Monday, December 9, 2019

MEMORIES OF DISASTERS PAST by Hannah Rowan #RomanceGems


Some people love to cook.  Me, if I ever win the lottery the first thing I plan to do is hire a personal chef and never cook again.

I was so thankful that all I had to make for Thanksgiving this year was dessert for the kids.  Cookies shaped like turkeys.  Candied walnuts.  Easy-peasy.

Looking back on this year’s Thanksgiving dinner brings to mind some less successful culinary endeavors.  For instance, the first time I cooked for my future in-laws.  On the weekend after Thanksgiving I decided to invite my then-fiancé’s parents to my apartment for a turkey dinner.  I wish I had known there was a little paper bag full of giblets in the neck cavity.  But really, the paper couldn’t have hurt anyone, could it have?  After all, it was inserted in something people were going to eat.  


No, the real problem with that turkey was the stuffing.  Since I generally don’t learn how to cook things I don’t like, I had never learned how to cook stuffing.  How hard could it be?  I found a recipe that required chopping onions and celery and mixing it with breadcrumbs and some other things I’d rather not remember.  I was a busy gal.  I didn’t have time for all that chopping. I tossed all the ingredients into my blender and came out with a liquid mixture.  Having had no experience with stuffing, I concluded that it must gel while cooking, so I poured it into the turkey.  My theory turned out to be wrong.  My future mother-in-law was uncharacteristically diplomatic about my efforts but nobody had the nerve to taste my concoction.

At another Thanksgiving gathering my guests weren’t so fortunate.  For some unknown reason I decide to make pumpkin pie from scratch.  I’m sure it would have worked out fine if the directions had been a little more explicit.  Who knew there were different kinds of molasses?  The recipe called for molasses and I bought something called blackstrap molasses.  Don’t ever do this!  The pie was gorgeous but after serving it I was faced with a group of people grimacing and looking for a way to discreetly spit their first bite of pie into a napkin.

Unfortunately, my culinary disasters are few and far between and not enough to get me out of cooking on a regular basis.  So I have to keep hoping for that winning lottery ticket.



 
Season's Greetings! We've set up a HOLIDAY BOOK FAIR just for you with more than 2 dozen Christmas romance novels. Buy for you, or buy for a friend—directions included for buying for someone else. Wonderful, romantic holiday books! Some are heart-throbbing; all are heartwarming! Drop by our Movie Theater and watch our December video featuring the Romance Gems Authors. You can also catch it on YouTube if you want to view it on your TV app. Be sure to enter our CANDY CANE KISSES Rafflecopter. We've got several very nice Amazon Gift Cards up for grabs. All of this is our way of saying, "Happy Holidays!"

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Unconventional Christmas by @ElsaKurt #RomanceGems


Christmas Eve

Growing up, my Christmas tradition comprised two very different celebrations. On Christmas Eve, we went to my Oma and Opa's house (my German grandparents) where we basically ate all day long.  

The main meal graced the long dining room table at around two - a meal my Oma prepared, cooked, and served single-handedly (because she trusted no one with her good china or her recipes). We'd eat until bursting, then men would wander off to watch football, and the women would clear the dishes (this was the seventies and early eighties, mind you). The kids carried on a steady litany of requests to open presents. When the adults couldn't take a minute more of our begging, they'd make a production of swearing they heard sleigh bells outside. We'd hush in anticipation. A knock on the front door made us gasp. Then, a hearty, "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!" followed - along with a couple extra jingle, jingles - and my grandmother would announce, "I wonder who that was," to which we'd scream, "Santa!" Shortly after that, we'd tear through the gifts like Tasmanian devils.



Tradition Check

I learned, much later in life, that this was not how most families handled the whole Santa business. In fact, it was my first husband (and father to my two grown daughters) who looked at me as if I'd just come off of Crazy Island when I explained how we celebrated Christmas.

He said, "What do you mean, Santa delivers the presents on Christmas Eve and you open them? All of them?"
"Duh," I said.
"No. That's just... wrong. Santa comes Christmas Eve night, while the kids are asleep, and they open the presents on Christmas Day morning. Have you not seen a single Christmas movie ever?"

My mouth opened and snapped shut. Wait. He was right. Damn.
 

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, we packed up our gear and went to my father's parents, my Abuelo and Abuela. My memories of how we celebrated there are bizarrely hazy. Of course we ate and open presents and did all the stuff and things, I'm certain. But what I remember of those visits revolved around watching this cool new channel called MTV, where I could see videos of my favorite bands singing their songs. I recall swinging around and around the railing out front, sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of my grandparent's three-family house, and sneaking up to the third floor to meet the tenant's newest litter of kittens. Weird, right? My only explanation is that we really spent the lion's share of time with the German side of the family, especially when the Cuban side all moved to Florida.


Fast Forward

When raising my daughters, my then-husband and I repeated the "my family on Christmas Eve," and "your family on Christmas Day" tradition. I can only hope my girls' recollections are as fond as my own. (I'll have to ask them this Christmas). I finally understood how exhausting it had been for my parents - the packing up, traveling, unpacking, repeat - sigh. I hosted as often as was fair, but we still did a LOT of traveling back then.

Little Further Forward

After my ex and I divorced, we kept the routine the same. Christmas Eve, mine. Christmas Day, his. But it sucked waving goodbye to my kids on Christmas morning just as much as it sucked for my ex to not see the girls on Christmas Eve. Eventually, we evolved into us all - my "new" husband and me, the girls, and my ex and his wife - celebrating Christmas Day morning together, so we both got to watch them open presents. We also conferred and co-ordinated. You get this, we'll get that. Go half and half? Sure, why not. And we also agreed to spend an equal amount so neither parent "outshone" the other. 

Christmas 2019

This year, we're really re-writing the script. You ready for this? My husband and I are flying to Florida this year for Christmas... and staying with my ex-husband and his wife... to celebrate Christmas with our girls. Five days of unconventional family-ing. Crazy, right? Our daughters - now twenty-seven and twenty-two - are still both a little amused and bemused. How the heck do they explain us, their unconventional parental units to friends and boyfriends? Hopefully, it's by saying something like, "Yeah, I know it's weird, but my parents are divorced and remarried to other people, but it's cool because they're all friends and that makes my life easier."

I mean, that's what started it all in the first place: wanting to make divorce a little easier on the girls. We hated making them a statistic. We hated the tension, the anxiousness, the awkwardness, the sadness, the guilt... the ugh of divorce. Plus, I think we were tired of hating each other, too. So, in the end, we're all making out pretty darn good in this deal. 

Side Note: Most people, upon hearing our story, cringe for our respective spouses. They usually wonder how they cope with us being so involved in our exes lives, thereby pulling them in, too. My husband and my exes' wife - who I jokingly refer to as my sort-of sister-wife - both readily acknowledge the strangeness of the situation. But they're also both "all in" kind of people. They get it and they love the girls, and that's usually all the explanation needed. My husband put it best (if not originally) when he said in response to someone's raised eyebrows, "Listen. We've got a perfectly imperfect life, and I love it."

Embracing the Oddness

I used to envy the ultra-conventional families and wish mine looked like theirs. Now, I'm just happy for them and hope their life is what I envision it to be like. But I love my unconventional life, too. It was fought for and hard-won. Despite whatever battle scars we may all have, we're on the other side of it and appreciating where we're at. This, as my beloved Cary Grant was known to say, is the good stuff. 

See you in the new year! xo - Elsa





DECEMBER GIVEAWAY NEWS

Our December Rafflecopter has 5 Amazon Gift Cards as prizes. Be sure to enter often to improve your chances of winning, and, please, tell your friends about Romance Gems—our Authors, our books, our blog posts, and our Giveaway every month.

Complete information on the contest can be found on our Monthly Giveaway page.

Watch our December Promotion VideoCandy Cane Kisses, and share the celebration with our authors. You'll also find this video and many others on our Movie Theater page. You can also watch our videos on YouTube.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A special Christmas present: the Hallmark Channel #RomanceGems


There was my husband sitting on the sofa with a tear in his eye. We were watching a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

“I’m a softy,” he said.

Why do we waste time during the holidays watching these movies? They are so predictable! The writer in me analyzed their pre-requisites:

  • A boy friend who’s not right for the heroine
  • A handsome hero who is totally opposite from the heroine
  • A well-meaning friend, angel, or relative who guides the heroine
  • A heroine with a busy career, or she’s seeking a career, or she’s a single mom
  • A visit to the Christmas tree lot and decorating the tree
  • A baking cookies scene
  • A belief that “it’s Christmas!” and that because it’s Christmas anything can happen

But you know the real reason we watch Hallmark Christmas movies? These movies make us feel happy. That’s why!

Janie Emaus explains why the movies make her feel happy in her Huffington Post blog 4 Reasons Hallmark Movies Saved My Holiday Spirit. Read it. She explains it very well.

I like one of her conclusions. Emaus says, “I’d like to think this can happen in real life. That we do give people a second chance.”


Second chances are important to me. I’ve had my second, or third, or fourth chance. I write about second chances. One of my favorite themes is the reunion story where hero and heroine get a second chance at love.

What about you? Do you believe in do-overs? Second chances?

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My Christmas Books





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Our December Rafflecopter has 5 Amazon Gift Cards as prizes. Be sure to enter often to improve your chances of winning, and, please, tell your friends about Romance Gems—our Authors, our books, our blog posts, and our Giveaway every month.

Friday, December 6, 2019

One More Cookie Recipe (Just in Case) by Nancy Fraser

Three days in a row! How lucky can I get to be able to share some more old-lady Gems wisdom with our readers? The extent of that wisdom may be a little questionable, so perhaps we'll stick to a another quick and easy recipe for that holiday baking. Just in case you were one cookie short of having too many!

The "Forgotten Cookie" ... or as my mother used to call them ... the "Poor Man's Divinity". The beauty of these cookies is that you put them in the oven and forget them ... something I often do with other cookies when I shouldn't. I like to make these "forgotten cookies" at night just before I go to bed and then leave them overnight.

Nothing beats waking up to a fresh cookie for breakfast!

Forgotten Cookies
Makes 30-50 cookies depending on size

Ingredients:

4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 - 1 cup mini chocolate chips (or any chip really, or nuts, or chopped candied fruit)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Add vanilla to egg whites and beat with electric hand mixer until just foamy.
3. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
4. Slowly add in sugar while continuing to beat until all sugar is added and tall stiff peaks have formed. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
5. Portion out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (they don’t need to be spaced out much). A small cookie scoop works best.
6. Place all cookies into oven at once and immediately shut oven off.
7. Wake up to a delicious treat!

If you'd rather not make them before bed, you will need to leave them in the oven for at least four hours (or until the oven is cold again). Also, I've found they don't work well on high humidity days.


Yesterday, I gave away a copy of my 1920's holiday romance, Erin's Gift. I'm going to give away a second copy today. All you have to do to win is comment about your family's holiday cookie. Please also leave your email address so I can send you a copy if your name is drawn.

Here's another sneak peek at the book:

Prohibition Era, Chicago

Caught in a raid at an illegal speakeasy, good girl Erin O'Mara loses everything: her job, her home, and her reputation. Handsome and so out of her league attorney Seth Harrison, her best friend's brother, rescues her not once, but twice. He bails her out of jail and offers her a job as nanny for his son.

Seth has no intention of falling in love after the death of his wife. But despite his better judgment, he can't help being drawn to Erin's innocence. This Christmas, letting go of the past and embracing the future may be the greatest present of all.



Don't forget to enter our December Rafflecopter contest, "Candy Cane Kisses". You can find all the details about the contest on our Monthly Giveaway page. Or, you can go straight to the ENTRY FORM.

Peace out ...
Nancy

Thursday, December 5, 2019

What's in a Holiday? by Nancy Fraser

While I love and respect friends and family who celebrate holidays and traditions different than mine, for me it's always been about Christmas!

I'm the freakishly tall one on the left!
 Growing up in the 1950s, my holiday memories revolve around garish silver Christmas trees and large family gatherings. Relatives from both near and far made their way to my grandmother's house and though it was only a two-bedroom duplex there always seemed to be room.

I was an only child but I had more cousins than I could count on both hands and feet ... a testament to the strong beliefs of the Catholic side of the family!

One of my favorite December activities was my annual trip to see Santa Claus. Because my mother worked retail on the weekends, the task of taking me always fell to my Aunt Sybil (Sissie to us kids) and she never failed to do her auntly duty! The day began with a ride on the big city bus to downtown Detroit where we took the crickity old operator-driven elevator to the 24th floor of J.L. Hudsons. The elevator door opened and ... there it was ... Santa's Village in all its replendant glory!

There was always a picture taken, followed by lunch in the department store's restaurant. My meal consisted of my favored hot dog, french fries, and chocolate milk. Topped off with a Mickey Mouse Sundae ... a scoop of chocolate ice cream, two chocolate wafer cookies for ears, and a nose made of a half a marachino cherry. Not gourmet fare by any stretch of the imagination but, to a kid, a banquet to enjoy!

My aunt would entertain me on the bus ride home with a story about the young Virginia and her quest for the truth. It went something like this:

In 1897, Virginia O'Hanlon asked a plain question of the New York Sun's editor: 'Is there a Santa Claus?' 

'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus', came the terse reply. The answer, though, was not a patent fib designed to placate a youngster, but an exposition on belief itself. 'Virginia, your little friends are wrong', the editor wrote. 'They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see'. Without Santa, he argued, there would he no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence ... Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

At the ripe old age of six I didn't need someone to tell me what I knew to be true ... of course there was a Santa. After all, I'd just had my picture taken with him.

I'm all grown up now, but I still revel in the joy of the holidays through my grandchildren's eyes. And, even though there's only one who still believes, there will always be gifts from "Santa" under the tree!
In the spirit of the holiday season, I'm sharing some of my favorite family recipes over on my website. If you need some additional inspiration, you can find it at Nancy's Holiday Treats.

Given that we're approaching a new "Roaring Twenties", I thought I'd give away a copy of my 1920's holiday romance, Erin's Gift. All you have to do to win is comment about one of your family's holiday traditions (the holiday doesn't matter). Please also leave your email address so I can send you a copy if your name is drawn.

Here's a peek at the book:

Prohibition Era, Chicago

Caught in a raid at an illegal speakeasy, good girl Erin O'Mara loses everything: her job, her home, and her reputation. Handsome and so out of her league attorney Seth Harrison, her best friend's brother, rescues her not once, but twice. He bails her out of jail and offers her a job as nanny for his son.

Seth has no intention of falling in love after the death of his wife. But despite his better judgment, he can't help being drawn to Erin's innocence. This Christmas, letting go of the past and embracing the future may be the greatest present of all.



Don't forget to enter our December Rafflecopter contest, "Candy Cane Kisses". You can find all the details about the contest on our Monthly Giveaway page. Or, you can go straight to the ENTRY FORM.

If I don't get back to the blog again before the holidays, have a great one!

Peace out ...
Nancy

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

November Contest Winners and December News by Nancy Fraser

This year has flown by. I can't believe we're less than a month from the new Roaring Twenties!

Our November Rafflecopter drawing was a huge success with 2,832 entries!

First Place: $25 Amazon Gift Card - Nicole Martin
Second Place: $20 Amazon Gift Card - Rebecca Booth
Third Place: $15 Amazon Gift Card - Rob Hestar
Fourth Place: $10 Amazon Gift Card - Christy Meyer
Fifth Place: $ 5 Amazon Gift Card - Courtney Y

Congratulations to all the lucky winners!

Our theme of "Life Lessons" was well received and generated a number of great blog comments, as well as some awesome author giveaways.

It's time now to move on to December.


Our December Rafflecopter has 5 Amazon Gift Cards as prizes. Be sure to enter often to improve your chances of winning, and, please, tell your friends about Romance Gems—our Authors, our books, our blog posts, and our Giveaway every month.

Complete information on the contest can be found on our Monthly Giveaway page.

Watch our December Promotion Video, Candy Cane Kisses, and share the celebration with our authors. You'll also find this video and many others on our Movie Theater page. You can also watch our videos on YouTube.


That's all for me right now but I'll be back tomorrow with my regular monthly post. For those of you in the path of an early winter storm, stay warm and stay safe!

Nancy

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Holiday Distractions by Karen Whiddon

It's that time of the year again.  My favorite time.  It starts off with my wedding anniversary (32 years this year) which always falls around Thanksgiving. (Sometimes even ON Thanksgiving!)   We always go out to eat and have a wonderful meal celebrating our years together.


Then it's the big meal, the get-together with loved ones and feasting while giving thanks.




And after that, it's our tradition that we put up our tree and decorate the house inside and out for Christmas.


It's a busy, fun time.

I've also been working.  I have a synopsis due tomorrow for the last book in my Harlequin Romantic Suspense contract and a book due 12-15.  So I've also been working.

In addition, it's a book birthday for me.  Colton's Rescue Mission is out now from Harlequin Romantic Suspense.



You can buy it here on Amazon HERE


Fun times all around!

Finally, here at Romance Gems, we've made a video with holiday pics of all of us.  You can view that here  Our Video

Our December contest has 5 Amazon gift cards as prizes.  Be sure to enter often to improve your chances of winning.  Please tell your friends about Romance Gems - our authors, our books, and our contest giveaways! 


Enter here:  Rafflecopter