, I’m being particularly intent upon counting my blessings this year.  I’ve had three very dear friends diagnosed with cancer, and man, it really opened my eyes to how I simply accept my good fortune.  Not this year.  I’m thankful for my family’s good health, for the love of my husband, for the happiness of my children, for being able to live my dream by sharing the stories in my books with others.  The list goes on and on, but I won’t bore you with the detail.  Just take a moment in this hectic season and be thankful, you never know what life will send your way next.


Whew!  Now on to the lighter fare – those traditions.  Actually, ours today are pretty standard; a dollar in every Salvation Army bucket we pass, cranberry salad, monkey bread, dinner with Gram.  We usually have scratch off lottery tickets on Christmas Eve … never know when the big one will hit!


But there are stories from my childhood that come out year after year that still make us laugh.  My younger sister (between the ages of about 3 and 7) used to do a “little Christmas play” and invite various aunts and uncles.  The stage was our living room in front of the Christmas tree (a live one with those huge old lights on it that miraculously never burned the house down).  The set consisted of several stuffed animals and a doll crib.  The cast was small: our Boston terrier (who she’d cast as a character she called “Baa-Baa Black Sheep”) and my sister with a towel on her head with a headband around it (I’m guessing she was Mary, but from the acting, I really couldn’t be sure – she spent most of her time yelling at the dog to stay put.)


Then there was the Christmas that my mom decided we’d foray into a few of the holiday crafts she’d seen in a magazine.  (Please note here, my mom was NOT Martha Stewart.)  We made candles out of paraffin poured over crushed ice in half-gallon milk cartons.  Those turned out pretty cool.  The ice melted and cooled the paraffin at the same time, leaving a lacy webwork of wax.  Probably one of our better crafts – well, to be perfectly honest, our only craft that didn’t draw guffaws from bystanders.


Then we began the papier-mâché projects.  Birds.  Really, the photo in the magazine looked fabulous.  All of the birds were painted and hung on strings.  Ours looked like something out of a horror film, frightening in their garish colors and misshapen bodies – really there wasn’t anything birdlike about them (we figured that out when we had to explain what they were to everyone who ventured into the room).  Still, we hung them proudly (since I was just a kid, I suppose Mom figured it might damage my self-esteem if they went directly into the trash where they belonged).  Our second papier-mâché project didn’t look any better – and those were just supposed to be round ornaments hung on a white painted branch we picked up from the yard.  This masterpiece was hung on the huge mirror over the fireplace, because it simply wasn’t hideous enough … we had to have it doubled by reflection.  Seriously, how can a person mess up making a bunch of balls?  At least we delivered a lovely holiday chuckle to all who visited our home.  Of course, in the warm afterglow of reminiscence, I recall them as if they looked the like ones in the magazine … and then I see the photographs.


I guess it just goes to show, sometimes the best memories come from the biggest disasters.  Be thankful for each and every one.


Enjoy your holiday memories!


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A Kiss in Winter, January 2007


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

From Sarah McKerrigan...

Turkey. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Cranberry sauce. Sweet potatoes. Green bean casserole. Rolls. Pumpkin pie.

Every year, growing up, it was the same menu for Christmas...with the notable addition of Grandma's Frozen Salad, which was neither frozen nor a salad, but a concoction of green Jell-O, cottage cheese, pineapple, mayonnaise, and walnuts that looked like...well, you don't want to know what it looked like, but it tasted divine. Really.

In my current family, we have conflicting opinions about holiday dinners. My son pretty much detests everything on the plate except mashed potatoes and rolls. My daughter would like to have East Indian food for every meal, the hotter the better. And my husband is so attached to the food he grew up on that I almost think he'd rather I bought a frozen pumpkin pie (like Mom used to make).

You can see my dilemma. That's why, when it's my turn to cook, I try to spice up the usual fare with a "theme."

Last year we had a Caribbean Christmas, with citrus-stuffed turkey, Jamaican yam casserole, coconut rice, cinnamon-clove-cranberry sauce, and pumpkin-coconut pie. The copious leftovers grew moldy in the fridge.

Once I tried an authentic Native American dinner, complete with wild turkey, cornbread, roast root vegetables, and golden custard. No wonder those Indians in the old frontier photos were so svelte.

My most successful theme is Southwest. Living in sunny L.A., I can barbecue the turkey outdoors with sprigs of sage from the garden. The stuffing is cornbread-based, and the potatoes are mashed with garlic and cumin. I serve up cranberry salsa, chili-glazed sweet potatoes, pine-nut-laced green beans, and pepper-studded cornbread. For dessert, we have ancho chile pumpkin pie. And of course, Grandma's Frozen Salad, which is only Southwest because it's MADE in the Southwest.

What about your holiday dinner? Do you have any interesting traditions? To-die-for recipes worth sharing? Restaurant recommendations?

I hope you serve up warmth and good will, no matter what's on the table, and may your holidays be filled with kindness, humor, and cherished memories.

Best wishes,

Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night!
LADY DANGER - Riding to the rescue April 2006
CAPTIVE HEART - Coming for you October 2006
KNIGHT'S PRIZE - Stealing your heart April 2007

Friday, December 01, 2006

Elizabeth Reflects on Fear of Salmonella and Other Holiday Traditions

So, Thanksgiving morning this year began as it usually does: with me standing at the kitchen sink, elbow-deep in a frozen bird and swearing.

“What are you doing?” my Youngest asked.

“Trying to find the neck,” I grunted over the sound of running cold water. My fingers were nearing frostbite stage.

“What neck?”

“The turkey’s neck.”

Youngest contemplated my epic struggle for a minute. “What’s the neck doing in the turkey’s butt?”

“Gross!” my Eldest yelled from the next room. Eldest is a vegetarian.

“I don’t know. That’s where they always put the neck.” My fingers had latched onto something. Either I’d found the neck or there was a big hunk of neck-shaped ice in there.

“Huh,” said Youngest meditatively. “Wouldn’t it be easier to get the neck out if the turkey wasn’t frozen?”


“Maybe you should use hot water, then.”

“Can’t,” I panted. That sucker was good and frozen in there. “You’re only supposed to use cold water to thaw a turkey.”


“Because you might get salmonella otherwise.” I anticipated the next question. “Salmonella makes you throw up.”

“Gross!” yelled Eldest.

“In our family,” I explained to my only meat-eating child, “we always take the turkey out of the freezer too late because we’re worried that we’ll get salmonella if it thaws too soon. That means that we always spend Thanksgiving morning running cold water over a frozen turkey. Ah-ha!” I said the last triumphantly as I pulled out the turkey’s neck.

My youngest eyed it. “That’s a weird tradition.”

“You’re telling me.” I threw the neck into a pot to make broth for the gravy. “Now we have to get the giblets out.”

“What’s the giblets?”

“The heart and the kidneys and—”

“GROSS!” screamed the vegetarian. any holiday traditions YOU'D care to share?

PS: pic of Daniel Craig for no particular reason! Better than a turkey pic, don't you think?