Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reliving the Best of 2014: Who Let the Dogs Out? @LucyBurdette

Happy New Year's Eve day, Reds. As you've heard, we've decided to relive our favorite posts from 2014 this week. I have to say, the timing is perfect, because while you're reading, I will be marching in the dachshund parade with Tonka! I'll post new pictures on Facebook, but here's how it went last year--too much fun!

LUCY BURDETTE: There are lots of unusual events that take place on the island of Key West, but perhaps none so silly and fun as the dachshund parade. 

This has been occurring on New Year's Eve day for the past eight years, much to the chagrin of the Key West police, who have plenty on their hands already, getting prepared for New Year's Eve on Duval Street. 

John and I and Tonka attended in 2012, and ended up falling in with the dachshunds and the dachshund wannabes. After seeing the sights, I vowed that we would come in costume next time around. 

I was planning to sew a costume like this for Tonka. But then I checked on ebay as time grew short--and became the winning bidder on this costume. 

And then I found hats for me and John--a hamburger and a hot dog. Weren't they such good sports about dressing up as lunch meat? We marched from the Courthouse, up Southard Street to Duval, then right on Duval to Appleruth Lane. (Dachshunds have short legs so it was a short route:). 

 There were dogs dressed as lobsters....

 and dogs with their mothers in funny hats...


 And dogs in disguise

 And dogs in blue tutus just like their owners

And this is my good friend, Officer Steve Torrence, who is also a character in the Key West mysteries. (He's a good sport even though he isn't a fan of this parade:). 
And here is a family portrait
Leading off the parade were three mounted police and a small van with great speakers that played classics like "Who Let the dogs out?" and "Ain't Nothing like a hound dog." A truly amazing way to end 2013...or any year!

And if you think this is material I can't use, you haven't read the fifth Key West mystery, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS!

Happy New Year Reds! Hope you're out there doing something silly!  xoxo Lucy

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Never done, Won't Ever do now!

RHYS BOWEN: Since we're all in reflective mode at the end of the year I thought I'd revisit this post to see what things I had done during the year that pushed me outside my comfort zone. I'm sad to report that I have not been up the Amazon, nor swum the English Channel, nor climbed any major mountain. I haven't learned Mandarin or to play the viola or make a good souffle.

The only thing I've done during the past year that was pushing the limits a bit for me was to agree to write a third book this year. Usually I write one Molly Murphy book and one Royal Spyness and I find that quite enough, when combined with research, travel, book tours etc. But I'd written a Christmas book for Penguin and it did well, so my other publisher asked me to write one for them. Of course, I said. No problem. (thinking that it would be the one book of the year, as it had been for Penguin). Then I found out it was AS WELL AS. I tried to back out. They pleaded. They kept coming up for solutions to make it easy for me. Finally it was easier to say yes, but it hung over me all year, knowing I'd have to come up with the energy and enthusiasm to write it.

I'm happy to say the first draft is done. Mission accomplished. It's called AWAY IN A MANGER and it will be out next November. And it's a sweet Christmassy story too.

So here is the post that got me thinking:

RHYS: Like most people I subscribe to Groupon, Living Social etc. I thought I filled in a profile when I joined so they would know what my interests might be. However recently I have been offered discounts on such diverse things as tandem skydiving and pole dancing.
Do they really see me as a sky-diving type? Or a pole dancer?

So I'm coming to the conclusion that there are some things I've never done in my life and now will never do. I will never sky dive. Since I hate the fast rides at the carnival the idea of hurtling toward the ground and praying that the chute will open does not appeal to me.

I will never shoot the rapids on the Colorado River (having known friends who were flung out of the boat and bashed against rocks for several miles. Uh, no thank you. Not my idea of fun.

I will never eat a fried Twinkie. I didn't know they existed until the twinkie factory closed and then there was a big uproar. I might have tried one in my youth, but now I watch my sugar and calorie intake this seems like a suicide mission.

And regretfully I'll never marry Robert Redford. Rats.

But there are other things I'm not ruling out. I may learn to pilot a plane, drive a race car. I really hope to go on a safari in Africa. It's one of the few things not accomplished on my bucket list.

So Reds: are there things you know you'll never do now? Any regrets? Any things you are still determined to do, however crazy they may seem?

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh Rhys, I thought we were twins separated at birth with the skydiving and rapids rafting and definitely Robert Redford! But I am also not interested in drag racing or flying planes. Nor climbing Mount Everest or any other scary mountain. When that story broke about the Sherpas (heartbreaking!), all I could think was those people are insane. And I will be shocked if some of them continue to climb in the wake of the terrible loss.

I'm basically a weiny when it comes to physical risk-taking, and that's okay with me:). As I told my sister, I like my adventures in my mind...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I will never eat ham salad. Or sweetbreads.  And I'm iffy on lima beans. Sky-diving? Not a chance on this planet. Rock-climbing, nope. Motorcycles, anything to do with motorcycles. Forget it. I'm even unhappy on bicycles, since I  broke a collarbone when I decided it would be easier to go OVER the curb when I was going too fast at the Newton rotary--and I  learned you cannot go OVER the curb. I HAVE white-water rafted. Level five rapids on the Chatooga. It was actually great. So I am absolved from  doing it again. 

Yeah, I know I will never win a Pulitzer. That is SO sad.

RHYS: Hank, I adore sweetbreads (if a French restaurant cooks them). And I have come to accept that I will never win that Edgar (okay maybe lifetime achievement when I'm too old to enjoy it). I completely agree with the lima beans. No reason to exist. (And when I went to find this picture of them there was an article called 8 Poisonous foods we commonly eat. Nuff said.)

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I've eaten grasshoppers and worms in Mexico and who-knows-what in Japan — but those days are over, since I'm now a vegetarian-trying-to-be-vegan. However, like Hank, I'm iffy on lima beans.

Just two years ago, I broke my knee trying to skateboard. (Yes, I know. My son asked me.) Since then I seem to have lost my fearlessness and approach everything a bit more carefully....

HALLIEPHRON: I heart lima beans. Really I do. And I have a recipe for the best creamy lima bean soup... will post one day soon. Sweetbreads not so much. Ditto almost any of the organ meats. And okra cooked slimy leaves me cold.

While you ladies pole dance and sky dive, fly planes and bungee jump, I'll be over there on the bench sitting with Roberta, sipping tea and eating homemade linzer cookies.

What I'm sorry I missed (and quite sure that I have): wearing sexy shoes when I still could.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've been getting the same sky-diving Groupon!  Must be a trend! But I think I can say with certainty that I will NEVER sky-dive. Or bungee jump. Or go white-water rafting (much to hubby's disappointment.) (Although I'm very proud to say that I have been sculling on the Thames, which was probably the most exciting thing I've ever done.)

I won't climb Mount Everest, although I have for years been fascinated by those who do.

I will probably never drive again in Mexico City, or, God help me, Rome.

But I'm with Rhys on the African safari, and with Hallie on the lima beans:-) And unlike Hank, I heart sweetbreads.  My mother used to make them regularly and I miss them, but hubby will not eat them so I don't cook them.

And I would really, really like to take a narrow boat holiday in England, and spend a summer cooking in Tuscany or the south of France.
Anyone want to join me?

RHYS: Yes--me! Me!  I've been intending to do a narrowboat holiday in England. How about a writing retreat/narrowboat holiday next year??
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: May I come? That's one of my dream vacays. Write all day as you float along the rover, drinks and good food in the evening...  but our topic is things I've never tried, and now never will. Hmm. Doing basic car maintenance. I thought for years I ought to be able to change my own oil, but I have now surrendered to the realization that I'm never going to do this when I can head over to Jiffy Lube instead. Make fancy cakes and cupcakes. Always thought I ought to, because my mother was such a whiz at it, but nope, it never happened.

Some of my never-wills have to do with my kids ageing out: I'm never going to create elaborate holiday customs for them (harking back to earlier this week.) I'm never going to make those needlepoint Christmas stockings I always planned to, but never actually took the time to get started. Never going to do mother-daughter or sister-sister dresses. If I'm wearing the same thing as my 21-year-old Smithie, one of us is really not doing it right, and the only way my daughters are going to wear the same dress now is if they're both bridesmaids in a cousins' wedding.

No to bungy jumping, but I never wanted to bungy jump, even in my youth. The narrowboat writing retreat, however, may just rise to the top of my bucket list after this.

RHYS: So let's hear from you. What things have you never done and now never will? Any regrets?

Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Years Gift for You!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: With apologies and appreciation to Clement Moore...and maybe Dr. Seuss. Here's this year’s Jungle Red Holiday Greeting!  

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through this site
Not a blogger was working
Not even to write.

Our books are all saved on our cloud files with care
In hopes that bestseller lists soon would be there.
Our new novels were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of royalties danced in our heads.

The Jungle Red sisters, five east and two west
Had just settled our brains for a well-deserved rest.

When in magazine 'views--There arose such a clatter
We opened the things to see what was the matter!

On the magazine pages we found Julia and Lucy!
With  “Trimmings” and “Evil Days” getting praise oh-so-juicy.

Hallie’s “Night Night” is coming! Let’s have a cheer!
Hank’s “Truth” was anointed a BEST of the Year!

Debs’ Gemma and James are in book now—sixteen?
And Rhys is completely our multi-book Queen.

And what to our wondering eyes should appear
Another run of “Her Majesty’s”? Susan's nailed her career!
But what makes us the happiest—keeps every day new?
We knew in a moment—it’s our blogging crew!

You listen, you chatter, you join in the game
We cheer you, we love you, we call you by name!

Thanks, Thelma! Thanks Edith! Thanks darling Joan E!
Both Karens, and Lesa, and our Michele D.

Hail Ramona, and Kathy, Tiger and Clare
We hope Brenda and DebRo will always be there

Here’s to Reine, and to Triss, and to Mary (there’s two)
To Jack, Mark and Lisa—good tidings to you!

Same for Karen (in O), and Gram Cootie as well,
And dear Mary Garrett--the stories she’ll tell!

To Pat, and to Marianne, and Keenan (she’s new!)
To PK and Ellen—we always thank you!

Kaye Barley, we love you, and love to Don, too.
(We know that Wimsey’s a breakthrough for you!)
Our guest bloggers were stellar:
Fairstein and Fay
The Bains and the Todds came to brighten our day!

To Delia, and Kristopher (king of the LIST!)
To Rodrigo, our genius--consider you're kissed.

Hail to Rosemary Harris, and Jan Brogan, too--
Hail “Anonymous” also--love hearing from you!

And hail to Miss Edna, we all raise a toast
You brought us all happiness—we miss you the most.

We had memories, recipes, tales of our youth
We’ve had jokes, and disasters, and telling the truth.
To the top of the lists! To the top of them all!
We’re revising, and writing, and sharing our call!

As dry words before our reviser’s pen fly
When they meet with cliché, and we fix them (we try):

We’re almost at New Years, and our thoughts go to you
May you write perfect books, may your wishes come true!

May you waste not a word, may you write fresh and new
And fill all your stories with mysteries and clues

And remember: on days that things don’t turn out right
And you wonder if this was a fraud and a fright

You have sisters on line—there are sev’n of us here!
And each one is wishing you all-the-year cheer.

And we all say—we love you! ‘Fore you click from our site--
Happy Holidays to All
—and long may you Write!

HANK: Happiest of holidays, dear Reds! And I do have present for you-- an author copy of TRUTH BE TOLD! Just say hi (or whatever you like) in the comments--and you are entered to win! 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hallie: Savoring soup dumplings and lost jelly donuts

HALLIE EPHRON: Happy Holidays, everyone!! This last week of the 2014, we're regifting! Each reprising a favorite blog from the days of yore. Lest auld should be forgot.

Here's mine... on food, of course.

HALLIE: Sharing my favorite foods is one of the guilty pleasures of writing. In THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN, Evie Ferrante has my passion for Chinese soup dumplings. Evie's boyfriend (aka Mr. Wrong) is all about steak. Which, by the way, I also love, but given a choice between soup dumplings and steak? No contest.

When I eat at the aptly named Gourmet Chinese Dumpling House in Boston's Chinatown, I order rack of those succulent babies just for me. Anyone who encroaches on my share gets stabbed with a chopstick.

Often I find myself writing about fondly remembered foods -- the ones I can no longer get. In THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN, it's jelly donuts. When Evie returns to the little the grocery store near the house in the Bronx where she grew up, she discovers that the kind of jelly donuts she remembers are still there...along with a man who could easily learn to love soup dumplings.

Sadly, my favorite jelly donuts have gone the way of the dodo. They came from a Van de Kamps next to the Thriftimart in Beverly Hills -- back when Van de Kamps was just a bakery and Beverly Hills was just an upscale neighborhood. 

In my memory, those jelly donuts were light, puffy, powdered sugar-coated cakes. Literally jam-packed, front to back, every bite risked spurting some of the filling out the other end. The filling was in a league of its own, thick and tangy and intensely raspberry -- not that pallid, sugary-sweet, gelatinous stuff that finds its way into jelly donuts these days. And there was none of that palate-coating greasy finish that today's donuts deliver.

Though I love to cook, I'd never attempt to make my own jelly donuts. I'm not good with yeast or deep fat. And forget soup dumplings.

Fortunately, I've discovered a great recipe for another gone-but-not-forgotten treat -- chewy, caramel-colored hazelnut biscotti that were once but are sadly no longer available at my local Italian bakery. This recipe is a close approximation.

Hazelnut Biscotti

3 c. whole hazelnuts (or almonds) (skin on)
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3 T soft unsalted butter
2 beaten eggs
2 T vanilla
1 beaten egg mixed with 1T water for egg wash

Preheat oven 350

1. Roast nuts
-In a single layer on a cookie tray in the oven - check after about 8 minutes but keep roasting until lightly browned and (if you are using hazelnuts) the skins are coming loose.
- Dump them onto a dish towel and roll them around to rub off most of the skins (if using almonds, leave the skins on).

2. Prepare dough
- Cream the butter with the white sugar in large mixing bowl.
- Add brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and blend.
- Add beaten eggs and vanilla and BEAT with mixer on low speed until dough holds together.
- This makes a VERY STICKY DOUGH.
  Fold in the nuts.
3. Make 2 logs of the dough
- Put dough on floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each piece into a log.
- Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
- Brush each log lightly with egg wash.

4. Bake 30 minutes OR until ***firm*** to the touch. (Go by touch, not time)

5. Remove from oven. Cut diagonally into biscotti. Turn each piece sideways (cut side up) and return to 300 degree oven to dry out and crisp--about five minutes.

My question: What are your "lost" food favorites, and have you been able to recreate them?

THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN is the story of a young woman, Evie Ferrante, who reluctantly returns the house where she grew up on the waterfront in the Bronx in order to deal with the chaos left behind by her gravely ill, alcoholic mother. She renews a friendship with Mina Yetner, the 91-year-old woman who lives next door. Mina helps Evie figure out the meaning of her mother's last message: Don't let him in until I'm gone. And Evie helps Mina figure out whether she's losing her mind.

Winter Vegetables Kesich

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I know it's customary for the recipe-after-a-major-holiday to be all about reusing the leftovers, but we've gotten a little bored with turkey over the past few meals and the stuffing and cranberries ran out days ago. What I have that I want to use up are a bunch of assorted root vegetables left over from making roasted butternut squash, parsnip soup, and mashed potatoes. What I don't want is to spend any time cooking, which means little prep time and the crockpot. So I'm going to throw all of them together into something I have just now dubbed:

Winter Vegetables Kesich

after my friend Greg Kesich, who gave me the original, slightly different recipe. Those of you who need exact measurements, read no further. This is strictly a handful-and-dollop type of recipe.

Assorted winter vegetables, diced into bite-sized pieces ) I am using the above-mentioned squash, parsnips and potatoes, with some carrot thrown in for good measure. You want enough to almost fill your crockpot.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh parsley, rough chopped, tossed with the veggies. Don't stint! I use one bunch at least.

Minced garlic, a generous amount. I love my pre-minced garlic in bottles for this. I'm adding about three tablespoons. (Don't worry, it mellows with the cooking.)

Flour, enough to dust all the veggies. Mix well and turn into your crockpot. (Greg's original recipe calls for the veg to be roasted in a shallow pan, so you can use this as an option as well.)

Douse it with a generous serving of olive oil, and cook on high for two hours or low for four hours in the crockpot. If roasting in the oven, it goes in for two hours at 325 to 350. (I told you this wasn't going to be a scientific measurement type of recipe!)

If you, like us, need meat to make the meal, I'd serve it with something dead easy, like pork chops or bratwurst or one of those little hams that just need to be heated up.

Voila! Delicious, filling, and leaves you plenty of time to watch THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG extended cut director's edition!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Living Between the Questions: a guest blog by Mette Ivie Harrison

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Mette Ivie Harrison can only be described as a woman who leaves all the rest of us in the dust. Literally - she's completed four Ironman competitions and multiple ultra marathons (those are the ones that go 50 miles or more.)  She's the successful, critically acclaimed author of seven young adult novels and one nonfiction book, IRONMOM. She picked up the violin and the piano as an adult to keep up with her children. Did I mention she has five children? And a Phd from Princeton? And she volunteers for her ward? And quilts? Do you feel inadequate yet?

Don't. Instead, read THE BISHOP'S WIFE, Mette's first adult novel and first mystery (and a New York Times Notable Book. Okay, feel a little inadequate.) Along with being a twisty mystery, THE BISHOP'S WIFE is an emotionally honest account of issues many, many women face today. How to be a faithful person in a patriarchal religion. How to be a feminist when your primary role is wife and mother. How to be your authentic self when the culture all around you demands you perform womanhood in a clearly defined way.

Here's Mette Ivie Harrison with us today, talking about growing up, growing wise, and growing into herself.

In 1988, I was in a group of 48 high school seniors (24 men and 24 women) who were invited for 3 days to the campus of Brigham Young University as the final interview portion of the competition for the “Ezra Taft Benson” scholarship, named after the then President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These were the best of the best, the cream of the crop. We went through long written tests, as well as group projects where we were being observed from behind mirrored glass. We had all of our meals with the judges, and were being evaluated on everything from table manners to conversational style. 

 On the final day, I had an exit interview with one of the professor/judges who had looked through my application with a fine-toothed comb and asked me about my answer to “Who is your personal hero?” It was Ghandi. This was just after the movie with Ben Kingsley had been released. I had not done any extra reading, but the movie portrayed the man as a kind of prophet. The professor asked me if I would change my mind about Ghandi if I found out that he had been a user and abuser of many of the women in his life. I thought only briefly about my answer and said, basically, no. He still did the good that he did, even so.

I won the scholarship, and attended BYU for two years, until I moved on to a PhD program at Princeton University. I have continued to think about that one question about Ghandi for the rest of my life, and wondered many times what would have happened if I had answered differently. You see, I did read more about Ghandi and my image of Ghandi became rather tarnished, as it turns out every hero’s image I have ever had. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton. We sometimes excuse them as “products of their times” or as “men with appetites.” It is still an excuse and it leaves a bitter taste.

I returned to Utah to work at Brigham Young University myself after my dissertation was complete still a staunch believer of Mormonism, but when my youngest daughter was stillborn in 2005, I had a terrible crisis of faith. It was less about specific doctrines of the Mormon church or shocking revelations about the history of the church and more about the reality of God Himself, and the way in which we grapple with tragedy as humans, and as Mormons. I spent the next seven years as a faithful church-attending Mormon atheist, which was a useful solution since I didn’t have to really grapple with theological issues as such. These were all problems invented by people, it seemed to me, to make sense out of things that made no sense because they were random events. Or they were attempts to create a holistic theology out of a disparate series of documents and leaders who had different ideals, purposes, and goals over two centuries of time.

But in 2012 I came to a longing for a spiritual life once more. And so in the past two years, I have decided to work my way back to the Mormon church. Strangely enough, this involved writing the first of a series of detective novels in which the main character (Linda Wallheim in The Bishop’s Wife), a far more faithful woman than I was when I wrote her, grapples nonetheless with the problems I struggle with. And she does not flinch away from them, nor does she lose her faith. She was the woman I wanted to become, a woman who contemplates seriously the flaws of the great men within the church, the issue of the invisibility and powerless of women, and the need for the Mormon church to address the questions of this century rather than continuing to deal with the persecutions of the first forty years of our religion.

The essay that the church has recently published on the topic of Joseph Smith and polygamy made me cheer. It felt like an enormous step forward in honesty and in becoming a church that deals with flawed heroes and flawed prophets, that faces head-on the kinds of difficult stories that other religions have faced for many years. If a religion has at its head a man who is by some evaluations a criminal, does that mean there is no basis for faith? Must a Mormon believe that the Book of Mormon is an actual translation of the Gold Plates? Can Joseph Smith be at one and the same time a man of “appetites” and also a prophet of God?

I find a kind of satisfaction now in sitting with these questions without demanding one answer or another. I also recognize that other Mormons are deeply disturbed by this cognitive dissonance and would much prefer a Mormonism that has easier answers and a more black and white view of the world. And I honor those Mormons, because in my experience, these are also the people who are most likely to volunteer to come help me move furniture. They are there to help at homeless shelters, to make quilts to send to the Philippines after the disaster there. They donate money to good causes. They come and listen to my complaints and hold me while I weep and they do not ask for anything in return.

And so to my young self, who was so sure that Ghandi was her hero and that she could never be swayed from that opinion, I say—good for you. To the self I am now who is disturbed by men who claim divine mandates that excuse misbehavior, I say—good for you. Both selves were rooted in deep moral conviction, and Mormonism is a big enough church for all.

How about you, dear readers? Have you had clashes between your young-self assurance and your  older-self doubts? Do you live with questions that may not have answers? Join the conversation, and two lucky commenters will get a copy of THE BISHOP'S WIFE!

You can find out more about Mette and her books at her website. and at her blog on Tumblr. You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter as @metteharrison.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Good King Wenceslas Looked Out...

Since I mentioned we were going to be thirty-four for Christmas Dinner, I thought I'd post some pictures of the morning after!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Today is December 26th. It's the feast day of St. Stephen, Boxing Day in England and Canada, or perhaps you know it as 50% off All Christmas Merchandise Day. By whatever name, it's one of the best days in the whole Christmas season. The presents are already bought, wrapped and unwrapped. If you haven't gotten Christmas cards out yet, you now have a pass until next year. If you hosted Christmas Dinner, like we did, leftovers mean you don't have to cook for another couple of days, and if you didn't, you still likely have enough treats and temptations to graze on. All the work that goes into making Christmas is behind, with nothing but the pleasure of Christmas to look forward to. All right, you do have to bang out those thank-you letters today. But after that...?

For my family, the season between December 25th and Epiphany is a time filled with reading books, playing cutthroat board games, going to the movies and seeing friends. We go swimming at the Y, binge-watch Lord of the Rings and take long walks on snowshoes (this year it'll be with boots. We're having a wet, green Christmas in southern Maine.) We're particularly lucky - because Ross is a teacher, he's off work from before Christmas Day until after New Years. This year, the timing of both holidays means he and Youngest are at home until January 4. Then it'll be Twelfth night on the 5th, time for a second, smaller dinner party with our friends who weren't able to make it for Christmas Day.  

The actual season of Christmas is often lost in the rush of events, pushed aside by retailers and ignored by the 24-hour-a-day Christmas radio stations, who drop "Rockin'  Around the Christmas Tree" well before most people have taken theirs down. It's a shame, because keeping Christmas - the twelve days that brighten the darkest and coldest part of winter - is, in my experience, the best way to enjoy it. It prevents the post-presents hangover and keeps you from feeling like you've spent a month building up a single day and is that really it?

How about you, Reds? Do you keep Christmas after December 25th? What are your pleasures and pursuits between now and the New Year? 

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Oh, see, I've solved this. I am SO behind that I will spend the day after Christmas (and Day too, most likely) doing my holiday, er, new years cards. It's not procrastination, or overwork, or tight scheduling, right? It's EXTENDING the season. Plus, the revisions of WHAT YOU SEE are due on Jan 2, and --I have to write a short story. And come up with a brilliant synopsis for another book. Or two.  Rum a pum pum. #needanotherweekortwo

RHYS BOWEN: I have fourteen people sleeping over on Christmas night so I'm anticipating Boxing Day (as we still call it) will start with a huge breakfast. If the weather is nice I hope we'll take a hike or play bocce ball. And like Julia, several board games or charades. This year our new game is Selfies. Someone has to take a selfie and the others have to choose the best caption for it.  And the old favorite is Taboo.

John and I are actually invited to a rather swank party in the evening so we'll leave the kids to fend for themselves. Hopefully lots of leftovers.

HALLIE EPHRON: Between Christmas and New Year is a quiet time for us and especially sweet when either of our daughters are visiting. Julia, I'm coming to your house! 

LUCY BURDETTE: I agree Hallie--Julia's post Christmas weeks sound lovely and relaxing! Alas, I'm almost as behind as Hank so I'll be right back to work. I would go to the post-Christmas decoration sales, but  there isn't much of that in Key West. It's the high season and no one wants to slash prices right now.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, I love the quiet week between Christmas and New Year's. I want to watch all those Christmas movies I didn't get to, listen to Christmas music, and enjoy my tree. All the things I somehow didn't find time for BEFORE. But like everyone else I have load of work, so will sneak in what I can.

Julia, I don't know how you manage 34 for dinner. You will tell us, won't you? (We will assume you're still standing!)

JULIA: Still standing, though you'll notice this conversation didn't make it onto the blog until 9:30 in the morning! We have a large old farmhouse, a really big dining room table, and friends with good quality folding tables and chairs. So: 12 at the dining room table, 6 in the table by the Christmas tree (which gets taken down immediately after eating to clear the space for musicians and singers,) 8 20-somthings in the parlour and six college-and high-school youths at the kitchen table. We serve from the library, in the middle of all three rooms.

A festive time was had by all, as you can see from the pictures...

How about you, dear readers? What are your plans for the Feast of Stephen and beyond?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

 We wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years!

Hank, Hallie, Lucy,  Susan, Deborah, Rhys & Julia

“I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you.”
~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“Pray, dear madam, another glass; it is Christmas time, it will do you no harm.”
~ William Makepeace Thackeray, The Kickleburrys on the Rhine

“He had been to see Mrs. Erlich just before starting home for the holidays, and found her making German Christmas cakes. She took him into the kitchen and explained the almost holy traditions that governed this complicated cookery. Her excitement and seriousness as she beat and stirred were very pretty, Claude thought. She told off on her fingers the many ingredients, but he believed there were things she did not name: the fragrance of old friendships, the glow of early memories, belief in wonder-working rhymes and songs.”
~ Willa Cather, One of Ours


 “Fine old Christmas, with the snowy hair and ruddy face, had done his duty that year in the noblest fashion, and had set off his rich gifts of warmth and color with all the heightening contrast of frost and snow.”
~ George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

“The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.”  
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 “Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”
~ Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers