Hello Thursday Morning News Corner

Hello, Thursday Morning readers! I’m doing something a little different this week, ’cause it’s the holidays!

Stating the obvious, we are just a couple weeks from Christmas. Are you ready? Have you bought all your gifts yet? I’m well on my way. Just need a few more of those “perfect things” to finish it off.

A few days ago, I sent out the holiday edition of my newsletter and offered up a couple of gift cards in a random drawing. Since the holidays are right around the corner, I decided to choose my winners early and announce them here.

I was surprised and pleased by the number of entries. Even more amazing was the fact that not one name was repeated. How cool is that? I logged into my random name picker and took a few spins. I love doing that! I’ve already notified the winners by email.

Katherine L won a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

Paula S won a $5 Starbucks Card!

Thanks, all of you who took the time to enter. I’d love for everyone to win, but my funds are limited. 🙂  Not to worry, I’ll come up with another fun giveaway for the next mailing, so be sure and try again.

My email subscribers receive newsletters once a quarter, and also to announce a release or other big news. I often include a drawing for free prizes on the newsletter. If you’d like to become a subscriber, click the fancy black entry box on the right side of this blog. It’s so easy! All I ask for is your email address. You do have to confirm the subscription and then it will come to you each quarter. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Are you aware that I am also a co-founder of the Inspired Prompt blog? It’s a teaching blog of sorts. A wonderful group of writers, both published and unpublished, discuss ways to improve your writing, among other things. We love to inspire our readers and also give them a place to publicize their upcoming releases. Here’s a link to that blog: Inspired Prompt

If you’re a writer, check out the Guest post guidelines to see what’s offered. Our guest posts and 3 Questions interviews fill up fast! You can reach us via the contact tab.

More big news

At our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Christmas gathering, I arrived as Vice President/Secretary and left as President. It’s funny to me, because I completely missed the meeting the day I was elected VP/Secretary. At least I was present on this day (though I’m not in this picture). But my big news also means that Ralene Burke (second from left, back row), the woman who started it all here in our hometown, is stepping down.

Thank you, Ralene, for all you’ve done!

As we approach the holiday, I pray God’s blessing over each one of you, my readers. May you find His peace among the hurried, harried moments that lead up to the celebration of the birth of Christ. From my home to yours—Merry Christmas!

 

 

Holiday Breakfasts and Brunches

Welcome to a special edition of my blog – I’ve joined a holiday blog tour with my good friend, Tracy Ruckman, and a few of her wonderful friends, to help celebrate the season with memories and favorite recipes. Christmas is a lovely time to celebrate friendship. Here’s my offering—

Breakfast is always a great idea around our house. We love breakfast. On Christmas morning, it’s extra special. When our breakfast table was filled with growing boys, it took a couple of days for this momma to prepare the special foods for the Christmas breakfast. Homemade cinnamon rolls, bacon, a large breakfast casserole, a big bowl of fruit salad, freshly-squeezed orange juice. We feasted!

Over the years, our crowd has dwindled. We have the big family celebration on Christmas Eve. My guys are at home on Christmas morning with their families. Our day is peaceful. Mom is usually camped out in our guest room. My husband sleeps late. Mom and I linger over our morning coffee, enjoying the day and the company. Breakfast has become brunch.

Late morning, I start the meal. I still have a menu, but it’s a lot less work-intensive these days. Sometimes, it’s orange-cranberry muffins (made ahead), and sometimes it’s easy-peasy cinnamon rolls. I have a friend who grinds her own flour, makes the yeast dough, and creates some truly wonderful breads that are quite good for her family. My easy-peasy rolls are not like that. I pop open a can of crescent rolls. It takes about ten minutes from start to oven.

While the breakfast casserole has morphed into an omelet, a couple things have remained the same. Bacon has always been present at our Christmas breakfast/brunch, and the table setting. I’m not fancy. At all. But here, nostalgia holds a place. I serve up the food on my blue English ironstone plates. It’s not my best china, but I love it. I bought those, one place setting at a time, when I was a teenager. For my “hope” chest, later dubbed my “hopeless” chest (by me), but not for long.

I’m glad I held onto them, because they help make the meal special. But Christmas morning brunch is special anyway. It’s a time to remember all the blessings over the years. Though our table is smaller, I can still hear a distant echo of children’s laughter. Now, I treasure the moments spent with Mom. This is her 85th Christmas. I thank God for every holiday spent with her. Maybe this year, I’ll make her favorite mixed berry scones for brunch. She’ll like that.

Orange-Cranberry Muffins

½ cup softened, unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
¼ cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup plain yogurt (I use Greek)
2 tsp vanilla
Orange zest from 2 oranges
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 Tablespoons milk
1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries (rinsed & drained)

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Spray a twelve-count muffin pan (or use cupcake liners).
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on high until creamed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then turn up to high speed until the mixture is combined and uniform in texture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Then, beat in the orange zest until combined.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and slowly mix with a whisk. Add the orange juice and milk, gently whisking until combined and little lumps remain. Fold in the cranberries with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling them all the way to the top. Top the batter with an additional cranberry or two, for looks if desired. (I like the pop of color on top of the muffins in doing this.) Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees, then keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 18-20 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total baking time will be about 23-25 minutes.
  5. While the muffins are cooling for a few minutes, make a glaze by whisking together a cup of confectioner’s sugar and 3 tablespoons of orange juice. Drizzle over warm muffins. Allow to briefly cool before serving.

*Recipe adapted from https://sallysbakingaddiction.com

Easy-Peasy Cinnamon Rolls

1 can Pillsbury crescent rolls
¼ cup softened, unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (if desired)
1/8 tsp ginger (if desired)
2 Tablespoons chopped pecans (or English walnuts)
1/4 cup of dried cranberries or raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8- or 9-inch cake pan (you can also use a cookie sheet). In a small bowl, whisk the spices into the sugar and set aside. Chop the nuts and set aside.
  2. I carefully unwrap the crescent roll dough. Don’t break it into sections. It will look a little like a rectangle. Lay it flat on a sheet of parchment paper, or you can use the countertop dusted with flour. You may need to pinch the sections together so they don’t pull apart when you roll the dough.
  3. Carefully spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the sugar and spice mixture, followed by the nuts and fruit.
  4. Roll up lengthwise (starting on the long side) and cut into 1-inch sections. Set the rolls in the prepared cake pan or on a cookie sheet, close together to keep their shape.
  5. Bake for approximately 10 – 15 minutes (ovens vary) until they’re evenly brown and fragrant.

You can top these with a quick glaze of your choice, or dust with confectioner’s sugar.

It’s Christmas morning at your house—what foods will you enjoy? Do you have traditional favorites, something besides pop tarts with red sprinkles? 🙂

Next stop on the blog tour is: Holiday Main Courses – Sheryl Holmes

FRI, Nov 30: Holiday Appetizers – Tracy Ruckman
SAT, Dec 2: Holiday Beverages – Rachel Hartsfield
MON, Dec 3: International Holiday Foods – Peggy Cunningham
TUES, Dec 4: Holiday Breakfasts & Brunches – Betty Thomason Owens
WED, Dec 5: Holiday Main Courses – Sheryl Holmes
THURS, Dec 6: Holiday Sides / Potluck / Buffets – Tracy Ruckman
FRI, Dec 7: Holiday Sweets – Rachel Hartsfield
SAT, Dec 8: Holiday Recipes Master List – Tracy Ruckman

Doing Nothing Well

I’m really good at nothing. Hello, Thursday Morning friends! I’m so glad you’re here. I’m thinking again. Uh-oh. Right?

You know when someone asks you, “What are you thinking about?” and you say, “Oh, nothing”?

Is it even possible to think of nothing? Or to be thinking of…nothing?

You might think I’m being negative when I say I’m good at nothing, but you’re wrong. I am really good at (doing) nothing. In fact, I excel at it. If not for ole guilt, I’d spend a lot more time doing nothing. Thinking of…nothing.

But guilt keeps me going. Doing everything but nothing. The problem is, I tend to take on too much. You know the feeling? It’s a problem for many of us, especially this time of year. If you’re a mom, it’s magnified. Everything has to be perfect. You want your life to be a Hallmark movie. Or at least a little bit like one.

The Hallmark movies are like reading the condensed version of a novel. You see only the high points and low points and they wrap up quickly into forever love. All the extra stuff that goes on gets cut out. Life is not that predictable.

Yes, there are moments when you get to relax and breathe and enjoy relaxing and breathing. But those moments are B-O-R-I-N-G to everyone except self. Personally, I love those moments of nothing. Maybe because I know they are only scattered here and there throughout my busy, busy days.

But I’ve noticed something very important. If you’re too busy, if you say yes too many times, you may become overwhelmed. And then you’re really good at the negative nothing. You don’t have the time or the patience to be really good at anything. Or, if you do manage to accomplish all those things on your list and/or calendar, you’re probably going to be too tired to enjoy your accomplishments.

Then you’re going to DREAD the holidays because they represent negative things like failure and disappointment.

My advice to you, right now, before it’s too late, is to take a breath. Pause between the question and the answer. “Can you volunteer to do the decorations for the dinner?” “Will you head the committee to spearhead donations for that?” “Oh, and by the way can you also (insert task here)?? You’re just so good at that!”

Take a breath. Pause. Think it through. What will you remove from your list to make room for whatever you’re being asked to do? Maybe the more important question is, what’s your immediate gut reaction to the request? Is it a cringe? Go with that. Don’t wimp out. Say the word. “NO.”

Yes, the holidays come once a year. With good advance planning, you will survive them. If you haven’t made a plan, it’s not too late. Almost, but there’s still time.

Make a list right now, of THE most important things you need to do in order to have the kind of Christmas you really want for your family. Now, include your church family, or those outside your family with whom you are connected.

Next, go back over the list and prioritize the most important things. Keep the little ones in mind (if you have them). What will make their Christmas memorable? Hint: it’s not things. It’s probably time with you. Time, and a smile on your face.

I’m not slapping hands here. I’m reminding myself. My calendar is full and I have regular work and tasks to deal with on top of those. I’m dealing with a sense of dread. It’s too tempting to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage, a blankey, and a holiday movie. I have to remind myself that’s okay once in a while, but not all the time.

Well, coffee’s ready. I’m going to spend a few moments sipping, breathing, and contemplating nothing.

My calendar is full today. And tomorrow. And the next day. But, I’m keeping my eye on the prize of a stellar Christmas celebration.

Have a splendiferous weekend. May you find time to breathe and kick back, if only for a moment.

Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.–Luke 6:35-36 MSG

The Thanksgiving Chicken Memory

chicken, hen, domineckerThanksgiving at Grandma’s house did not include turkey, or if it did, the turkey was quite small and looked like chicken.

Hello, Thursday Morning readers! Thanksgiving is one week from today. So, I’m feeling a little nostalgic. Just a couple of weeks ago, I stood at Aunt Edna’s grave side. My mind filled with memories as I glanced around at the nearest markers. Uncle Bud, Granny, Grandma…they’re all together now.

We had some wonderful memories at Grandma’s table, small as it was. The family showed up, all the aunts “totin'” a dish or two, as Grandma would say. We’d set the table and leave a stack of plates on the Hoosier cabinet for the kids to fill and take to the living room.

The star of Grandma’s dinner table was a chicken. Grandma raised chickens, so one was always handy.

Okay, I have a confession to make here: I never ate chicken at Grandma’s. Maybe I was a picky eater—I don’t remember—but that hunk of flesh in the center of the table had been out in the yard a few hours ago, scratching around. I couldn’t eat it.

I loved all the vegetables, though. Mashed potatoes and gravy, lima beans, crowder peas, skillet corn and cornbread dressing. But not the chicken, and certainly not the giblet gravy. I’d seen what went into the gravy. NO way!

This girl didn’t eat innards.

Next week, there will be a turkey on my Thanksgiving table. And, there will be giblet gravy, because my husband loves it. These days, I usually eat the turkey. I hope it had a good upbringing.

And I hope you have a wonderful holiday, whether you serve turkey or chicken, or a table-full of vegetables.

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food,

For love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends,

Father in heaven,

We thank thee.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson [Prayer of Thanks]