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Posts tagged with: holidays

Tis the Season for Reading!

Happy Thanksgiving (a few days early)!  I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge sucker for holiday traditions.  Right now I’m off over the river (Pacific Ocean) and through the woods (rain forest) to my grandmother’s house to begin the holiday merry-go-round.  I know it may be early to be talking about Christmas, but I’ve already put up my first tree (of the three I will help decorate this year) and wrapped my first three presents (for my niece and nephews, of course, so they can anticipate them the longest!).

I’m excited for turkey and stuffing and decorating with the family and holiday shopping, but I’m also excited for cheesy holiday movies and reading lots of holiday tales. Nothing gets me in the spirit of the season quite like a great Christmas story –  you can bet I’ll be watching Holiday Inn and Love Actually.  Every year I re-read my old, worn copy of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve and every year my aunt stockpiles every Christmas romance she can find for us to share in the weeks leading up to the big day.  There’s just something so magical about this time of year and I love finding that magic in my romance reading.  To me, a great Christmas tale isn’t just one that happens to take place in December; it’s the kind of story that feels like it could only happen during the holidays.

This year I’m helping add to my aunt’s holiday TBR with the release of my novella, Home for Christmas (which you can get FREE today for Kindle), and several of the Rubies are filling up shelves with their holiday tales as well. If you’re looking for holiday reading, be sure to check out Liz Talley’s Wrong Bed Christmas and Kate Parker & Louisa Cornell’s Christmas Revels II

HFC_Web WrongBedChristmas Kate_Xmas2

And if you missed them from previous years, now is the perfect time to revisit Perfect, Cowboys for Christmas, No Angel, A Pony for Christmas, Christmas Brides, the first Christmas Revels, A Christmas to Remember, Five Gold Smuggling Rings, Nine Ladies Dancing, Two Turtle Island Doves, Death, Taxes & Mistletoe Mayhem, The Scandal Before Christmas, Hot Buttered Yum, The Spirit of Christmas, Snowbound, Last Chance Christmas, and… okay I’m probably missing a few.  Suffice it to say, it’s a great season for reading.

What about you?  Whichever holiday you’re celebrating and however you celebrate it, do you include books in your festivities?  Are there certain romances or other holiday tales that never fail to put you in a holiday mood?  What are some of your favorite holiday reads?

Gravy! (And a Book Release)

Turkey Gravey

Photo by Amy Chan

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and I have a book release today with the appropriate title of Last Chance Family.  It’s got an orphaned girl, a confused gambler, a golden-hearted veterinarian, and lots and lots of cats.  You can’t go wrong with cats and orphans and vets when it comes to holiday books — let me tell you.  I’ll get around to telling you more about the book, but this is Thanksgiving week after all and there are more important matters at hand — like cooking. 

So, I thought I’d bypass the usual book hype and get down to something important, like giving y’all a lesson in gravy-making. You’d be surprised how much a writer can learn from the process of making gravy. Let me elucidate:

Step 1: Plan ahead. Making gravy takes all day. It’s not a flash in the pan sort of thing. You start your gravy by throwing a lot of random (and mostly uneatable) stuff it in a pot and simmer it for a long time. You take the giblets and neck from the bird and put them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Put them on a low simmer and cover. The stock you make by doing this becomes the body of the gravy. Be sure you make enough of this stock, otherwise you’ll end up with not enough gravy for your Thanksgiving crowd.

 Step 2: Take the bad stuff out of your gravy. About the time the turkey is ready to come of the oven, you’ll need to strain the stock and remove the neck and giblets. Throw the neck away. No one wants that stuff in their gravy. If you like giblets, dice up the liver and heart and return them to the stock, otherwise, throw that stuff away too. You only want the good stuff in your gravy. This is important! Pour your stock in a liquid measuring cup so you know how many cups you’ve got. Put the stock aside for a moment.

Step 3: Add the secret ingredient: You’ve come to the secret part of making good gravy. You need grease. Grease is to gravy is what conflict is to story. If you don’t have enough grease, you get crappy gravy. So, for each cup of stock you’ll need two tablespoons of the turkey drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan. Make sure those drippings are really heavy on the grease. The grease is what keeps the gravy from getting lumpy. Put the right proportion of grease into a skillet.

Photo by Amy Chan

Photo by Amy Chan

Step 4: Thicken the plot. . .er stock: You need to turn up the heat on this gravy and add flour, which is the stuff that thickens your gravy sort of like a couple of good plot twists. For each tablespoon of grease, you’ll need two tablespoons of flour.

Step 5: Screw up your courage: Now comes the hardest step in making gravy. You must cook the roux made of grease and flour until it is almost burned. It will undoubtedly stick to the bottom of the pan, and start to smoke, and you’ll be absolutely certain that no one in their right mind will ever want to eat this gravy. And you’ll be sure that this whole roux-cooking exercise is taking way too long. But have no fear. The trick to making gravy is to be utterly fearless when it comes to browning the roux. If you chicken out, your gravy will be pale and uninspiring.

Photo by Amy Chan

Photo by Amy Chan

Step 6: A Big finish. We’ve come to the flash in the pan moment. This is where you take all that grease and flour and combine it with your stock. When the roux is really dark brown, pour the stock into the frying pan. You should have a very long spoon when you do this, and stand back, because the stock hitting the hot skillet will make a big whoosh of steam. It’s mildly terrifying when this happens but incredibly satisfying.

Step 7 Let it simmer for a while: You’ve done all the hard stuff, now you just need to reduce the heat and simmer for a while, stirring occasionally, until the gravy is thick.

  I hope this helps y’all with your holiday gravy-making. And while you’re enjoying the holiday, I highly recommend my latest book, Last Chance Family. Here’s the blurb and cover.

 * * * *

Last Chance Family cover_lo resMike Taggart has always been willing to take a gamble. But these stakes are just way too high – there’s no way he’s prepared to become a legal guardian to his five-year-old niece. His only option is to head from Las Vegas to Last Chance to sort things out as quickly as possible. Problem is, he arrives to find an inconsolable little girl, her sick cat, and a gorgeous veterinarian he can’t get out of his mind.

Charlene Polk has two talents: healing sick critters and falling in love with the wrong men. Mike has trouble written all over him, but she can’t leave him in the lurch. And the more time she spends with the sexy high roller, the more she sees that this ready-made family is the best stroke of luck they’ve ever had . . .

 

 

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