Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sharing the Joy - Christmas Tales: The Night Before Christmas and 21 Other Christmas Stories - Review

My thoughts
What a wonderful collection to read at Christmastime! Fairy Tales are always a favorite of mine, and reading them at Christmas, especially those with a Christmas theme, is a very nostalgic experience. 

I was thrilled to find in this collection favorites like The Little Match Girl and The Nutcracker. Each story tells which country it originates from, which is a wonderful touch and fits in well with my Christmas Around the World theme on this blog. A nice surprise was to find The Elves and the Shoemaker. I remembered that it was a favorite of mine when I was a child. I have not read it since then and it brought back memories.

What you don't often find in an eBook are gorgeous illustrations. This book has them. They really added to the atmosphere of the collection. 

If I had one slightly negative thing to say, it would be that the book could use some minor editing, as there are some typos and grammatical errors here and there. Honestly though, it did not detract from the beauty of the stories.

I highly recommend this collection. I look forward to checking out their website for more fairy tales!

About the book
Christmas Tales: The Night Before Christmas and 21 Other Christmas Stories features tales of the season from around the world. We have old favorites such as The Little Match Girl and The Nutcracker but also have shared some more obscure Christmas stories for young and old. This fully-illustrated book will be available on Kindle shortly, and I'd like to offer you a copy in either PDF or Mobi for review on your website.

This collection was compiled by... is the world's largest website for fairy tales and folktales, with over 2,100 tales. All of our tales have been indexed by region and author. Included with each tale is a reading level and read-aloud time. Fairytalez is a fully-optimized website that can display cleanly on any computer or mobile device, and also features a PDF function to print a full PDF copy of any story on the website. Christmas Tales is the 2nd ebook from Fairytalez; the first was Mermaid Tales: The Little Mermaid and 14 Other Illustrated Mermaid Stories.

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Sharing the Joy - Weekend Baking and Happy New Year


My mom gave me a stand mixer for Christmas!

So, I thought I'd put it to use last night. My boys were due to back from their dad's today and I wanted to bake some treats for them.

Peanut Butter Blossoms - this is a favorite. (Recipe, image below, nutrition info at

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
36 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped
White decorating gel
Holiday candy sprinkles
Red decorating icing
(The last three are if you want to dress them up for Christmas - see below)

  • Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, oil, water and egg until dough forms.
  • Shape dough into thirty-six 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately press 1 chocolate in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired using remaining ingredients.
Expert Tips
Cookie dough can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours before baking. If it's too firm, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Cake - recipe and image from The Country Cook
(I didn't take a picture of mine. It didn't look very pretty, but it tastes phenomenal!)

1 30 oz can pumpkin pie mix
(I made my own - 30 oz pumpkin puree (can or fresh), 1.5 cups sugar, 3 tsp sugar - mix together)
4 large eggs
1 box spice cake mix
1 cup butter (2 sticks) melted
1 container white or vanilla frosting

  • Preheat oven to 350f degrees.
  • Lightly spray the bottom only of a 9x13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a stand mixer, (or large mixing bowl) mix together pumpkin pie mix and eggs.
  • Then mix in cake mix and melted butter. Mix for a full 2 minutes.
  • Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for about 45-55 minutes (center of the cake shouldn't be jiggly.)
  • Allow cake to cool completely then spread the frosting on top.
  • Cut into 12 squares and serve!

5-Minute Cherry Crunch Dump Cake - recipe from The Seasoned Mom
(The image doesn't do it justice, but take it from's delicious!)

1 (20 ounce) can of crushed pineapple (not drained)
1 (21 ounce) can of cherry pie filling
1 package of yellow cake mix
1 cup of pecans, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  • Spread pineapple in its juice evenly into the prepared pan.
  • Spoon pie filling over the pineapple.
  • Sprinkle DRY cake mix evenly over the mixture. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
  • Slice the chilled butter into thin strips and place the strips evenly over the nuts and other ingredients.
  • Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
Yes, we're having a scrumptious New Year's Eve. We're headed for a dinner out and then back home for celebrations, appetizer yummies, and delish desserts.

Wishing you a fun and safe New Year's Eve, and health, peace, and prosperity in the New Year!

Always in spirit...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sharing the Joy: Twas the Night Before Yuletide #Christmas

Carol at Carol's Notebook shared this on Friday on her Thursday's Tales post. She saw it originally on Tracy's blog,  Pen and Paper. It’s a re-working of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” probably written by C.C. Williford, a radio presenter during the 1930’s.

Twas the Night Before Yuletide
Twas the night before Yuletide and all through the glen
Not a creature was stirring, not a fox, not a hen.
A mantle of snow shone brightly that night
As it lay on the ground, reflecting moonlight.

The faeries were nestled all snug in their trees,
Unmindful of flurries and a chilly north breeze.
The elves and the gnomes were down in their burrows,
Sleeping like babes in their soft earthen furrows.

When low! The earth moved with a thunderous quake,
Causing chairs to fall over and dishes to break.
The Little Folk scrambled to get on their feet
Then raced to the river where they usually meet.

“What happened?” they wondered, they questioned, they probed,
As they shivered in night clothes, some bare-armed, some robed.
“What caused the earth’s shudder? What caused her to shiver?”
They all spoke at once as they stood by the river.

Then what to their wondering eyes should appear
But a shining gold light in the shape of a sphere.
It blinked and it twinkled, it winked like an eye,
Then it flew straight up and was lost in the sky.

Before they could murmur, before they could bustle,
There emerged from the crowd, with a swish and a rustle,
A stately old crone with her hand on a cane,
Resplendent in green with a flowing white mane.

As she passed by them the old crone’s perfume,
Smelling of meadows and flowers abloom,
Made each of the fey folk think of the spring
When the earth wakes from slumber and the birds start to sing.

“My name is Gaia,” the old crone proclaimed
in a voice that at once was both wild and tamed,
“I’ve come to remind you, for you seem to forget,
that Yule is the time of re-birth, and yet…”

“I see no hearth fires, hear no music, no bells,
The air isn’t filled with rich fragrant smells
Of baking and roasting, and simmering stews,
Of cider that’s mulled or other hot brews.”

“There aren’t any children at play in the snow,
Or houses lit up by candles’ glow.
Have you forgotten, my children, the fun
Of celebrating the rebirth of the sun?”

She looked at the fey folk, her eyes going round,
As they shuffled their feet and stared at the ground.
Then she smiled the smile that brings light to the day,
“Come, my children,” she said, “Let’s play.”

They gathered the mistletoe, gathered the holly,
Threw off the drab and drew on the jolly.
They lit a big bonfire, and they danced and they sang.
They brought out the bells and clapped when they rang.

They strung lights on the trees, and bows, oh so merry,
In colours of cranberry, bayberry, cherry.
They built giant snowmen and adorned them with hats,
Then surrounded them with snow birds, and snow cats and bats.

Then just before dawn, at the end of their fest,
Before they went homeward to seek out their rest,
The fey folk they gathered ‘round their favourite oak tree
And welcomed the sun ‘neath the tree’s finery.

They were just reaching home when it suddenly came,
The gold light returned like an arrow-shot flame.
It lit on the tree top where they could see from afar
The golden-like sphere turned into a star.

The old crone just smiled at the beautiful sight,
“Happy Yuletide, my children,” she whispered. “Good night.”

As you spend the day with family and friends tomorrow, remember what I believe is the reason for the season...goodwill toward all. 

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Always in spirit...

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sharing the Joy - Being a Child at #Christmas

Lisa Wilson wrote this with her friend and co-writer, Mitsuko Komuro many years ago. (Mitsuko wrote the music, and Lisa wrote the lyrics.) Their publisher never did anything with it at the time, so they just ended up dropping it. Lisa decided to bring it back to life after she came across the cassette last summer - which surprisingly still had good sound quality. She digitized it and made the accompanying video featuring culturally diverse children, in order to illustrate that the Christmas spirit truly is universal. Lisa thinks, and rightly so, that it's especially important to remember that now, in the midst of all the discord in the world these days...

I hope you enjoy the video and song as much as I did!

Music by Mitsuko Komuro
Lyrics by Lisa Wilson 


Always in spirit...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sharing the Joy: The Upside Down #ChristmasTree #Trend

Image credit: Wayfair

I remember seeing the Upside Down Christmas Tree trend several years back at a Christmas market at the fairgrounds. I thought it was a cool idea then, and I still do.

Then, recently Cole and Marmalade's human posted this video "10 Ways to Survive Christmas with Cats," and guess what...there's an upside down Christmas tree as a possible solution to cat-Christmas tree cat-astrophes. Take a look...

Wayfair has an amazing assortment of Upside Down Christmas trees, and they've written a fantastic article on the phenomenon. Here's what they say about the history...

History of the Upside Down Tree
In medieval Europe, Christmas trees were hung upside down from the ceilings of castles and the large homes of the aristocracy, much like a chandelier. It's possible the tradition of the Christmas tree dates as far back as the 8th century, where legend credits the spark of the tradition to Saint Boniface – but what is certain is that fir and spruce trees were being hung upside down by the 12th century, decorated with flowers and brightly wrapped food.

Image credit: Wayfair

In Poland the tradition of the upside down Christmas tree continued through the 18th century, when it was finally replaced by the German tradition of what today we consider a standard Christmas tree. The modern Christmas tree can trace its roots to 16th century Germany, where Martin Luther is said to have first placed lit candles onto an evergreen tree.

Read the rest of the article, and check out Wayfair's terrific assortment of Upside Down Trees here.

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Sharing the Joy: Time for #Funny - Cockney Rhyming #Christmas Comics

From the Happy2Move site:


Would you Christmas Eve it! The festive period is here again so we thought we’d show you how to have a proper cockney Christmas, explained in old East End cockney rhyming slang.

And because we at Happy2Move are legit Londoners, we can even throw in the non-cockney meanings in case you don’t know your apples and pears from your dog and bone.

On Christmas Eve...

On Christmas Day...

At Turkey Time...

While doing some epic digesting...

And inevitably...

Always in spirit...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sharing the Joy: New and Different #ChristmasMusic

The Senti-Mentals - ‘You Show Me Yours At Xmas’

Escaping the Christmas classic cliché, The Senti-Mentals release ‘You Show Me Yours At Xmas’, a seasonal single in the tradition of Slade, Mud, Shaky and Wizzard. Paul Eccentric and John Dobinson have come together to form a punk poet meets 50s doo-wop duo that have created the perfect Christmas office party sing-along. The single is accompanied by a brilliant animated video mocking the anti-hero in his attempt to pull anything with a pulse.

Check it out here (private):


Jon McDevitt – ‘Father Christmas’

From creating the theme tune to the Channel 5 series ‘A Different Life’ to selling 2000 unsigned albums with his original band Geist, McDevitt isn’t a complete stranger to the music industry. Now the Christmas sing-along ‘Father Christmas’, due to be released 25th November, blends influences from The Smiths and Dexys Midnight Runners amongst others, to form an easy listen seasonal single.

Stream ‘Father Christmas’ here:


Homesick Mick – ‘Prisoner To The Past’

If you’re a fan of The Pogues ‘Fairytale Of New York’ (who isn’t) this could be one for you. It’s warm and festive and frankly, you could imagine it on your local’s jukebox and hearing your dad hum it.

Check out ‘Prisoner To The Past ’here:


Always in spirit...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sharing the Joy: Give back to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation this #season #JaneAusten

Award winning audiobook narrator Alison Larkin has been appointed Ambassador to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation in the US.

In case you missed it, I reviewed Alison Larkin presents A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens & The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore a couple of weeks ago. Read my review here.

Alison's critically acclaimed narrations of Pride and Prejudice with Songs from Regency England, Persuasion and Poems, and Emma brought her to the attention of the Foundation creator Caroline Jane Knight, Jane Austen's 5th great niece, who conferred the Ambassadorship.

To mark her appointment, for every Alison Larkin narrated Jane Austen audiobook purchased through this link during the month of December 2016, $5.00 will be donated to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation to help literacy in the USA—in honor of Jane Austen.

Alison Larkin's audiobook narrations can be emailed as a Holiday gift to anyone anywhere in the world while helping literacy in honor of Jane Austen!

Read the whole incredible story on Alison's blog here.

Spread the news and share the joy—find the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation on Facebook here and Twitter here. Find Alison Larkin Presents on Facebook here, Twitter here, and Instagram here!
  Always in spirit...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sharing the Joy: Sarah Tipper's Tales to Take You to Christmas #Free Today!

This past Christmas in July, I featured a story from Sarah Tipper's book of Christmas tales, Tales to Take You to Christmas. Well, the book is free today, 12/19/2016. Head on over to Amazon and grab your copy at no cost. What a lovely Christmas gift! Here's the link:

About the book
These twenty four short stories are ideal for advent reading. They are short enough for your commute into work in December and ideal for encouraging a festive mood to descend upon busy shoulders.

The titles of the stories and brief descriptions are as follows:

Keep It All The Year - The love of George leads to a lifelong love of Christmas.

Lost In A Forest - Kathleen needs to come up with a name for her and Don’s new house.

The End Of The Life Of Brian – Rats and romance combine in this tale.

The Pastry Plaster Plan For Patiently Pleasing Previously Perturbed People - Mince pie munching helps Roberta to cheer up in time for Christmas.

Deck The Halls – Communal living works out for the best, despite Jemima’s fears.

I Got Your Mum Alan Titchmarsh – Unlimited text messages between husband and wife help with Christmas plans.

Shirley’s Cold Cutz – Mrs C spends a pleasant few hours gossiping at the hairdressers.

Fat - Her Christmas – Mary learns to listen to the positive people and become one of them.

YulaTron 3000 – This robot promises to be your festive metal pal that does the job so well.

Teenage Cleans Are Hard To Beat – Melinda’s Christmas is made when she meets Simon in a launderette.

Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White – Karen is surprised to find that Santa was in her year at school.

The Bell – Donna feels grateful for being in the here and now in nineteen-eighty-three.

Bring Me Sunshine – Nancy hopes her daughter Lisa’s news will be met with understanding by the rest of the family.

Follow That Star Tonight – Lothario Terry strums his guitar to great effect and Jan is smitten.

Secret Santa – Lily finds the perfect gift for Edna after a prickly conversation.

The Freegle Has Landed – Peter’s big garage bill means Melanie has to budget very wisely for Christmas shopping.

Redemption – Ella has got into a pickle and isn’t looking forward to Christmas at all.

You’ve Got to Have Christmas Dinner For Christmas Dinner – Six people, six opinions on the yummiest thing to eat on the twenty-fifth of December.

Late Night Thursday – Maureen watches regular customers as they shop before Christmas nineteen-eighty-eight.

The Harvest Mouse Party – Christine suspects that mice inhabit the hedgerow she walks past every day on her way to school.

Monologue – Liz reflects on life and love while preparing to write her Christmas cards.

I Bet You Have A Great Christmas 1995 – Charlene is happiest when playing guessing games.

Pullit-on-Three – Christmas cracker jokes are created in the charming town of Pullit-on-Three.

If I Had a Magic Wand in December… - Some thoughts on how the festive season should be.

About the author
Sarah Tipper was born in Oxford, England in the 1970s and was very nearly called Robert. She enjoyed school, especially any classes that involved writing and that did not involve wearing shorts.

Sarah studied Psychology at the University of Reading. She missed her graduation ceremony because it clashed with seeing Black Sabbath. She went on to graduate with a masters degree in Health Psychology from Coventry University. Luckily this didn’t clash with anything and her Mum got a nice day out.

Sarah’s religion is heavy metal, she has written five books about a fictional metal band called Eviscerated Panda and three books that follow teenage metalhead Cleo Howard through the difficult days of growing up in the late nineteen-nineties. Sarah has also written a book of twenty-four short Christmas stories that can be used as a readable advent calendar.

During the day Sarah does cancer research, squirting things at other things in a science type way. She started writing her first novel because a friend kept telling her to write a book and because another friend had inspired her to write a ‘things to do before you’re forty list’ and write a book made it on to this list. Sarah can’t stop writing now.

The idea of the Eviscerated Panda series of books was conceived after twenty-four years of experience of going to gigs and drinking in rock pubs. It was hugely enjoyable to write and Sarah hopes to create heavymetalworld, much like Terry Pratchett created Discworld. The Cleo Howard diaries spun off out of the Eviscerated Panda series and gave Sarah the opportunity to regress to moody teenagerhood (and it’s much more fun in your forties).

Sarah’s Christmas book Tales to Take You to Christmas began as a small number of tales that grew into a whole book because Christmas is a very fun thing to write about. Sarah thinks of her twenty-four stories as little snow dusted windows into other peoples’ festivities.

Sarah’s favourite seasons are spring and fall. Her favourite cookie is the chocolate shortcake ring. Sarah’s favourite font is blood cyrillic, even though it’s really hard to read. Sarah finds writing about herself in the third person odd. It makes her worry she might get a big ego like that Kanye West fella.

Sarah’s author page is

If you would rather buy from a smaller company, you can buy from here: 

Sarah can be found on Facebook at

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at

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Always in spirit...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sharing the Joy: Weekend Crafting - Easy DIY #Christmas Gifts

Hey, there's still time! Christmas is still a week away and with these easy ideas, you can make something special for someone, or make something to add some festive charm to your own holiday decor.

Amazing Christmas gifts you can do yourself
Amazing Christmas gifts you can do yourself by

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Always in spirit...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sharing the Joy - #Seasonal Sips: Festive Cocktails for the #Holidays

Sharing an article today written by AARON GOLDFARB at

There’s no season during the year that calls for cocktails more than the holidays. Family are arriving, a little time off work is beckoning, and it’s time to get a little silly while counting down the days until Santa arrives. But we aren’t just going to be drinking our standard manhattans and martinis. No. The holiday season merits something completely different. You’re going to want cocktails that are somewhat goofy (perfect to pair with your crazy sweater), warming (due to the cold weather outside), rich and decadent (who cares about getting a little belly – it’s sweater weather), communal (what with everyone visiting), and boozy (again, a little time off is just around the corner).

Let’s look at some classic cocktails for the season and see how we can perhaps even improve them to impress your holiday guests.

Aged Eggnog - Festive Cocktails for the Holidays

Source: Blog

Upgrading Your Eggnog
By now everyone already has their own opinion on eggnog, and probably their own recipes, too, so instead let’s look at something you’ve probably never considered doing before: aging your eggnog. You might think that sounds gross, what with the drink being made using eggs and dairy. Won’t those surely curdle and spoil if left sitting around for a day, never mind a few months? Amazingly, though, the heavy amount of booze is able to work a certain magic in not only keeping the eggnog safe for consumption, but, remarkably, making it even more complex and flavorful. So whether you’re drinking it later this season or waiting a whole year ’til next Christmas, now is the time to whip up some nog!

Still, maybe you are an eggnog lover, but even aging it isn’t enough to capture your imagination. If you’re ready to try something a little bit different, why not explore a bit of an eggnog variant – the Tom and Jerry. No, it’s not named after that famous cartoon cat-and-mouse duo, but instead dates to the early 1800s, when the drink was first created to promote a new play, Tom and Jerry, or Life in London.

No longer much connected to its original English origins, the drink is nowadays mostly associated with the American Midwest, where it’s a staple of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The tantalizing, decadent, egg-based Tom and Jerry “batter” is great for picky guests, as each person can choose to add their own spirits, in whatever amounts they prefer.

Tom and Jerry - Festive Cocktails for the Holidays

Source: Blog

Warming Up with Hot Cocktails
In days of Christmas yore, though – back in those Dickensian days before thermostats and in-house heating systems – you might have preferred a hot cocktail to keep you toasty. The oldest and most famous of hot cocktails is the hot toddy.

Originating in Scotland in the early 1700s, the drink was typically a mix of a spirit (usually whiskey, though rum and brandy are fine, too), boiling hot water, perhaps some honey or sugar, and spices. By now, the hot toddy is, of course, drunk the world over, with each region adding its own little tweaks to the delightful winter warmer. For instance, in America’s Midwestern states, ginger ale and lemon are often added. (We can’t help but note that toddies have long been thought to be curative drinks for whatever ails you. So drink up!)

Likewise, in other countries, other hot seasonal drinks rule. Grog is a popular Navy-strength rum-based hot drink, usually associated with 17th-century English sailors in the West Indies and still popular in Great Britain today. The Germans, Austrians, and Alsatian French drink Glühwein, the so-called “glow wine” heated up using hot (and glowing) irons. (The Germans also likeFeuerzangenbowle, in which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is lit on fire and allowed to drip into the mulled wine.) The Nordic countries prefer Glögg, their version of mulled wine. In fact, pretty much every country has its own, slightly regionalized version of hot mulled wine.

If you’re wondering what “mulled” denotes in this usage, it simply means to warm an alcoholic beverage while adding sweetening and spices, something we’ll further explore below.

Mulled Wine Recipe - Festive Cocktails for the Holidays

Source: Blog

Making Large-Batch Christmas Punches
The last thing you probably want to do while entertaining party guests, or even while relaxing with the kids awaiting Santa’s arrival, is to keep heading to your kitchen or bar to whip up another single-serving cocktail. That’s why large-batch, punch-like drinks are perfect for the Christmas season. The most famous of the bunch would surely be the aforementioned mulled wine.

Whether you call it Glühwein, Glögg, or just plain mulled wine, the recipes don’t vary much and really haven’t changed over the past centuries. Originating as early as 2nd century Roman times and then becoming most prominent during Victorian times, the beverage has typically included three things: red wine, sugar, and various spices.

Today, those spices would typically include any of the most “Christmas-y” of pantry offerings, like cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and allspice. Whatever the case, mulled wine is really a chance to add whatever you like to the recipe – it’s almost impossible to screw up. You then get the beverage boiling, and “set it and forget it.”

Of course, hot red wine isn’t the most American of holiday drinks. More American is apple cider, which also works perfectly as a hot, large-batch libation and is just as easy to make. In fact, those same “mulling” spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc. – can still be utilized; you’re just going to change up your liquid base a little bit.

The lazy person’s route is to simply head to your local farmer’s market or grocery store and grab a jug of fresh apple cider – better if it’s unfiltered. If you have the right appliances and a tad more energy – and who really does, come the holidays? – you could also juice some apples. Before boiling, you’ll want to spike it – dark rum or applejack tend to work best with the already-incorporated flavors.

When it comes to cider, you can even skip the alcohol, leaving a hot, drinkable treat for the little ones!

Hot Apple Cider Recipe - Festive Cocktails for the Holidays
Source: Blog

A Quick Word About “Mocktails”

Of course, if we’re being honest, the holidays are really for the kids. They want to be a part of the revelry just as much as the adults, even if they are too young to have an alcoholic tipple just yet. That’s fine, and they need not be stuck with a glass of warm milk either.

There are plenty of “mocktails” – nonalcoholic cocktails – that are delicious and will make them feel just as good about celebrating the impending Christmas cheer. (Mocktails are obviously also perfect for nondrinkers, pregnant women, and those with medical conditions.)

Mocktails can be difficult to make during the rest of the year – no one wants a Shirley Temple – but the richness of Christmastime drinks lend themselves perfectly to being alcohol-free. Try eggnog or a Tom and Jerry sans booze – they’re like a milkshake. Speaking of milkshakes, why not whip up some vanilla ones with crushed peppermints and candy canes inside? Likewise, hot “soft” cider is obviously delicious, while you could just as easily substitute grape juice (or cranberry juice) in making a nonalcoholic mulled wine. Finally, a steaming mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows) has never hurt anybody!

Always in spirit...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sharing the Joy - #Christmas music by Jan Stella

Enjoy this original song, written by Jan Stella in anticipation of seeing his family again at Christmas.

Jan’s musical journey began in 1998, when he and his friends formed a rock band in school. But soon he fell in love with handmade, acoustic music and started to write songs. Until today he likes to rummage in different genres and styles. Beside his profession as a teacher he has just finished his first solo album "Passing Palermo", which is now available as free download on his website:

He writes, performs and records all songs on his own at home. So you might hear the neighbour’s dog barking over the solo, but that makes it authentic, right? :-)

Much thanks to Jan for sharing the joy with us!

Always in spirit...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sharing the Joy - Time for #Christmas cards

I'm finally working on my Christmas cards tonight...and probably into tomorrow. Yes, I send out that many! I participate in a Christmas card exchange every year with my fellow Christmas fanatics at My Merry Christmas. I've been a member for years and it's such a wonderful community of like-minded, Christmas loving people.

Then, of course, I send to all of my family and friends. I never look at Christmas cards as a chore. I really love doing it. However, this year, things were made a little easier on me. I was approached by Invite Shop to review their Christmas cards. I was like a kid in a candy store! I knew that I wanted to include a pic of my sons on the card so I snapped a casual pic of them while on an outing a couple of weekends ago. I wanted it to be a laid back image, kind of showing them as they look every day, especially for people far away who don't get to see them often.

Invite Shop is different from other invitation sources because they allow full customization of their invitations without charging an arm and a leg. It really is a great product for creative types who like to mix and match graphics, fonts, and colors to create their own unique invitations that fit their style. And they're super affordable. Check out their website and their overwhelmingly positive Facebook reviews.

Check out their design center. It has tons of options and it's super easy to use.

Here's my finished product. I took a live picture, but it didn't turn out that great, so I've also included my saved project from my order. These cards are fabulous!

A final option that I really liked was the recycled kraft paper envelopes option. I really believe in preserving our environment so this option really appealed to me.

Here are a few more design options. To see more, be sure to visit their site.

Invite Shop really impressed me. I will definitely consider using them again during future holiday seasons. Also, they do offer other cards like invitations, annoucements and thank you card. With Invite Shop, the sky's the limit!

*I received free product in exchange for this review. All opinions are mine.

Always in spirit...