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Katy Upperman Shares Nordy Bars

I’ve been thinking a lot about holiday traditions lately, as we’ve just decorated our Christmas tree and strung twinkling lights from the eaves of our house – it’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all!

My little family is all about holiday cheer. We’ve adopted tons of traditions as our own, though we’ve had to modify Christmas a time or two, thanks to my husband’s job with the military. We always do our best to make Christmas a special and memorable time for our daughter, but sometimes it looks a little less than traditional. Opening presents with Daddy via Skype while he sits in a desert half a world away? Done it. Presents mailed to faraway family weeks in advance? Yep. Santa’s Christmas Eve cookies hurriedly purchased at a bakery because we’re mid-cross-country move and bunking in a hotel room? Been there.

One tradition that holds constant, though—through deployments and moves and family visits and everything in-between—is dessert. No matter what our holiday circumstances, I always, always, always bake a feast of Christmas treats starting on December 1st. Spritz cookies, Magic Squares, chocolate crinkle cookies, shortbread, eggnog cookies, gingerbread people, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Danish Puff, thumbprint cookies…

Seriously. I know no bounds.

My all time favorite Christmastime treat, though, are Nordy Bars. My mom made them during the holidays when my brothers and I were young, and I continue to make them each year for my family. According to legend, Nordy Bars were served at the Nordstrom Cafe back in the 80s and were supposedly a huge hit. While I can’t confirm their origin, I can tell you that they’re sweet and chewy and decadent and amazingly delicious.

I hope you’ll use the recipe below to bake up a batch for your family, and I hope you have a very happy holiday season! <3 nbsp="" p="">
Nordy Bars

½ cup butter
12 ounces butterscotch chips
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add butterscotch chips and brown sugar. Stir until melted -- do not boil. Let cool for ½ an hour. Add eggs and vanilla, then stir well. Transfer to large mixing bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients until just incorporated. Spread in a greased 9X13 glass dish, then bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes, checking for doneness in the center. When cool, cut into squares and refrigerate.

~*~

Kate's Note:

I'm definitely trying this recipe too. Wow! You know when something combines butterscotch chips and mini marshmallows it's going to be good. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe with all of us, Katy. I can't wait to get my hands on Kissing Max Holden.








Writing During the Holidays with Jennifer Honeybourn

When December hits, there’s so much to do to prepare for the holiday season that writing, much like working out, is the first thing I take off the list. If I can’t have more hours in a day, then something has to go, at least temporarily, and in the past few years that something has been my writing time. The Ghost of Christmas Past has shown me, however, that when I step away from a project for more than a few days I lose momentum. And once that momentum is gone, it is so incredibly hard to get it back.

This year, I’ve decided that my gift to myself will be writing time. Will it still be difficult to fit it in when I have presents to buy, parties to attend, a house to decorate? Yes. Yes it will. But I am determined to do whatever it takes to make sure that I get those words down — even if all I have is ten minutes to tap something into my phone while I’m waiting in line at the post office. It may only be ten minutes, but at the very least, those ten minutes will keep me in the story.

Part of my strategy is to put my intention out there — via this blog — to keep myself honest. Because I have been known to let myself off the hook, and I’m less likely to do that if I’ve announced my goal, which is: I plan to write every day in December. Every. Single. Day. What I end up with might not even amount to a full chapter, but it will be something. And getting something done — even if it’s only a small amount — obviously will always feel better than getting nothing done.

So if you are like me and need added pressure to keep you accountable, consider December 31st your deadline. Put your goal — whatever it may be — out there, either by telling a friend or posting on a blog. And then get to it!

The Ghost of Christmas Future will thank you.

~*~

Kate's Note:

I'm also one of those writers taking advantage of the holidays to get some writing done. I like your plan, Jennifer! It's the same thing I'm doing. We can do this!




Nikki Katz's Christmas Traditions

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, if not my absolute favorite. There's something special about decorating the house and the tree, putting out my Christmas Village and getting an advent calendar for the kids to open.

Ever since my kids were small, I've tried to instill Christmas traditions. For over a decade we would travel to Tucson the week of the holiday and stay with my mom. The past couple of years we've been unable to attend, but we still carry on the same Christmas Eve tradition that we used to do then.

The evening starts out with "make your own pizza". Each person gets an individual sized pizza crust. A plethora of toppings are laid out - sauce and cheeses, mushrooms, olives, green peppers, and pepperoni - and you build your own pizza to your specific tastes.

After the pizzas are baked and eaten, the kids each get to open a gift. I tend to switch it up but lately it's been books or holiday/winter themed pajamas. I started this tradition when they were younger, mostly because they were itching to open the presents under the tree and were too anxious to fall asleep!

Then we head off to look at the Christmas lights. In Tucson, there is an area of town blocked off called Winterhaven. We would typically walk through with the stroller or a wagon, and on occasion we would all pile on to one of the hayrides that travel through the neighborhood. The kids cuddled up in blankets and we would sip on coffee or hot chocolate as we gazed at the lights and displays. Since we've been in San Diego the past couple of years, I found a local neighborhood where most of the houses put up displays, and we do a similar walk through on Christmas Eve. It's nice to get outdoors as a family before heading to bed and waiting for Santa to arrive!

Then it's home to put out cookies and milk for Santa and prep for bedtime, perhaps even a holiday story before lights out.

Wishing you and yours a very merry holiday season!


Kate's Note:

I love the "make your own pizza" tradition. I'm so down for that. My family and I would also go to our favorite restaurant. Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse into your family's traditions. It was great getting to know you better! I look forward to reading your book.






Holiday Songs with Claire Kann

Everyone in my family is a creative of some kind. My mom was a dancer, and my dad was a musician--music and performing have always been a large part of my family’s traditions. There is actual video footage of me dancing to “Santa Packs are Coming.” Yep. The jingle from the Coca-Cola commercial… what can I say? I love Christmas music!

It’s generally frowned upon to have a Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving (#theworldisjudgingyou), but there isn’t an actual rule of thumb of when it’s appropriate to start playing Christmas music (and if there is, don’t tell me). In high school, many, many a year ago, a friend told me that in her country, they started playing Christmas music in August. A former co-worker of mine refused to play Christmas music in her office before December 1st. Personally, I will play it whenever the mood strikes me.

I am 100% here for Christmas music all year long. Here are my top Christmas songs (excluding holiday canon classics):

“This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway
This song has been covered many times, many ways, but this one is my favorite. If you are ready for a Christmas get down, nothing will get your family and loved ones more hyped than this song.


“Carol of The Bells” and “Wizards in Winter” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
How could I not mention these?




“Merry Christmas (Happy Holidays)” by ‘Nsync
I grew up during the era of Nsync vs. Backstreet Boys. While I was (and am) firmly team BSB, there is no denying this song is everything. Ah, the nostalgia is strong with this one...


“Sleigh Ride” by TLC
I have strong memories of seeing this music video on a local public access channel that played music videos. Hearing this one always make me smile.


“Greensleeves” by Vince Guaraldi Trio
This is the first song I learned to play on piano by myself. I love that it’s a Christmas song, too!


“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Jackson 5
Jackson 5 (and Michael Jackson’s) music ruled my house. That is all.




“Jingle Bell Rock” by Park Bogum and & Irene
It’s no secret I have a massive crush on Park Bogum. Needless to say, this is my new favorite version of this song. Click here to view it on YouTube.

“Christmas Time” by Christina Aguilera
I have no shame. I am trash for this song.


“All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey
What other song could have possibly been Number One? This has to be the single greatest Christmas song from the modern age. The single was released in 1994, it’s sold over 14 million copies worldwide, the music video has over 183 million views on YouTube, and it’s been covered by other musicians countless times. The whole world cherishes this song.


~*~

Kate's Note:

What a great list, Claire! Thank you so much for sharing your favorite Christmas songs with us. My personal favorite is The Christmas Song or if you know the Nat King Cole version called Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire. The moment I hear that song I know it's Christmas. What about you? What's your favorite Christmas song?






Sharing!


Love is too beautiful to be kept in the closet.

There's Always Room For Cookies with Hanna Nowinski

What's the best thing about the holidays? (Cookies, in case you were wondering.)

So, since this is a Christmas post, let's get festive! This is a little recipe for cookies I've been making every year since my hands were big enough to hold a rolling pin. It's one of my absolute favourites because 1.) they're delicious and 2.) they're fun to make. You'll see why in a moment. What we're gonna make are:

No-bake chocolate coins

First of all, here's what you'll need (I'll do my best to convert all grams to oz—I do hope the Google converter knows what it's doing!):

300g / 10 ½ oz shortbread cookies
100g / 3 ½ oz baking chocolate
100g / 3 ½ oz butter
200g / 7 oz sugar
1 egg
50g / 1 ¾ oz unsweetened cocoa powder
1 shot glass cherry brandy (optional)

Once you've got all of your ingredients ready, let's start right away with the fun part. You'll need a clean dish towel for this. At least that's how I do it—you can try it without one but I'm afraid that's probably gonna make a bit of a mess.

Wrap the shortbread cookies in the dish towel. Take a rolling pin, preferably one without handles. You can also use a meat tenderiser or a phone book or . . . a shoe, if you're so inclined. I mean, use a gavel if you're the kind of person who has that lying around. Dunno what you have at home. No judgement here.

Then smash those cookies. You want them in crumbs, all of them. This is a really great workout and also a perfect way to get out some aggression after a frustrating day at the office. Also, it's kind of fun.

You don't want the crumbs to get too powdery. Best leave them about fingernail-big. Some of them will get powdery anyway. That's okay.

Once you're finished with this part, cut up your baking chocolate into large chunks and melt it. (I use a double boiler method—put the chocolate in a cereal bowl, fill a saucepan with about ¼ water, put the bowl in the saucepan and heat it up on the stove. Don't bring the water to a boil! Just get it hot enough to melt the chocolate. And be careful to keep the water level low enough so that no water will get into your chocolate.)

Cream the butter and sugar and egg together nice and good. Since the cookies are no-bake, if you have any kind of issue with raw eggs you can simply leave it out. They'll end up a bit more crumbly, but they'll taste pretty much the same.

Now all you have to do is add all the other ingredients—the melted chocolate, the cocoa powder, the cookie crumbles. If you like, add a shot glass of cherry brandy. It adds a nice taste, but doesn't change the consistency, so it's completely optional.

Next, get your hands in there and work it all together. Keep in mind that this is not gonna be a light dough. It's quite a solid mass. It's supposed to look like that.

Form rolls of about 5cm/2inch diameter and put them in the fridge for at least 12 hours. After that, you can just cut them up into slices and eat! Bon Appétit!

Oh, and if you don't want to go to all this trouble, here's an alternative: take dried apricots and put them in rum over night. (Or water, if rum isn't your thing.) Stuff them with marzipan, dip them in chocolate, and you have really easy, foolproof, Christmassy treats right there.

I make both every year. Since they also look quite good, they're nice to bring to office holiday parties or to give to your friends.

Happy holidays!

~*~

Kate's Note:

Hanna baked her way into my heart with this post. As you all know, I bake -- a lot. Like a rediculous amount. And, of course, you know I'm definitely trying this recipe out for the holidays. You should too! Then make sure to check out Hanna's book Meg & Linus out April 18, 2017. So good! Also, make sure to follow her on all her social. See you back here tomorrow for another holiday-themed post from another of my Swoon Sisters.





Jen Wilde Recommends Christmas Movies To Make You LOL

There are so many wonderful things about Christmas. Decorating the tree. Seeing the neighborhood come alive with twinkling lights and enough fake Santa’s and rooftop reindeer to think I’m in the North Pole and not the suburbs of Australia. Then, of course, there are the presents! And desserts! And Christmas carols!

But my favorite part about Christmas? It’s the movies. It’s no secret that I’m a huge movie dork, so here are my fave Christmas movies that are guaranteed to make you laugh out loud…

Home Alone


A Christmas classic! I’m a huge John Hughes fan, so Home Alone is a must-watch when Christmas rolls around. I remember watching this countless times with my family and being totally absorbed as Kevin crafted all his tricks and traps to confound Harry and Marv. The slapstick style comedy still makes me smile, and it only gets funnier in the sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Elf



This movie is so adorable. Will Ferrel with his cute outfit and even cuter Christmas spirit. Zooey Deschanel with her beautiful singing voice. Not to mention the sweet story at the centre. What I love most about this movie is Buddy’s childlike excitement for absolutely EVERYTHING. Growing up has a tendency to squeeze all the fun out of a lot of people, and this movie always reminds me to not be afraid of looking silly if it means being happy.

Just Friends



This movie makes me wish Ryan Reynolds did more comedy. His antics in Just Friends truly make me laugh out loud every time I watch it – I particularly love the whole ice-skating scene. His character’s relationship with his brother is so relatable to me as someone who grow up under the same roof with brothers and cousins always wrestling each other. I’m a sucker for friends-to-lovers stories (as readers of my books will know!), and this is the ultimate!There’s something* about this movie that just never fails to make me laugh.

It’s Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds is what makes me laugh.

Of course, these are just a few of my fave Christmas films. Movies like The Santa Clause, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Holiday and Die Hard are must-watches throughout December, too.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? 


Kate's Note:

Jen, I share your love for Ryan Reynolds! Thank you so much for taking over the blog today. I love all of these suggestions and have watched them all multiple times. Everyone, please take a moment to follow Jen on all her social. She has much goodness to share with all of you.









Hanukkah with Vicky Skinner

Hi everyone! For me, there is literally no better time of the year than the December holiday season- the smell of cold air, rushing to get under the covers at night, watching It’s A Wonderful Life! But alas, I’m not here to talk about Christmas. I have as many wonderful Christmas morning memories as the next person, but when I got married three years ago, I turned in my Christmas tree for a menorah. It was a difficult decision, but I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do, and since that day, I haven’t looked back. So, I’m here to tell you the upsides of celebrating Hanukkah!

Eight days of presents!

This is the easiest way to sell Hanukkah to your children if they’re having a hard time missing out on the Christmas festivities. During Hanukkah, it’s customary to give gifts every night of the week, beginning and ending on “big” presents and giving little things in between. Husband and I have been known to give candy and dollar store items during the week to keep the gift-giving cheap while lavishing with big presents on the first and last nights. It gives you something to look forward to, and keeps the holiday fun from going by too quick the way that gift-exchanging can sometimes do on Christmas morning.

No holiday shopping rush!

Well, okay, there’s a little bit of the holiday shopping rush, but it works a little differently. The week of Hanukkah is different every year, which means sometimes Hanukkah overlaps Thanksgiving, and sometimes it overlaps Christmas, and sometimes it falls awkwardly in between. On a year that it takes place the first week of December, you don’t have to fight the last minute holiday rush at the mall. You can calmly do your shopping mid-November, and be happy and stress-free as a clam come Black Friday (but, like, why are clams so happy?).

Food!

Some people may have giant Christmas dinners. In my family, that wasn’t really a thing. There wasn’t a Christmas turkey or ham or whatever. There was frozen pizza (which I still do every year because I’m always off work and have nothing better to do than cook frozen pizza on Christmas), but that was about it. But during Hanukkah, the feasts are pretty significant. There are so many nights to celebrate with big meals! In my husband’s family, there’s always one night when we meet out at a restaurant and one night where my mother-in-law cooks a huge feast, and most of the in-between days, we treat ourselves with rich foods and candy from each other. It’s brilliant!

 Less decorating!

I realize that this might not seem like an upside to everyone. Some people love pulling their Christmas trees out of their garage and spending hours in the cold putting up Christmas lights, but while it’s always a little fun, it’s also a hassle, especially come the first of the year, when you have to take it all down and pack it back up. Some people might put up lights for Hanukkah, but the extent of the Hanukkah decorating is usually a menorah and some paper dreidels stapled to the walls. If you walk into a superstore like Wal-Mart of Target, there might be a tiny section with mini-menorahs and Star of David wrapping paper, but there’s not much in the way of Hanukkah decorating loot, so we mostly just don’t bother.

Bonus: Dreidels!

Every year, my mother-in-law pretty much buys me one dreidel for every day of Hanukkah, so by the end of the year, between Husband and me, we’re swimming in them, but if you’re looking for something to do, the dreidel game is actually a lot of fun! Everyone gets chocolate coins (gelt) to begin with, and when you spin the dreidel, depending on what side it lands on, you give gelt to other players, you get gelt from them, or you lose all your gelt. It’s almost like Left Right Center with candy, and on an otherwise boring post-holiday afternoon, it’s a great way to spend some extra family time!

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

P.S. This year, Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve at sundown and ends at sundown on New Year’s Day. We get all the fun holidays mashed into ours!

~*~

Kate's Note:

What a fascinating look into another holiday. I've always wondered what happens during Hanukkah and I finally got a first-hand account. Thank you so much, Vicky! It was awesome having you on the blog today. Everyone, please make sure to check out Vicky's author info below and follow her.


Cindy Anstey's A Regency Christmas

Times, they are a changing… or are they?

Ah, Christmas what a marvelous time of year. A holiday of fun, frolic and food, nothing like that in the olden days … Wait! That’s exactly what it used to be like. To what era am I referring? To the Regency Period in England, of course, an era near and dear to my heart.

Two hundred years ago, England celebrated the season much as we (Canadians) do now. Granted, there was no rerun of ‘The Grinch who Stole Christmas’ or fourteen thousand versions of ‘Jingle Bells’ cheering them up as they shopped, but they did flock to see the Mummers Play and travel house to house caroling. There were gifts for children. They were smaller than what we would expect now, consisted more of apples and nuts… maybe ribbons and the occasional toy. But like the 21st century, charity abounded and gaiety echoed in the streets.

Christmas Day started at church and ended in a feast. For those influenced by British traditions, the mincemeat pies, gingerbread and plum pudding sitting on the table would look very familiar. Houses were decorated with holly, ivy, evergreen boughs and the flirtatious mistletoe… though, not until December 24th.

Decorated trees were few and far between until 1848. But while not yet common in England, it was a tradition in Europe and America. These trendsetters, added tapers (small thin candles) and strung almonds along the branches of fir trees.

Those in high spirits could flirt their way through parlor games as social barriers were lowered. Rich and poor enjoyed Charades and Snapdragon. (Raisins were piled in a bowl of brandy that was then set on fire. The object was to grab and eat the raisins without setting anything on fire…including yourself.) Definitely fun and frolic there!

And then there was celebrating with friends and family. I can imagine the laughter, the non-stop talk, the silliness and the pranks. Sounds like now!

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between the Regency and the present is the timeline. The Christmas Season began December 25th and ran until January 6th—the twelve days of Christmas.

Still, no matter how they celebrated, no matter how we celebrate, it was and is a time when the word ‘peace’ is on everyone’s mind and our hopes are renewed for the future; ours and the world’s.


Happy Christmas, Everyone!

~*~

Kate's Notes:

I love Cindy. I love her book, I love her online presence, and I'm pretty sure when I meet her in person I will love her even more. I learned so much after reading her post and now I want her to write a scene or even an entire book that's dedicated to the Christmas season during the Regency era. That would be ah-ma-zing!


Chani Lynn Feener offers a Coloring Page

Hi everyone and Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is enjoying the season! I love everything about this time of year (well, except the biting cold) and it always makes me think about snuggling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book by the Christmas tree. I live on the East Coast, so it's always a toss up whether or not I'll be able to spend any time outside during the month of December, or if it'll be freezing. Because of this, I always have to make sure I've stocked up on different sources of entertainment to keep me occupied throughout the winter! With that in mind, I tried to come up with something that might help you all from going stir crazy if you're in a similar situation.

So, I created a coloring page! I love these because you can do them in front of the TV, or while listening to music, or even just with a cup of cocoa and the quiet. They're a great way of relieving some of that holiday stress, and can provide a little "me" time. The drawing is of three of my characters from Amid Stars and Darkness (out July 18, 2017) being festive with Christmas themed hats.  Being that they're aliens, Ruckus and Trystan don't really know much about the holidays, which is probably why they got stuck being reindeer while Delaney got the Santa hat. Feel free to click on the image and download it straight to your computer, share it with friends, etc.


For more coloring pages and information about my books, please visit my blog The Window Seat.

Once again, I really hope you're all doing well and that you have a fantastic, and festive, holiday season!

Sincerely,

Chani Lynn Feener

~*~

Kate's Note:

Thank you so much for the coloring page, Chani! I'm definitely printing it out. Also, for the readers of this blog, Chani asked me to mention that she has a book coming out this Dec. 25, 2016. Make sure to check out Unhinged by clicking here. Happy reading!


Temple West's Snow Day

Today, I have a favorite Christmas memory from Temple West with pictures:

I grew up in the desert. Bare rock, carved by the wind, skies burnt by the sun. We had fake Christmas trees every year. Then, when I was 9, we moved to the Pacific Northwest. There were trees everywhere. We started buying live Christmas trees off the cornery grocery lots. And then, at some point, we started going up into the mountains to cut down our own (with a permit, of course). It wasn't any cheaper than getting it from Safeway, but it was a heckuva lot more fun. We'd scour the mountain for hours, getting stuck in the snow, having epic snowball fights, drinking coffee from those old-school travel carafes on the back door of the truck. When we finally found the one, my dad would saw it down and we'd strap it to the roof of the truck and sing Christmas songs all the way back down the mountain. We'd get home, change into our sweatpants and Christmas socks, and celebrate with hot chocolate and a fire in the fireplace. Pretty much the best way to get a Christmas tree, I highly recommend it. If you can't take your family, grab your roommates or your neighbors!


Don't you just love this memory? Living in the Philippines, snow isn't a thought here. But I remember my first experience of snow when my family and I traveled to Washington DC. It wasn't even in December. I had a ton of fun.

Thank you so much for stopping by today. Make sure you grab a copy of Temple's novel. It makes a great by-the-fireplace read. All the info are below:

After losing both her parents before age 17, aspiring designer Caitlin Holte doesn't feel like moving, starting a new school, staying with her estranged aunt, or…living at all really. But after a terrifying encounter with a supernatural force, she learns that the world is a lot more complicated than she thought. Also, her hot bad-boy neighbor, Adrian (who might have just saved her life) is actually a half-demon vampire.

Suddenly Caitlin is stuck with a vampire bodyguard determined to protect her. And Adrian has decided the best way to do that is for the two of them to pretend to be dating. Trouble is, Caitlin is starting to fall in love for real, while Adrian can never love a human. And then there's the supernatural threat that flung them together in the first place—Adrian's demonic dad!

Available Here:

Amazon ~*~ Barnes and Noble ~*~ Books-A-Million ~*~ IndieBound ~*~ Powell's ~*~ iBooks


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