CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Jenny LM who won Susanne Dietze's My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho Prize pack!


Congratulations to Elise Jehan who won a copy of The Secret Admirer Romance Collection!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Watchnight: A celebration of faith and freedom

By Niki Turner

I like to start the New Year off on the right foot... not exhausted from staying up all night, not nursing a headache and an upset stomach from overindulging in food or drink, nor languishing the first day of the New Year away on the couch watching TV.

Attending — or implementing — a "watchnight" service is one way to sweep out the cobwebs from the previous year, and prepare one's soul and spirit for the days ahead.

John Wesley
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, began the custom of holding watchnight services in 1740. The church service, held on New Year's Eve and sometimes Christmas Eve, provided a spiritual activity for Methodist Christians on evenings traditionally devoted to partying and carousing. Attendees spent the service singing, praying, and hearing scripture as part of what Wesley referred to as "covenant revival" or "covenant renewal," in which the faithful rededicated their lives and purpose to their Lord.

EmancipationProclamation In the United States, during the turbulent years of the Civil War, slaves gathered on New Year's Eve—aka Freedom's Eve—in 1862 to celebrate the moment, at midnight, when Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation officially became law. The joyous celebration of freedom on New Year's Eve has continued for more than a century in many African-American church congregations. 

Watchnight, or Freedom's Eve, is the perfect occasion to set aside some time to thank God for the freedom we have in Christ, to repent (turn around and go a new direction), to forgive those who have wronged us in the past year, and to renew our commitment to seek God's guidance and direction and blessing in every area of our lives.

May your New Year's Eve celebration tonight involve a few minutes with your Heavenly Father, remembering the great and unconditional love He has for you and the good plans He has for you in the year to come!

Happy New Year to you all!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

Reviewed by Suzie Johnson
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie, Saving Mr. Banks. From the previews, I knew the subject matter surrounded one of my favorite movies, Mary Poppins, and my all-time favorite movie maker, the iconic Walt Disney. Also from the previews, I could see that Walt Disney had meetings with PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, and that Mr. Disney coaxed Mrs. Travers onto a ride at Disneyland.

So this movie appeared to be about a writer. And she went to Disneyland, with Walt himself.

That’s all I needed to know. I absolutely couldn’t wait to see this movie.

When I was little I was fearless. I used to climb the steps to the tallest playground slide – the one for the bigger kids – in the snow. I’d stand up on the platform, and instead of sliding down, I’d jump off the side with my umbrella open and pretend I was Mary Poppins. My landing was always less than graceful, but it didn’t matter. I loved Mary Poppins. I owned the record album based on the movie, and knew by heart, and still know, all the songs from the movie.


This was a movie that was sure to capture both the child, and the writer, in my heart.  This movie would be perfect. Oh, yeah.

The premise of the movie is that Walt Disney’s daughters fell in love with the children’s books about the magically wonderful nanny. They loved Mary Poppins so much they begged their daddy to make her story into a movie. The only obstacle was the author herself. She did not want her beloved nanny Disneyfied. Fast forward twenty years, and she’s now in meetings with Mr. Disney. That’s when the movie begins.


There are a lot of elements missing from the movie’s previews, and you won’t read about them here. You need to experience them for yourself to gain a deeper understanding for PL Travers, Walt Disney, and Mary Poppins.

The scenes between Walt Disney and Mrs. Travers were priceless. Those, as well as the other scenes that made this movie stellar, would be spoilers and I can’t bring myself to do that.

Mrs. Travers insisted all of her meetings with Disney and the Sherman brothers be recorded. She was indeed a pill to work with. There are moments during these scenes when you’ll think, “I really don’t like her.” But as the layers are peeled away, you’ll soon wonder why you ever felt that way.

One scene in particular, between Mrs. Travers and the Sherman brothers, the composers who did the music for Mary Poppins and countless other movies, was the first of many scenes to bring tears to my eyes.

Oh, did I forget to tell you that you should bring some Kleenex? Even the most cynical heart will need it.
   
Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, are all unforgettable in this film. Each owned their role, but Tom Hanks truly embodied the role Walt Disney. It was easy to be swept up in the magic these three actors created together.

Clips of Disneyland and 1960s Hollywood gave flavor to the film, as did Walt Disney’s favorite mouse. Mickey appears more than a few times in the movie, and managed to deepen my love for him.

Also, there's some guy named Colin in the film, a guy many of my friends have raved about a time or three. Personally, I wasn’t that familiar with him, and wouldn’t have recognized a picture of him. Please don’t throw your shoes at me. After seeing this movie, it’s a guarantee I’ll never forget Colin Farrell. Remember what I said before about Kleenex? You’ll need lots.

For most of the movie, the theater was silent, seemingly breathless, and when it was over, no one moved from their seats. And after the credits, before the audience slowly made their way out, they gave their approval in the best way possible: resounding applause.


Saving Mr. Banks truly was a wonderful movie, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. When it comes out on DVD, it would be lovely if they paired it in a box-set with Mary Poppins.

Did you ever read the Mary Poppins books?
Do you have a favorite song from the movie, Mary Poppins?


Susan Diane Johnson recently sold her third novel, and first historical, Sweet Mountain Music, to WhiteFire Publishing. Her first two novels, True North (January 2014), and No Substitute (available now), are both contemporary inspirational novels with The Pelican Book Group. Suzie is a wife, mother, and a cancer registrar at her local hospital. She lives close to her mother, on an island in the Pacific Northwest, with her husband and their naughty little cat.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Christmas Prayer

Here's an oldie but a goodie compliments of the Acts 2 worship dance team. Take a moment to pray these lovely words and be blessed by the visual worship.


Breath of Heaven Worship Dance from danzingfool on GodTube.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Live Nativity and Chocolate Macaroons

by Anita Mae Draper


I've been trying to write this post for a couple weeks to avoid the last minute rush - but ha ha, time has got away from me. Mainly because I caught some kind of flu bug at the start of December and didn't start feeling better until I went in for antibiotics two weeks later. Blech. And then the rush was on. Am I the only one who feels that being sick is so ineffective?

I'm writing this on Dec 23rd so it will be Christmas Eve morning by the time you read this. Tonight, our church puts on our 2nd Live Nativity production at the local Candiac Auction Mart and among other things, I've been busy working on the script. Because the auction barn had a big cattle sale on Friday, yesterday after church was our first chance to get into the auction mart for setting up.

But I'd like to show you what's involved in a Live Nativity, so I'm showing some photos I took of the set up and rehearsal, all taken on Dec 22nd starting at 1 pm and going on until 5 pm when the set was ready with stable installed, starry night sky stretched cross the auction sale boards, and first rehearsal over. Here's our process of turning an auction mart into Bethlehem...


Installing the backdrop - COTH Live Nativity 2013


Bringing in the Stable - COTH Live Nativity 2013


Costuming the cast - COTH Live Nativity 2013


Covering the Sale Boards with the Night Sky - COTH Live Nativity 2013


Angels exploring their digs - COTH Live Nativity 2013


Rehearsing the music - COTH Live Nativity 2013


As you can see, it takes a lot of teamwork for our little country church to pull off a production of this scale, but with God's blessing, we hope to repeat- and better - last year's performance.

With all this going on, I haven't had time for much baking. It's a good thing my family's favorite treat is something quick that doesn't need much preparation. It's one of the first recipes I learned from my mom when I was 13 yrs old:

Uncooked Chocolate Macaroons


Mix these together in a large bowl and set aside:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 6 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Put in a saucepan and bring to a boil:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter*
  • 1/2 cup milk


Pour saucepan sugar mixture over rolled oat mixture in bowl and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper or parchment lined cookie sheets until they harden, although you must act quickly.
*If you use margarine instead of butter, you will have to keep in fridge or they'll be soft and sticky.

I'd show you a photo, but my family eat these so fast, by the time I reach for my camera, there are only bits of chocolate and coconut left on the tray.



It takes ingenuity and imagination to costume the cast of an amateur Biblical production. Do you recognize what some of the angels are wearing, or the wiseman that Karen and Dianne are dressing in the Costuming photo?


Anita Mae's News! - If you tried to order A Cup of Christmas Cheer and were told they were out of stock, you can try again if you wish because after a second print run, they're back in stock!

Wishing you a blessed Christmas season.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae  semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.  Anita Mae's short story, "Riding on a Christmas Wish" will appear in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013.  Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at   http://www.anitamaedraper.com/


Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Traditions Old and New

by Dina Sleiman

Ten years ago several factors came together and in a serendipitous moment created the phenomena in my family known simply as “Girls Weekend.” For one thing, my Grandmother Betty had passed away not long before, and my mom and her sisters realized that with their own growing families they would have to create some new traditions to maintain their own relationships and keep their mother's memory alive. Second, my cousin Rachel canceled her wedding. Third, my mother had recently moved to Virginia Beach, which meant the three sisters were more spread out from their origins near Pittsburgh than ever before.
So all the women in the family decided to descend on Virginia Beach during the first weekend of December for a fun “Girls Weekend” to help Rachel through the day that should have been her wedding. It was such a hit, that it became a yearly tradition.
Shang-hi Winner and "Looser" 2013
Here are some key factors in Girls Weekend:

1) Drive through a Christmas light display
2) Shopping and lunch in festively decorated Williamsburg
3) A Shang-hi (a.k.a. the craziest, most complicated card game ever created) tournament...in Christmas pajamas
4) Elaborate award ceremony for both winner and “looser”
5) "Looser" must dress in embarrassing Betty inspired attire and dance with an umbrella in the street (something Betty was known to do)
6) Attending the Storyland Christmas Ballet, always featuring at least one of Dina's children
7) Christmas gift exchange complete with the reading of “'Twas the Night Before Christmas”
8) Presentation of the yearly “Betty” award to the person who did the most Betty-like (a.k.a air heady and/or O.C.D.) thing during the year
Son Adam as Hansel in Storyland Christmas
But there's always room for new traditions too. Last year we tried a spa night at my sister's house, and while we waited for our turns, we made a Christmas craft. This year, the craft survived the tradition cut, but the facials did not. Instead, we watched the live Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood. This year was also different because my daughter Christi was away at college and my ten-year-old niece Ella officially took her place (she was an apprentice last year.)
End results of snowmen craft
Girls Weekend is one of the highlights of my year. Since I live in town, and my normal life continues, I don't always get to participate in everything. But nothing could stop me from making shang-hi or the gift exchange. And for the first ever this year, I won the Betty award!!! I was a real underdog. Everyone had said for years that I have the least Betty traits of the whole family, and that I'm more like my fraternal grandmother, Helen. But this year I protested based on the fact that often sing and occasionally even dance through grocery stores. It at least got my name in the hat, and I ended up winning.

This is the only time every year that I get to watch my normally serious mother carry on with her sisters and giggle until she cries. That alone makes it all worth while. Traditions come and go, but relationships and family last forever, which is really what Girls Weekend is all about.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Rachel got married a year later...to the same guy :) And here is another thing Grandma Betty was famous for, her awesome pizzelle Christmas cookies.

Grandma Betty's Pizzelle's

¼ cup melted butter
4 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
6 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons anise

Mix and cook in greased Pizzelle maker until golden brown. Allow to cool and turn crispy. Store dry in a tin or tin foil.

What are some of the silliest traditions your family has???
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Friday, December 20, 2013

Penuche Season! Hooray!

By Niki Turner

I'm dedicating this post to my friend Vanoy Fields. For several years, I cleaned house for Mrs. Fields every other week. Her house, as it turns out, was usually almost spotless, which left a lot of time for chatting in between chores. 

Shortly after I met her, I discovered that her husband had been an Episcopal priest for many years, and so this 80+ year old Southern lady and I often talked about the role of the pastor's wife, and about raising children who don't always turn out the way you expect them to, and about music and art and God and whatever else struck her fancy. 

When she found out I liked to write, and I found out she was working on her memoir, we agreed to work together. She sent me her rough draft, and I did some basic editing, and helped her self-publish her life story for her progeny. It was one of the most rewarding projects I've ever undertaken. 

At Christmas one year, Mrs. Fields introduced me to penuche, a brown sugar fudge she made for her friends and family every year. At the time, I was in the midst of my 1200-calorie a day diet (that's long since over) and limited myself to a single nibble from the plate of penuche she sent home with me for my boys. That one nibble was all it took... I was hooked. (Warning: Penuche can be very, very addictive!)

I've never been a candy maker. My attempts at fudge are famous failures, responsible for the death of a number of pots and wooden spoons. But after Mrs. Fields moved away, I found myself craving penuche every Christmas, and had to try to make it on my own. To my glee, it worked, and has become a household favorite and annual event. My oldest son, when asked what he wants for Christmas, puts penuche on top of his list every year.

So... thank you, Mrs. Fields, for sharing this special treat. I think of you every time I make it and am blessed again by your friendship, kindness, and encouragement you offered this young pastor's wife and mother of teenagers. 

PENUCHE
(See the blue tape holding my white sugar
 container together? That's what happens
when you live with boys.)

Ingredients:
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk (or canned milk, or half & half)
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla




Instructions: 

In a sturdy saucepan, blend the brown sugar, white sugar, and your choice of milk and put on the stove. If you happen to have a "vintage" stove like mine, you can take pictures and be embarrassed, too.


I use medium-high heat on my electric stove. It was different on my gas stove. The key is to stir and stir and stir until the sugar melts into the milk. 

When it starts to boil and bubble, you can add (if you have one) a candy thermometer. Your goal is "soft ball stage." Every time I make penuche, it takes longer than I expect to reach soft ball stage, so while you're waiting...

Take a 9x9 pan and butter it. (The pictured pan is 8x8, because I couldn't find the 9x9 one.) Interesting, you never realize how grubby your kitchen equipment is until you start taking pictures of it for the Internet.
Check your thermometer judiciously. If your sugary goo gets too hot, your penuche will be grainy. Notice I didn't say inedible... we've devoured many a dish of grainy penuche.

While you're waiting, you can stare out the window... amazing how window screens show up SO WELL in pictures. 

Or you can collaborate with your kitchen helpers, who tend to be wiggly and cause blurry photos...


If you don't have a candy thermometer, don't fret. Fill a glass halfway with cold water and every few minutes dribble a few drops of your sugar mixture into the glass. At "soft ball stage" the stuff will coagulate in the water and form, literally, a "soft ball" that can be squished and squashed on the way to your mouth. Test frequently!

Once the correct temperature is achieved, remove the pan from the heat and drop in your half-stick of butter. I know there's a lot of debate about salted vs. unsalted butter in the candy-making world, but I just can't make myself buy unsalted butter. Anyway, let the butter melt and the mixture cool, without touching it, for about 10 minutes. 


Once the butter has melted, add the vanilla. I never measure my vanilla. It's a terrible habit, I know. (Why does this picture make my fingers look fat?) 


Now for the hard part. Use your spatula or wooden spoon and beat the butter and vanilla into the sugar mix. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT make penuche on days when you do an upper body workout in the morning. 


It will get really glossy and pretty... that's not what you're looking for. The moment the mixture begins to lose its gloss and go dull, it's time to pour/spread it into the pan. If you wait too long past that crucial moment of dullness, the whole thing freezes up in the pot and has to be chipped out and eaten by people you aren't trying to impress. 

It kind of reminds me of that moment in a book, when the plot is all stirred up and shiny, and then the minute things begin to change, it's time for the climax. Wait too long and the book falls flat. Stop too soon and the plot never sets up. 

OK. Spread the mixture into your prepared dish and let it cool. You can "score" it into sections while it's still warm, if you like, but we prefer to chunk ours out at random. A word to the wise: Wash your pot, your spatula/spoon, and your candy thermometer immediately in very hot water. Otherwise, people will be picking bits and pieces of penuche off your cooking equipment for days. 



And there you have it! Maple-y, butterscotch-y, fudge-y goodness in a pan. Rich, decadent, fattening, and thoroughly delicious... like a perfect romance novel hero! Kidding. I'm kidding. 

Seriously, even if you've never successfully made any kind of candy, penuche is pretty foolproof. I recommend making a single batch at a time. It's yummiest when fresh.

And so, in honor of my friend Vanoy, and in celebration of our Savior's birth, enjoy!


Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two and a half. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Take a Christmas Break!



    Christmas is a busy time for everyone.  Sometimes, though, you just have to hold up your hand like a traffic cop and stop the madness.  So as I was heading out to face the local mall melee, I decided to see a movie instead.  It was just what I needed.
    Of course, Christmas is one of the big seasons for movie openings, and I certainly had plenty to choose from, but I went to the only one I had actually been waiting to see:

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug

    One of the things I always love about Peter Jackson's epic fantasies is his attention to detail and the sheer beauty of his sets and locations.  This second of the three Hobbit movies is no exception.  Even the most desolate location is impressive in its desolation and the creative way it is desolate, like the impossible stairway one character has to climb up the side of a mountain, which is vastly different from the other impossible stairway different characters climb up the side of a different mountain.  Throughout, the sets are beautifully designed and each place is unique and fascinating to look at.

Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Thorin (Richard Armitage)

    Some might say the acting in a movie like this one takes second place next to the special effects and the epic nature of the film itself .  That may be true, but that does not make the acting here anything less than first rate.  Martin Freeman is perfect as the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.  And, of course, anything with Richard Armitage in it is all right by me.  His melancholy Thorin is very touching, especially when he finally reaches his goal and returns to his ancestral home after years of exile.  Benedict Cumberbatch's dragon Smaug is fascinating, hypnotizing and powerful as he sits on (and in) his endless hoard of treasure, and I am happy to say that Sylvester McCoy's Radagast is not nearly as irritating as he was in the first movie of the series.




Smaug the Terrible

    As much as I love Aidan Turner as Kili (a Dwarf), and he is great in this movie even without much to do, I found his "love at first sight" with Elf warrioress Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) less than convincing and more than unnecessary.  It certainly was implied nowhere in the books, and apart from that, she does little but slaughter Orcs.  And that is exactly what I didn't like about Orlando Bloom's role in this film.  The ten years since he last portrayed Elf prince Legolas have certainly done him no harm, but I would like to have seen him do a bit more than slash through Orcs and narrow his eyes dangerously when Tauriel talks to Kili.
    But those are minor quibbles in a movie that kept me enthralled for nearly three hours.  If you need a break from Christmas shopping madness, I highly recommend it, though you might want to see the first movie first, if you haven't already.  And don't expect a real ending until next Christmas.
    By the way, if you don't like spiders, take something to scream into.  Just sayin'.






What are you doing to take a break this Christmas?




DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with  Rules of Murder,  to be followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.   

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Naughty or Nice? Christmas Bacon Yummies


A Christmas Recipe from Susanne Dietze

Ok, they're not really called Yummies. But they should be. They are true bacon delight for the people in my house who like bacon. A lot.

We eat an odd meal Christmas Eve, a spread of appetizers that are ready and waiting for us when when friends stop in and before/after church services. Things like shrimp cocktail, vegetables, cheese and crackers, tea sandwiches, turkey meatballs. And, generally, the Yummies.

They are sooooo good.

They are also loaded with fat, salt, and whatever it is they put into those tube cans of crescent rolls. But it's Christmas! If you feel like splurging on a naughty/nice savory appetizer, consider giving this one a try.

Bacon Crescent Appetizers aka Yummies

1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/3 c. parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 c. chopped onion
1 T milk
2 8-oz cans crescent rolls

  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, bacon, parmesan cheese, onion, and milk at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended.
  • Open up those crescent roll cans. On a cookie sheet, separate crescent dough into eight rectangles. Spread each rectangle with 2 rounded T cream cheese mixture.
  • Cut each rectangle in half diagonally; then repeat with opposite corners. Cut in half crosswise to make six triangles from each rectangle. (If geometry isn't your strong suit, don't sweat it. These turn out great no matter what.)
  • Starting with point of each little triangle, roll the crescent into a mini crescent roll. This doesn't take much in the way of rolling, because they're small. Bacony cheesy goodness will be showing--it's ok!
  • If you want, you can sprinkle poppy seeds or parsley on them.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
  • Serve hot.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

***

Historical Romance writer Susanne Dietze enjoys a bit of bacon now and then, and even candies it on Christmas morning. She still vividly remembers her affection for Grandma's white tree and the wrapping paper in the above photo, where Pink Santa Clauses frolicked over the green. You can find out more about Susie and her historical romances on her website.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Not-so-dirty Baker's Dozen: Holiday Baking Tips

by Barbara Early
Holiday baking can be a chore. (Cue the infomercial with the exhausted woman with flour in her hair.) But a few quick tips can make the time go more pleasantly and productively. So here are my ultimate cookie baking tips:

1. Crank the Christmas tunes. It excites the holiday molecules in the vanilla, which makes for better cookies. Should you tire of Christmas music during a long stint of baking, it is acceptable to switch to corny Hallmark Christmas movies.

2. Use good ingredients. To ensure this, sample before
you add. This is especially true with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and M&Ms. (You don’t want a bad batch to ruin your entire baking. Better double check to be completely sure!)

3. When baking cookies for a party or other event and are unsure of how many to bake, a good rule of thumb is two dozen per person.

My baking, 2012
4. Always double the vanilla. Anything that smells that good should be added twice.

5. Always double the cinnamon. (See vanilla)

6. Be a realist. Make two batches of chocolate chip dough. Leave the eggs out of one, and put it immediately into the refrigerator for snacking.

7. You know those cookie dough scoopers? I lived for over 40 years thinking they were unnecessary. I was a fool. They’re amazing.

8. Quality control is key. Sample dough before baking, and at least one cookie from every tray.

9. Appearance is important. If a batch of cookies contains one or two that seem misshapen or overly brown in an area, eat them immediately, before anyone can see. Preferably while still warm.

10. Make all your dough on one day and refrigerate. This will cut down on dishes, since measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls and beaters will not have to be washed as often. (Start with light-colored doughs, then peanut butter, then chocolate. Bake the cookies the next day or whenever you need fresh cookies for the children after coming in from play, or to make a small plate for the neighbor. Or for breakfast.

11. Better slightly underdone than overdone. That’s why cookie dough tastes so good. Besides, those FDA warnings about the dangers of raw egg consumption are for sissies and legalists.*

12. A tray of cookies turn out too dark? Consider adding a glaze, frosting, or a drizzle of melted chocolate. When all else fails, eat them, then eat the frosting, drizzle, or glaze.

13. Sure, you can make cookies for a party and take them all, but why not make an extra batch for your family? After all, they’re the ones who make key nursing home decisions.

*Not to be used as health advice. If you get sick or die from eating raw eggs as a result of this post, I don’t want to hear about it. Especially if you die. Zombies are for another holiday entirely.

Question: Do you have a favorite cookie or baking tip?


Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book and audio format from White Rose Publishing. Barbara also writes as Beverly Allen, and her debut cozy mystery novel, Bloom and Doom, is coming in April 2014 from Berkley. You can learn more about her writing at www.barbaraearly.com