Sunday, July 31, 2016

Weekend Lit - Poems and Farewell #ChristmasinJuly

Today is the last day of Christmas in July. *pout* It has been so nice getting back to one of my favorite things. I'll admit to being a bit neglectful of it, and this blog, the past couple of years. This year, I feel like I'm home again. I hope you enjoyed everything I shared with you this month.

Don't forget, today is the last day to get Rhonda Hopkins Christmas story, The Gift, for free. Visit this post for details.

Also, today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Sarah Tipper's Tales to Take You to Christmas. Enter at this post.

On this final day of Christmas in July, and of Weekend Lit (until this holiday season), I'm sharing a couple of poems. One from H.P Lovecraft (who knew that he wrote a Christmas poem!?) and another by Robert Frost.

Viggo Johansen A Christmas Story 1935

by H.P. Lovecraft

The cottage hearth beams warm and bright, 
The candles gaily glow; 
The stars emit a kinder light 
Above the drifted snow. 

Down from the sky a magic steals 
To glad the passing year, 
And belfries sing with joyous peals, 
For Christmastide is here!

Christmas Trees
by Robert Frost

The city had withdrawn into itself 
And left at last the country to the country; 
When between whirls of snow not come to lie 
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove 
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city, 
Yet did in country fashion in that there 
He sat and waited till he drew us out 
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was. 
He proved to be the city come again 
To look for something it had left behind 
And could not do without and keep its Christmas. 
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees; 
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place 
Where houses all are churches and have spires. 
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees. 
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment 
To sell them off their feet to go in cars 
And leave the slope behind the house all bare, 
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon. 
I’d hate to have them know it if I was. 
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except 
As others hold theirs or refuse for them, 
Beyond the time of profitable growth, 
The trial by market everything must come to. 
I dallied so much with the thought of selling. 
Then whether from mistaken courtesy 
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether 
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, 
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.” 
“I could soon tell how many they would cut, 
You let me look them over.” 

“You could look. 
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.” 
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close 
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few 
Quite solitary and having equal boughs 
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to, 
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one, 
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.” 
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so. 
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over, 
And came down on the north. 
He said, “A thousand.” 

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?” 

He felt some need of softening that to me: 
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.” 

Then I was certain I had never meant 
To let him have them. Never show surprise! 
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside 
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents 
(For that was all they figured out apiece), 
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends 
I should be writing to within the hour 
Would pay in cities for good trees like those, 
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools 
Could hang enough on to pick off enough. 
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had! 
Worth three cents more to give away than sell, 
As may be shown by a simple calculation. 
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter. 
I can’t help wishing I could send you one, 
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

And that's a wrap...on this Christmas present in the heat of Summer, Christmas in July! See you in November for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge/Read-a-Thon and my annual Sharing the Joy event. I'll try to post every month on Rudolph Day (25th each month) too.

Always in spirit...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Weekend Crafting...and Movie News #ChristmasinJuly

Here are a couple of super simple ornament crafts. I love making homemade glass ball ornaments. There's no limit to what you can do with them.

Yule Ball Ornament 


Clear glass ornaments
Festive scrapbooking paper or remnant holiday wrap
Polyester craft ribbon or curling ribbon
Glittery pipe cleaners
Packets of sequins or shiny confetti
Wooden dowels or chopsticks (to curl the craft ribbon and pipe cleaners)

  • Cut strips of paper about 1/2 inch wide and 6-8 inches long.It's up to you how many pieces of paper you use, but to fill 8 ornaments, I cut 40-50 strips of paper. The nice thing is, it's really easy to cut more paper if you need it. Next, roll up or spiral curl the paper (I used my wood dowel or a pencil for spiral curling the paper). If you roll the paper, make sure to wind it will unroll into a nice curl when you put it in the ornament.
  • Curl the ribbon and pipe cleaners. I used a wooden dowel again to spiral wrap the pipe cleaners. If you want the easiest and fastest curling ribbon, I'd suggest curling ribbon...since all you'll have to do is score it and have curly ribbon. I decided to use polyester craft ribbon (it was so silky, shiny and colorful...I just couldn't resist), so I had to curl it the same way you would if you were making korker ribbon. To do this you'll need to wrap the ribbon around wooden dowels and secure them with wooden clothes pins at the end. Once you have all of your ribbon wrapped, place it on a cookie sheet and bake it in the oven at 275 degrees for 20 minutes. After they've cooled, slip the ribbon off the dowel...and you'll have yourself curled ribbon.
  • Next, cut your curled ribbon, paper and pipe cleaners to whatever length you like. I cut mine about an inch and a half long.
  • Here's the really fun part! Pull off the top of the ornament (press lightly on each side of the wire and pull up slowly) and start shoving in the pretties! As you put things inside, shake the ornament up to let the paper and ribbon settle. It will help you decide if the ornament needs more stuffing.
  • If you decide to use glitter or confetti, pour it into the ornament last. I'd suggest using bigger confetti pieces, since the small star sequins I used sort of fell around the paper and collected at the bottom of the ornament. To spread it around, I shook the ornament up (with the top of the ornament back on!) until the confetti nicely distributed.
  • When you're all done, snap the top back on to the ornament. If you like, add colorful ribbon for hanging the ornament.

Iridescent Christmas Ornament

1-2 1/2″ clear glass ornament
1 Package mixed color iridescent plastic beads – example shows approximately (800) 5mm beads
Silver ribbon – approximately 13″
Elmer’s Glue-All
  • Take the cap off of the ball and fill to the top with the plastic beads.
  • Put a small amount of the glue around the top and replace the cap. Let dry completely.
  • Wrap the silver ribbon around the cap and tie a bow.
  • String a piece of silver ribbon through the top loop and knot leaving enough to use as a hanger.
I think this ornament would also look gorgeous with brighter colored beads, green and red beads, and even gold and silver. The sky's the limit!

I could only find one holiday motion picture coming out in the upcoming holiday season. Perhaps there will be more as the season approaches, but this one looks to be a good one.

Almost Christmas
November 11, 2016

Starring:Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover, Romany Malco, Nicole Ari Parker, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Jessie T. Usher, DC Young Fly
A new comedy from writer/director David E. Talbert ("Baggage Claim") and producer Will Packer ("Ride Along," "Think Like a Man" series, "This Christmas"), "Almost Christmas" tells the festive story of a beloved patriarch who asks his family for one gift this holiday season: to get along. If they can honor that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE:| Facebook|Twitter| Instagram

Only one more day of Christmas in July. Where did the time go?

Always in spirit...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Christmas Around the World - Brazil #ChristmasinJuly

Since the 2016 Summer Olympics are being hosted by Brazil, I decided to feature Brazil in my only Christmas Around the World post during this year's Christmas in July.

Some random facts about Christmas in Brazil:

Christmas traditions were brought to Brazil by Portuguese settlers.

Brazil has the largest per capita Roman Catholic population in the world. The majority of the celebrating reflects this fact.

A law enacted in the early 1960s called the "Thirteenth Salary" gives every worker an extra month's pay at Christmas. Wow!

Advent Season

Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent season is a vital pre-Christmas event. The focus for people is the preparation of the presepe or manger scene. From simple to elaborate, these manger scenes run the gamut. Some displays may fill an entire room, or even more than one room, and there might even be a quiet manger scene alongside a space age development. The presepe is usually on display through January 6 which is referred to "King's Day" or "Little Christmas." The figure of the Baby Jesus is not placed in the crib until Christmas Eve and the Three Wise Men arrive on January 6.

Santa Claus is called Papai Noel. He wears the traditional red suit, despite the heat, and has a sleigh with reindeer. Papai Noel enters the home through the front door rather than the chimney. Children hang stockings, and put out their shoes near the stove in the kitchen, or sometimes on the roof for the convenience of Papai Noel. Sometimes the jolly man hides gifts all over the house.

The Christmas tree is put up on Christmas Eve, colorfully decorated and strung with lights. The season is highlighted by the making of  huge Christmas "trees" of electric lights. These "electric trees" are seen in major cities such as Brasilia, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro throughout the season, reflecting beautifully against the night sky.

The 25 year tradition of the Auto de Natal, or Act of Christmas is an outdoor Christmas play held in Rio de Janeiro. It's a free play which attracts many viewers and it portrays poor people living in Brazil as its theme. There are many other local holiday plays and pageants going on throughout the country as well.

Christmas Eve is a time for family gatherings and is a coming together of several generations. Families attend the Missa do Galo or Mass of the Cock at Midnight. Carol singing follows, followed by a return home for the ceia de Natal or Christmas dinner. There are many traditional dishes served including turkey stuffed with farofa made of toasted manioc flour, onions, garlic, turkey livers and gizzards, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and bacon. Dried cod is another popular dish. In the interior of the country, roast pig might be served. Also, African couscous, steamed fish pie made with corn meal, cassava flour, sardines, shrimp and seasonings, or fried shrimp...and don't forget the champagne! A dessert favorite is rabanada, which is very similar to French toast.

The Day of the Kings is on January 6 and marks the end of the Christmas season in Brazil. This day celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the Christ Child. Since they arrived on camels, Brazilian children put out corn for the tired animals when the Wise Men visit bringing toys and other gifts.

Excluding the extremely hot weather and absence of snow, Christmas in Brazil is very similar to Christmas in the United States.

Reference: Christmas Worldwide: A Guide to Customs and Traditions by Cathy Cunningham Tucker

Always in spirit...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekend Crafting - Christmas/Holiday Planner #ChristmasinJuly

This isn't really a craft, but I have been wanting to create one of these Christmas planners for a long time. There are so many ideas out there. Some suggest a three ring binder, which I have tried in the past. Way too bulky, in my opinion. Then, a couple of years ago I came across an idea for making a planner using a standard composition book.

So, I bought this composition book (below) on clearance a couple of seasons ago (yes, it has taken me that long to actual think about executing this plan). Don't laugh. The poor One Direction guys will be covered up with pretty Christmas paper. HeeHee!

There are several different versions out there and I haven't quite decided on which one I'll do, or knowing me, mine will be more of an amalgamation of versions.

I'm just going to show some images of the different versions with links to the sites where you can check out more detailed instructions.

This one seems to have the most detailed instructions and they even have printables each year you can use for the inside pieces and tabs (they have not released the 2016 printables as of yet). These are images from their past creations. The top image is from last year. These planners are created by Eighteen25 (all images credited to them as well).

Instructions, materials and more images here

Detailed instructions and more images here

Detailed instuctions and more details here

This version is a variation of the one from Eighteen25. My Mommy World took their idea and made it her own. More images and detailed instructions here (image credit to My Mommy World as well).

This version is cool because it uses layers of Christmas scrapbooking paper to create the envelopes inside (rather than pasting in the smaller manila envelopes on the inside covers, like the others). This one was created by Scrappin' Cats! Creative Endeavors (image credits to them as well). Detailed instructions and more images here.

Here are the pockets inside I was talking about...

What I like about this one is how she placed the tabs at the top rather than the side. Her rationality is that if you're slipping the planner in and out of your purse, or tote bag, this will keep them from getting bent up or crushed. Sound, I think.

There are also several sites out there who offer free Christmas planner printables. These can be printed out and attached inside the pages of the notebook, either by gluing or staples. 

Organized Christmas has several different versions and plans you can choose from. I don't think they have released the 2016 versions yet, but I'm sure they will soon. 

These cute Christmas printables can be obtained from Domestic Executive Online here (also image credit).

This version of cute Christmas printables can be obtained from Mom's Favorite Stuff here (also image credit).

Final note: Pinterest has tons of Christmas ideas for planners and holiday planning. That's where I found most of these. 

What do you think? Will you make a holiday planner this year? 

I will share mine when it's finished!

Always in spirit...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Baking (and Movies) - Mini Pumpkin Pies #ChristmasinJuly

I am SO looking forward to Fall and pumpkin season (although I could really eat pumpkin flavored anything year round). One of my Facebook friends shared this the other day from Tip Hero. I thought I would share it with you. Yum!

1 box refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts in a box)
1 (15 oz) can pureed pumpkin
2 eggs
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp table salt
Plus whipped cream for topping

1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray.
2. Cut as many 5 inch circles (either using a round cutter or a bowl or glass) as you can out of each pie crust, and fit them into each tin, crimping over the sides as necessary. Reroll the scraps if needed to get 12 crusts.
3. In a bowl or a 4 cup glass measuring cup (I used the measuring cup so I could pour it into each muffin tin directly without dirtying another bowl), whisk together the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and salt.
4. Pour the pumpkin mixture into each crust. Make sure not to fill completely to the top so that the pumpkin spills over the sides of the crust (if you’ve used a 5-inch cutter, you shouldn’t have that problem since the crust will be as tall as the muffin tin).
5. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and bake another 20-25 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Let the pies cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then pop them out. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

Christmas movies airing this weekend (if you have cable or satellite)

The Muppet Christmas Carol Saturday at 8:50pm Eastern on HBO Family East and 11:50pm Eastern on HBO Family West.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Sunday at 2:00pm and 10:00pm Eastern on HBO Family West and 7:00pm Eastern on HBO Family East.

I wish TV would have more Christmas shows and movies on in July, but alas... Thank goodness for my huge stash of videos and DVDs. You can also find some Christmas movies on streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix.

Always in spirit...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Weekend Lit - A Selection of 2016 Christmas Book Releases #ChristmasinJuly

Today I thought I'd share some of the Christmas books coming out this year. I always look forward to new books with Christmas as the subject. How about you?

Tree of Treasures: A Life in Ornaments
Bonnie Mackay
Release date: September 27, 2016

A beautifully illustrated look at Christmas ornaments and the memories they hold on our trees
First highlighted in the New York Times, Bonnie Mackay’s annual Christmas tree showcases a lifetime collecting almost 3,000 ornaments.

Now, through beautiful photography and illuminating vignettes, Tree of Treasures shares the heartfelt stories behind a hundred of those cherished possessions, whether it’s the story of a family member, like Mackay’s grandfather, a well-known vaudeville performer; long-held relationships with friends and colleagues in the international community of Christmas crafts makers; a memory of a beloved pet; and much more.

From serene lace angels and vintage Santas, to exquisite glass-blown spheres and small silk purses, Tree of Treasures showcases ornaments both beautiful and well-loved, illuminating how ornaments, as we unpack and hang them each holiday season, tell the story of our lives.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: 
The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love and Wonder
Amy Newmark
Release date: October 18, 2016

Anyone who loves this joyous time of year will love these heartwarming and entertaining stories of family bonding, holiday hijinks, community spirit, and family and religious traditions. A fantastic holiday gift and a great way to start the season!

Christmas is a merry and joyful time of year, full of family, friends, and traditions. You’ll delight in reading these 101 holiday tales of inspiration, love, and wonder. Many will make you laugh out loud; others will make you tear up a little. And all the stories are “Santa safe” so they can keep the magic alive for the whole family!

The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas
Al Ridenour
Release date: October 11, 2016

With the appearance of the demonic Christmas character Krampus in contemporary Hollywood movies, television shows, advertisements, and greeting cards, medieval folklore has now been revisited in American culture. Krampus-related events and parades occur both in North America and Europe, and they are an ever-growing phenomenon.

Though the Krampus figure has once again become iconic, not much can be found about its history and meaning, thus calling for a book like Al Ridenour's The Krampus: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil. With Krampus's wild, graphic history, Feral House has hired the awarded designer Sean Tejaratchi to take on Ridenour's book about this ever-so-curious figure.

Al Ridenour has lectured on Krampus at the Goethe Institutes in Los Angeles. He became somewhat of an internet phenomenon himself due to the hilarious hijinks he coordinated with the controversial Cacophony Societies.

Pretty Paper
Willie Nelson
Release date: October 25, 2016

More than fifty years ago, Willie Nelson’s beloved Christmas song “Pretty Paper” first hit the airwaves. And for all these years, Willie has wondered about the real-life Texas street vendor, selling wrappings and ribbons, who inspired his song. Who was this poor soul? What did his painful trials say about our loves, our hopes, our dreams in this holiday season—and in the rest of our lives?

It’s the early sixties and Willie Nelson is down and out, barely eking out a living as a singer songwriter. The week before Christmas, he spots a legless man on a cart, selling wares in front of Leonard’s Department Store in Fort Worth, Texas. The humble figure, by the name of Vernon Clay, piques Willie’s curiosity, but Vernon is stubbornly private and—despite Willie’s charming queries—has no interest in telling his story. Willie is tenacious, though, and he eventually learns that Vernon is a fellow musician, a fine guitarist and singer.

When Vernon disappears, he leaves behind only a diary, which tells an epic tale of life-altering tragedies, broken hearts, and crooked record men, not to mention backroad honky-tonks, down-home cooking, and country songwriting genius. Deeply moved and spurred on by Vernon’s pages, Willie aims to give the man one last shot at redemption and a chance to embody the holiday spirit.

The Santa Claus Man: 
The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York
Alex Palmer
Release date (paperback): October 3, 2016

Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide Christmas tree and Macy’s first grand holiday parade.The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

Note: This one is exciting because it's a new eBook edition of Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan by Clement A. Miles, which I have shared on this blog previously (you can access it in the sidebar menu). It's only 99 cents on Amazon and you can pre-order it for your Kindle. I pre-ordered my copy!

Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan
Clement A. Miles
Release date: November 16, 2016

The Deep Roots of the Christmas Tradition

In Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan, Clement A. Miles takes an in-depth look into the Christmas traditions. What does he find out? First of all, that Christmas isn’t all about the birth of Jesus. The roots go much deeper taking us to a time before Christianity when pagans ruled the land and worshiped gods like Saturn and Mithras.

This Xist Classics edition has been professionally formatted for e-readers with a linked table of contents. This ebook also contains a bonus book club leadership guide and discussion questions. We hope you’ll share this book with your friends, neighbors and colleagues and can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it.

Twelve Days of Christmas: A Christmas Novel
Debbie Macomber
Release date: October 4, 2016

Continuing in a festive annual tradition, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber returns with a new original holiday novel full of romance and cheer—and the magical prospect of finding love in even the most guarded hearts.

Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.

To track her progress, Julia starts a blog called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Her first attempts to humanize Cain are far from successful. Julia brings him homemade Christmas treats and the disagreeable grinch won’t even accept them. Meanwhile, Julie’s blog becomes an online sensation, as an astonishing number of people start following her adventures. Julia continues to find ways to express kindness and, little by little, chips away at Cain’s gruff façade to reveal the caring man underneath. Unbelievably, Julia feels herself falling for Cain—and she suspects that he may be falling for her as well. But as the popularity of her blog continues to grow, Julia must decide if telling Cain the truth about having chronicled their relationship to the rest of the world is worth risking their chance at love.

All I Want For Christmas (14 Christmas Novellas to Benefit Diabetes Research)
Release date: November 1, 2016

“5-B POPPY LANE” by Debbie Macomber
Come visit with Helen Shelton, her granddaughter Ruth and Ruth's husband, Paul. They'll offer you a cup of mulled cider and the story of how they met—and they'll share Helen's breathtaking adventures during the Second World War.

For Mary Sullivan Christmas has always been about family. As she hangs her ornaments, she's swept back to the first days of her whirlwind romance with her husband--and the love that would be the foundation on which they built their family.

Brayden Steele gave up his love of Christmas many years ago when he lost his mother and father in a car wreck. But just because he no longer believes in Santa Clause, doesn’t mean the magic has given up on him.

If anyone can make Drew Lawson believe in the magic of Christmas, it's the mind-wreckingly beautiful Skylar Sullivan. She's the girl-next-door he'd classified as completely off-limits two years ago--and she's standing on his doorstep on Christmas Eve.

On the occasion of their 40th wedding anniversary, Big Mac and Linda McCarthy take a look back at how they came to be, while each of their children confront a new challenge in their own lives. Come to Gansett Island to celebrate the holidays and the anniversary of the island’s most loved couple!

“A DUNDEE CHRISTMAS” by Brenda Novak
Welcome to Dundee, Idaho, where the town is small but the hearts of the people living in it are large. A woman seeking refuge in an unfamiliar town during a snowstorm is taken in by a man who helps her discover a new sense of home. But Ken Holbrook provides more than safety and comfort because with him, she also finds love.

“UNMATCHABLE” by Laurelin Paige and Kayti McGee
After Jane Osborne is unceremoniously dumped by a rich man, and then invited to his wedding, on (Christmas Eve no less), she decides to hire a date from Craigslist and pass him off as an upgrade.

When his goddaughter, Daisy, is orphaned, confirmed bachelor Cormac Sheenan adopts her. All goes well until Marietta's seasonal Santa Claus promises his daughter a mommy for Christmas. Cormac is livid, until his old flame Whitney Alder comes back to town.…

For the movie star and the single mom, will a Christmas Wish become their new reality?

Widow and caterer Jenna Wheeler is determined to spin Christmas into the stuff of magic for her four children, even if that means helping out her new landlord, sexy billionaire Carson McRaven. At first, Carson wants nothing to do with Jenna, children or the holidays, but he has a little to learn about the spirit of Christmas.

Simon Castle' s on his way to a make-or-break meeting unseasonably scheduled for December 25--until the gorgeous redhead subbing for his limo driver takes him on a detour.

Can carpenter Hamish MacFadden show free-spirit Essie Goodman how magical family--and Christmas--can be?

The Mistletoe Secret (The Mistletoe Collection)
Richard Paul Evans
Release date: November 15, 2016

From the master of the Christmas novel, The Mistletoe Secret is a moving holiday story about two people who brave loneliness and loss to find love.

Twenty-nine-year-old Kelly Arrington is at a low point in life. Briefly married, her husband abandoned her before the birth of their stillborn child. Lonely and in mourning, she copes by starting an anonymous blog, The Mistletoe Letters, named for her home on Mistletoe Road.

“Is anyone out there?”

She signs each of her deeply personal posts LBH, which only she knows stands not for her initials, but for “Last Breaking Heart.”

New York writer Tyler Richards is reading her posts. Nursing his own broken heart and trust issues, he finds himself falling for this anonymous blogger. Following a trail of clues LBH has inadvertently revealed, he tracks her down to the small town of Tribe, Alabama. He makes his way there, and begins the search for a Lisa, Lori, maybe a Luanne. Instead, he finds a woman named Kelly to help him track down the mysterious LBH.

A Christmas Message: A Novel
Anne Perry
Release date: November 1, 2016

In the spirit of the season, New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry presents readers with the gift of another holiday mystery, taking them to the Holy Land for an intriguing and miraculous journey of discovery.
The year is 1900, and Victor Narraway is giving his wife, Vespasia, an unforgettable Christmas present—a trip to Jerusalem. Vespasia is enchanted by the exotic landscape of Palestine, and charmed by a fellow traveler the Narraways meet at their hotel in Jaffa. But when the man is murdered over a torn piece of ancient parchment he was taking to Jerusalem, Victor and Vespasia risk their lives to finish his mission and deliver the mysterious document to its home. Pursued by a shadowy figure with evil intent, they embark on a dangerous yet ultimately enlightening pilgrimage to the holy city, where the mysterious message on the parchment may finally be revealed.

Rich in suspense and wonder, A Christmas Message is at once a breathtaking adventure story and a poignant meditation on faith and spirituality.

The Christmas Town
Donna VanLiere
Release date: October 18, 2016

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

The New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.

The Christmas Angel Project
Melody Carlson
Release date: September 6, 2016

Perfect for readers who want a heartwarming and hopeful Christmas story
Five women from different walks of life have become close friends through their book club--enjoying one another's company even more than they enjoy the books. So when the leader of the book club unexpectedly passes away on the cusp of the Christmas season, the four remaining friends are stunned. They relied on Abby for inspiration and motivation. She was the glue that held them together, and they're sure that without her the group can't continue.

When the group gathers "one last time" to open a bag Abby's husband gives them, they find Abby had made each of them an angel ornament for Christmas, crafted especially for each woman and accompanied by a sweet and personal note. Inspired by their beloved friend, together Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda decide to commit themselves to becoming Christmas Angels to others in need. Each woman will use her life situation and talents to reach out and help others in her own unique way--little knowing that her own life and her relationships will be changed forever.

Fan favorite Melody Carlson is back with another touching Christmas story sure to grip readers' hearts and perhaps inspire them to become Christmas Angels themselves.

Deck the Hallways (A Fixer-Upper Mystery)
Kate Carlisle
Release date: November 1, 2016

The latest mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Crowned and Moldering.

Someone's been slayed! If contractor Shannon Hammer can't nail the real culprit in the St. Nick of time, her dad will wind up in the clink...
Even at Christmastime, Shannon is more spackle than sparkle, which is why she leaps at the chance to transform a grand old Victorian mansion into ten charming apartments for homeless families. Filled with the spirit of the season, all of Lighthouse Cove turns out to help—including her best friends, a troupe of far-from-angelic Santa Claus impersonators, and her father, Jack.

But their merriment is soon dashed by a heated scuffle between Jack and the miserly president of the bank who’s backing the project. When the man is murdered, all eyes are on Jack, and visions of prison time dance in Shannon's head. Now, she needs to pull off a crime-solving miracle, before her father’s Christmas goose is cooked…

Which one(s) are you looking forward to?

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Always in spirit...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Weekend Crafting - Ugly Sweater Ornaments #ChristmasinJuly

You either love or hate the ugly sweater phenomenon. I think it's kind of catchy, if a little bit overblown in recent years. That being said, these little Ugly Sweater Ornaments are the cutest! I keep thinking of a small ugly sweater themed Christmas tree. Too cute!

  • Green and red felt
  • Craft wire
  • White embroidery floss
  • Embellishments: mini bells, mini wreaths, and mini faux Christmas lights
  • Tools: sewing needle, scissors, instant grab glue, wire snips, and round nose pliers

1. Print the pattern and cut it out. Stack two pieces of same color felt and use the pattern to cut out two     shirts.
2. To make the coat hanger, cut a 12-inch piece of wire. Place your shirt pattern on the work surface and   bend the wire to create the first corner of the hanger. Lay it onto the pattern to help you gauge the size.         Leave enough space around the collar for stitching at the end.

3. Bend the other side, the wires should intersect, creating a triangle.

4. Twist the wire tow or three times at the intersection.

5. Snip off one end of the wire.
6. Bend the other end of the wire into the hanger top.

7. Snip off the excess wire.

8. Use glue to attach the hanger to one of the felt shirts. Add more glue over the top of the hanger and press the second shirt on top, lining up all the edges.

9. Use glue and embellishments to decorate your sweater.

10. Stitch around the entire sweater to finish it off. You can use a blanket stitch or a hemming stitch, whichever you prefer. When finished, add a little glue to the end stitch(es) to secure them.

Craft and images credit : AllFreeHolidayCrafts


Don't miss your chance to download a free Christmas eBook! Rhonda Hopkins is offering her holiday story, The Gift, for free this month on Smashwords. Visit this post to find out how to get your copy. You can download in any format on Smashwords.

Check out this short story by Sarah Tipper...and enter to win the entire book of short stories (in print!), Tales to Take You to Christmas. The giveaway is international and you can enter here!

Don't forget to watch the new Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel tonight! A Perfect Christmas, airs tonight at 9pm Eastern.

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Always in spirit...