Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Bringing My Hometown History to Life, by author Keli Gwyn

I live in the heart of California’s Gold Country in the town of Placerville, just eight miles from Sutter’s Mill, where James Marshall discovered those nuggets that launched the Gold Rush. This area is rich in history, and I love bringing it to life in my stories.

My latest Love Inspired Historical, Make-Believe Beau, is my fourth published book, but it’s the first set in my hometown. I had a blast doing my research so I could transport readers back to 1874 Placerville and present the town as accurately as possible.

One of my favorite research findings happened at our local library a few years back. I discovered drawers filled with microfilmed copies of the state’s oldest newspaper. The Mountain Democrat has been published right here in town since the 1850s. Our local library has issues going back to the very beginning. Talk about striking it rich!

When I’m working on a story set in this area, I scroll through yards and yards of microfilm as I read the issues of the newspaper published when the story is taking place. I love to mention businesses from that time along with the people who operated them.

What’s even more fun is working in actual events that occurred when my story does. Make-Believe Beau takes place during the summer of 1874. Placerville held its annual Independence Day celebration that year, so I included the Fourth of July festivities in the story.

The race’s finish line (at least in my story) is located at the Plaza, pictured from a Fourth of July celebration some years later when photographs weren’t quite as rare. When I walk past the Bell Tower in the middle of the Plaza these days, I can almost picture Flynt and Jessie standing there. I recall that memorable scene and smile.
When I learned that a horserace was held, I thought that would be a great opportunity for my hero, Flynt Kavanaugh, to show his supposed sweetheart, Jessie Sinclair, how well he could ride. Things don’t go quite as Flynt expects, though, and he’s in for a surprise at the end of the race.

The Courtship Charade 
As a draftswoman in a man’s world, Jessica Sinclair causes a stir as her new male colleagues vie for her attention. And the company manager  has an ultimatum: fake a courtship with her boss, Flynt Kavanaugh…or lose her job. But pretending to be smitten with the handsome engineer unleashes a real, complicated attraction—and could reveal the past she hoped to keep hidden.

Jessica is certainly the best person for the job. But as their make-believe romance escalates, Flynt knows that’s not the only reason he wants her on his team. However, with his past shrouded by a shameful secret, Flynt has always focused his ambitions on building a career, not a family. Now he has designs on Jessica’s heart, but can they trust each other with the truth?

Question for You

What are some of your favorite hometown traditions?


If you’d like to enter my giveaway for a copy of Make-Believe Beau, leave a comment with your answer to the question above.


Friday, July 29, 2016

My Gift to You: Glazed Citrus Bundt® Cake

I have a passion for Bundt® cakes

This one is probably one of my very favorite recipes EVER and the family fights over the last crumbs. I've included tips at the bottom, because these type of cake bake differently depending on your pan and your oven, so experiment a little and watch the baking process carefully.

My gift to you!

 from the kitchen of Cheryl St.John...

Glazed Citrus Bundt® Cake

¾ cup softened butter
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 - 2 tsp lemon extract
3 cups sifted flour
1 cup Sprite or Squirt

Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease and flour Bundt® pan well

Beat butter with hand mixer. Add sugar one cup at a time and mix until creamy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing briefly after each.
Stir in lemon zest and extracts.
On medium speed alternate adding flour and Sprite. Don’t overbeat.
Pour batter into pan.

Baking time varies depending on your oven and your pan. I use my convection oven setting. My heavy NordicWare® pan bakes more quickly than my silicone pan. In the NordicWare® I bake this about 40 minutes, then cover with foil for another ten. Test and if a toothpick doesn’t come out clean, add more time. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack ten minutes. After ten minutes remove cake from pan and allow to cool.

2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp Rose’s sweetened lime juice (I find this in the liquor section)
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Whisk until desired consistency and drizzle over cooled cake.

Bundt Cake Tips:

·        There is a difference between a tube pan and a Bundt® pan. A tube pan is more shallow, while a Bundt pan has higher sides. Each will hold a different amount and will bake the same batter differently.

·        Cooking spray doesn’t cut it for a Bundt® cake. Grease with shortening and dust with flour to help the cake rise in the pan.

·        Always sift the flour.

·        Over mixing the batter gives cake a tough texture.

·        When creaming sugar and butter, have the butter at room temperature, mix on medium and add the sugar gradually.

·        Don’t overbeat eggs. Mix with a whisk or on low with the mixer, just until blended.

·        After removing from the oven, cool the cake on a wire rack for ten minutes. Any longer and you risk the cake sticking to the pan. Finish cooling on a rack.

Friday, March 04, 2016

LoRee Peery’s Writing Journey & a New Book!

An author is often asked if she had always wanted to be a writer. No, but I’ve always been a reader. I began writing years ago with short romances, and submitted them to popular magazines. They were nothing more than rough first drafts, so awful. Somewhere deep inside I wanted to see my byline on a book cover. I went on a quest to learn all I could about writing. It was quite satisfying to have nonfiction published in academic journals and anthologies, but my deep desire was to publish a romance.

Since 2005 I’ve kept a daily writing journal. Oh, how the Lord has blessed me. Often I think of “For such a time as this” from the book of Esther. No time is right unless it’s God’s time. And, I needed to be right with the Lord before He granted the desire of my heart to become published.

I’m the oldest of seven. Our lives have been affected (I’ve heard “ruined” used a time or ten) by the unsolved homicide of our father. Early on, I refused to consider myself a surviving victim. I decided I would rise above that blow as an overcomer, a word that feeds my subconscious.

My first novel (which will remain stored) resulted from a Writer’s Digest class. I submitted lessons via snail mail and waited for critique comments the same way. In that story, my heroine found her father’s killer. I finished that story and kept writing. But I didn’t forget that heroine’s objective.

I’d completed five manuscripts before I received The Call. Moselle’s Insurance had been rejected by five agents, but feedback led me to believe I was close to acceptance. I had never considered going the route of an online publisher until I personally met with an editor. She represented White Rose Publishing, affiliated with another publisher at that time. She invited me to submit.

The story was rejected twice by White Rose editors, with the invitation to resubmit. I was devastated by the second, very detailed letter of rejection. I quit writing until the end of that year. At retreat in January of 2010, writing friends encouraged me to reconsider that letter from the editor as the “Best kind of rejection.”

So I prayed, went through the editor’s comments, and took everything she’d addressed to heart. I agreed with her, revised by cutting several thousand words, and resubmitted. Moselle’s story was accepted in less than a week that April. I received the contract on my birthday.

Moselle’s Insurance was released almost six years ago. I’ve had nine more novels and novellas published with White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint. 


My journey continues as I have several projects in various stages. I hope to always keep an open mind in order to learn and grow. The greatest love story ever told is the Bible. I’ve personally struggled with many issues, and hurt while watching family members go through trials, that I want to show how God paves the way. Our destiny in Him is happily ever after, the same ending that epitomizes romance novels.

Another dream has come true. Touches of Time is hot off the press, as the saying used to go, based on my father’s murder. Here’s the blurb:

      A decades-old unsolved homicide.
      A grieving single mother-to-be.
      A cold-case investigator.

Sarah Bishop goes through her deceased mother’s belongings and becomes immersed in the details of her grandfather’s unsolved homicide. Determined to find who was responsible, for the sake of her unborn baby, Sarah vows to seek out the answers her mother had failed to find.

Cold Case Investigator Ford Melcher is intrigued by Sarah’s dogged drive to solve the old mystery. His current case has reached a frustrating dead end, but he comes to believe it is somehow linked to Sarah’s quest. His desire to protect her from further hurt is put to the test, especially when he has secrets he’d rather not disclose.

Answers could remain elusive as to who struck Sarah’s grandfather and left him in a ditch. Will the search for those answers open doors for her to discover the life God planned? Can she accept that plan if it includes a man who wasn’t forthright with information?

LoRee Peery is an inspirational romance author who strives to remember the Lord’s redeeming grace each day when she surveys her sense of place in Him and where He has placed her. She is the author of the Frivolities Series. 

LoRee can be found at:



Tuesday, March 01, 2016

You're Not You, Hilary Swank & Emmy Rossum

I'm not posting the trailer for You're Not You, but this interview does touch on what the story is about. I'm not really even recommending this movie, because we're each so different in our reactions, and I don't want you to hate me for selling you on it. I will say I'm a Hilary Swank fan, so my opinion may be slanted. I think she's an incredible actress who has done amazing performances in her career. One of my all-time favorite movies is Iron-Jawed Angels and I love P.S. I l Love You. (Didn't care for The Homesman, sorry Hilary, you did great.) 

In You're Not You there is so much emotion in the writing and in the portrayal of these characters...I cried buckets. Buckets I tell you. But I loved every moment. It gets 5 stars from me, and I can't can't can't believe I hadn't heard of it before.

Hilary Swank's Filmography:

  • Spark (2016) stars as (voice)
  • The Homesman (2014) stars as Mary Bee Cuddy
  • You're Not You (2014) stars as Kate
  • Mary and Martha (2013) stars as Mary
  • Shrapnel (2013) (2013) stars as Samantha Vijaya
  • Intimate Strangers (2013)
  • New Year's Eve (2011) stars as Claire Morgan
  • The Resident (2010) stars as Dr. Juliet Dermer
  • Conviction (2010) aka "Betty Anne Waters" stars as Betty Anne Waters
  • Amelia (2009) stars as Amelia Earhart
  • Birds of America (2008) aka The Laws of Motion stars as Laura
  • P.S., I Love You (2007) stars as Holly Kennedy
  • The Reaping (2007) stars as Prof. Katherine Winter
  • Freedom Writers (2007) stars as Erin Gruwell
  • The Black Dahlia (2006) stars as Madeleine Linscott
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004) stars as Maggie Fitzgerald
  • Red Dust (2004) stars as Sarah Barcant
  • Iron Jawed Angels (2004) TM stars as Alice Paul
  • 11:14 (2003) stars as Buzzy
  • The Core (2003) aka Core stars as Maj. Rebecca Childs
  • The Space Between (2002)
  • Insomnia (2002) stars as Detective Ellie Burr
  • The Affair of the Necklace (2001) stars as Jeanne St. Remy de Valois
  • The Gift (2000) stars as Valerie Barksdale
  • The Audition (2000)
  • Boys Don't Cry (1999) stars as Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena
  • Heartwood (1998) stars as Sylvia Orsini
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 (1997) TV stars as Carly Reynolds
  • Dying to Belong (1997) TM stars as Lisa Connors
  • Leaving L.A (1997) TV stars as Tiffany Roebuck
  • The Sleepwalker Killing (1997) TM aka From the Files of Unsolved Mysteries:
  • The Sleepwalker Killing stars as Lauren Schall
  • Quiet Days in Hollywood (1997) aka The Way We Are stars as Lolita
  • Kounterfeit (1996) stars as Colleen
  • Sometimes They Come Back... Again (1996)
  • aka Sometimes They Come Back 2 stars as Michelle Porter
  • Terror in the Family (1996) TM stars as Deena Martin
  • Cries Unheard: The Donna Yaklich Story (1994) TM aka Victim of Rage stars as Patty
  • The Next Karate Kid (1994) stars as Julie 'Julie-San' Pierce
  • Camp Wilder (1992) TV stars as Danielle
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) stars as Kimberly Hannah
  • Growing Pains (1991) TV stars as Sasha Serotsky
  • Evening Shade (1990) TV stars as Aimee #1 (1991-1992)
  • ABC TGIF (1990) TV stars as Danielle

  • Friday, January 22, 2016

    Glazed Chocolate-Pumpkin Bundt Cake

    Glazed Chocolate-Pumpkin Bundt Cake

    1 3/4 cups sifted flour
    1 cup sugar
    3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    1/4 teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 15-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree
    3/4 cup dark brown sugar
    1 large egg
    1 large egg white
    1/4 cup canola or virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup light corn syrup
    1 Tbsp pure vanilla
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1 Tbsp buttermilk
    2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350°F -  Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray

    Whisk together sifted purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt.

    Blend 1 cup buttermilk, pumpkin puree and brown sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on low speed. Beat in whole egg and egg white. Stir in oil, corn syrup and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

    Bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

    Glaze & garnish:
    Combine powdered sugar and 1 Tblsp buttermilk in small bowl, stirring until smooth. Place the cake on a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over the top; garnish with chocolate chips or chopped nuts while the glaze is still moist.

    I have a whole STACK of gorgeous Bundt pans!
    They make beautiful cakes.


    After years of being asked for recipes, Cheryl St.John spent a summer writing down ingredients and baking times, baking and asking for beta testers in order to put together this collection of mouthwatering recipes for Bundt cakes.

    Many of the recipes are labeled NO SKILL REQUIRED, indicating exceptional ease of preparation. If you don’t consider yourself a baker or if you’re an accomplished baker and simply want a quick recipe, you will find these cakes using box mixes are convenient and delicious. You don’t have to tell anyone you started with a mix—the cakes are so good that no one will guess preparation didn’t take hours. Bake with ease and enjoy serving a beautiful cake to family and friends.

    Cheryl's philosophy: Eat cake! It's someone's birthday somewhere.

    SNEAK PEEK - Fast Forward to Spring and COWBOY CREEK

    Cowboy Creek:
    Bringing mail-order brides, and new beginnings, to a Kansas boomtown​
    An exciting new trilogy from Love Inspired Historical and three of your favorite authors!

    Cowboy Creek Needs Women!

    Book #1 April
    Want Ad Wedding
    Cheryl St.John

    Second Chance Bride 

    When Daniel Gardner convinced the residents of his Kansas boomtown to advertise for mail-order brides, he never expected the woman he once loved to respond. But Leah Swann steps off the bride train…pregnant and widowed and in need of a husband. Drawn to protect his fragile childhood friend, Daniel proposes a marriage of convenience. 

    Seeing her onetime best friend waiting to meet the bride train is a wonderful shock for Leah. After her first rocky marriage, a practical partnership with Daniel sounds perfect—as long as her heart doesn't get involved. But when she starts to fall for her husband, will her plans of a fresh start be ruined…or is a real marriage to Daniel exactly what she needs? 

    Cowboy Creek: Bringing mail-order brides, and new beginnings, to a Kansas boomtown.

    Book #2 May
    Special Delivery Baby
    Sherri Shackelford

    Instant Daddy 

    An abandoned baby is the last thing town founder Will Canfield expects on his doorstep. He's not the father—and the mother's unknown. But the precious little girl needs a protector. And Will never backs down from a challenge, even if it means caring for a newborn…or dealing with spitfire cattle driver Tomasina Stone. 

    With her father gone, Tomasina's trail life has ended. Yet becoming a polished city lady feels far out of her reach. All she wants is a place where she'll be appreciated, respected…maybe loved. And the more time she spends helping Will care for the baby, the more she wonders if she's found it. She's never wanted to settle down…but Cowboy Creek—by Will's side—might finally give her heart a lasting home. 

    Book #3 June
    Bride By Arrangement
    Karen Kirst
    Mail-Order Matchmaking 

    Newly minted Cowboy Creek sheriff Noah Burgess doesn't want a wife—despite his friends insisting that he needs one. So when they send for a big-city single mother to be his mail-order bride, he's fit to be tied. Even if vivacious Grace Longstreet might just be the only person who can see past Noah's scars…and help him heal. 

    Grace needs a husband to keep her and her twin daughters out of her brother-in-law's grasp. And she'll do anything—including taking on her cousin's identity—to find one. But as the attraction between Grace and the lawman sparks higher, she begins hoping for a real marriage. So she needs to tell the truth…or a mail-order match that's meant to be could crumble.


    Saturday, January 16, 2016

    The 10 Worst Pieces of Writing Advice I've Received

    Mind Your Own Business—The 10 Worst Pieces of Writing Advice I've Received

    A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on the 10 best pieces of writing advice that I had received during my career, so this month I thought I'd review the 10 Worst Pieces of Writing Advice I've Received. The following bits were dispensed by well-meaning writers and industry professionals in workshops, roundtable discussions, and private conversations, and their names shall remain anonymous. 

    Worst Advice #1:  Write the synopsis after you've written your book. Um, no. Your goal as a working writer is to sell a book before you write it. In order to sell a book before you write it, you simply must master the art of writing a synopsis. And writing a synopsis before your begin writing your book will help you to think through issues so you don't write yourself into a corner.

    Worst Advice #2:  Forget about writing chapters, instead concentrate on writing scenes.  Sure, if you have lots of extra time on your hands to go back later and group the scenes into chapters, only to find that you need transitions to make them flow seamlessly.  File this one under "P" for "Please Make My Life More Complicated."

    Worst Advice #3:  Critique groups are dangerous.  Not true, unless your critique partners have criminal records. Otherwise, the right critique group will help to keep you motivated and productive. Plus, critiquing other writers' work will make you a stronger writer.

    Worst Advice #4:  Write the book of your heart.  Go ahead. Then put a big bow on it and give it to your mother for Christmas, because no one else will be interested in reading it, much less buying it. Before you begin your second project, analyze your strengths and marry them to the market, then find a way to make that sellable idea the book of your heart.

    Worst Advice #5:  Don't pitch a series for your first book.  The previous wisdom was that an editor will hesitate to buy a series from a new writer because if the first book bombs, the rest of the series is doomed. But editors now recognize that a series is the quickest way to build readership, so if you have a good idea for a series, go for it.

    Worst Advice #6:  Don't allow an editor to change your work.  Wrong. Remember that you're writing for a worldwide audience—let your editor do her job as long as she isn't nitpicking your work to death. She just might be making your work more sellable to other markets.

    Worst Advice #7:  Don't befriend your editor.   Wrong again. It's not a good idea to become best-buddy confidantes, but you should strive for a professional friendship with your editor. This industry is complicated and frustrating—it's always nice if you're conducting business with someone you actually like, and vice versa. Remember that an essential ingredient in a successful career is an editor who champions your work.

    Worst Advice #8:  Don't sign an agency agreement.  If you're willing to sign an agreement with your pest control company, you should be willing to sign an agreement with the person(s) who hold your writing career in their hands.  (But remember, an agency contract is negotiable, just like a publishing house contract.)

    Worst Advice #9:  Self-promotion is useless.  This statement is mostly wrong. Self-promotion without purpose can be a waste of time and money, but if you plan a self-promotion campaign wisely, you can eventually convince your publishing house to put money behind you, too. Figure out what you can do for yourself better than your publishing house (a website, for example) and do it, always keeping your editor apprised.

    Worst Advice #10:  If your agent refuses to send out a project, send it out yourself.  STOP! Either 1) trust your agent's expensive advice, or 2) get a new agent.

    7 Brides for 7 Bodies (Body Movers)

    Carlotta Wren's life has taken a startling turn--she's not sure what's going to happen next. So when her retail job temporarily plants her in the world of wedding planning, she's happy for the distraction--at first. Because the happily-ever-after setting only heightens the stress surrounding the decisions she faces about her romantic life. The three hot men vying for her attention aren't going to wait forever for her answer.

    On the other hand, at least the bridal show gets her away from body moving for a while, right? Wrong. Because when grooms all over Atlanta start dropping like flies, once again, Carlotta finds herself square in the middle of a murder mystery! 

    Stephanie Bond was several years into a corporate computer programming career when an instructor in her night school MBA program remarked she had a flair for writing and encouraged her to submit one of her projects to academic journals. "But," Stephanie says, "all I could think was 'I wonder if I could write a romance novel?' " 

    She spent every spare moment the next couple of years writing and submitting manuscripts before selling her romantic comedy IRRESISTIBLE? to Harlequin books. After selling ten projects in two years, Stephanie walked away from her corporate career to write commercial fiction full time. To date, she's published over 70 romance and mystery projects with Random House, St. Martin's Press, HarperCollins, Mira Books, and more recently, under her own imprint. 

    Stephanie's independently published romantic comedy STOP THE WEDDING!, a Kindle bestseller in three languages, is currently in development at The Hallmark Channel for a 2-hour movie.

    Stephanie lives in midtown Atlanta and is probably working on a story at this very moment.  For writing tips and a daily writing blog, visit www.stephaniebond.com. 

    This article appeared in the February 2005 issue of the Galley, Georgia Romance Writers' monthly online newsletter. Permission is granted to sister RWA® chapters to reprint with credits to author and chapter.

    Wednesday, January 06, 2016

    Who doesn't love a Bundt cake? It's all about the Bundt!

    The American Table did a piece on The original Tunnel of Fudge Cake.
    here's a link:

    A bit of fun history!

    And a link to my Bundt cake book

    After years of being asked for recipes, Cheryl St.John spent a summer writing down ingredients and baking times, baking and asking for beta testers in order to put together this collection of mouthwatering recipes for Bundt cakes. Many of the recipes are labeled NO SKILL REQUIRED, indicating exceptional ease of preparation.

    If you don’t consider yourself a baker or if you’re an accomplished baker and simply want a quick recipe, you will find these cakes using box mixes are convenient and delicious. You don’t have to tell anyone you started with a mix—the cakes are so good that no one will guess preparation didn’t take hours. Bake with ease and enjoy serving a beautiful cake to family and friends. 

    Cheryl's philosophy: Eat cake! It's someone's birthday somewhere.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2016

    On sale this week: The Unexpected Bride by Lena Goldfinch

    The Unexpected Bride (Book 1 in The Brides Series)

    What's a man to do when his father orders him a bride?

    Rebecca Sullivan has been "Becky" all her life, a real hoyden. Her childhood sweetheart taught her to ride bareback and shoot a rifle, but then he chose a "perfect lady" for a wife--a real Southern belle, who's now expecting a baby. Heartbroken, Becky signs up to be a mail-order bride to a Seattle man, sight unseen. She resolves to squelch her hoydenish ways and become a "perfect lady" for her future husband.

    If logging-operation owner Isaac Jessup had wanted a bride, he'd have chosen a sturdy frontier woman, not some fragile lady from back East. Ready to explain the mistake, honorable Isaac takes one look into Rebecca's vulnerable eyes...and knows he'll marry her, even though this delicate waif is obviously unsuited for wild Seattle.

    Could an unexpected marriage be a match made in heaven?

    When Becky becomes Isaac’s mail-order bride, their new life together holds surprises for them both.

    “Unexpectedly fresh characters and twists… a great curl-up-on-a-cold-night read.”
                                                               - USA Today, Happy Ever After

    On sale this week for $0.99

    Where to find it:
    Google Play

    Saturday, December 26, 2015

    Great Christmas Tree Tour: Charlene Raddon's Homemade Ornaments

    Tradition tells us the first tree was brought indoors in Strasburg, Germany, in 1605. Martin Luther decorated it with candles to entertain the children. During this time Christmas trees were embellished with wafers, candies, fruits, paper flowers, hard cookies baked in various shapes and tinsels made from tin and silver. Humans being humans, families were soon competing to outdo each other with their decorations. Eventually, the tradition of a decorated tree indoors spread beyond Germany.

    During the 1800s the hand cast glass ornaments became widely popular. Lauscha in Germany was the hub of glass ornaments production in Germany. Later on silk, wool thread, chenille and stiff spun glass were used in Christmas tree ornaments.

    Legend plays an important role in the History of Christmas Ornaments. The popular pickle ornament of the Germans carries with it a wonderful tale. Pickle ornaments are glass ornaments formed in the shape of a pickle. The German parents used it to judge the most intelligent child in the family. The first one to trace the pickle got an additional gift from St. Nicholas.

    Christmas trees along with the fanciful ornaments entered England in 1840 through the hands of Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert. Glass ornaments, decorative beads, paper baskets with sugared almonds and hot air balloons were used for decoration.

    The first Christmas tree ornaments began as items easily found in nature, such as nuts, fruit or pine cones. German families began to bake gingerbread or other hard cookies in different shapes. Americans strung popcorn or cranberries into strands to string around the trees. Families in the United Kingdom crafted lace or paper into unique shapes to place upon the tree.

    Christmas Tree Ornaments reached America around 1880. F.W Woolworth, an American retailer first sold imported glass ornaments in his shop. Decorations also included cut outs of old magazines, cotton wools and tinsel. The First World War disrupted natural commerce and necessitated the production of cheaper ornaments with new technologies. The introduction of injection plastic molding facilitated to figure tiny miniatures.

    Mistletoe was believed to have magical powers of healing. The tree was sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. The cutting of the mistletoe from the oak (mistletoes are parasites, though they can grow on their own) signified the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Having the mistletoe decorated in the Christmas season, originated from the pagan customs. The famous axiom "kissing under the mistletoe" has its origin in the Norse mythology and Celtic rituals.

    The Holly, which is strongly linked with Christmas or rather Christmas festival, has a history of its own. Though Christmas Holly history has its roots in Northern Europe, the sanctity of the Holly plant has a pagan origin. The Holly plant is characterized by green leaves that are prickly in nature. It needs a mention here that the Druids adorned their heads with twigs of the Holly plant whenever they went to the forest.

    The Germans began making ornaments for mass production in the mid-1800s. Around Lauscha, Germany, glass blowers began molding glass into fruit or nut replicas. After those became a big hit, they began making different shapes, such as hearts and stars, as well as saints, children or animals.

    In the 1920s, more countries vied with Germany for the Christmas ornament market. Japan came out with more colorful designs than Germany, while the Czech Republic produced very fancy ornaments. After World War I, glass ornaments began to be produced by a machine in Corning, New York. They were the first glass ornaments to be made by machine.

    Tinsel first came into use around 1610 in Germany. The first tinsel was made out of silver, pulled very thin. It tended to tarnished quickly by the heat of the candles placed on the tree. Experiments were made to make tinsel better, and it was next made out of tin and lead. This tinsel was very heavy, however, and would break from its own weight. Tinsel is currently made out of lightweight synthetic material and is used by many people around the world.

    The ornaments shown on this post were made by the author.


    #1 is made by using bits of fabric, ribbon and decorative trimming glued to a Styrofoam ball. The fabric is cut into elongated leaf shapes to fit around the ball.  A loop made of heavy thread is glued to one end for hanging. These can be made to fit all sizes of balls.

    #2 is crocheted using crochet thread into two circular motifs sewn together around a Styrofoam ball.



    #3 is made by cutting old Christmas cards into nickel sized circles. The circles are then bent to form triangles. The folds are glued together in 4 rows of five, and the edged decorated with sparkle.


    #4 is made with photographs according to the pattern in the photo. You can use pictures of your children, family, favorite places, pets or squares of Christmas cards. After being folded and glued, the edges are then decorated with sparkle. See the box in the top photo.

    #5 The snowflakes are crocheted using various patterns which can be found by googling “crocheted snowflake ornaments.”

    #6 The stocking is crocheted with crochet thread in 12 six-sided motifs sewn together. My motifs are about 2-3/4” in diameter, making a stocking about 12” long.  Naturally, if you make the motifs larger, adding another row to each one, or using thicker thread, you can create larger stockings.


     #7 are needlepoint backed with felt and trimming added to the edges for a finished look.

    Anyone wanting more detailed instructions or patterns are welcome to email me at charraddon@pobox.com and I will send them to you.

    Start now and decorate your tree this year with your own handmade ornaments.

    A woman's smile . . .

    Rosalyn Delaney's husband, Josiah, vanished six years ago. Following a private detective's lead, Rosalyn leaves Salt Lake City and boards a train heading to the mining town of Whiskey Ridge, Arizona. She arrives at Rose House, an old mansion reputed to be haunted, only to discover that her missing husband has been killed, and his business partner, Whip Kincaid, is wanted for his murder. Determined to uncover the secrets surrounding Josiah and his death, Rosalyn decides to stay--even though she begins to receive nightly visits from a charming "ghost" . . .

    A Ghost's Kiss . . .

    Escaping a troubled past, Whip Kincaid had hoped he could make a fresh start in Whiskey Ridge and open a saloon with his friend Josiah. Now, as a murder suspect hiding in his own house, Whip's future looks bleak indeed . . . unless he can find the real culprit. But the unexpected intrusion of Rosalyn ruins his plan to sneak out at night to investigate. Scaring her away is his first step in clearing his name, but Rosalyn doesn't rattle easily. And Whip isn't sure he wants the lovely widow to walk out of his life -- especially when she'll take his heart with her.