Recipe – Chocolate Drops

I love Christmas. I especially love making all the wonderful desserts. Here’s my favorite recipe for homemade chocolate drops.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. butter (I like to use real unsalted butter.)
  • 3 lbs. or 10 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1-7 oz. jar marshmallow creme
  • 3-4 lbs. chocolate (I use dark chocolate. The candy is so sweet that the dark chocolate tones it down a bit.)

Thouroughly mix by hand or with dough hooks the butter, sugar, and marshmallow crème.
Roll into 1 inch balls and place on cookies sheets lined with pastry or wax paper.

Freeze for at least 24 hours.

Dip in melted chocolate. (You can melt the chocolate in the microwave or buy a special dipping machine.)

For a variation, put a few drops of candy flavoring in the recipe such as mint or strawberry.

So what is your favorite holiday recipe?

Word Sharpeners Week – December 21, 2015

My son made this Nativity in preschool 30 years ago.

My son made this Nativity in preschool 30 years ago.

Word Sharpeners News: I hope you’re all ready for Christmas. I am. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite Christmas things with you.

My favorite movie: It’s a Wonderful Life

My favorite Christmas novel/story: The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My favorite contemporary Christmas carol: Breathe of Heaven

My favorite old Christmas hymn: O Holy Night

My favorite fun Christmas song: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

My favorite Christmas tree: artificial green spruce with colored lights

My favorite Christmas dinner: roast beef, mashed potatoes, noodles, gravy, corn, dinner rolls, and chocolate birthday cake for desert.

Find my guest blog posts on these sites:

Colonial Quills: Christmas at Schoebrunn in 1773

Tiaras and Tennis Shoes: Moravian Christmas Traditions

Picture of the Week: This picture is of my Christmas putz.

PutzThis is the Moravian Star on top of my Christmas tree.

Moravian Star

And here’s my tree all lit up.

Tree 2015

Verse of the Week: Luke 2:1-21 (ESV)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Video of the Week: Social Network Christmas

Guest Author Cindy Thomson – O. Henry in Sofia’s Tune

Cindy 2Cindy Thomson is the author of seven books, including her newest novel, Sofia’s Tune, the third book in her Ellis Island series. She also writes genealogy articles for Internet Genealogy and Your Genealogy Today magazines, and short stories for Clubhouse Magazine.

Visit her at http://www.cindyswriting.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cindyswriting and on Twitter: @cindyswriting

Sofia’s Tune is available in both print and on Kindle, and can be ordered on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at other retailers. To maximize the benefit to the author, please purchase the print book here: http://bit.ly/1MrmFOO

O. Henry in Sofia’s Tune

by Cindy Thomson

As I was writing a scene in Sofia’s Tune, I needed my character Antonio, and his dog Luigi, to be in a café/pub in New York City in the area of what would later be called Time’s Square. Longacre Square, as it was referred to then, was the area where folks like Antonio—musicians looking for work—hung out, along with other creative people like actors, artists, and writers. I made an interesting discovery while researching. O. Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Porter, was a part of this crowd. I wrote a scene where my character meets the famous writer. But what about that café I needed?

Cindy PetesTavernOHenryThe answer turned out to be Healy’s Café, today known as Pete’s Tavern. O. Henry lived nearby on Irving Place. O. Henry often visited Healy’s. Legend says he penned The Gift of the Magi while sitting in a booth there. The café sits on a corner with the kind of windows I needed my character to sit near in order to keep an eye on his dog outside.

Sofia’s Tune takes place in 1903. In 1902 O. Henry was released from prison. If you live in the Columbus, Ohio, area—as I do—you may know that he served a sentence in the state penitentiary here. After being released, he went to New York City where he lived out the remainder of his life. The conviction was for bank embezzlement. Most people now believe it had been just poor management. He went to Honduras to escape, but returned because his wife was ill and dying. He was apprehended after she passed away and sent to Ohio for three years. Not all of this is explained in Sofia’s Tune, but it is hinted at. He doesn’t really care for Ohio, where Antonio wishes to go. So now you know the scoop!

Mr. Porter was not yet well known, but he was writing stories for newspapers and magazines at that time. He had just seven years left to live. I could easily imagine him offering advice to a younger man, warning him not to make the mistakes he had made. To embrace one’s chance for love before it was too late.

I enjoy placing real historical characters in my novels when they actually lived and worked in my characters’ world. In my first book in this series, Grace’s Pictures, I introduced both Augustus Sherman (Ellis Island photographer) and Jacob Riis (lecturer and author of the acclaimed book Where the Other Half Lives.) These real people had an impact on others while they lived, so it only made sense that they would influence the fictional characters I placed in that time and location.

According to this biography, O. Henry “…wrote in a dry, humorous style and, as in ‘The Gift of the Magi,’ frequently used coincidences and surprise endings to underline ironies.” This is how I tried to portray him in how he lived, a man who could well imagine what was coming and suggested others take notice.

If you’ve read Sofia’s Tune, or do so in the future, I’d love to hear what you thought of O. Henry’s brief—but important—appearance in the story.

Cindy 1Sofia’s Tune

In Sofia’s Tune, we meet Sofia Falcone, a young woman who has been living in New York only a short time when she is stunned to discover a family secret, one that soon sends her beloved mother into a mental institution. Scrambling to keep her job and care for her mother, Sofia is convinced confronting the past will heal all wounds, but her old world Italian family wants to keep the past in the past. During this time, she encounters Antonio, a Vaudeville pianist with a street-smart dog, seeking to discover why his father was mysteriously killed. Their crossed paths uncover a frightening underworld in Little Italy. Bringing the truth to light may cost Sofia’s mother’s sanity, Antonio’s career, and the livelihoods of countless immigrants. Change is on the horizon, but it may not bring what they expect.

Guest Author Carole Brown – Give Me an Old Fashioned Christmas

Brown AuthorCarole Brown not only has her award winning (2015 Winner of the USA Best Books Award, 2015 Small Publishers Book Award, RWA International Digital Award finalist, Clash of the Titles Laurel Awards finalist, Selah finalist; Genesis semi-finalist) debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, available for purchase now.

A companion book called West Virginia Scrapbook: From the Life of Caralynne Hayman, filled with tidbits of information about West Virginia, quotes, recipes from West Virginia and from Caralynne’s life, pictures and discussion questions for the novel is also available.

The first book in her Denton & Alex Davies mystery series, Hog Insane and Bat Crazy, the second book are fun, lighthearted novels that not only deal with the mysteries the Davies land in, but relationships too.

The first book in a new WWII Spies Romantic Suspense series, With Music In Their Hearts are nostalgic, warm-hearted books that place readers firmly in that era. Three red-headed sisters. Three spies. Three stories.

This month, Brown is releasing the first book in a new series, The Appleton, WV Romantic Mysteries: Sabotaged Christmas.

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Give Me An Old Fashion Christmas!

by Carole Brown

Remember the old song that’s sung at Christmas time (one rendering by Andy Williams is lovely)? “My Favorite Things.” Always loved that crazy song. I have a feeling it has a deeper meaning than just the favorite things list.

Whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens. Coziness.

Copper kettles and raindrops on roses? How much nicer can you get?

Brown paper packages tied with string? That sends my curiosity sky high.

And who can resist the sound of bells whether from doors or sleighs? Can you taste the schnitzel and apple strudels?

Just the thought of wild geese flying with the moon on their wings: love it!

Snowflakes landing on your face, white dresses with blue satin sashes, and silver white winters all provoke pleasant thoughts.

But wait! What about the dog bites, the bee stings and sadness?

It’s then you can remember all those favorite things of the season that send the bad things skidding away.

Besides the above fun items, here’s a few more that I’ve found lightens my sadness and stirs me into a nostalgic mood when the busyness gets too much, the getting-ready-for-whatever-pressure is too tight, and the wondering if I’ll ever get done reaches a limit. When I remember the good, the load lightens.

Baby kisses–is there anything sweeter than an innocent child?

Brown 4Grandson’s excitement opening packages. Grandson Jonathan thought opening the packages last year (at two years) was so much fun, he got into the act with Grandpa’s packages too!

 

Brown 2Christmas ornaments that have memories attached to them. I have some from when my sons were in grade school with their pictures on them. Still treasure these.

 

Brown 3

 

Mantels filled with caroler figurines, Santas, nativities, and garlands strung with lights, cones, bulbs and berries. Good stuff!

 

Colored lights and white shimmering lights on Christmas trees. One of my favorite things is to look at the decorated houses and trees during this season. It speaks of light and happiness, joy and peace! And, really, is there an ugly tree anywhere? Even the one we had to cut down on our farm that was a true eyesore. Our grandsons looked with big eyes at that one!

My hubby singing “O Holy Night” No, he’s not a professional singer, but he loves to sing. Unlike some that have to be pressured into it, he pours his heart into the effort, and I’m blest listening to him.

Reading Doctor Seuss to children. What fun to read of Cindy Lou and no matter how the Grinch tried, he couldn’t stop Christmas. No one can. If laws were passed that we couldn’t celebrate it, Christmas can live–in our hearts! The magic and hope can continue.

Brown 6The biblical account of Jesus’ birth read right before we open packages. We started this practice when our sons were little, and I’ve loved listening to my husband’s rendering of the verses. How important it is to share God’s truth with our family!

 

The Christmas table laden with too much food, beautiful settings, laughter and prayer. What a real blessing that we have so much. And one special privilege is inviting someone who might not have a family to share in our happiness.

Holding hands while grace is said. Another great tradition that I hope our grandchildren will pass down to their children. The togetherness in the act, and the faith being spoken–what a treasure!

Gifts that hBrown 1ave meaning. Gifts don’t have to be expensive in my eyes. Something from the heart is the best gift of all. I’ve been gifting my daughter-in-law a photo album of our grand boys. Pictures I’ve taken through the year and making copies for that album. I get a delight in watching her turn the pages, a smile on her face.

An old-fashion Christmas with beauty and love, joy and happiness, peace and good will. Give me that anytime over a sterilized, commercial Christmas. It’s the kind that lasts!

Brown 5Sabotaged Christmas

The Appleton, WV Romantic Mysteries

Toni DeLuca, the Italian owner of DeLuca Construction, finds herself confronted with doubts about her father and his possible deceptions–all because of the mysterious pink notes she’s receiving.

Relations with Perrin Douglas who has a troubled history—but the first man in years who’s interested her–is building to a peak. Yet Perrin‘s own personal problems and his doubts about women and God, keep getting in the way.

Gossip, a Spanish proposal, an inheritance, and a sabotaged construction business all converge to play a part in ruining Christmas for Toni’s employees. Will the mysterious person behind it all succeed in pulling off the biggest scam Appleton, West Virginia has ever seen?

Will this culprit destroy Toni’s last chance at happiness with the man of her dreams?

Buy the book here.

Word Sharpeners Week – December 14, 2015

Santa bowed at Christmas

My Favorite Christmas Ornament

Word Sharpener News: Only 11 days until Christmas. Don’t forget to buy your copy of A Christmas Promise. I’ve spent the last week getting presents wrapped, going to Christmas parties, and having my last practice for the children’s Christmas drama at church. Here is the song they are doing the drama to:

Verse of the Week: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Quote of the Week: It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One! —  Charles Dickens

Video of the Week: A Social Network Christmas

The Legend of Santa Claus

Santa Claus is a legend loved by millions of children throughout the centuries. While the story of Santa Claus is a myth told to illustrate the spirit of giving at Christmastime, there was a real man named Saint Nicholas.

Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara. When he was born, Patara was a part of Greece. Now it’s located in Turkey. His parents were rich and raised him to be a Christian, but they died when he was young.

He used up his inheritance caring for the needy, the sick, and the suffering. When he was a little still a young man, he was appointed as bishop of Myra and became well known for his generosity to the needy, his love of children, and his care for sailors.

One story tells about three dowerless girls. In that time, girls whose fathers were too poor to provide dowries often had to be sold into slavery. On these three occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home providing enough for the dowries. People suspected Saint Nicholas of leaving the gifts. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.

The Roman Emperor, Diocletian, persecuted the church. Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned in a prison that was so full of Christians, it didn’t have room for criminals. Eventually he was released and returned to Myra and attended the council of Nicaea in 625.

Nicholas died on December 6, 643. A substance grew on his grave called manna that was reported to heal people. Since then, December 6 has been known as Saint Nicholas Day.

The History of the Christian Christmas Tree

Some believe the Christmas tree started during the Winter Solstice when Druids worshipped trees. But from the beginning, Christmas trees have been used as Christian symbols to teach about Christ.

The Upside Down Fir Tree

During the 7th century, a monk from Devonshire spent time there preaching the word of God. He used the triangular shape of the Fir tree to teach about the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By the 12th century, the Fir tree was hung upside down from ceilings in Central Europe as a symbol of Christianity at Christmas time.

Boniface and Thor’s Oak

St. Boniface became a missionary to the Germans in the 700′s A.D where he encountered Druids who worshiped trees. To stop their sacrifices at their sacred Donar Oak near Geismar, St. Boniface chopped the tree down in 725 A.D. With one mighty blow, Saint Boniface felled the massive oak, and as the tree split, a beautiful young fir tree sprang from its center. Saint Boniface told the people that this lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was indeed a holy tree, the tree of the Christ Child, a symbol of His promise of eternal life. He instructed them to carry the evergreen from the wilderness into their homes and to surround it with gifts, symbols of love and kindness.

The Paradise Tree

From the eleventh Century, religious plays called “Mystery Plays” including the popular Paradise Play depicting the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and their banishment from Eden. An evergreen tree was used for this winter festival and decorated with apples symbolizing the forbidden fruit. The play ended with the promise of the coming Savior. Wafers were also hung from the tree symbolizing the forgiveness of sins in communion making it now not just the tree of knowledge but also the tree of life. This resulted in a very old European custom of decorating a fir tree in the home with apples and small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist at Christmas time. These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells. In some areas the custom, was still to hang the tree upside down.

In addition to the paradise tree, many German Christians set up a Christmas Pyramid called a Lichstock – a open wooden frame with shelves for figurines of the Nativity covered with evergreen branches and decorated with candy, pastry, candles, and a star. The star represented the star of Bethlehem, the candles represented the light of Christ coming into the world, the evergreens were the symbol of eternal life, and the candy, fruits, and pastries, the goodness of our life in Christ, the fruits of the spirit, etc. By the seventeenth century the Lichstock and the “Paradise Tree” became merged into the modern Christmas tree.

Luther’s Christmas Tree

There is a popular tradition that Martin Luther was walking on a bright snow-covered, star-lit night pondering the birth of Christ. Enthralled by the evergreen trees, the stars and the landscape, he took a tree inside and put candles on it to represent the majesty he felt about Christ’s birth as Jesus came down from the stars to bring us eternal life.

The Moravian Christmas Tree

In the 1700s, Moravian missionaries brought the tradition of the Christmas tree to the United States. They would build a wooden frame and decorate it with greenery from spruce, fir, and pine trees. They would set candles on the wooden shelves symbolizing that Christ is the light of the world and would hang verses on the tree showing that Christ is the Word of God. Under the tree, they would place a putz, an elaborate nativity including many scenes from the Bible. On Christmas day, the family would read the verses to each other. I used this tradition in my story, A Christmas Promise, about Moravian missionaries in Schoenbrunn Village, Ohio.

AChristmasPromise_medA Christmas Promise

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.

When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.

Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

Revel in the spirit of a Colonial Christmas with this achingly tender love story that will warm both your heart and your faith. With rich historical detail and characters who live and breathe on the page, Tamera Lynn Kraft has penned a haunting tale of Moravian missionaries who selflessly bring the promise of Christ to the Lenape Indians. A beautiful way to set your season aglow, A Christmas Promise is truly a promise kept for a heartwarming holiday tale.” – Julie Lessman

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