Recipes, Memories, and Books

photo-60 Ask a group of writers an open-ended question, like “What shall we do for our Christmas blog? Books we want to get? Memories? Favorite recipes?” and the answer is: Yes
So here, dear readers, if you get a chance to slip away from your own festivities, are our recipes, memories, books we want to get, and books we’re giving. As always, when we blog as a group, we’re as diverse in our offerings as we are in our writing. Enjoy!

From Susan Vaughan: A Christmas memory that sticks to me is of my first one as a married woman. My in-laws had retired and sailed their boat to the Virgin Islands. The hubby and I flew to join them for the holiday. We had balmy weather, even at night, and rowed the St. John harbor in the inflatable to see Christmas lights on all the other boats. Our Christmas tree was a tiny pre-lighted one on a shelf in the cabin. It was cozy and fun and beautiful.Books? I want to read David Rosenfelt’s newest, Leader of the Pack, and Linda Ronstadt’s memoir.

Lea Wait: Christmas memory: The first year my oldest daughter, Caroline, was with me for

Lea choosing a tree at Kaitlyn's Christmas tree farm

Lea choosing a tree at Kaitlyn’s Christmas tree farm

Christmas,she looked very doubtful as I explained “Christmas trees” and “Santa” and “stockings.” There were still language difficulties (she was 9, and had been with me for about 5 months,) but, bottom line .. I could tell she really didn’t think any of that would happen. We did put up a tree (a tree indoors?) which she went along with, but still was confused by. Then Christmas morning arrived. I was the kind of mom who wrapped up everything from toys to socks … so there were lots of packages under the tree. She stared in amazement. Clearly, America was a crazy place … this had never happened in Korea. We opened gifts, ate cookies … and when it was all over my mother asked her, “Now what’s your favorite part of being in America?” Caroline looked at the gifts, and then out the window at the snow. And answered simply. “In America, you don’t have to go outside to the bathroom.” Priorities!

My favorite indulgence is treating myself to books .. I always have a “want to read that one!” list. Right now books that I’d love but don’t have … Chris Bohjalian’s The Light in the Ruins. Jeannette Walls’ The Silver Star. And Louise Erdrich’s The Round House.

Kaitlyn Dunnett: Christmas wish list,huh? There are a few ebooks on my want list to download for myself when they come out in late December or early January. We don’t really exchange gifts on holidays or birthdays. So I guess it’s on to the “what I want to read in the New Year.”
I’m looking forward to Joan Hess’s Murder as a Second Language, Jayne Ann Krentz’s River Road, and Lillian Stewart Carl’s The Avalon Chanter. I’m also planning to (finally) finish working my way through the entries in the History of Parliament: The Commons 1558-1603. Why? you ask. Because hidden in all those mini-biographies of men are juicy tidbits about Tudor women. I follow up on them in other sources, both online and printed, and if I can find enough information, I add another interesting mother or wife or daughter or mistress to my online “A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.” Hey, everybody’s got to have at least one weird hobby, right?

Books I’ve bought for other people? I did get three for my 10 year old great niece: Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things (Mister Max #1) by Cynthia Voight; Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You can Build (Nick and Tesla #1) by Bob Pflugfleder and Steve Hockensmith; and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein.

Dorothy Cannell: At Bouchercon this year I purchased ‘Organizing Crime Classics’; an invaluable source for someone searching for out of print mysteries. Here is my list for the New Year:

Edmond Crispin – The Long Divorce, The Glimpses of the Moon.

E. X. Ferrars – A Hobby of Murder, Breath of Suspicion.

Ellis Peters – Fallen into the Pit, Flight of a Witch.

Sara Woods – Bloody Instructions, Error of the Moon.

I have handed this list to Santa and hope he will be kind. He gets a little grumpy when thoughts of credit card bills dance in his head.

Dorothy also shared this super easy holiday recipe, gleaned years ago from a magazine ad:
Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 4.10.54 PMEggnog Bavarian with Raspberry-Currant Sauce 12 servings (1 cup sauce) Prep Time: 35 Min Cooking Method: Stove Top


3 envelopes unflavored gelatin 4 c eggnog, divided

1/2 c 2% milk 1 Tbsp rum extract 1/8 tsp salt

2 c heavy whipping cream

1 c finely chopped walnuts Try Diamond of California Nuts


1 pkg (10 oz.) frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed

1/2 c red currant jelly

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp cold water


1 IN a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup eggnog and milk; let stand for 1 minute. Heat over low heat, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in the extract, salt and remaining eggnog. Let stand for 10 minutes.

2 In a small bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks from. Fold cream and walnuts into gelatin mixture. Transfer to an 8 cup ring mold coated with cooking spray; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

3 Mash and strain raspberries, reserving juice. Discard seeds. Transfer to a small saucepan; stir in jelly. Bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Cool to room temperature. Serve with gelatin.

Dad helps John, Kate and Sara hang their stockings.

Dad helps John, Kate and Sara hang their stockings.

Kate Flora: One of my favorite memories from my Maine farm childhood was the plate of frosted coffee bread pastries we would get each year from our neighbors, the Johnsons. They were Finnish, as were many of our neighbors. Lillie Johnson’s bread, buttery and seasoned with freshly ground cardamom (which we shelled and ground ourselves in a small wooden pepper grinder) was a Christmas morning tradition.

Lilllie’s Finnish Coffee Bread (2 loaves)

1 1/4 c. warm water

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 t. ginger

1 pkg. yeast

2-3 egg yolks

3/4 t. cardamom

1 t. salt

1/4 c. oil

1/3 c. powdered milk

4-4 1/2 c. flour

add sugar to warm water and sprinkle yeast over. Let set for 10 minutes. Add ginger, egg yolks, cardamom, oil, salt, and powdered milk. Gradually add in flour until it forms a sticky ball. Let rise until doubled. Knead and cut into six balls. Roll balls into strips, brush with melted butter, and braid. Let rise until doubled again. Bake 10 min. at 400, 15 minutes at 350. Ten minutes before finish, remove from oven and brush with beaten egg, then sprinkle with sugar.

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 4.20.32 PMJohn Clark: Books, ya say?There are a lot of books I’m eager to read in 2013. Tops on my list are these YA titles, most of them sequels. #1-Unhinged, the sequel to Splintered by A.G. Howard. I just finished the first one which is an amazing what-if story about the great granddaughter of the real Alice in Wonderland who has to go down the rabbit hole and fix things or her mother will never get out of an insane asylum. #2-Splendor by Elana K. Arnold. Her Burning was one of the best books I read in 2013, so I read her first one, Sacred, which takes place on Catalina Island. It was as good as Burning, so when I discovered she had written a sequel to it, I ordered it as my own Christmas present. #3-Half a Chance by Maine’s own Cynthia Lord will come out in February and is the story of a thirteen year old girl in love with photography whose professional photographer dad isn’t able to see her for what she is. When she starts taking pictures of her new neighbor Nate, it opens a whole new world for her. #4-Enders by Lissa Price. Her Starters was an interesting dystopian story of orphan kids who are given a brain implant that allows old people to assume their bodies and realities. When the protagonist realizes something is going horribly wrong, she starts fighting back. The book ended in cliffhanger fashion and this is going to tell readers what happened next. #5-Let the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger. Let the Sky Fall was a great first book, with that perfect blend of action and ‘I hate you, but you’re hot’ that typifies a good teen romance. The book ended with Audra, a wind sylph having to distance herself from Vane, the guy who just helped her defeat the bad guys. The why of her having to disappear was one of the bigger question marks in any YA book I read this year, hence my wanting to dig into the sequel.

Christmas memories? One thing I remember about Christmas as a kid was the RFD mail carrier making a second delivery run on Christmas Eve, just in case there were a few late packages to be delivered. That seems amazing to me 55 years later. The other things about Christmas that still play in my head are the way colored lights, on trees, on churches and in windows, seemed to have hues and shades I never saw at other times of the year, and Lillie Johnson’s Finnish pastries.(Kate and I are on the same wavelength here) She and Karl lived a couple miles away from us and every year we’d visit them just before the holiday, have coffee and eat the most fabulous sweets on the planet. Is it my imagination, or is Christmas a much more rushed event these days?
And combining food and books:
James Hayman:  As someone who enjoys time in the kitchen, I’ve just found a great book I’d love to get or give for Christmas.  It’s called My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals by Melanie Dunea.  Ms Dunea interviewed fifty of the world’s greatest and most renowned chefs and asked them what they would eat if they knew it would be the last supper. The results are a fascinating mixture of simple and sophisticated but all delicious sounding.  Naturally recipes follow.
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