Sunday, July 23, 2017

Weekend Baking - Dickens in July #ChristmasinJuly

When I think of Christmas, I always think of my most favorite Christmas story, Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I usually manage a reread (or relisten on audio) every year. Of course, I also watch all the movie versions, my favorites being the Patrick Stewart version, and Scrooge, starring Albert Finney.

My favorite passage from the book:

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did -NOT- die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

In honor of my favorite story, I thought I'd share a very Dickens treat I found on Taste of Home. 

Image Credit - Taste of Home


MAKES:12 servings
TOTAL TIME:Prep: 35 min. Bake: 35 min.

2-1/4 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, cubed

2 eggs
1-1/4 cups 2% milk
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Whipped cream

  1. In a small bowl, toss pecans with brown sugar. In a small heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Heat 5-7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring constantly; stir into pecan mixture.
  2. Remove 12 of the pecans; place on foil to cool. Transfer half of the remaining pecan mixture to a food processor; process until smooth. Add remaining pecan mixture; pulse until chopped.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until blended. Stir in bread; let stand about 15 minutes or until bread is softened. Add pecan mixture, stirring gently to swirl (do not combine completely).
  4. For topping, divide butter among 12 ungreased muffin cups; sprinkle with brown sugar. Spoon bread mixture into cups. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a knife near center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cups; invert onto dessert plates. Serve warm; top with whipped cream and reserved pecans. Yield: 12 servings.

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Always in spirit...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weekend Lit - Get Rhonda Hopkins' The Gift #Free #ChristmasinJuly

Click HERE to visit Rhonda's blog and get all the info on how to get your FREE copy! If you're joining us for the Christmas in July Readathon at the end of the month, this would be perfect!

Sometimes, the best gifts are unexpected…

When workaholic Robert Chalmer’s wife leaves to take care of her sick mother for two weeks, he is left with all the responsibility… including his seven-year-old daughter. With Christmas fast approaching, Robert must find a way to reconnect with what is most important in his life, or risk losing it forever.

THE GIFT is a 7300 word heart-warming short story set in Fort Worth, TX about family, love, and second chances.

“…quite touching, in a very traditional family orientated way. Humorous and tearful…” ~~ Amazon Reviewer

“A sweet Christmas read that reminds us of what is most important, at Christmas or at any time of the year.” ~~ Amazon Reviewer

“… Ms. Hopkins’ story is the perfect way to kick off the season and get into the Christmas spirit. I found The Gift to be a refreshing and delightful reminder of what Christmas is all about…family. Her writing style is easy to follow and engaging. I highly recommend The Gift. It will make you feel good.” ~~Amazon Reviewer

About the Author
Rhonda Hopkins writes fiction in several genres. She is the author of the SURVIVAL series and the award-winning paranormal, THE CONSUMING. She has also written a non-fiction book, NAVIGATING FAMILY COURT: IN THE BEST INTEREST OF YOUR CHILD, to assist those involved in custody litigation. It will be available January 2016.

Having spent twenty years working with the best and the worse that society has to offer, Rhonda's imagination is filled with story ideas. While she may write dark fiction, she always remembers the light in the darkness.

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Always in spirit...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Christmas in July is here! #ChristmasinJuly

I bet you thought I forgot! No way! It has just been a busy month so far and I thought I would wait until after the 4th of July. Hope you had a happy and safe one, by the way!

Christmas in July on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries

As always, the Hallmark Channel will be rolling out new movies for Christmas in July. If you're lucky enough to have the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel (unfortunately, I am not. :( ), the Gold Crown Christmas starts on tomorrow (July 7) through July 16. The Christmas Keepsake Week on the regular Hallmark Channel starts July 14 and runs through July 23. You can find out more on the Hallmark site here. There are even How-tos and Recipes! Also, for a full schedule of all the Christmas in July television programming, visit the awesome Christmas TV schedule over at It's a Wonderful Movie.

I'm looking forward to the premiere of The Christmas Cure on July 15. Here's what it's about...

An emergency room doctor returns home for Christmas after many years to find that her father has decided to retire. After reuniting with her high school sweetheart and spending an emotional Christmas with her family, she must decide if she will stay in her hometown and takeover her father’s practice. Stars Brooke Nevin,Steve Byers and Patrick Duffy

Also looking forward to some of my favorites coming back during the event, like
The Mistletoe Promise, Christmas List, Looks Like Christmas, and A Cookie Cutter Christmas. Again, don't forget to check the Christmas in July TV Schedule for more favorites.

Exciting news for my Christmas reading friends. As always, I'm hosting the High Summer Readathon over at Seasons of Reading this month (and now it's two weeks long), but this year, for the first time I'm including a 48 hour Christmas in July Readathon at the end of High Summer. Exciting! You can get all the details, and sign-up for, both readathons here. I hope you will join us!

I'm hoping to have time to share some baking (and other) recipes, some crafts, perhaps a couple of Christmas around the World posts, and some info on Christmas books and movies for the upcoming holiday season.

Be sure to check out the Christmas in July festivities at my favorite Christmas site, My Merry Christmas. I've been a member of their community for years. It's all Christmas, all the time!

Not sure if you saw my post from yesterday, but please excuse the disarray due to the Photobucket debacle. I'm working on getting it all straightened out.

Always in spirit...

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Don't mind the dust and Christmas in July Update

Christmas in July is planned...just a bit late this year. Stay tuned!

This is post will be cross-posted on all of my sites.

You may not have heard about Photobucket screwing over a ton of people with their new third party image hosting plan. (Read more here: Basically, it means if you have a free account, you can no longer host your images without paying $400/year! So, all those clever grab codes I make for images and buttons...they have to be fixed with a new link from wherever the images are now being hosted. Luckily, I own two domains on GoDaddy so I get free image storage up to a certain amount and then I can pay extra if I need more (only $1.99/month). But with 7+ blogs/sites, it's going to take me a bit. I hope you will bear with me.

If you have any of my buttons on your site, I'm afraid you will have to delete and then come back by at a later date to grab the new code. There should not be any further problems in future. Fingers crossed.

I hope Photobucket crashes and burns for their underhanded tactics. I mean, I didn't even get an email notifying me!

Always in spirit...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#Review of Tales to Take You to Christmas by Sarah Tipper and Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

My season officially ended on January 6th so I'm pretty late with this. Of course, everyone knows by now that this is a year round Christmas site so my season never really officially ends. 😄

I'm including my review of this wonderful book of Christmas short stories and the CS reading challenge wrap-up in one post...for time economy's sake.

My thoughts on the book
If you buy any book next Christmas season, make it Sarah Tipper's Tales to Take You to Christmas. Better yet, buy it sooner. How about Rudolph Day (25th of each month) or during Christmas in July? You simply must read this charming book of short stories!

Sarah knows Christmas. I felt like I was reading the words of a kindred spirit. Each story is unique and though every one does not have a lesson, many of them do. Sarah touches on same sex relationships (acceptance), not-so-good-for-you relationships (independence), elderly loved ones, remembrance of loved ones who have passed, accepting oneself/being happy as you are, and more, but she's not heavy handed about it; and some stories are downright whimsical. Each story had its own merit and I loved them all. I can see myself picking this one up and reading favorites over the years. What I really loved was reading stories written from a British perspective. It gave me a glimpse into the Christmas traditions in England.

My favorites...

Keep It All The Year
The Pastry Plaster Plan For Patiently Pleasing Previously Perturbed People (read the full story here)
Deck the Halls
Fat - Her Christmas
Bring Me Sunshine
Secret Santa
The Freegle Has Landed
The Harvest Mouse Party
I Bet You Have A Great Christmas 1995
If I Had A Magic Wand in December

So, yes...I loved this book. I have a special love for Christmas themed short stories and this book fills the bill. I highly recommend this endearing book of stories to anyone who loves Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenage Cleans Are Hard To Beat – Melinda’s Christmas is made when she meets Simon in a launderette.
Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White – Karen is surprised to find that Santa was in her year at school.

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

Bring Me Sunshine – Nancy hopes her daughter Lisa’s news will be met with understanding by the rest of the family.
Follow That Star Tonight – Lothario Terry strums his guitar to great effect and Jan is smitten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah’s Christmas book Tales to Take You to Christmas began as a small number of tales that grew into a whole book because Christmas is a very fun thing to write about. Sarah thinks of her twenty-four stories as little snow dusted windows into other peoples’ festivities.
Sarah’s favourite seasons are spring and fall. Her favourite cookie is the chocolate shortcake ring. Sarah’s favourite font is blood cyrillic, even though it’s really hard to read. Sarah finds writing about herself in the third person odd. It makes her worry she might get a big ego like that Kanye West fella.

Sarah’s author page is
If you would rather buy from a smaller company, you can buy from here:

Sarah can be found on Facebook at

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at

Wrapping up the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. How did everyone do? I never officially signed up, but since I'm the host, I figured participation is a given.

What I read:

A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas (audio)
The Lion in the Box by Marguerite de Angeli
Christmas Tales: The Night Before Christmas and 21 Other Christmas Stories
Tales to Take You to Christmas by Sarah Tipper

I started reading The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans and Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L.M. Montgomery, but did not get to finish them. Next year...or maybe during Christmas in July.

I'm using the same linky as for the sign-up. When you add your wrap-up, be sure to add wrap-up, like so Michelle  @ True Book Addict - wrap-up or something similar. I will choose the giveaway winner soon and will add the winner's name at the top of this post. If you would like to be considered for the giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you. Here are the giveaway details again: The giveaway this year will be a $15 donation to the winner's choice of a human rights organization, such as the ACLU, Boys and Girls Club, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Amnesty International, It Gets Better, Planned Parenthood, or another human rights organization of your choice, perhaps your local chapter or organization. This giveaway is open internationally.

Thank you for joining me! I hope to see you next year!

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Always in spirit...