The time it was nine ladies dancing {2}

Happy day 9 of the 12 Days of Christmas!

12 Days

Today we have the lovely Debra Driza joining us! Let’s welcome her!

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Pretend it’s the morning of Christmas Eve. We’re hosting the festivities this year, and my family is on their way. For once, I’ve taken my time placing the ornaments on the tree, instead of the usual willy nilly free-for-all toss.

My husband is downstairs in the living room (where the tree is), with my 4-year-old son and my 3-month-old daughter. I’m getting ready to take Fergie–our energetic 14-month-old Ridgeback puppy–outside from her kennel upstairs. Since the baby is on the floor and I don’t want her to be pulverized just yet, I make the rational decision to get a leash for Fergie. Of course, I can’t locate a collar, and being that I’m 1) disorganized, and know it will take me a good 15 minutes to unearth a collar in the disaster area we call home and 2) too lazy to spend said 15 minutes to search, I make the less rational decision to just slip the metal clip through the hand loop on the leash and form a make-shift collar.

Let’s just say that MacGyver would not have been impressed. For good reason. Halfway down the stairs, Fergie pulls so hard that the leash snaps out of my hand. The little metal clip bounces off our wood floor, ricochets, and shoots into the Christmas tree like a tiny harpoon.

Fergie, being her usual oblivious self, continues sprinting gleefully down the stairs and around the corner. Physics being physics, the Christmas tree follows. Crash! It topples to the ground without so much as a TIMBER of warning, a flurry of green and red and gold that misses my husband and baby by inches. Ornaments fly to all corners of the room, while pine needles shoot everywhere like fragrant green missiles. Amid all the chaos, there’s Fergie, who could care less that she is still attached to the tree because, HEY, THERE IS FOOD IN THE KITCHEN! FOOOOD! She continues her charge, dragging the tree behind her and leaving a trail of mayhem in her wake.

Unbelievably, only one ornament broke. The most expensive one, but still. The tree, alas, never quite looked the same. That is why nowadays, our family tradition is to slop those ornaments up there, willy nilly. And forgo leashes on Christmas altogether.

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Huge thanks to Debra for taking the time! Make sure you’re checking out her website, following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page and adding all of her books to your Goodreads TBR shelf.

And now, the giveaway!

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I love this series and you guys should definitely be reading them.  Winner gets to choose one of Debra’s books, pictured above.  Click on the covers to be taken to the Goodreads page.  Book will be coming from TBD and is international {as long as they ship to your country for free}.  Additional giveaway rules are here.

**Good Luck!!**

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The time it was eight maids-a-milking {2}

Happy day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas!!

12 Days

Today we have the lovely Robin Constantine on the blog! Let’s welcome her!

clapping

O Christmas Mug, O Christmas Mug

It was junior year and there was this guy…

We’d just started dating in early December, so when Christmas rolled around the gift thing was awkward. What to get? I didn’t know him that well, but I liked him a whole lot and I didn’t want to get him something dorky or inappropriate so I settled on something neutral.

A mug.

I know, give me a break – it seemed like a nice, functional gift at the time. It may have even contained – shudder – a teddy bear holding a heart or something. Maybe I was subliminally trying to say – I’m giving you my heart, handle with care and think of me when you drink something warm. Better than socks, I guess. So I wrapped it up in pretty paper and waited until Christmas Eve when we planned on exchanging presents.

Said guy thought it would be nice to exchange Christmas presents in the shadow of the tree in Rockefeller Center. Dreamy, right? Except for one detail – it was freezing out. Like runny nose, teary eyes, wind-whipping-around-the- corner-cold and I thought maybe it might be better to say, stay at my house and watch A Christmas Carol, snuggle under the mistletoe and all that.

Nope. This would be better, he insisted.

Off we went on the 99S into the city, two bridge-and-tunnel romantics, ready to take Manhattan.

In the cold.

Memory is weird – I can’t recall the minutiae of the bus ride or the walk to the tree, but I do remember Rockefeller Center was empty. The tree in person is jaw dropping. Something Manhattanites probably take for granted during rush hour, but to visit – it’s hard to stop staring, like no picture would do it justice so you keep gazing at it, hoping to make it a part of you. We ducked into an alcove of one of the buildings and huddled for warmth. Teeth chattering, we exchanged presents. I opened mine first.

Pearl earrings.

Um…what? We’d just barely hit double dating-anniversary-digits! It freaked me out. Made me tingly. Made me realize in horror that he’d just given me jewelry and I’d gotten him A MUG!! I winced as he opened his present. He didn’t recoil, or laugh, or toss it aside, just said thank you. And smiled.

Then we kissed. Frozen noses, warm lips, a shy chuckle or two afterwards.

The cold didn’t bother me as much anymore.

There were carolers around the base of the Christmas tree, singing along with Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” which was blaring from a radio next to their feet. In my memory I see them around one of those trashcan fires, the scent of roasting chestnuts in the air, but when I think of Rockefeller Center today – I’m not sure that’s something that would have been possible.

Maybe it had, in fact, been crowded, but to me, a sixteen-year girl holding hands with a boy she liked and strolling through the city at Christmastime, all I could see was the two of us. As I said – memory is weird and in that pre-instagram time – it’s quite possible I’m embellishing a detail here or there.

But the feeling?

That.

That I do remember.

Warmth and wonder and possibility.

Christmas.

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Huge thanks to Robin for taking the time to share this with us!  Make sure you’re checking out her website, following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page, and adding all of her books to your Goodreads TBR shelf.

And now the giveaway!

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I love Robin’s books {and yes, I’ve already read Secrets} and you guys need to read her stuff and swoon over those gorgeous covers.  Winner will get to choose between one of Robin’s books, pictured above.  Click on the covers to be taken to the Goodreads page.  Book will be coming from TBD and is international {as long as they ship to your country for free}.  Additional giveaway rules are here.

**Good Luck!!**

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The time it was seven swans-a-swimming {2}

Happy day 7 of the 12 Days of Christmas!

12 Days

Today we have the lovely Sara Raasch on the blog.  Let’s welcome her!

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Every year, my family decorates cookies, as many families do. My mom makes a batch of my grandmother’s dough recipe and my sister, dad, and I get to work with various cookie cutters — snowmen, bells, gingerbread men, candy canes — and bowls of sprinkles (because the only way to decorate cookies is with sprinkles PRE-BAKING. Those crazies who decorate with frosting post-baking? BARBARIANS).

But the similarities between my family’s cookie making tradition and normal cookie making traditions end there. Because for the past few years, we’ve aged out of the “Look, I made a skirt out of sprinkles for this gingerbread girl!” phase and into the “Look, I cut off this gingerbread man’s arm and used red sprinkles to make it look like blood!” phase.

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Thus, our cookie making time has evolved (devolved?) into: zombie army making time.

And let me tell you, the look of crippling discomfort and a little bit of fear on people’s faces when we give them a pretty Christmas box filled with limbless gingerbread men and snowmen holding axes made out of crushed peppermints embodies the true spirit of the holidays.

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Huge thanks to Sara for taking the time!  Make sure you’re checking out her website, following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page and adding her books to your Goodreads TBR shelf.

And now the giveaway!

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You may know how picky I am when it comes to fantasy books and Snow Like Ashes is definitely one of my favorites in the genre.  Winner gets a copy of SLA.  Click on the cover to go to the Goodreads page.  Book will be coming from TBD and is international {as long as they ship to your country for free}.  Additional giveaway rules are here.

**Good Luck!!**

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The time it was six geese-a-laying {2}

Happy day 6 of the 12 Days of Christmas!

12 Days

Today the fantastically awesome Lish McBride is here.  Let’s welcome her!

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We don’t look like the kind of people that would be into the holidays. Ninety percent of our wardrobe is black. In fact, sometimes I text my mom when I get a shirt that is any other color, if only to make her proud. Man Friend works at a tattoo shop as a body piercer and has tattoos from his neck to his toes (and one on his ear). I also have sleeves. And our home decorating leans heavily on skulls. To be honest, we do a lot of our decorating during the Halloween season. My friend’s daughter used to refer to our house as the Halloween house.

And yet…we love the holidays. I can’t speak for Man Friend, but my love for all things fairy light and tinsel goes back to my mother. We have a lot of traditions around the holiday. Every year, since birth, my mom has given us an ornament so that when we moved out, our Christmas trees wouldn’t be naked. She is like an ornament wizard—she always finds just the right one to go along with whatever we’re into that year. I was a weird kid. Which means I have some weird ornaments. Only my mother could find a Crypt Keeper ornament. Also because of my mom we have Glenda the Good Witch as our tree topper.

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Oh, and a Christmas village. I always loved hers, so a few years ago she started one for me and my son. (I happen to have the Christmas Story one.) Every year my son and I set it up. We even buy pretend snow. It’s almost like Christmas is a disease and we have a full-blown case of it. We make cookies. We decorate. I have an eclectic Christmas playlist, everything from Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers to Reverend Horton Heat and Bad Religion, and that playlist will be on heavy rotation until New Year’s.

And the movies…I have a stack, again, mostly provided by my mother, and some of them must be watched every year. I don’t care much for It’s a Wonderful Life, but I will watch Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas come hell or high water. Oh, and Die Hard. That’s totally a Christmas movie.

My mom and grandma send us care packages with homemade fudge, chex mix, cookies, and a certain brand of popcorn that my great uncle gets for us in Illinois. (We are serious about our corn.)

Have I mentioned the stockings? Home made, by my mom. Some embroidered, some sewn, depending on the design that fits the person. My theme? Fluffy kittens. It’s the best.

So while we don’t do anything different than other people, holiday wise, the fact that we do them at all can be a little surprising to people. And the extent we get into even more so. I once seriously considered breaking up with a boy when I found out he didn’t like Christmas. I just knew then that it wouldn’t work. You can’t compromise on something like that.

I did once get a Christmas skull. I was probably fifteen and I’d really started wearing black in earnest, and my dad had begun asking me whether or not I’d started worshiping the devil. He says he was joking, but he sure asked me a lot. My oldest brother was working as an apprentice farmer (totally a thing) out in Maine and didn’t have a lot of money. So for Christmas that year he sent me incense, a sheep’s skull, and four black candles. It’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received, hands down.

And every Christmas, I make him wear a Santa hat. We’re festive like that.

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Huge thanks to Lish for taking the time!  Make sure you’re checking out her website, following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page, and adding all of her books to your Goodreads TBR shelf.

And now the giveaway!

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I love Lish’s snark and you guys all need to read her stuff.  Winner will get to choose between one of Lish’s books, pictured above.  Click on the covers to be taken to the Goodreads page.  Book will be coming from TBD and is international {as long as they ship to your country for free}.  Additional giveaway rules are here.

**Good Luck!!**

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The time it was five golden rings {2}

Happy day 5 of the 12 Days of Christmas!

12 Days

Today we have my nCBB, Brighton Walsh on the blog! Let’s welcome her, yes?

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Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. It has been for as long as I can remember, and I think that’s because my family—my mom especially—loves the holiday, too. When I was little, we’d travel to my grandparents’ home to spend several days there. On Christmas Eve, my mom’s three sisters, their husbands and children would fill the house. It was a full house—a loud house—but a fun one.

We’re a Christmas Eve present opening family, always have been. And then Santa would make a visit Christmas morning and leave gifts in our stockings. But he’d also make a special trip just to my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve and drop off one present for each of the grandkids at the front door.

We’d be in the midst of a flurry of unwrapped presents, waiting patiently for our parents to open that Barbie or that Transformer, and then we’d hear it. A doorbell. A ho ho ho, and sleigh bells. Me, my cousins, and my sisters would tear up the stairs to the front door and find it open, presents spilling into the front entry, and boot prints on the no-doubt snow covered front steps.

For years—years; I’m talking until I was in my late-teens—I could not figure out who was dropping these gifts off at the front door. And despite knowing for some time that Santa wasn’t real, every year when this happened, that spark of hope flared bright inside my heart, and I thought for just a minute, what if?

Now that I have a family of my own, we’ve continued the tradition at our house with my boys. It’s gotten a little trickier because our front door is right by the living room where we open our gifts, and my two boys can get to there a lot quicker than me and my six partners in crime used to be able to, tripping over each other up the stairs. But it’s all worked out so far.

The looks on their faces when they hear the sleigh bells jingling and the ho ho ho and see those footprints on the front step make me almost as happy as I remember being on those nights when I was a little kid believing with all my heart that Santa was real.

I only hope it takes them as long as it took me to realize who, exactly, is doing the present dropping. And that hope flares bright in their hearts for just a moment, even long after they’ve stopped believing.

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Huge thanks to Brighton for taking the time!! Make sure you’re subscribing to her newsletter, following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page, and adding all of her books to your Goodreads TBR shelf.

And now the the giveaway!

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I might be biased, but I firmly believe that everyone needs to read Brighton’s words. Winner gets to choose between Caged in Winter or a pre-order of Captive. Click on the covers to go to the Goodreads page.  Book will be coming from TBD and is international {as long as they ship to your country for free}.  Additional giveaway rules are here.

**Good Luck!!**

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The time it was four colly birds {2}

Happy Day 4 of the 12 Days of Christmas!

12 Days

Today we have my lovely sister wife {we share Jeb Holt}, Bethany Crandell on the blog!

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GET YOUR OWN BEEBEE GUN!
A Christmas tale of tradition, by Bethany Crandell

June 22, 1985.

The Slip ‘n Slide was in place; staked at the corners with the hose secured to the plastic ring up top, and a little dishwashing soap added for extra speed. Eight prize bags were lined up on the basement ping pong table, each one bursting with Smarties, cinnamon gummy bears and more worthless trinkets than a garage sale. After much pleading, Mom agreed to order Domino’s (delivery pizza, such an exciting new concept!) and buy soda that, for once, didn’t say SHASTA on the side of the can. All the makings for a great tenth birthday party were in place…especially when you considered my movie of choice for the big event.

Though it was the first day of summer, my friends were about to be introduced to what I consider one of the greatest films of all time: A CHRISTMAS STORY. I fell in love with this quirky and relatively unknown (at the time) flick the first time I saw it. Obviously, Ralphie’s unrelenting determination to own a gun that would shoot his eye out was entertaining, but it was the off-beat performances delivered by his supporting cast members that left the biggest impression on me. Little brother who’s bundled up in so many layers that he looks like a tick about to pop? Yes! Turkey-obsessed father who drops F-bombs at the drop of a hat? DOUBLE YES! Triple Dog Dares?! YES, YES, YES! This movie has some of the best characterization caught on film, which iswhy my little heart broke into a thousand pieces when I slid the tape into the VCR and my so-called friends pulled up their snoots, promptly stating they’d rather jump on the trampoline than watch this weird, fifties movie.

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Despite my friends’ obvious stupidity and my very vulnerable emotional state, I continued to profess my love for this film. On occasion I would encounter someone who appreciated it the way I did, but mostly I was met with judgmental scowls and confused expressions followed by, “I’ve never heard of that.” By the time I reached my mid-twenties, I’d determined that A CHRISTMAS STORY was destined to be my first cult-classic mistress. The secret lover I’d visit when I needed a pick-me up, or a reminder of how charming a mundane life could be. It was just me and my movie…until 1997 when TBS came along and exposed the truth.

I probably should have been grateful for the outing but I wasn’t. I was mad. And resentful. For years I’d been proclaiming this film’s awesomeness to the world, only to have my words fall on deaf ears. But after one, twenty-four hour Ted Turner endorsed marathon suddenly it was a holiday classic that everyone loved…

My secret lover had become a rent-by-the-hour street walker for all to enjoy.

Sigh.

It took years of grumbles, TBS protests, and gallons of eggnog, but I’ve finally come to the point in my life where I can accept 24 Hours of A CHRISTMAS STORY as a Christmas tradition I’m willing to embrace. Not because I don’t love it as passionately as I did thirty years ago, I do!, but because I can remind my children for twenty-four hours straight that for a while I was a lot cooler than the rest of the world.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

And, please, leave the leg lamp on so I can find my way home.

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Huge thanks to Bethany for taking the time! Make sure you’re checking out her website, following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page, and adding her books to your TBR shelf on Goodreads!

And now the giveaway!

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Winner gets a copy of Summer on the Short Bus, pictured above. This book had me cackling out loud and you should read it.  Click on the cover to go to the Goodreads page.  Book will be coming from TBD and is international {as long as they ship to your country for free}.  Additional giveaway rules are here.

**Good Luck!!**

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The time it was three french hens {2}

Happy Day 3 of The 12 Days of Christmas!

12 Days

Today we have the lovely Liz Czukas sharing some holiday memories.  Let’s welcome her, yes?

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“The Worst Cookie Makers in the World”

I am not a gifted baker.  I can cook dinner, and I make the best salsa.  But baking and I have never exactly been besties.  I think it’s the precision.  I’m more of a “eh, that looks pretty good” kind of cook, but that just doesn’t hold up when it comes to the exact chemical formulas needed to make baked goods.  My lack of prowess comes to me directly from my mother, who is also less than enthusiastic about exact measurements.

But that has never stopped us from trying.  When I was a little girl, my uncle Rick came over with the grand plan to make these wreath cookies.  They’re kind of like making rice krispie treats, but with corn flakes.  And of course, you color the marshmallow goo green to make them look like wreaths.  My uncle had seen them in a magazine and was determined to make ours look the same lovely shade of emerald green.  Except we had to add so much green food coloring to get them that color the texture was ruined.  We spent hours colored green up to the elbows trying to form the soup mix of goo and cereal into circles.  They refused to set up, or even keep their shape.  We even tried putting them out into the cold to firm them.  Nothing could turn our bright green cereal glop into wreaths.  Eventually we just served them on wax paper.  You had to sort of scrape them off with your teeth.  Which left you with a lovely green patina all over your teeth and lips.  Worst of all, they weren’t even very good.

In high school, one of my choir’s big fund raisers was selling trays of cookies at our Christmas concert.  Each girl had to provide 10 dozen cookies.  I had never made 10 dozen cookies for anything, much less to give them all away.  But what was I going to do?  My mother and I decided to make gingerbread cookies and spritz cookies.  Easy, right?  They might have been easy, if either one of us had the arm strength to use the cookie press.  Even taking turns, it probably took us 15 minutes to get through one roll of dough.  Luckily, a friend of mine stopped by just about the time we were covered in sweat, with wobbling muscles, and ready to throw in the towel.  He had the strength to bang out cookies along the entire length of the counter, so we managed to get the required 120 cookies to the choir after all.

Spritz cookies have always been one of my favorites, but my skill with the cookie press has never improved since that time.  The motorized ones have been a bust, and without someone with more muscle tone than a mosquito, I’m left with rolls of brightly colored dough and unfulfilled cookie dreams.  That is, until two years ago.

That was the year I realized what I like about spritz cookies is the flavor, not the fancy shapes.  So I made the ultimate lazy baker’s decision:  I used a knife to cut my logs of dough into flat, featureless disks.  My mother, my cookie-making partner in crime as always, was immediately in favor of this plan.  We merrily sliced and baked our spritz, even forgoing the traditional red and green colors in favor of purple, orange, and fluorescent green.  And as is our way, we found the whole thing hilarious.  We laughed ourselves sick in anticipation of our family’s reaction, coming up with dozens of names for our new creations.  My personal favorite:  Shut-Up Cookies.  Because if anyone wanted to speak ill of our masterpieces, we were just not going to let them have any.

Because they were delicious.  Ugly, featureless, oddly colored, but so so delicious.  You don’t like ‘em? Fine.  More for me.

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Huge thanks to Liz for taking the time to share this!! Make sure you’re checking out her website, following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page, and adding all of her books to your TBR shelf on Goodreads!

And now the giveaway!

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As some of you know, I’m really picky about my contemporary books.  Liz’s are definitely some of my favorites.  Click on the covers to be taken to the Goodreads page.  Winner gets to pick one of Liz’s books, pictured above. Books will be coming from TBD and is international {as long as they ship to your country for free}.  Additional giveaway rules are here.

**Good Luck!!**

a Rafflecopter giveaway