Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and prosperity and happiness in the New Year!

Remember, more Sharing the Joy fun to come up until Twelfth Night so be sure to visit!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sharing the Joy: Making History, Bohemian Style at Christmas

Please welcome today, Caddy Rowland, historical fiction author and regular contributor to my sister site, Historical Fiction Connection.

Although very little is known about exactly how the artists celebrated Noël (the holiday Americans call Christmas), one has to assume those who were French did as much as they could with what little they had to make Noël special for their families. And, yes, many artists did eventually end up with wives and children. Additionally, it also seems to me those living in Montmartre from other countries may have picked up on the traditions of France, since they were residing there.

Noël is still vastly different than Christmas in the USA in that it isn’t so commercialized. Back then in particular (and still for some French today), it was primarily a religious event. The word Noël comes from the French phrase les bonnes nouvelles, which means “the good news” (the birth of Christ). On the eve, church bells rang out Christmas carols. People filled the cathedrals to attend Noël services with family. Afterward they went home to the most celebrated dinner of the year: Le Rêveillon (to revive or awaken).

Menu’s varied throughout regions of France, but whatever was served, there were many dishes to choose from and plenty of each. Goose, chicken, capon, turkey stuffed with chestnuts, oysters, and boudin blanc (similar to white pudding) were common.

La bûche de Noël (Yule log) is a log-shaped cake made of chocolate and chestnuts. Some areas burned a log in their fireplace from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. This dessert was a replica of the Yule log.

Many families would serve a Three Kings Cake with a bean hidden in it. Some had a baby Jesus they used instead of a bean. Whoever found the bean (or baby) in their slice was made King, or Queen, for the day.

The sapin de Noël (Christmas tree) had been introduced in France by 1837, but wasn’t very popular yet. More likely they would have had a crèche similar to a nativity scene (filled with santons little saints). This display was the focus for the celebration. The santons were little clay figures. Not only would a family have figures of the holy family, shepherds and Wiseman, but of French dignitaries and other characters. These figures were cherished and handed down through generations. They are gaily colored and have fine detail to them.

Mistletoe was thought to bring good fortune and was hung around the home for the holiday season. That day the children would go out to look for the Kings, taking gifts of hay for the camels.

Once Le Rêveillon dinner was over, everyone retired. They left a log burning, along with food and drink on the table. These were for the Virgin Mary, in case she stopped by. Children left their shoes out, hoping Pierre Noël (like Santa Claus) would come and fill them with fruit, nuts, candy, and maybe a small toy. Some people also told children there was a Père Fouettard who would dole out spankings to naughty children. If the artist’s were from Northern France, they probably gave their children these gifts on December 6th, instead, as that was St. Nicholas Day in Northern France. Adults did not exchange gifts during this holy time. Instead, they waited to exchange gifts on New Year ’s Day. These gifts were seldom lavish. Each person gave their adult family members one small gift, even in households where money wasn’t an issue. Nor did they buy for every family member. It was for immediate family only.

One can see the celebration of family and their belief system was the heart of this celebration, with materialism taking a back seat—if showing up at all. The food was the only excess they indulged in during this highly awaited celebration.

One has to wonder how meager some of the tables looked in artists homes. However, with family and/or friends even the most meager of meals can be a celebration when love and kinship is freely given and accepted.

And now I would like to wish each of you a:

Joyeux Noël

Historical Fiction by Caddy Rowland: 

Contact and Social Media Info. For Caddy Rowland:

Author Email:
Twitter: @caddyorpims

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sharing the Joy: Christmas Around the World - Hungary

For St. Nicholas' day, (December 6), children put out a pair of well-cleaned shoes the night before; the understanding is that if they have been good throughout the year, in the morning the shoes will be filled with sweets and small toys or gifts. If they've not been good, they received potatoes, stones, or a wooden spoon.

The house was decorated a little more each day as Christmas drew closer: pine boughs and cards on the mantelpiece, a manger scene of cornhusk dolls from Slovakia on a side table, candles, embroidered tablecloths and runners around the living and dining rooms.

Supper on Christmas Eve begins with sauerkraut soup, very piquant with dried mushrooms and sausage (kolbasz) floating in it. And poppyseed rolls (baigli) or crepes (palacsinta) for dessert.

The Christmas tree was not put up until Christmas eve. The children were often sent into another room to play after supper, and told to "listen for the angels". In a little while, a bell would ring, and the children would come back into the room to find a beautiful Christmas tree fully decorated with the wrapped presents arranged underneath its boughs. The decorations always included "szalon cukor" a kind of wrapped fondant candy and ornaments embroidered on felt. Gifts were then opened, and the whole family went to church later for midnight mass.

In terms of Christmas carols, traditional and folk carols are sung,as well as a Hungarian version of Silent Night. Caroling in Hungarian villages was usually done between Christmas and New Year's eve. The carolers were rewarded with pastries, a little brandy, chocolates, or money.

Compiled and edited from Hungarian Christmas--A Personal Account

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sharing the Joy: Weekend Crafting - Darlene Josaphe's Homemade Gifts for Stress Relief

I had the pleasure of reading one of Darlene's holiday stress management books (my reviews of her Holiday Stress Management and New Year's Resolutions books are coming soon), Homemade Gifts for Stress Relief. In the book, she outlines several clever ideas to make thoughtful homemade gifts for the holidays and other occasions. According to Darlene, much of the stress during the holidays stems from worrying about what gifts to buy for who and, ultimately, how much is all of it going to cost. Homemade gifts are a personal and cost effective option to give to your friends and family during the holidays.

One thing that is great for stress relief is aromatherapy and a good source of this is candles. Sure, you can easily go out and buy a candle as a gift, but what could be more personal than making homemade candles as gifts for your loved ones or friends.

Here is Darlene's easy recipe for DIY aromatherapy candles.

Step 1:
Purchase pint or quart-sized glass jars that have an open top for easy lighting. These can be purchased online, or you can use recycled condiment or jelly jars.
Step 2:
Purchase the wax for your candles. Stick to all-natural waxes such as soy or beeswax.
Step 3:
Choose the essential oils for your candles. Take your time to smell the different scents and take in the aromas that have an effect on the mood. This will allow you to enjoy the project and match the best scent to your recipient.
Step 4:
Melt the wax according to the directions that came with your wax. If there are none, look online for a wax melting recipe. Some can be heated in the microwave while others require a double boiler.
Step 5: 
After removing the wax from the heat, add your essential oils. You'll need about five drops per every two cups of wax. Stir the oils into the wax and let your senses go wild.
Step 6: 
Place the wick in the jar and pour in the wax. You'll need to keep the wick stable, so a wick setter can come in handy.
Step 7: 
Allow the candle to fully cool. You can then wrap it up in tissue paper and present the gift to your special friend. 

That's it! To quote Darlene, "Candles make wonderful gifts. They're thoughtful, practical and perfect for creating a positive, restful environment."

This is just one of many easy and thoughtful DIY stress relief gifts Darlene includes in this terrific and informative book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easier, stress-free holiday season.

About the author
Darlene is a stress management mentor, and an aromatherapy and natural health enthusiast. She is passionate about helping women simplify their lives, beat stress, regain balance, and find joy, happiness, and inner peace. She enjoys walking, gardening, baking, backyard camping, volunteering, and Bible study.

She is the author of an entire series of  Self-Help Stress Solution Books, available on Amazon.

Exclusive stress management tips & talks for members of her Stress Management Club

Connect on Facebook

Visit her WEBSITE

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Sharing the Joy: Susanna Fraser's A Christmas Reunion - Review and {Giveaway}

My thoughts
I think this little historical novella might be my favorite holiday read so far this season. While I'm not much for romance novels, and this is deemed a historical romance, it was not over the top with the romance. In fact, I found the historical accuracy and the storytelling to be much like straight historical fiction.

Gabe is such an admirable character. Who couldn't help but fall in love with him? And I admired Cat's independence and being of her own mind. The characters and the story likened to a Jane Austen novel which is a very good thing in my eyes. Add to the mix a bit of traditional wassailing and the reader is treated to a nostalgically entertaining holiday novella. Highly recommended!

About the book
Publication Date: November 24, 2014
Carina Press
Genre: Historical Romance


Lady Catherine Trevilian and Gabriel Shepherd met in the Earl of Edenwell’s household, he the earl’s bastard nephew adopted as an infant, and she the countess’s highborn niece taken in after being orphaned as a young lady. Though not a suitable match by society’s standards, they fell hopelessly in love – but everything ended when they were caught kissing under the mistletoe. To protect Cat from Gabe’s lowborn charms, the earl bought him an army commission and shipped him out of the country. Catherine eventually accepted an arranged engagement, but never stopped scouring casualty lists for Gabe’s name.

Five years later, Gabe is home on leave for Christmas. Catherine and Gabe quickly learn their feelings have not dimmed – and a forbidden kiss confirms they’ve deepened into passion. But with Cat due to be married in eight days and Gabe still far below her social station, it will take a Christmas miracle for the star-crossed lovers to find happiness…

Praise for Susanna Fraser’s Books
“[Susanna Fraser is] a go-to writer for Regency romance that is actually set in the Regency rather than in that Never-Neverland mash-up that’s been dubbed ‘The Recency’ or ‘Almackistan.’” — Willaful at Karen Knows Best

“This is easily one of the best historical romances I’ve read.” — Romantic Historical Reviews on An Infamous Marriage

“…the romance in this story was very sweet. Sydney was immediately relatable and likeable, because she faced such a serious conflict and wanted to make an ethical decision that would preserve the lives of her loved ones.” — Dear Author on Christmas Past

About the Author
Susanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly and often unusually colored hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.

Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still gives her heroines great hair.

Susanna grew up in rural Alabama. After high school she left home for the University of Pennsylvania and has been a city girl ever since. She worked in England for a year after college, using her days off to explore history from ancient stone circles to Jane Austen’s Bath.

Susanna lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. When not writing or reading, she goes to baseball games, sings alto in a local choir and watches cooking competition shows.

For more information please visit Susanna’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sharing the Joy: Weekend Crafting - I made a wreath!

This wreath I made last night came from the $6 Dollar Wire Hanger Christmas Wreath craft from the book, Six Sisters' Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More! I own this book and their other book, A Year with Six Sisters' Stuff: 52 Menu Plans, Recipes, and Ideas to Bring Families Together (unfortunately, I do not have their new Christmas book yet). I LOVE their books. I cook with their recipes ALL the time. This was my first time to make one of their crafts and it was a terrific experience.

I used these exact ones (

The others were similar to these,
but with more red, lighter blue and pink

For my wreath, I used two different types of ornaments (80 total, shatterproof). I made the bow with wire edged ribbon. I've been making bows like this for years so that part wasn't new, but making the wreath was a new...and fun...experience. Mine cost a bit more than $6 because I didn't have the ornaments just lying around. I had to buy them, but I got a great deal during the Black Friday sales.

Full instructions for this craft, including a ribbon making tutorial, can be found at the Six Sisters' Stuff website HERE.

Let me know if you end up making one. Would love to see your finished project!

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sharing the Joy: Christmas Around the World - Poland

Although a tormented country, with a past long under Communist rule, Poland holds on to its rich Christmas traditions. The traditions I mention here come from an account from 1917...traditions which have not changed much over the past decades.

One of the most prominent Polish Christmas traditions is the festival of Christmas Eve. This feast is not only a traditional family gathering, it is steeped in religious meaning. The feast cannot begin until the first star appears in the sky, which is around 6:00 pm in Poland. Therefore, this Christmas supper Wigilia, or The Vigil, is also known as the Star supper.

In the brightly lit dining room, straw or hay is laid out upon the table with a white tablecloth placed on top. This is in memory of Jesus's birth in a manger. Before everyone is seated, the head of the family holds a plate containing a wafer that has been prepared specially, blessed by the parish priest and has a sacred sign stamped upon it, such as IHS or a scene of the Nativity. A speech is made for all present to be at peace with God and the wafer is broken with all present at the feast. Anyone who is absent is sent a blessed wafer with a corner torn off to show that they have broken the wafer with them as a gesture of affection and showing that they were missed.

After the wafer ceremony, everyone wishes each other a happy Christmas and the singing of Polish carols commences. At last, everyone sits down to eat the supper. The feast is the first meal of the day, as the earlier hours of Christmas Eve require a strict fast in Poland. This extraordinary meal has 11 courses! However, no meat is included. Almond soup made with almonds, raisins, rice and milk is a required mainstay. Some of the other fare includes baked fish or carp, vegetable dishes, such as small bags of pastry filled with sauerkraut and tons of butter, and cabbage leaves wrapped around fried or boiled millet. For dessert are Polish poppyseed cakes, made with white poppyseeds and jam in alternate layers. Other desserts include the lavishly decorated ginger cakes and all kinds of pastries. There are also apples, oranges, nuts, dried fruits and Hungarian wine and the famous traditional Polish mead.

Next, the Polish take naughty and nice very seriously. The children are assembled and a person dressed as Father Christmas, known as Starman in Poland (often the parish priest in disguise). Starman quizzes the children in their catechism and those who answer incorrectly are scolded. Starman then tells the children that he has brought them rewards for their good conduct from his own homeland, Starland. They are led back to the dining room where the feast has been removed and, in its place, decorated with bright lights and beautifully adorned Christmas trees. You can probably guess what is waiting there for the children. You guessed!

Everyone then gathers around the fireplace and Christmas hymns are sung. At midnight, everyone attends midnight mass. The church is crowded with people singing more Christmas hymns.

Christmas day is generally spent like an ordinary Sunday. However, there are other festivities that continue through the season. Young boys from the town, called Starboys, gather together and go house to house singing Christmas carols and carrying the Szopka, a miniature shed with puppets with which they act out the sacred story of Christmas.

Finally, on Twelfth Night, the Epiphany, the people attend church with small jewelry boxes containing a gold ring, incense, and amber...all in memory of the gifts of the Magi. Also included is chalk. The objects are blessed and then taken home. Upon returning home, the owners draw on all the doors with the chalk the initials K.M.B. with a cross after each. The letters stand for the names of the Three Kings - Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. These remain on the doors all year.

As you can see, Polish has very rich and sacred Christmas traditions. I hope you enjoyed reading about them as much as I did.

Christmas Around the World, compiled by Maria Hubert

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sharing the Joy: Regan Walker's The Twelfth Night Wager - Review and {Giveaway}

My thoughts
What starts out as a wager between friends quickly transforms a known rake into a romantic, as he falls in love with his quarry. Add to the mix a subplot of intrigue in the guise of blackmail and set it during the Regency period at Christmas time and you have a delightfully entertaining work of historical fiction and holiday reading.

I'm not usually a big romance reader, but during Christmas I make an exception. And a historical romance is always a nice addition to my holiday reading. So when I was offered this book for review, I quickly accepted. I'm glad I did. This is my first time reading this author and I was pleased to discover that she really knows the time period. She also knows just how to capture the holiday season during the Regency period.

I recommend this novella as a wonderful work of historical fiction and delightful read for the holidays.

About the book

Boroughs Publishing Group
eBook; 134 pages
ISBN: 978-1-938876-83-7


It was a dull day at White’s, the day he agreed to the wager: seduce bed and walk away from the lovely Lady Leisterfield, all by Twelfth Night. This holiday season, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, planned to give himself a gift.


She was too proper by half—or so was the accusation of her friends, which was why her father had to find her a husband. But Lord Leisterfield was now gone a year, and Grace was at last shedding the drab colors of mourning. The house felt empty, more so during the coming Christmastide, and so tonight her coming out would begin with a scandalous piece of theater. The play would attract rogues, or so promised her friend the dowager countess. It would indeed. The night would bring about the greatest danger—and the greatest happiness—that Grace had ever known.

Buy the eBook

About the Author
Bestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” And in each of her novels, there is always real history and real historic figures. Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. For more information please visit Regan Walker’s website and blog

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on December 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents of the US only.
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– Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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