I love to create festive bouquets for any season, but my personal favorite is Christmas. The holiday colors are vibrant and a joy to bring together in stunning arrangements. So let’s talk a little about how you can create masterpieces for your home and as hostess gifts. The work isn’t hard. It simply takes a little patience.
It looks easy, but the greenery for bouquets is more complicated than you might think. I’m fortunate because there is a veritable forest in my front and back yards. I deliberately refrain from trimming the evergreen shrubs out front until the holidays. That gives me a very fresh start to my bouquet which is difficult to match with store bought greenery. If you have any type shrub in your yard it will work. If not then you are forced to purchase them. I strongly recommend you visit your local nursery for the foliage you want.
There’s a combination of old-fashioned yew shrub because it holds the needles for a good while. I add cuttings from a blue spruce just because I love the tinted color. Then my secret choice for Christmas is clippings from a juniper shrub for its heady, wintry seasonal fragrance. I once made a bouquet using only juniper but quickly learned why that wasn’t a good idea. They dry out rapidly and lose the rich green color most desired. So, tuck them in to smell good but toward the back. There are plenty of other types of evergreen shrubs for possible Christmas decorations. By all means, bring them inside and test their worthiness.
Next are the luscious red berries. They grow on a native shrub named winterberry (ilex, a member of the holly berry family) in slightly swampy terrain. No, don’t go wild crafting unless you wear high waterproof boots! Fortunately, our brilliant horticulturists have propagated this shrub for home gardeners. Consider planting them in your yard. You must have a male and female to get berries and it takes patience. They are not fast growers, but well worth the effort. Plant toward the back of the garden. The bush itself is not all that attractive until the Fall berries appear. Then you begin a vigil to pick them before the flocks of robins descend during migration. Cedar Waxwings love them too, but they are so beautiful I give in just for the pleasure of watching. Winterberries are frequently found for sale at late Farmers’ Markets and in craft and florist shops. They will dry out but seldom fall off unless bumped or roughly handled.
You all know about poinsettia, the official Christmas potted flower. It’s the brackets that have the color. The flower itself is the small yellow center bloom. I personally find them boring, but one day an idea came to me. I cut them as if for a cut flower bouquet. Here are a few photos to better explain.
Once I bought a pink one and lightly sprayed it a tinted blue, as a blue bouquet was what the customer needed, pairing it with sprayed-gold milk weed pods.
The last one is a pale pink mixed with dried dock and milk weed pods, the red berries tucked in here and there with a brass colored vase. I’m particularly fond of this one. Christmas bouquets need not always be red to be lovely.
I wish you all a beautiful healthy and happy holiday season!
Enjoy the holiday season with one or both of Emma Lane’s sweet Regency Romances collections. Here is a brief intro for you.
Families can be troublesome, but a next door neighbor can sometimes be even worse. Caroline is
a strong-willed young lady and refuses to be bullied by a handsome duke. Four sweet Regency romances to get you in the mood for the season.
Winter storms swirling snow and unexpected guests on the eve of Christmas, the pungent fragrance of fresh pine boughs, springs of mistletoe hung with red ribbons, and a stolen kiss underneath the kissing ball comprise scenes of Christmas in the country. Ice skating anyone? Have a cup of wassail and toast your toes in front of a warm fire while you enjoy four short stories of sweet Regency Christmas
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane.
She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.
Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.
Guest author Tina Ruiz has a quick dinner and a children’s Christmas story to share this holiday season.
Nothing goes to waste in my kitchen. If I have leftover Italian or French bread it becomes the base for a dinner. And what a dinner it is – easy – quick – delicious. Can’t beat that if you’re on a busy schedule or tight budget.
½ loaf Italian or French bread
1½ cups spaghetti sauce, possibly more
½ lb. Genoa salami or pepperoni, sliced thin
3 – 4 slices fresh tomatoes
1½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Split the bread in half lengthwise. Smear spaghetti sauce on the white part of the bread. Lay meat slices on top. Scatter on mozzarella and then Parmesan.
Place the bread on a cookie sheet then pop them into the oven until the cheese melts, and VIOLA, dinner is ready!
A nice treat after the pizza bread is a dish of vanilla ice cream topped with your favorite ice cream topping. It is sooooo good and really hits the spot.
Here’s a brief intro to my children’s Christmas book your little ones will enjoy.
Blitzen was born at the North Pole, but he is unable to fly. Because of that, he is taunted and called names by the other reindeers. Rudy saw what was happening, and he decided to teach Blitzen how to gain some confidence. And with a little magic powder from Santa, Blitzen is not only able to fly, but he becomes part of Santa’s famous team.
Tina Ruiz was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school. She began writing children’s stories when her own were little. Through the years Ruiz wrote twenty-seven books. Most of those stories went into readers for the Canada Board of Education. Two did not. Mayor Shadoe Markley is a story about a ten-year-old girl who becomes Mayor for a Day through a contest at school.
Little did Ruiz know that story would “change the world.” The book came out at early January 1988. By the end of that same month, everyone was calling the mayor’s office at City Hall, trying to get the forms to fill out so their children could participate in the contest. Thirty years later that same contest is still runs at full speed. And not only in Calgary, but all across Canada. The Mayor’s Youth Council is now in charge of the celebrated contest and invites Ruiz to attend and meet the lucky winner. It’s usually followed by a hand-written thank you card from the mayor himself. Recently Ruiz was invited to be part of the Grand Opening of Calgary’s New Library where the mayor shook her hand and introduced her to the attendees.
Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children’s Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children’s books or intriguing romance.
Christmas is coming and it’s time for Christmas Reads! I love Christmas, Christmas books, and Christmas movies. So For the next few Thursdays I’ll be sharing Christmas Reads, and some Christmas book excerpts, courtesy of the book authors, with you. First up on the holiday blog is Christina Sinisi with her sweet, inspirational Christmas novella
Christmas on Ocracoke.
Welcome, Christina! Please tell the readers the origin of your Christmas book.
I’d be happy to share that story, Catherine.
Christmas on Ocracoke happened because of a series of lovely coincidences. First, my sister and her husband purchased a vacation home on Hatteras Island large enough for the whole family to spend holidays together without having to split time between hotels. The purchase actually happened last fall, but I was too swamped with grading to come over Thanksgiving. So, my first visit was for the week between Christmas and New Year of 2019. While there, I drove my mother and myself on to the ferry and we visited Ocracoke Island.
Ocracoke Island, for those of you don’t know much about the Outer Banks—and I was one of you, is the most southern inhabited island of the long, thin streak of islands that make up the Outer Banks. It’s only reached by boat and it was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian last September. Even though the hurricane had also come through the Charleston area, I’d put it out of my mind. Driving down that two lane strip of road on the island, the effects of unbridled nature were all too obvious. There were mountains of debris in several stacks, nestled between trees standing tall as if they’d shaken off the damage where silly humans couldn’t. My mother and I (and my sister, her husband, and daughter in a separate truck) drove to a restaurant I’d found in the little newspaper that advertised to be opened but wasn’t. It was boarded up and may never reopen. The beauty of the island and the harsh circumstances–I fell in love.
The story came about because the drive from Charleston to this little island that looks to be just above South Carolina’s border the way a pelican flies takes eight hours! I was stunned. The miles of bridges and the strips of land between the ocean and the sound–it truly feels like you’re going to another planet. It felt like anyone moving there would be starting a whole new life. Then, why would someone start all over like that? Why would someone move to what feels like the edge of civilization?
She would have to be running from something, or someone. Thus, Annie Hanahan was born. She has a son because there needs to be a really important motive and there is no stronger motive than protecting one’s child (writes a mother). Plus, I love having a child steal the show.
The hero is the man needed for the job in such a circumstance as a devastating hurricane. A man who can fix things and is willing to step up in an emergency. Trey lives there (in a house that strangely resembles my sister’s rental if you’d like to reserve a week) part time, and he is a man of faith who serves others. I don’t know about you, but I fell for him fast!
Christmas on Ocracoke
By Christina Sinisi
Reeling from the upheaval of a failed marriage, Annie Hanahan is desperate for a new start—and when she inherits a cottage on Ocracoke Island, she may finally get it. Without a second thought, she packs up and leaves everything behind: her first name, her job, and her ex-husband, because more than anything, she wants to get her son away. Maybe now she can get her son away from his father’s partying and neglectful ways. But when she arrives in the Outer Banks, she finds the island—and her promised refuge—ravaged by Hurricane Dorian.
When their parents died in a tragic car accident, Trey Kingsley dropped out of college to raise his sister. Now that she’s grown and moved away, it’s his turn to find a life of his own. As a contractor who has given so much of his time to helping Ocracoke recover from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, it surprises no one when he offers to help the beautiful newcomer, but something is holding her back. Life keeps throwing them together, though, or perhaps God’s hand is giving them a nudge. Will a little bit of divine intervention be enough for a Merry Christmas on Ocracoke?
Annie scanned what seemed like a deserted island at this time of night. Charleston was on the coast, but Hatteras was a different world. There was a stoplight a few blocks away, and a few shops had interior lights glowing, but overall, there was a sense of being at the end of the world.
And Ocracoke was south, farther away from everything.
She breathed in air pregnant with salt and moisture and let it go. James would be safe in the SUV while she dragged their suitcases upstairs. He slept with his neck at a jagged angle, his forehead heavy against the side of the car seat. Tenderness stopped her in her tracks for a minute, or maybe it was sheer exhaustion.
The sound of tires bouncing over the speed bump at the entrance to the motel broke her out of her reverie. The man driving the extended cab monstrosity lifted his chin in greeting and parked a couple of spots down the line.
Annie ducked her head and gathered James’s things. She lingered for a few seconds until she heard the truck door slam shut, waiting for the man to go inside and disappear. Hoisting the heavy diaper bag on one shoulder, she juggled her purse and overnight bag on the other.
“Hey, let me help you with that.”
The deep baritone caught her off guard, and she did a little dance, startled.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. I just wondered if you could use some help carrying stuff. Promise I’m not a creep. I could just carry your bags to the top of the stairs, drop them off.”
Annie narrowed her eyes. “How would you know my room is at the top of the stairs?”
The man leaned against the cab of his truck, jean-clad legs outlined by the waving street lamps. He held out two hands, palms up in surrender. “Nothing diabolical. When I checked in earlier, the girl said the only room left after that was next to mine. Yeah, I know, she should never have said that, but she did, and she’s young.”
Annie’s whole head dropped in shock. “She did what? I can’t believe.”
The diaper bag slipped off her shoulder, and she almost lost the bag. The man crossed the gap between them with a few fast steps and caught the bag before it hit the ground. “Here, let me get that. I saw the car seat earlier, so I’m betting you want to get that little one to bed.”
“Yeah, has your foot dried yet?”
“I’m sorry?” Annie knew she was tired, but this man couldn’t be the one who’d come to her rescue earlier. “That was you, back in Florence?”
“Yeah, thought I’d get it out there. The coincidence is crazy. And I promise you that I didn’t follow you all the way here. I have a construction company, do work out here. Plus, I got here before you did.”
Annie swayed where she stood. “Okay. This is weird. What’s your name? Did you say?”
“Trey, Trey Kingsley,” he said and shifted bags to stick out a hand. “I’m working on a rental house, checked into the motel long term while I’m working. Jenny’s just got comfortable with me since I’m almost a local now.”
“Nice to meet you, Trey.” She shook his hand, barely making physical contact. She’d play nice, get her stuff to her door, and then triple lock it with a chair propped against the handle. “Um, thank you for the help.”
“You’re welcome.” He shifted the bags and stepped out of the way, waiting for her to retrieve James. “Normally, when one person gives their name, the other returns the favor.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I must be more tired than I thought. That last part of the drive was a killer.” She blinked at her horrible choice of words. She babbled to cover up her nervousness, which never worked. “I’ve never been here before, so it was actually a little bit terrifying, no streetlights, and the ocean right on the other side of the dunes like that.”
Trey chuckled. “So, I don’t get your name? That’s okay, I get it. You don’t know me, midnight, cheap motel.”
Annie’s mind blanked, and she stared at the hollows in his cheeks, shadowed in the dim street lights, and beyond all reason, she trusted him. “Sorry. Yes, all those things, but no. My name’s Annie.”
“Good to meet you, Annie.” Trey gave a nod as if to emphasize the point and led the way up the metal steps, his work boots thudding with each riser. “I’m staying here because any remodeling work needs to be done in the off season. The rental houses are pretty booked up here in the summer.”
Annie hesitated, not taking the leap to tell him why she was here on this chilly November night. “Well, this is my room. You can just drop the stuff there.”
Trey grinned, and now in the brighter light, she got the full impact of his dark red hair and bright blue eyes. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Annie. If you need anything, I’m right next door in 202. Otherwise, I’ll see you at breakfast?”
Annie fought to keep her eyelids from closing on her as she stood in place, hand clutching the doorknob. “I don’t know if I’ll make it. I may be sleeping in for a change.”
Trey nodded, exuding charm and maybe mischief. “Well, on that note, I’ll be heading away from your door. Good night, Annie.”
Annie found herself alternating between staring at James’s diaper bag and watching Trey walk away. She’d had enough southern charm to last her a lifetime, but it didn’t stop her from enjoying the view.
A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Christina Sinisi writes stories about families, both the broken and blessed. Her works include a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest and the American Title IV Contest in which she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine. Her published books include The Christmas Confusion and the upcoming Sweet Summer, the first two books in the Summer Creek Series, as well as Christmas On Ocracoke. By day, she is a psychology professor and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her husband and two children and cat Chessie.
Christmas is coming, and with that holiday season comes more Christmas romances. If you don’t now, I love Christmas and Christmas romances. So, to fill out the rest of the Thursdays this year, I’m hosting fellow authors and their Christmas novels. Today’s guest is Tabitha Bouldin. Tabitha will be talking about her Contemporary Christian Romance Holiday book Christmas in Jingle Junction. Welcome, Tabitha.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Not because of Santa Claus or the presents but because our family always makes such an effort to come together at Christmastime. I think that’s where I found the theme for my Second Chance Christmas collection and Wish Upon a Star, in particular.
Since I found myself creating an entire town’s worth of people, I decided to make up the town too, thus, Jingle Junction was born. This way, it could have everything I wanted and be as quirky as the stories needed.
This collection is all about coming home, even for the folks who’ve lived in Jingle Junction all their lives. While the thought of coming home usually brings a physical home to mind, there are a few characters who’ve drifted away from God and need a little reminder that He is the king of all.
Jingle Junction has the small-town charm and the stories are happily ever after, but there are always problems to overcome and characters in need of help.
I started writing Christmas in Jingle Junction after finishing a rather heavy series. I knew I wanted fun, lighthearted romance and a lot of humor. I wanted characters who could banter without becoming offended and even a few times when precocious children do what children do best. I still hear Anna’s laughter in my head when I imagine a scene that resulted in Bryce becoming an abominable glitterman. The inspiration for some of the conversations in both stories, which play up the humor, come from debates my husband and I find ourselves having, ie: favorite superheroes and whether below freezing temperatures are an acceptable time to eat ice cream.
Christmas in Jingle Junction
by Tabitha Bouldin
Bryce Masters had everything he needed…or so he thought. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, would disagree. They were going home, moving back to Jingle Junction where Bryce would take over the local bookstore just in time for Christmas. Losing his wife, Molly, during the birth of their daughter six years ago was tragic, but Bryce has no idea just how much it weighs on young Anna’s heart until she confesses her deepest wish. What Anna wants for Christmas is a mother, but Bryce’s heart is not ready to love again. Only God can give Bryce the desire to make Anna’s wish come true. Only He can heal the hurt and open Bryce’s heart to the power of love. But Bryce will have to be willing to listen. And when the perfect woman reveals a secret that could devastate them all, will Bryce be able to look beyond what was and accept what might be?
Even knowing this was what God wanted, Bryce had been afraid. Moving was a big deal. Leaving his dependable job – with its benefits and secure income – had taken a lot of prayers and even more faith. While owning a bookstore had always been a dream of his, the reality of its insecurity burdened him. He had to shove those thoughts aside at least once a day. The Bible says to cast your cares upon the Lord, and he did. Then he snatched them back up again and worried them like a dog with a bone. No matter how many times he put them down, Bryce found himself coming back to the same problem again and again. Like now. Once again, he found himself struggling to justify dragging his daughter several states away from everything that was familiar. It might be his dream, but she was the one having everything she knew ripped from beneath her. Only the certainty that this was what God wanted gave Bryce the strength to shut off the truck engine and give Anna a nudge. “We’re here.”
Want to read more? Check out the book below.
About the Author:
Tabitha Bouldin is a student at Southern New Hampshire University, where she will soon graduate with a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. In 2020 she will have a story released in Chicken Soup for the Soul and is currently working on a 5-book series with Celebrate Lit Publishing.
Christmas is coming, and with that holiday season comes more Christmas romances. If you don’t now, I love Christmas and Christmas romances. So, to fill out the rest of the Thursdays this year, I’m hosting fellow authors and their Christmas novels. Today’s guest is Lillian Duncan with a different sort of Christmas story-a Romantic Suspense Christmas story. Welcome, Lillian.
Murder, Mayhem & Christmas?
Murder, Mayhem & Christmas? Really?
On the surface, it may seem that murder and mayhem doesn’t necessarily go with Christmas, but I love weaving a Christmas story in with suspense and romance. Because of that I have several Christmas stories available—The Christmas Stalking; The Christmas Angel Thief; No Home for the Holidays; and A Christmas Stolen.
My latest Christmas novella is ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS JOHNNY ROCKER DEAD! How’s that for a title filled with murder, mayhem, & Christmas?
I won’t tell you the plot but I will tell you the story is about how much God loves each of us—no matter what we’ve done. And isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?
Speaking of Christmas, one of the things my husband and I do every Christmas is to clear out our enclosed porch and then we put up Christmas trees. Yes, I said trees as in many trees.
Last year, we had 14 or 15 trees up. In all sizes and shapes— even a snowman tree. We don’t have any young children or grandchildren around, but that doesn’t stop us from celebrating the season and honoring Jesus’s birthday.
Merry Christmas to all!
All I Want for Christmas is Johnny Rocker Dead!
By Lillian Duncan
Johnny Rocker believes he’s doesn’t need anyone or anything—especially God because after all he is a rock & roll god. When the floor beneath his feet crumbles—literally—he hurtles toward a different truth.
Since the death of Maddie’s family, she’s run from life and love and become the best bodyguard she can be. But, with God’s help, she’s ready to step out of her comfort zone and into a different life. When her boss asks—no begs—her to take on one last job, she finds it hard to refuse. Someone is trying to kill mega-star Johnny Rocker. It’s Maddie Cotton’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Even under Maddie’s protection the threats continue. As Christmas approaches the danger escalates—someone doesn’t want Johnny Rocker to see the new year, and they are willing to kill Maddie as well. Johnny and Maddie will have to set aside their differences and learn to lean on each other and God if they want to see Christmas day.
He ignored the voice. This was one of his favorite rooms in his mansion. Johnny Rocker’s gold and platinum records and posters—of him, of course—as well as old movie posters, decorated the walls. Because after all, it was the theater room. Music blared from every speaker in his mansion, including this room. His music, of course, because he was a rock and roll god.
Probably a trick of the acoustics.
I’m not losing it. Everything’s fine. He poured another drink and sat. His fingers ran across the buttery-soft, brown leather of the recliner. Nothing but the best for Johnny Rocker. Who’d have ever thought that poor little Zeb Walker would be sitting in his debt-free mansion? He could afford anything he wanted these days. The good life. He had it all.
People loved their rock and roll gods.
The door opened before Johnny could yell at the unseen voice. “Well if it ain’t Stan the Man.”
His manager of eight years glared. “What are you doing up here, Johnny? The party’s downstairs. Everyone keeps asking, ‘where’s Johnny?’”
“I know where they are, and that’s why I’m up here.”
“Very funny. Now get downstairs. The reason we’re having the party is so you can prove you’ve still got it.”
“I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I’m Johnny Rocker.”
“Let’s go, Johnny. Now.”
“That’s not my name.”
Stan rolled his eyes. “You’re in one of those moods again. Fine. I’ll call you Zeb if that makes you happy. So, Zeb. Downstairs. Now.”
“I don’t know when you became my boss.”
Stan grinned. “When I made you your first million.”
“Right behind you,” Zeb said, but Stan was already gone. Apparently even a rock and roll go—
He looked at the glass in his hand. No more of this if it made him hear voices. He walked toward the door.
What was that? The floor below him disappeared.
I AM, the voice said again as Zeb hurtled through the floor.
All I Want for Christmas is Johnny Rocker Dead! By Lillian Duncan
Release date: Nov. 27 (available now as a preorder)
Even though her books cross genres, they have one thing in common, faith-based stories that show God’s love—and lots of action. OK—that’s two things. She believes in the power of words to change lives, especially God’s Word.