So I know that Christmas has already passed. And New Year's has already hit in some parts of the world. However, I'm still on vacation for another week and I haven't yet had my fill of holiday movies.
For one last hurrah before the TV/Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu programming changes, I wanted to share my favorite top ten traditional holiday movies with you.
First off, what do I mean by 'traditional'? For some, the word traditional implies religion. I'm a straight word-nerd so traditional to me means 'of tradition'. In other words, movies that I see on a yearly basis, going back several seasons. They're all fun for various reasons and each movie on this list has a special meaning for me.
What are some of your favorite holiday movies - traditional, classics, or irreverent???
When my husband and I married, we both came from houses that celebrated the Germanic tradition of St. Nicholas Day. Our traditions were slightly different.
The tradition of receiving treats on December 6th came to my family via a long tradition that stretched back to Germany via Russia. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great took power from her husband, Peter, and became ruler of Russia. She invited Germanic families settle the Volga region of Russia, hoping to make it a prosperous farming area and cement her hold over the lands there. The Germanic families were promised land, freedom to continue to speak their language and keep their religion, and exemption from military service. A very good deal in those time where wars seemed constant.
I took a genetic test, expecting to find some Russian among my genes, but the community had, indeed, been insular until the early 1900s when my great-grandparents saw the direction things were headed and left Russia for America.
My grandfather spoke German, although it was noticeably different from that spoken back in Germany, but was raised speaking English. He fondly remembered gathering with other families in their eastern Washington town and staying still and quiet when they bootsteps outside. There would be a knock at the door, and an older family member would bring in a bag of treats, including oranges and nuts.
Combining family traditions is a tricky thing. My husband’s family opened family presents on Christmas Eve, and only Santa’s was left for Christmas Day. In my family, we opened a single present Christmas Eve and all the rest on Christmas morning. With a little bit of negotiation, we established traditions that suited us, which included having the kids put boots outside their doors for St. Nicholas Day. The magic of putting out a boot, and finding it filled with treats by morning, thrilled the children. They chose their biggest boots and put letters to Santa in--a nice way to deliver it to him with enough time for the lists to be useful. As parents, we liked the fact that we didn’t have to go outside to gift the kids with candy, nuts, and oranges.
My husband insisted that nothing be pre-packaged. We didn’t want to compete with stockings at Christmas so we kept it simple with hand-made candy canes and chocolate coins. An assortment of nuts were in their complete shells, a marvel the children really only saw once a year. Early on, they’d ask for our help cracking the nuts. These days, they’re proficient.
Holiday traditions are best when they’re simple and enjoyable for everyone. It isn’t precisely the same tradition as my ancestors, but it works for our family and reminds us of the past.
Meant to Be KISSED
November 17, 2018
Historical ~ Regency ~ Holiday ~ Sweet Romance
Love sweet romance? Meant to Be – KISSED is a collection of short stories to sample Meant to Be Press romance authors.
“The Grand Gesture” by Lela Bay, takes a public humiliation and turns it into an act of heroism. Rosamund Windham, daughter to the duke, literally drops herself into a pool of filth to save an innocent and in the process befriends the girl’s brother. His sister quotes him as saying, “You can’t just throw two people together and expect sparks. It takes the right sorts, like flint and steel. They may not look like they go together until they hit up against each other. Then, sparks.”
“Miss Montague’s Winter Kiss” by Emmy Z. Madrigal turns sadness into hope. Grayson is a man who has lost everything, but Cecelia saves his life and rekindles his belief in love. Broken ice and traumatic losses give way to the start of something new, if only the hero can give up past hurts. As Emmy writes, “It was more of a feeling that, if the flame between them was fanned, they could be happy for the rest of their lives. He’d endured so much grief, she longed to bring him joy.”
Finally, as a bonus, check out the contemporary romance flash fiction from Meant to Be Press’s newest author M. M. Genet, “A Year and a Day.” Behold of the promise of the future.
Like the seasons, love has many variations, so let these stories inspire you to discard what holds you back and welcome new opportunities.
Lela Bay is the author of Ruined Reputations and appears in Meant to Be…Mine. She likes historical romances with sweetness and a touch of comedy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys strolling, gardening, reading, and tea time with friends.
One of my most treasured family traditions is decorating the Christmas tree. It doesn’t matter if the tree is huge and live or tiny and artificial. The ornaments make the tree.
Each ornament represents a part of my life. Some are from places I’ve visited. Others represent my heritage or various life events. A few are just fun or beautiful and collectable. The most special ornaments are my favorite childhood storybook characters like Peanuts, Ziggy, and Pooh. This year, I gave away one that reminded me of a bad part of my life so every ornament takes me to a happy place.
Each year, we bring the two heavy storage bins downstairs. Then we begin the unpacking and decorating process. It usually takes the better part of an afternoon and evening to fill the tree.
The ornament collection started when I was a little girl and made ornaments as crafts. Through college, I acquired new ones that reflected other stages of my life. After Thanksgiving, Dad would put the tree up and add the lights. Then my sister, mom and I added Mom’s ornaments.
Mom sent my ornaments with me after college to fill my tiny tree. I continue to add to it. The saxophone is for my talented other half who plays sax in a couple of local bands. I suspect we’ll bring home a locally made ornament from our Eastern Caribbean cruise holiday vacation.
If there’s ever a fire or flood, these boxes of precious contents would be the next thing I’d save once the people and pets are safe.
Throughout the season, I enjoy gazing at the tree and fondly remembering the story behind each decoration.
Enjoy your traditions, and happy holidays to all!
New starts mean new rules. Can she triumph through the challenges?
My boyfriend believed I was too gutless to leave. He was dead wrong. I graduated Harvard early and left his hot temper and everyone else behind for Dallas. Determined to make it on my own, I land a second job bartending at the neighborhood pub, smack in the middle of drama central, where almost every jerk in the neighborhood hits on me.
A week into the job, the neighborhood’s very popular drug dealer falls to his death a few feet from the table I’m serving. The cops say suicide, but the hot guitar player in the house band and I suspect foul play, and we intend to prove it. Digging deeper, we’re drawn closer to each other. Then we make a shocking discovery. We know the murderer.
Like many cultures, Filipinos attach great significance to the introduction of a special someone to their immediate family. It’s a signal of deep commitment to the relationship often called “taking it to the next level.”
In BORACAY VOWS, it was extra special for Blake when Krista’s mother invited him to their home in the province of Quezon. Marissa Lopez had been opposed to her daughter being in a relationship with a foreigner. He was understandably nervous right before their meeting but their warm hospitality, which Filipinos are known for, put him at ease immediately. Blake knew things were going to be all right when he and Krista were presented with a feast.
Here’s an excerpt from that meeting:
Krista stroked Blake’s back as they walked, and asked, “You okay?”
“I’m great, baby.” He smiled down at her. “They’re nice—your parents. I like them.”
“I told you—” The sight of their dining table, groaning under the weight of the platters and platters of her favorite dishes, brought her up short. Pancit Malabon, lechon kawali, embutido, menudo, kare kare, lumpiang Shanghai, relyenong bangus, sapin-sapin, maruya, and rice crowded the long table.
In NEW YORK ENGAGEMENT, it was Krista’s turn to be introduced to Blake’s family. That meeting also involved food since it took place at the pub the Ryans co-own with the O’Connors. They serve a fusion of Irish and Filipino dishes since the cook/part-owner Belen O’Connor is from Palawan in the Philippines.
These were the food served as explained by Craig, one of Blake’s brothers who will be the hero of SAMUI HEAT:
“In front of you, Krista, is Guinness caldereta, our version of beef stew. There’s steamed rice, of course. Or brown soda bread, if that’s what you prefer. Next to that is longganisa coddle. Instead of regular bangers, we use the sweeter Filipino pork sausage. Lastly, we have chicken lechon with mushrooms and whiskey-cream sauce. Enjoy.”
Both “Meet the parents” events were successful for Blake and Krista and the at the end of NEW YORK ENGAGEMENT, we see them planning a wedding for the following Christmas in the Philippines.
I will be writing that story soon, so watch out for announcements on publication here. In the meantime, please accept my gift for you this Christmas: the recipe for Longganisa Coddle.
8 ounces thick-cut bacon
8 pork longganisa
1 onion, sliced
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (substitute with 2 tablespoons dried if fresh is not available
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 pieces dried bay leaves
3 cups chicken broth
my secret ingredient: patis (fish sauce) to taste
1. Cook bacon in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towel-lined plate; cut into 1-inch pieces. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon drippings.
2. Add longganisa to saucepan; cook about 10 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove to paper towel-lined plate; leave whole.
3. Add onions to saucepan; cook ad stir about 8 minutes or until translucent. Return bacon and sausages to saucepan. Add carrots, potatoes, parsley, bay leaves, and thyme; sprinkle generously with pepper. Pour broth over vegetables; bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to low; partially cover and simmer about 1 hour 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add fish sauce to taste. Sprinkle with additional parsley, if desired. Serve with rice or soda bread.
*Recipe adapted from Irish Pub Food by Publication International, Ltd.
New York Engagement
Love takes you to unexpected places
Krista Lopez has traveled from the white sands of Boracay Island to the bright lights of New York City for love. Once again out of her element, Krista embraces Carpe diem as a motto. With her boyfriend by her side, she has confidence to take on The Big Apple and the prospect of ...
Meeting the Parents
Blake Ryan won the approval of his girlfriend’s conservative family when they met in the Philippines. Now, he’s eager to introduce the woman he loves to his Irish-American clan. To share his past with her as he prepares to ask her to be part of his future. But an urgent call in the middle of the night reminds him that things can change ...
In a New York Minute
A terrible crime and his family’s mixed reception of Krista conspire to derail their plans for a stress-free vacation. Will the circumstances cool Krista and Blake’s romance? Or will they seize the day and strengthen their bond?
With a poet for a grandfather, a short-story writer/teacher for a mother, and a voracious reader for a father, Maida's new career as a writer is a natural fit. Spouse to a USAF Veteran and mother to a kid who loves Texas and Super Mario, Maida writes multicultural contemporary romances set all over the world. At some point in her life, Maida has lived and worked in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States so it's not surprising those are favorite locations for her novels.
I love writing my Christmas elf romances because I love hanging out with the Christmas traditions. Both stories I’ve written bring Christmas elves into the human world to broaden their horizons, deepen their specialized knowledge, and bring their bit of Christmas spirit to the human world. Then love happens and turns their whole lives upside down.
Some of my favorite Christmas holiday traditions include:
What are your favorite Christmas traditions? I’d love to hear.
A Cupcake Christmas
Love, chaotic magic, and cupcakes. What could possible go wrong?
What if you risked losing your baking legacy by cooking up a love truly special?
Florian MacMillian needs a final job to complete his baking resume—preferably a job where he’s unlikely to blow things up with his unruly magic—before returning to the North Pole and taking his rightful place as Master Baker to all the elves.
Kate Delore desperately needs help in her fast-growing cupcake business in downtown San Francisco. Florian is a perfect fit, so she brings him on as baker. For a short time, Florian is happily up to his elbows in batter, and Kate’s business is booming.
But when things heat up between them, Florian wonders if he should risk his legacy to cook up something truly special.
Another Magical Tale of Romance and Adventure by award-winning novelist, Beth Barany
Award winning author, Beth Barany writes in several genres including young adult adventure fantasy and fantasy romance. Inspired by living abroad in France and Quebec, she loves creating magical tales of romance and adventure to empower women and girls to jump into life with both feet and be the heroes in their own lives. In her off hours, Beth enjoys walking her neighborhood, gardening on her patio, and watching movies and traveling with her husband, author Ezra Barany. They live in Oakland, California with a piano, their cats, and over 1,000 books. When not writing or playing, Beth runs her own company helping novelists as a book midwife, coach, and teacher to help them write, market, and publish their books.
The holiday celebrations of my youth were a conglomeration of American, European, and Caribbean customs. Even with that mishmash of generations, languages, and foods, we took it all very seriously. Fine china, sparkling silver, and our best dresses were absolutes.
As an adult, and with my own family, I’ve personalized many of these traditions, often dropping the formality altogether. Thanksgiving and Christmas are perfect examples. I haven’t had turkey in a decade, because no one likes it. Blasphemy, I know!
The dishes on my table these days represent that same love for adding a special twist. My spicy black beans are a perfect example. In my upcoming release, Consenting Adults, I include this dish in a very unusual Thanksgiving celebration. (You’ll have to read the book to find out the extent of the craziness.) An eclectic group of friends adopt each other as family and create a cherished ritual imbued with their personalities.
This is a situation I understand quite well. For my family, my spicy black beans represent a nourishing and delicious dish that honors our Caribbean background and our American home. It is shared with my soul family—born and found—as part of the ever-changing celebration.
One of the difficulties in sharing this with you is the fact that no recipe exists. I learned to cook beans the way all the women in my family did, I believe. By watching, by adding my own unique twist, by testing and tasting and evolving. During my years as a vegan, I omitted the requisite ham hock, but these days, I crave that smoky, rich flavor. Some years, it’s a soup, while others it’s a stew.
The coolest part of this recipe is the ability to make it what you need. I know that many families find comfort in the predictability of long-standing traditions. I’ve been honored to share in many of these, and I approach them like a child seeing snow for the first time. It’s fun and interesting and heartwarming. For me, it represents a connection to the past and the ultimate changeability of the future.
From my family to yours, I send you a hearty hug, the warmth of loved ones, and something in your belly that puts a smile on your face.
PE Kavanagh’s Spicy Black Beans
1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
1 ½ green peppers, stemmed and seeded
10 garlic cloves
1 smoked ham hock
2 bay leaves
5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
¼ cup olive oil
4 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, diced
1-2 jalapeños, stemmed and finely chopped (depends on how spicy you like it)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1. Soak the black beans overnight. Drain the water.
2. Cut 1 green pepper into a small dice. Finely chop 4 of the garlic cloves. Put the green pepper and garlic into a large pot with the beans, ham hock, bay leaves. Add 2 quarts water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer until the beans are tender, approximately 2-3 hours.
3. Meanwhile, make a sofrito. Dice the remaining ½ green pepper. Finely chop the remaining garlic. Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the green pepper and onion and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño (leave out the seeds if you don’t want it too spicy. I keep mine in ;) ), oregano, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, tomato paste and 2 teaspoons salt and stir for another minute. Pour in the vinegar and scrape any browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. This is your sofrito.
4. When the beans are cooked, discard the bay leaf. Remove and set aside the ham hock and let it cool. Pull the meat from the ham hock, leaving behind any tough or gristly bits. Chop the ham into small pieces and return it to the bean pot. Add the sofrito.
5. Stir the beans well and bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so, skimming any foam from the top. Taste for salt and spice before serving.