Saturday, December 24, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Merrie Hansen

Thank you, Cheryl, for inviting me to your Christmas Tree Tour, 2016.

Christmas is dear to my heart. Moving about as we have over the last 40+ years, decorating our homes invokes memories of Christmases past…from our childhoods, to our parenting days, to missing those who “have gone before us.” Our nest is empty now. We live 500 miles away from any family. It would be easy to not hang a single light or put up the tree because it’s just the two of us. However, I’ve come to realize decorating the house to celebrate Jesus is not for others, but for me, for my husband, for our hearts to remember. Mary treasured and pondered (Luke 2:19)

Most of my Christmas ornaments are memories. Some homemade by our children and grandchildren, some gifts from friends, and some from special times (places we’ve lived). In moving my elderly mother last year, I inherited (kept) a few cherished pieces from my childhood including plus a few of those glitter and glue ones, as well as my Grandmother’s homemade cardboard covered with aluminum foil tree-topper star! Wise men still follow the Star

My husband brought outdoor decorating into my life. Growing up, we never hung anything outside; maybe a string of lights on the inside of a window frame, but never actually outside. His tradition when our sons were young was to wait until the most ugly weather day – icy rainy ones were the usual. Age has taught him differently…along with not having his boys around to help. “Let your light so shine…” (Matthew 5:16)

Precious childhood memories… lying under the lighted tree peering up through the branches… driving my mom crazy as she tried to teach me how to apply tinsel… making ornaments with glitter and glue…receiving cards and letters from people I didn’t even know… my grandmother, my only living grandparent, coming to our house early Christmas morning…  and singing…

Singing Christmas carols is my most cherished tradition… more treasured to me than any gifts received. Singing at school, for church programs, midnight cantatas, caroling… Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders (1 Chronicles 16:9)

Praising the LORD… celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world… “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

I leave you with glad tidings of comfort and joy…Good News of peace on Earth “…Remember Christ, our Savior, was born on Christmas day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray…” (God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen)

About Merrie
Merrie Hansen and her husband of 40+ years have called Nebraska, Texas, Alaska, Missouri, Kansas, Montana, and currently, Colorado home. It is from those moves and her experience as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend…singer, backpacker, roller skater, homeschool mom, volunteer...which she writes devotionals to challenge, encourage, & inspire others on their journey to Live-Out-Loud-for-Jesus. 

Some of her work can be found in “The Secret Place,” “Just Between You & Me,” and CrossRiver Media’s devotional compilation books, “The Benefit Package” and “Abba’s Promise.”

Merrie can be found lettin’ the light of Jesus shine from her life at or  (Matthew 5:16)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour 2016: Victoria Alexander

Thank you Cheryl for having me here during this magical time of year. And on my birthday too. :) 

I love decorating for Christmas!!! I truly believe there is nothing that calls for over-the-top as much as Christmas. However, I hate packing it all up after Christmas. The holidays are over and it's time to return to real life. It always seemed kind of sad to me and more than a little dusty. Now that my kids are grown, taking down Christmas falls almost entirely to me. Oh joy.

So a few years ago I began what I call Christmas lite. It might not look lite to most people but it is for me. No entire Christmas village (just a house or two—hard to go cold turkey), no carol playing bells on the stairway, no Christmas circus animals, no musical snow globes in the bathroom . . . I really do have a Christmas tchotchke addiction. My decorations are now primarily in the living room, hallway and dining room—with a few Santas scattered here and there around the house. But I still firmly believe you can never have too much sparkle or too many twinkly lights. 

The really big change though—and I know you were all thinking it was the Christmas circus animals—is the tree. I love real trees. I love the way they smell and the way they bring life to the house. That will never change. I have boxes and boxes of wonderful ornaments. Pieces collected through the years to mark occasions or celebrations. They are truly fabulous and bring to mind all kinds of Christmas memories. But packing them up properly takes days and it's not a fun way to start a new year.

My Christmas lite ornaments are inexpensive, mostly unbreakable and you can toss them in a box. Easy peasy takedown. I use only red, gold and clear ornaments and as many as I can fit on the tree. 

And I love it. Because they're fairly new, these ornaments don't hold the memories of Christmas Past—of  the year the fully decorated tree fell or the time the artfully displayed Christmas cards by the fireplace caught fire or the holiday party where a friend leaned too close to a candle and caught a tiny bit on fire . . . Why yes, many of my Christmas disasters deal with fire. :)

But there are new memories every year. Some, oh, awkward but mostly good. And there is love. And always, always magic.

May we all share the love and the magic of Christmas, this year and for all the Christmases to come.

Happy Holidays!!!

Same Time, Next Christmas
From #1 New York Times bestselling author, Victoria Alexander, comes an enchanting Christmas story. When one very proper lady's plans for a Christmas retreat include an unexpected addition, she'll discover that one impetuous moment can lead to magic, especially at Christmas . . .

My friends have always considered me the most proper among us. But no one was more surprised than I, Portia, Lady Redwell, when I decided to escape the matchmaking efforts of my family to spend Christmas in an enchanting villa on the coast of Italy. As it happened, there was something of a mix-up in my admittedly impulsive plans in the form of a gentleman who insisted he, too, had a claim on the villa. That he was handsome and charming with the darkest blue eyes I’d ever seen, and a laugh that oddly seemed to fill my soul, was not a consideration. It was only in the true spirit of Christmas that I agreed to share the villa with him. 

That I returned the next year for Christmas was due entirely to the charm of the villa and had nothing at all to do with the fact that he would be there.

My friend Veronica has often said those least likely to bend are most likely to snap.

It appears I have snapped . . .

On sale for Christmas!!!

Victoria's website is under construction at the moment,
but visit her on facebook

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour 2016: Jules Dixon


Hello! Thank you to Cheryl for letting me share a little about our trees and traditions with you today.

Last year I decided to downsize our Christmas tree collection. I'd previously decorated and trimmed six trees, but time and energy just weren't allowing for that anymore. So, I gave away four trees, keeping only a 7-foot unique tree and an 18" table top one.

When it came to decorating the house this year, I felt like something was missing. Yes, the trees. So, I got in my car and off to a home decorating store I went. And I came home with two new trees. Smaller than the previous ones, but unique and fitting for my collection of decorations.

Upstairs in the family room is the family tree that sports over 250 unique ornaments, about half of them are snowmen because I am a snowman freak, but followed up by snowmen are owls, and then a collection of Hallmark ornaments that we started when my hubby and I first were married. Which will be 25 years today, December 21! Many of those ornaments hold wonderful memories that I cherish. 

These are the two trees that are on the first floor. The smaller table top one has decorative ornaments from the Hot Shops Art Center- Omaha NE that are just amazing in the string of sparkling lights that catch the intricate hand painted designs. 
One tradition we have is the Christmas Pickle. If you're not familiar with that tradition, it has been said this custom originated in Germany, but after some research, I find it is probably more an American commercial invention. But no matter the start, we love the tradition. We hide a pickle ornament, and the morning of Christmas whichever child (now adults) finds it, he/she gets a special gift. This is our cute little pickle--he even talks! 

And yes, I will "re-hide" him on Christmas Eve because my son will undoubtedly have already scouted out his location before his sister gets here Christmas morning. 


And lastly, downstairs we have the two new trees. My hubby calls them "Mardi Gras trees" because they are so colorful and bright, and prelit trees--brilliant idea--just sayin'!  

And yes, that's a bulb on the floor in the first tree picture...our two cats just can't leave them alone, so we always leave one unbreakable bulb on the floor for them to play with. It does seem to detour future exploration. ;-)

In celebration of the season, my holiday novella, Ribbons of Love: Triple R 6 was released by Evernight Publishing. This story takes the beauty and magic of the holidays and mixes in a woman with self-doubts and a man with strong convictions to be with her and we find out if they are a present meant for each other. The story is part of a series, but all can be read as standalone stories, and as you can see they are as colorful as my "Mardi Gras" trees :-).

Buy Links
Evernight Publishing--on sale for limited time only!

About Jules
Fuzzy sock collector, martini connoisseur, baseball fanatic, and dandelion lover, author Jules Dixon is a living testament to the genius of sugar and caffeine being able to keep a human alive. She’s addicted to everything related to the amazing emotion of love, probably instigated by her own happily ever after of 25 years with her beer-brewing hubby.

Their own love story created a sassy, artistic daughter and a computer genius but ultra-sarcastic son.

Jules explores the rich psychology of sexuality, choices, and conflicts of high school, college, and young adult characters with sizzle and humor in her novels and novellas. She’s a busy writer, and she loves it!

Visit Jules!
Jules on Pinterest
To keep up with the latest and greatest Jules Dixon news, please take a moment to subscribe to my newsletter: Jules Dixon Newsletter

Thank you again to Cheryl for having me on her blog. Happy Holidays to all! <3 jules="" nbsp="" span="">

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Maggie Brendan

Thanks for having me our your Christmas Tree tour! I love Christmas and decorating and spend more time than I should on it, however, I have a little more time this month to do so since I finished my final book for The Blue Willow Brides series, Perfectly Matched. I grew up the youngest in a large family of eight, and most of our Christmas trees were cut pine trees from the land behind our house rental decorated with the big colored bulbs and not much else other than icicles. (I still use icicles on my den tree). We couldn’t afford much so I think that’s why I love decorating the Christmas tree so much now. I have 5—but not all big trees. The largest is in our den, the tiniest is in my craft/bedroom.

Every year I try to add a new ornament to the den tree and my Victorian tree in the living room. I have a small cowboy tree that I just moved from my office to the breakfast area for added cheer while we are dining. The den tree has many ornaments that the kids and I painted when they were in middle school and some ornaments from a few places that we traveled too. I love having the bright star on top of my big tree to remind me of the Star of Bethlehem that stood over the lowly manger of the Christ child. I have two very special ornaments on my Victorian tree that my sister gave to me. They have hand painted winter scenes and play Christmas carols when they are opened. They are so exquisite. 

My children are grown and I have 4 grandchildren so we aren’t always able to be together Christmas morning. My son lives about 40 min. from me but my daughter lives 3 hrs. away but at some point we exchange gifts. I enjoy watching the grandchildren open their presents and see Christmas through their eyes. Every year, I’m more and more grateful and blessed to have such a beautiful, precious family. That’s a real Christmas gift!

Merry Christmas everyone!

About Twice Promised 
Two beautiful brides. One unsuspecting groom. Three weeks to figure it all out.

Greta Olsen arrives in Central City, Colorado, as a mail-order bride, expecting to marry Jess Gifford, the man she’s come to know through his tender letters. But when the dust clears, she meets Cora Johnson and discovers she’s not the only bride waiting at the train station for Jess.

Already shocked to find they must compete for Jess’s affection, the young women can hardly believe it when not Jess but his brother Zach picks them up from the station—and reveals that Jess knows nothing about any mail-order bride, let alone two. Will either bride make the match she hopes for?

Filled with surprises, misunderstandings, and tender romance, Twice Promised is the story of how two unlikely women become twice blessed.

Maggie Brendan "Romancing the West"

CBA Bestseller and 2012 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award Finalist
www.BustlesAndSpurs.comResident Blogger

Monday, December 19, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour 2016: Lori DiAnni

I love Christmas!  Although some people find the prepping of Christmas—decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping—stressful, I find it exhilarating.  I especially enjoy decorating the tree.  For several years we would head out to a local tree farm and trudge the many paths looking for the perfect tree.  Ah, such fond memories.  Now my oldest is married with a child of her own and creating her own traditions and my husband with his bad knees and hands, can’t cut down the tree anymore.  For years I said I would never own an artificial tree.  Well, now we do.  And it’s not bad.  It fits perfect in the corner of our small living room and is loaded with ornaments I’ve owned since before I was married.  

The oldest ornament on my tree is this Santa made from a hollowed out egg with cotton balls for its beard and an old knitted strap from my brother’s baby hat—back in 1969.  I was 12 at the time.  I’ve never had a themed tree, although there have been years I’ve dreamed of one.   And then it dawned on me—I have had a themed tree, every single year.  A Memory Tree, if you will.  

Every ornament on our tree tells a story from the old Santa made from an egg to elaborate paper ornaments made by my scrapbooking friends.  Each year, as I pull out the boxes and unwrap each fragile ornament from the tissue paper, I remember with fondness and love how I came about that particular ornament.  Our tree tells a story of our life from when my husband and I were engaged to when we had our first child. 

Some ornaments are tarnished and worn, but I still hold them dear.  Other ornaments tell a story of a place we’ve visited and yet another ornament—created with loving hands from my sister— shows an entire year in my family!  Some ornaments make us smile, some make us laugh out loud and some make us remember others who have passed on.  

I can’t imagine having a tree that is is perfect and looks like it belongs on the cover of a magazine.  It wouldn’t be me.  It wouldn’t be a Christmas tree that tells our life story as a family.  So now as my family grows with grandchildren and my marriage grows in years, my tree grows fuller with ornaments of our life, our history, our love as a family. 

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!  

About Lori
Lori DiAnni is an aspiring romance author, writing time-travels and historical romance on the frontier.  She has several manuscripts somewhat completed and just needs the extra motivation to finish them to The End! 

When she isn’t writing, she loves scrapbooking, reading, journaling and spending time with her grandson, Cameron,  and the rest of her family, not always in that order.  She is expecting her first grand-daughter in January.  Her husband, Michael, of 32 years, has supported her for two decades and hopes his wife is soon published so he can finally retire.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Michelle Styles

This year’s Christmas tree is a Nordmann fir. My daughter and I picked it out with a little assistance from one of the workers. Apparently we were very easy to please. ( a short fat tree was required rather than a tall narrow one). That morning she had had one couple nearly come to blows over the tree and she is certain that several more couples from that morning will be divorcing soon. Another friend is dreading when her husband comes home from a business trip as the tree she bought is far taller than she had considered. She can’t even lift it.  What is it about choosing a  tree that causes such anxiety?

I love having a Christmas tree but  I never go with an exact tree in mind. I also don’t tend to go Christmas tree shopping with my husband. Sometimes he gets a tree, sometimes I do. However, I am the one in charge of decorating the tree. I love the decorating part as all the old ornaments come out and I am able to remember past Christmases and think about when various ornaments were acquired. For example the mice are from my first married Christmas, the little snow queen was given to me in high school by a friend whose sisters was dancing in the Nutcracker at the SF Ballet as snowflake, and my sister gave me the US angel ornament after 9/11. 

This year’s big change are the strings of chilli pepper lights. Many years ago a neighbour had a fire due to faulty Christmas tree lights, so we change the lights every 3 years. My daughter wanted tasteful Victorian lanterns but when I saw the chilli peppers, I knew we had to have those. My husband agreed. The kachina dolls which belonged to my father also have their sled and skis at the ready – so there is a distinct South Western US flavour to this little corner of Northumberland. I got the sled and skis a few years ago intending to put them on the tree but they were the right size for the kachina dolls and so they now go there. 

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

"We have the summer, Alwynn. It will have to be enough." 

Washed up alone on the Northumbrian shore, Valdar Nerison is a stranger in a foreign land. He has unfinished business in Raumerike, but first, he owes his rescuer, the beautiful Lady Alwynn, a life debt. 

Alwynn is wary of Valdar's promise to protect her—after all, she has known only betrayal at the hands of men. But as summer's end approaches, Valdar must choose whether to return home and fight for his honor or to stay and fight for Alwynn's heart… 

"Maintains the myth while adding sexual tension, nonstop action and spice" —RT Book Reviews on The Viking's Captive Princess

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Ann Lethbridge

I love Christmas. And I love Christmas lights for the tree. Over the years I have bought many many sets of lights for our tree. I especially can’t resist if they are unusual.

One year I bought lights imported from Italy that looked like miniature crystal chandeliers. They were a little iffy, not CSA (safety designation) approved, but they were sooo pretty. They didn’t last long, sadly, they were so delicate and the foil paper around the bulbs made everyone very nervous.

Last year I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted a box on a high shelf in the Christmas ornament booth at the Christmas market in downtown Toronto. Bubbling Christmas lights. 
Here they are in all their bubble-licious glory before the tree is dressed.  We will be decorating it fully when all the family is here over coming weekend.

When I was small, I fell in love with these lights on our neighbor’s tree, but they were far too expensive for our family at the time, so I would go next door and sit and watch them bubble. Now finally I had the chance to have a set of the lights I longed for as a child. They are called “retro” being very 50’s and 60’s. Christmas brings out the child in all of us, doesn’t it? Are there things you wanted as a child that you bought as an adult?

Another family tradition we cling to are Christmas Crackers, little foil colored tubes with a snap, motto, paper crowns of assorted colors, and trinket inside.  We sit around the table with crossed arms, holding one between each person and all pull at the same time.  Little bangs go off all around the table along with great hilarity. Needless to say, there is a lot of trinket trading. Everyone is required to wear their paper crown for the rest of the meal. This year my crackers have the theme of the twelve days of Christmas. Here they are in the drum all ready to go.

Do you too have Christmas or Holiday traditions you cling to despite the digital age?

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Award winning author Ann Lethbridge has always loved stories set in the Regency and loves that she can now write her own to entertain others.

I have a story in the Christmas Anthology, It Happened One Christmas.

Christmas gets more interesting when sailing master Ben Muir takes lodgings with Mandy Mathison! Because when her scandalous past is revealed, only he can save her future…

Lily Rutherford is shocked to learn the man who snubbed her years before will be staying for Christmas. Can she forgive the viscount in time for a stolen kiss under the mistletoe?

Penniless widow Cassandra Norton faces Christmas on the run with her two stepdaughters, until Adam Royston sweeps her off her feet and into his country estate!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Great Christmas Tree Tour 2016: Janet Dean

I call this my Victorian tree because it's loaded with ornaments of every color and style. My mother decorated the blue and silver ornament in the close up photo, just one of the many she made that are now hanging on our tree. I remember the joy she had crafting them and the beauty of her trees. She's gone now so each one holds a special place in my heart. The sand-filled ornament is a souvenir from an anniversary trip to Bermuda. The sand really is pink there. :-)

If you look carefully, you'll see the holy family in the glass ornament purchased the year we had our first child.

The little red Chinese lantern is a Shiny Brite, part of my collection from the 1950s.

On the left is a sideways glimpse of the Mickey Mouse ornament from a trip to Disney World with our grandkids. The entire tree is hung with precious memories. It looks nothing like the trees I had growing up.

We hung icicles with care on each branch. When the furnace kicked on the icicles would dance. The lights had large hot bulbs and we didn't have a lot of purchased ornaments. But I loved looking at those trees, as I do now.

Janet's kitchen tree with hand-painted gourds

There's something magical about a Christmas tree! Thanks for a chance to share mine with your readers, Cheryl.

Blessings, Janet

About A Daddy for Christmas
When Rafe Rafferty discovers he’s a father, he returns to Bountiful, Indiana, to marry the mother, only to learn she died after childbirth and her sister Tess is raising his child. Rafe falls head over heels for his daughter and for Tess Russo, a woman who doesn’t trust easily. Especially the man she thinks abandoned her sister. Can Rafe prove he’s worthy and conquer the protective walls she’s built around her heart?

About Janet Dean
Janet Dean grew up in a family who cherished the past and had a strong creative streak. Her father recounted fascinating stories, like his father before him. The tales they told instilled in Janet a love of history and the desire to write. She married her college sweetheart and taught first grade before leaving to rear two daughters, but Janet never lost interest in American history and the accounts of strong men and women of faith who built this country.

With her daughters grown, she eagerly turned to Inspirational historical romance. Today Janet enjoys spinning stories for Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical. When she isn't writing, Janet stamps greeting cards, plays golf and is never without a book to read. The Deans love to travel and spend time with family.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

These Are a Few of My Favorite Christmas Photos - Great Christmas Tree Tour 2016

I counted. I could fit most of my village houses on this tree

Most of us could do this in a heartbeat, right?

Can you imagine walking along this peaceful street?

le sigh - vintage Shiny Brite ornaments

such a lovely tree

love this door and porch

Looks like a Victorian Christmas scene

I have a collection of these Santa mugs too

love this tree! where would I put it?

I can see these on my Victorian tree

so pretty

Connie Cooper's tree

My metal sculpture tree is up all year round, but it is decorated at Easter and Christmas

2015 Elli with their tree

who wouldn't want to take this little tree home?

ready for guests