I love the holidays from Halloween to Valentine’s Day this time of year is just so full of wonder and joy. I don’t remember ever decorating for Halloween or Thanksgiving when I was a kid, but Christmas the whole house got a makeover. From the doilies on the tables, the candles, and of course the tree, everything was dressed up for Christmas.
When my own children came along, we decorated with handmade ornaments. I often did a themed Christmas with all the decorations matching that year’s theme from a Native American Christmas tree where I cut my fingers carving tiny fetishes, to a Toys Christmas tree where we even hung some of the kids’ toys on the tree.
As the boys got older, they cared less and less about decorating the tree with me. It’s one of the saddest things decorating a Christmas tree by yourself. I love the movies where families get together to decorate but I guess I didn’t instill that love in my kids. Was I too much a perfectionist? I constantly move ornaments when I think they don’t look just right even when I place them on the tree myself. Did I hurt feelings or are they just not that interested? Whatever the reason, more and more I found myself decorating alone. I’ve learned to make the most of it. Put on a Christmas audiobook, usually a romance, and fix myself a drink whether it’s an adult beverage or something tamer, this year it was an iced Chai tea latte made with cinnamon creamer. The trick to making an iced Chai tea latte is getting the tea strong enough to withstand the ice and of course letting it cool.
My tree is not as themed as it once was. It is mostly red and white with a lot of penguins. Why I like penguins I’m not sure, but they make me smile. I also have a couple of Minions. They make me smile too. I have a few homemade ornaments from friends and family. Ornaments I’ve bought from the craft fair and special ornaments I’ve collected over the years or received as gifts. Having lost all of our old ornaments in the house fire, it’s bittersweet to remember those ornaments. My son’s college ornament, my other son’s Army ornament, ornaments to represent each of the children, some with photos, ornaments made by loving hands of those no longer with us, none of the ornaments were expensive but they were priceless. I am thankful for the memories and the love that went into them.
One of my favorite memories and one that makes my heart swell every year is when my husband hangs my Christmas lights. He’s not big on decorating for the holidays but he knows how much I love it and he does that for me. Coming home from work and seeing the snowflake lights on my porch and occasionally he’ll put out other yard decorations, it fills me with the spirit of Christmas like nothing else can.
What are some of your favorite holidays or celebrations? Do you have a favorite part? Do you decorate? Share some of your favorite things.
For our last meeting the Pamlico Writers decided to share short stories with a Thanksgiving theme. I decided to do a little experimental writing. When our Writers Read group used to get together in Belhaven, hosted by Marni Graff, there was an amazing young writer there who wrote a story in second person. Blythe was only a teenager at the time but her talent was astounding and her story has stayed with me. Now my little experiment is nowhere as good as what she wrote but I am proud that I attempted something so very different, I hope you enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving.
Just a little post script: this is more like Christmas morning but since I was writing it for Thanksgiving I took creative license. I am thankful for the little kindnesses my family shows me and this is almost a true story.
You awaken to the aroma of coffee brewing and muffled voices. Staggering from your bed you bump into the chest at the foot of the bed and stumble towards the bathroom. After relieving your swollen bladder, brushing your teeth, and taming the wild fluff on your head you follow your nose to fresh brewed coffee.
Your oldest son turns from his task at the stove and apologizes, “Sorry mom, we didn’t mean to wake you. We were trying to be quiet.”
“I smelled coffee.”
Smiling, your middle son hands you a cup and turns to his older brother and says, “I told you she’d be awake as soon as she smelled the coffee.”
The oldest grandson squeezes past with a couple of dozen eggs.
“Did you have to wait for the hens to lay them?”
“Yep,” he replies with a grin and does a reverse squeeze out of the kitchen and out of his uncle’s reach. He gives you a brief hug as he exits.
The scent of roasting garlic mingles with the sweet smell of cinnamon and brown sugar. Wrinkling your nose, you ask, “What’s with the garlic? I thought you were making French toast casserole?”
“I am. Ryan wanted to get a head start on lunch.”
Number 2 grandson lifts his head at his name. The headphones give him an alien profile and allowed him to be oblivious to the previous drama. “Hey grandma.”
“Hey, whatcha making?”
“Garlic butter.” He returns to his task squeezing roasted garlic from its skin and blending it with melted butter, olive oil, and chopped basil.
“Why don’t you sit down with your coffee until breakfast is ready,” the oldest son suggests. “We’ve got this.”
Feeling pampered and knowing you’ll spend most of the rest of the day in the kitchen preparing the Thanksgiving meal, you smile and nod and shuffle off to your recliner to take advantage of the reprieve.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a few delicious desserts, drinks or special meals. What are your holiday favorites? Do you cook them or look forward to a family member or friend bringing them to you? Do you give food gifts for Christmas? I’m listing some of my favorites linked to special memories, but they are in no way all of them. At close to sixty I’ve had a lot of Christmas treats and some are more about the person who is no longer with us than the food itself but remembering is a way of keeping them with us and when we eat or drink that special treat, we get to have them with us for just a little while, even if only in our thoughts.
My grandmother wasn’t a domesticated lady. In another time or situation, she’d have been a businesswoman, possibly a world traveler but instead she was the wife of a sharecropper. For any familiar with the term, you know they were poor. But in truth, I never realized they were poor. I knew grandma wore her house clothes until they were threadbare but when she went off, she dressed nice. I also enjoyed culinary delights that I couldn’t find anywhere else, when I was at my grandma’s house. She had homemade jam, sweet cream, biscuits and molasses. For Christmas she made sugar cookies, candy confections with pecans and coconut dipped in chocolate, peanut brittle that would yank all your fillings out and icebox fruitcake and applesauce cake.
I look forward to our local community holiday craft fair every Christmas because a local lady, Ms. Mary Jo makes peanut brittle even better than my grandmother’s. Sorry Granny. Hers melts on your tongue with just the right amount of sweetness.
When my children where little, I enjoyed baking sugar cookies with them using Granny’s recipe.
I still bake the applesauce cake every year because it’s not too sweet and it’s just the right amount of fruit and nuts and holiday spirit.
Grandma’s icebox fruit cake is another story. No one seems to be able to recreate hers exactly even using her recipe. Not sure what she did differently but ours are always too dry or too sticky, not enough raisins and pecans…something. Maybe we’re just lacking the love Granny put into everything she made.
Grandma told me once that she learned to do a lot of things not because she wanted to but because there was no other choice. As an adult raising six children, I came to understand that. We learned to do in order to make things better for those we love.
Grandma’s Ice Box Fruit Cake
1 box graham crackers crushed and pulverized
1 box raisins
2 cups pecans chopped
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Mix everything together if too dry add more milk, if too wet or sticky add more graham cracker crumbs.
Divide and roll into logs. Wrap in plastic and foil. Refrigerate until firm. Slice and eat.
I started using dried cranberries for a festive look and tart flavor.
Grandma’s Applesauce Cake
1 ½ cup self-rising flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon Allspice
½ teaspoon Cloves
½ teaspoon Ginger
1 can apple sauce
2 chopped apples
½ cup chopped pecans
1 stick of softened butter (if you use unsalted add a pinch of salt)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pans.
Mix dry ingredients first. Flour, sugar and spices. You can add your pecans too if you’d like. Flouring them keeps them in place.
Add eggs, softened butter, apple sauce, apple and vanilla.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until no longer wet in the middle when you insert a toothpick to test.
Remove from oven and let cool. Makes great gifts.
You can substitute cranberry sauce for the apple sauce for a holiday twist.
It is difficult to diet during December. Between holiday parties and food gifts, oh my. I look forward to the special treats some of my friends fix for the holidays. Ms. Peggy’s homemade heath bars, Tina’s drunken chocolate covered cherries, Robina’s pomegranate cupcakes, oh my. I think I gained five pounds just writing about it. I can’t forget Ms. Helen’s fudge and Ms. Hix’s cookie assortment and candied nuts. Now y’all understand why I’m fat. I haven’t even talked about the real food and the drinks.
I’d never had eggnog until my youngest son was a teenager. He insisted we try it. It’s good but a little too rich for my taste. Working at the ABC store, I decided to try the alcoholic version and it’s better but still way to sweet for me. I like one glass every two or three years or so.
I enjoy apple cider when I can find good cider. I buy the unpasteurized kind, add it to my crockpot with orange juice, ginger ale and cinnamon hard candies. It’s a family favorite. You could add a little apple ale to perk it up or a splash of cinnamon whiskey instead of the hard candies.
One of my favorite holiday treats is the peppermint mocha iced coffees. Forget your pumpkin spice, give me peppermint and chocolate. If you want to adult it, there’s a great already premixed just add cold coffee or hot if you prefer. You can also make your own with cream liquor, peppermint schnapps, chocolate liquor and coffee.
My daughters-in-law introduced me to chai tea and iced chai lattes. Oh my goodness, Christmas in a cup. It is so good and my new favorite holiday drink.
My traditional favorite for Christmas dinner is roasted turkey with all the trimmings. For Christmas morning we’ve done waffles and ice cream or left-over chicken. We’ve done monkey bread, all ooey gooey and loaded with cinnamon, but most recently we’ve started doing a French toast casserole because we have such a large crowd. It’s a very simple recipe and feeds the masses. We get bags of old bread crusts make an egg and milk custard with vanilla, sugar and cinnamon pour it over the bread and put it in a pan in a preheated oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, topped with butter.
My mother-in-law does something different every year for Christmas Eve. We’ve had Mexican with tamales, hand rolled and bought from a lovely Mexican lady. We’ve done assorted Italian dishes, soups and sandwiches, and even quiches.
Okay, now we’re really getting into difficult territory because I love Christmas music both old and new stuff. I don’t know what it is about Christmas music, but it always touches my heart. I’ve even been known to sing it when it’s not even Christmas.
I have to break this down into categories because I truly love Christmas music
Oh Holy Night, I love to sing this song though sometimes I cannot get it just right. It was one played at church and is still one of my favorite songs. When a good soprano sings it, it can give me chills.
Go Tell it On the Mountain, another song I love to sing. I have great memories of doing this in church with the kids walking up the aisles of the church getting louder and faster as we neared the altar. It’s a joyous song to sing. I miss doing the Christmas programs. I started performing in the Christmas pageants when I was a little girl even before we moved to North Carolina, but afterwards I didn’t miss a one. As a young teenager I began writing or altering plays to fit our small church and later as an adult I wrote or assisted in the writing of the plays.
Mary Did You Know, when my oldest son and my niece sang this as a duet one Christmas it became my favorite. I wasn’t familiar with this song until I heard it at one of their band concerts, but it could not compare to this duet. His bass and her soprano were a beautiful blend. It’s a memory that plays on repeat in my heart.
What Child is This? I love to sing this song or hear it sung. I’d not heard it until I was a teenager, but it became one of my favorites.
Sweet Little Jesus Boy I remembered this one after I started this blog, I love to sing this song. I learned it for a program, it’s best done acapella.
Silent Night this is so pretty sung outside on a winter’s night under the stars with only a guitar accompanying. I loved going Christmas caroling and this was probably my favorite song to sing.
We Three Kings in a small church with very few boys or men to play all of the parts, one year I was a King. As a contraltro, I can sing in the lower register and sang with the guys on this song. My dad and I would often sing it together while my mom sang the higher parts.
Away in a Manger when my babies were little, I’d sing this as a lullaby not just at Christmas. This is one of the purest and sweetest songs. I can imagine Mary singing to Jesus and wondering what the future held.
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem we sang this often in church as a congregational song but I love to hear it sung with harmonies.
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem this is beautiful when done in the old bluegrass style. I love to hear my friend sing it with his bluegrass band, but I also enjoy singing it.
Oh Come Emmanuel the first time I remember singing this song, I was part of a choir in Goldsboro’s Adamsville Baptist Church. We did a human Christmas tree and I had to climb up several stories and stand on a small platform. At least I didn’t have time for stage fright being I was so scared of heights!
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen the first time I remember hearing this song a friend of mine was in a production of A Christmas Carol at the community theater. I wished I’d been able to be involved in theater, but we lived so far from the city.
All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey is younger than my youngest son but has already become a classic. It’s one of the most played Christmas songs on the radio and I think old and young, rockers and country lovers enjoy it. I know it’s one of my favorites and it lends itself well to the holiday romance genre.
Hard Candy Christmas I was surprised to learn it wasn’t written by Dolly Pardon but instead by Carol Hall. It’s from the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Dolly played Miss Mona in the film version. My dad saw the movie before I did and embarrassed himself telling me about it. I’ll never forget his discomfort when he suddenly remembered I wasn’t his friend but his daughter.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from Meet Me in Saint Louis, I loved it as a movie with Judy Garland I’ve never had the opportunity to see the play. I’m an old movie nut. My son and I love the history channel and the classic movie channel.
We Need a Little Christmas the first time I remember hearing this was on The Facts of Life, I guess that dates me. I loved that show, and their holiday specials were always full of heart and music.
Baby It’s Cold Outside this song has been done and spoofed so many times it’s become a tradition in itself. I love to hear it and gladly listen to any of the new versions for a chuckle.
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Here in eastern North Carolina, it rarely snows until after the new year but every once in a while we have a white Christmas. One I remember with my daughter-in-law Chanthou that was really special. We all played in the snow and made snow cream. Even though it’s doubtful we’ll get snow for Christmas, I cannot resist singing this song.
White Christmas Irving Berlin was one of the greatest song writers of all time. I love to watch the old movies White Christmas and Holiday Inn, and when I was writing my story, Only in My Dreams, I thought about all the WW2 era movies I loved to watch such as these. The title for my holiday WW2 novella is from the song I’ll be Home for Christmas, which I cannot listen to without tearing up.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas I sing this in the stores when the Christmas decorations come out, but I truly feel it after our small-town Christmas parade.
Snoopy and Red Baron I had this on a forty-five and played it over and over again until there was a groove in the vinyl. That and Alvin and the Chipmunks singing Christmas Don’t Be Late.
I don’t know if anyone else cooks as crazy as I do but I never fix things the same way twice. It’s not done on purpose and this probably explains why I’m not as good of a baker as I am a cook, baking has to be more precise. When you live far from a grocery store and have to depend on what you can pick up at the dollar stores or what is in your pantry or freezer, you sometimes have to make substitutions.
My Holiday Fruit Salad (correct version)
1 box red gelatin (I prefer strawberry but cherry or raspberry would also work)
1 cup hot water
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce (you can use regular canned sauce or even homemade sauce)
*note: if you use homemade sauce be aware that you may need to cut back on liquids.
1 4-6 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
1 12-16 ounce can pineapples (drained) or frozen pineapple
1 apple chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
In medium bowl (I use the same one I plan to serve in preferably glass) mix hot water and gelatin until completely dissolved. Add in cranberry sauce, mix well but don’t completely integrate. Stir in fruit and top with nuts. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
This year I wasn’t sure if we’d even be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner due to Covid exposure. I had half my planned groceries but not everything I usually purchase. So for my Holiday Fruit Salad I had to improvise.
I had strawberry gelatin but plain cranberry sauce. I had dried cherries but no celery. I thought I had pineapple in a can or frozen but no, I had frozen mango, so I tried it with mango. It was fantastic. I didn’t top with nuts this year but who knows what I’ll do for Christmas.
Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Do you improvise or does it have to be made a certain way?
I am a child at Christmas. No matter how old I get, I am still excited by the Christmas lights adorning houses and stores, intricately woven onto boats and stylishly fashioned on business marquees. I stare in wonder and awe at displays of homemade ornaments and family heirlooms, delicate glass balls, wrought metal sculptures, paintings, and nature crafts.
I hum along with familiar songs, belting out the chorus and breaking into dance. I twirl around light poles like Fred Astaire and imagine myself kicking like a Rockette on Broadway. I watch classic Christmas movies and gorge on Hallmark and Lifetime’s sweet romances. I inhale the scent of pine, cinnamon and brown sugar, cocoa and warm apple spices, and I feel the years slip away until I’m a little girl waiting for Santa to arrive.
Christmas, to me, begins at Thanksgiving. It is a reminder of what is truly important, family and friends. Thanksgiving gives us a moment before the hustle and bustle of the rest of the holiday, to stop, thank God for all that he has given us and rejoice in our blessings. It is also a time to reflect on those who are no longer with us.
During the holiday, I find myself thinking of my Granny Berry and my Aunt Martha. These two women were the matriarchs who influenced my life. My dad’s mother, Grandma Anna died when I was six, Aunt Martha became my surrogate grandmother. From our church program on Christmas Eve to our family dinner on Christmas day, they taught me Christmas was more than presents. It was about Christ’s birth, death and the gift of life. It was about our duty to church and family, about community. Christmas was a celebration of love, a wish for peace, and a dream of hope. Some of that is missing from my Christmas this year. I have gotten so caught up in buying gifts and sending cards that I have forgotten to be thankful for God’s greatest gift, his son, Jesus, the reason we celebrate Christmas. I am also thankful for my own sons, my husband and family, my friends, my community, I know that I am blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas and remember the Christmases of my past. I am so thankful for all who have taught me the true meaning of Christmas.
As you swim through the chaos of last-minute shopping, wade through ribbons, wrappings and decorations, stop a minute and look around at the reason you are celebrating. Reach out to a friend or neighbor who doesn’t have family or the blessings you know. Share a little of the love and joy of the holiday with a card, a gift or a just a smile. Let this time of year reflect in how we treat others. That is what Christmas means to me.
to my virtual café, Kathryn, I’m so glad to have you here today.
Kathryn: Thanks, Sherri! So happy to
visit you in your cozy café. And feel free to call me Kate.
Thank you, Kate. I’m excited to have you here for the holidays. You really go
all out with decorating and baking, don’t you?
Oh, I do. In addition to a couple “faux firs,” we always have a live
tree we decorate with treasured family ornaments we’ve collected over the
years. Two ornaments feature photographs of my parents so, even though they
have passed away, their spirits join us in our celebration. In addition to
honoring our beloved family traditions, I have a creative itch that demands
attention on a daily basis and, one way of satisfying it, is celebrating with
decorations and baking. As a matter of fact, last year I combined decorating
and baking with a Buche de Noel. So much fun to create, and we all enjoyed
eating the fruits of my happy labor.
I follow you on social media and I love the posts you share of your home and
how you have it decorated for each season.
Thank you! Decorating for special days is one of my joys and our sweet, old
cottage is the perfect setting for it.
We met at one of the Pamlico Writers’ Conferences several years ago, is that
Yes. I was introduced to Pamlico Writers’ Group in 2017 when I received second
place in creative non-fiction for their anthology, Reflections. I had the pleasure of meeting you at the March
conference and have enjoyed following you through social media. Speaking of
writers’ groups, I must give a shout-out to my own special critiquing group
family: Wordsmiths of the Inner Banks. We are a small group that meets twice a
month to share and critique each other’s work. Their suggestions and support
have been invaluable to me.
2017, truly, we’ve only known each other a very short while and yet I feel we
are great friends. You are so supportive of me, my writing and the Pamlico
Writers’ Group on social media, I guess that is what makes it seem like we’ve
been friends longer.
Absolutely! It’s amazing how social media allows kindred spirits to connect,
even when we don’t often have the chance to meet in person. We can follow one
another’s life journeys and be there for each other in a very real way.
You were born in Washington, North Carolina where we host our annual conference
but where did you grow up?
Kathryn: Lots of places, actually. My
father’s varying job opportunities had us move from eastern North Carolina to
one snowy winter in Utica, New York, to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia (several
moves within those two cities,) to a two-year stint in New York City, and back
to Virginia. I changed schools seven times in seven years. But when I hit
seventh grade, I remained in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk, VA area, graduating
from Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach and Old Dominion University in
Norfolk, until I moved to Edenton, NC seven years ago. Hmmm, that’s a lot of
“sevens,” isn’t it?
Wow, you’ve moved around even more than I have. How has growing up on the east
coast influenced your writing?
Kathryn: From the sandy beaches and
historic lighthouses of the blue Atlantic, to the Spanish moss-shrouded coastal
forests and swamps, I’ve been surrounded by story-telling inspiration my whole
life. The history, mystery, and rich culture of the region form a deep
reservoir of writing material.
Your first book, Sea Snow is a paranormal, historical romance? Tell us a bit
Kathryn: I think of it as historical
fiction with a supernatural twist. Sea
Snow- the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse has romantic
elements between the main character and her husband but cannot be cast in the
traditional romance genre. It’s written in journal form by Rose, a young, 19th
century woman from Norfolk, Virginia who falls in love with and marries a young
man as he leaves the U.S. Navy and becomes the keeper of a lighthouse one mile
off the Massachusetts coast. Throughout her journal, Rose prefaces several of
her entries with excerpts from the work of one of her favorite poets, Christina
Rossetti. As Rose experiences the joys and challenges of lighthouse life in the
late 19th century—facing storms and illness, new and surprising friendships,
New England village life, and the excitement and concerns of first-time
pregnancy—she discovers their lighthouse is haunted (quite literally) by the
sad but gentle spirit of a former occupant who needs her help.
Was any of this story based on real people or events?
Kathryn: Not real people or events, per
se, but based upon my extensive research into lighthouse life and New England
at the turn of the 20th century. One of the challenges, as well as
opportunities, of writing historical fiction is the research necessary to
ensure accuracy in the details. You have to be certain that any references to
books, music, clothing styles, terminology, etc was in use at the time,
especially when the book is written in the protagonist’s own words. For
example, you can’t have someone zipping up a dress prior to 1913 and you can’t
refer to young people as teenagers until the 1940s!
I love doing research but can often get lost in it. But I agree that to make it
more authentic, you have to know it even if you don’t use it.
are you working on now?
I’m very excited to announce that I have a completed Middle Grade contemporary
supernatural mystery, Zephyr Stone and
the Moon Mist Ghost, under contract with Raleigh publisher, Blue Ink Press,
due to be released in 2021. It’s about a 12-year-old girl from the Outer Banks
of North Carolina who encounters the three-hundred-year-old ghost of a Native
American woman paddling her canoe in the midnight mists of the Great Dismal
Swamp. While the grieving spirit begs for Zephyr’s help in finding her
long-lost child, the spirits of the ghost’s cat and Zephyr’s beloved dog
exchange places and cannot resume their natural (supernatural) existences until
Zephyr returns with an answer for the distraught spectral mother.
I’m 62,000 words into an approximately 80,000-word adult contemporary fantasy
based in Edenton and Scotland that has a working title of Murmuration. And, yes, I’m having a blast with it!
I understand that one of your passions is photography, in fact, you have won
awards with your photos. Would you share that with us?
Kathryn: I love how photography trains
the mind and eye and heart to see the beauty and intrigue around us every day.
After several years of actively selling and exhibiting my photographs in art
shows and galleries and picking up many awards along the way, my creative
energies are now focused on my writing. I’ve had many chapters in my life
story. Some open and close pretty quickly, while others linger on in some form
for many years. Photography is certainly one of my more enduring chapters. I
think it’s because I see photography as another form of story-telling. And I
just love a good story! By the way, my husband is also an award-winning
photographer and my book cover for Sea
Snow is based on one of his photographs, which I altered with Photoshop to
reflect the look and mood of my fictional lighthouse.
I understand you are also a newlywed. I believe you got married shortly before
we first met. How has marriage changed your life?
Kathryn: Bill and I married in Edenton
on June 16, 2012 on the front porch of our newly purchased1895 home we dubbed
“Buttercup Cottage.” The ceremony was graciously performed by the
minister of the church across the street from us. Having both been through
problematical marriages in our pasts, we were—are—so grateful to have found one
another. The wedding present I gave Bill is a sign that hangs in our living
room: “It’s Never Too Late To Live Happily Ever After.” I believe
this, with all my heart, and that realization has extended to every part of my
life, including my career as a writer.
I love your philosophy. I believe in happily ever after, as well.
you husband love to travel, and you share your pictures on social media. I love
seeing all of your adventures. Do any of the places you visit influence your
Kathryn: Yes. Every place has a magic of
its own and I’ve sought to capture that magic in my photography. In turn, those
photographs spanning North America from North Carolina to Alaska and across the
Atlantic to Scotland, stir memories and emotions that play directly into my writing.
What is something people might not know about you that you’d like to share?
I’ve worn many hats in addition to writer and photographer. Teacher. Social
Worker. Television re-enactment actress. Church choir soloist. Nationally
certified massage therapist. Enthusiastic home baker. Check out my favorite
tried-and-true baking recipes on my “Kate’s Giving Plate” Facebook
You know I love recipes. I’m a Food Network junkie. With the holidays
approaching, do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
Yes! In Sea Snow, Rose prepared an 1890s version of a festive confection
and called it “Red Cupid Cake,” since she baked it for Valentine’s
Day. My recipe is for a classic Red Velvet Cake, but I went for a red and green
Christmassy combo and called it:
cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 Tablespoons unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 cup vegetable oil such as canola
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1-2 oz food coloring of choice, more or less depending on how deep you want
• ½ cup plain hot coffee, prepared
• 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
Preheat oven to 325 F.
2. Generously grease and flour or line with baking parchment paper, two 9-inch
round cake pans. Set aside.
you wish to make two different colored cake layers, simply divide all the
ingredients in half, using a different food coloring for each layer, and use
separate mixing bowls for each layer. All of the ingredients easily divide by
3. In a
medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder,
and salt. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and vegetable oil.
5. Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and food coloring until combined with
the sugar and oil.
6. Stir the hot coffee and white vinegar into the wet mixture.
7. Add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, a little at a time, mixing
after each addition, just until combined. Batter will be thin. (Over-mixing
makes for a denser cake.)
8. Pour the batter evenly into each pan.
9. Bake in the middle rack for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in
the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Do not over bake as the
cake will continue to cook as it cools.
10. Let pans cool on a cooling rack until warm to the touch.
11. Slide a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pans to loosen the
cake from the pan.
12. Gently remove the cakes from the pans and let them finish cooling on racks.
(The warm cake will be very delicate.)
13. Frost the cake with cream cheese frosting after the layers have cooled
completely. I leave the sides bare so the colorful cake layers can be seen.
garnished the top frosted cake layer with cracked peppermint candy pieces.)
ounces cream cheese, room temperature
-8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
-1 cup confectioners’ sugar (yep, that’s all!)
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl and beat until smooth
and soft. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well
blended. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add
vanilla, and stir to combine.
This is beautiful and sounds delicious. I’ll have to bring my daughter-in-law
over and see if we can make on ourselves.
to say goodbye, but I know you are a busy woman. I look forward to spending
time with you again soon.
enjoyed this interview with Kathryn Louise Wood, check out her book on
Amazon.com and follow her on social media, the links are below.
wishes Kate, I’m excited to see what you do next.
Thank you, so much, Sherri. I’m honored to have been interviewed by you. Warm
wishes of the season to you and yours!-
Louise Wood was born in Washington, North Carolina and received her BS in
Education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Having spent her
life on the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia, she grew up with the ever
present beauty of regional lighthouses: the twin lights of Cape Henry in
Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Old Point Comfort Light in Hampton, Virginia, the
Assateague Light on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and the Cape Hatteras, Bodie, and
Ocracoke Lights on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Having developed a
particular fascination with lighthouses as stalwart guides to ships at sea, and
as timeless sentinels of mystery, adventure, and romance, they were the natural
inspiration for her first novel, Sea
Snow- the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse .
Another of Kathryn’s interests is the supernatural, born of her own experience
and the experiences of friends and family. She has always held a soul-deep
feeling that there is more to life than what is obvious to our physical senses.
As a life-long learner, Kathryn has worked as a teacher, social worker,
television re-enactment actress, nationally certified massage therapist, and
writer, and is an award-winning photographic artist.
She lives with her husband and kindred spirit, William Francis Ahearn, in a
little turn-of-the-20th century cottage (that makes up in quirky charm what it
may lack in size) in the beautiful, historic town of Edenton, North Carolina.
They share their home with their dogs, Minna and Sophie, and the memories of
loved ones with whom they shared their lives, there.
Kathryn has a Middle Grade supernatural mystery under contract with Blue Ink
Press and is currently working on an adult contemporary fantasy set in Edenton
and the Highlands of Scotland.
Sea Snow- the gentle haunting of a 19th
wedding night, Rose Martin, the young bride of a 19th century lighthouse keeper
is awakened by a phantom fragrance, compelling her to leave her sleeping
husband’s side and climb the 102 steps of the light tower. What she encounters
there startles her, but is just the beginning of the unnerving experiences that
guide her through the unlocking of a secret that haunts not only the
lighthouse, but many of the nearby villagers, as well.
In Sea Snow, we open Rose’s journal
and read the words of a southern woman transported by love and distance to a
rocky island lighthouse, one mile off the Massachusetts coast. There, we
discover the details of daily life at the turn of the 20th century: the
challenges, the joys, and, in Rose’s case, the love and supernatural forces
that part the veil between the living and the dead.
With a daughter-in-law who was raised Buddhist and Methodist, and dear friends who are Muslim, as well as Jewish, Catholic, Bahai and an assortment of Protestants, each with their own unique traditions and holidays, I am awed by their different traditions.
What is your favorite holiday? How does your family celebrate it? What is your favorite part of your holiday?
Growing up I never really thought we had many traditions centered around the Christmas holiday except to be home for the holidays. No matter where we were, we tried to come back to eastern North Carolina sometime during the holidays. Here Christmas might be warm enough for short-sleeves or cold enough to hope for snow. One Christmas, the year my oldest son was born, it went from high sixties to a windy freezing in a matter of hours.
As a child, Christmas eve was spent at the church across the street performing in the Christmas Pageant. As a teenager, I wrote and directed the Christmas programs, sometimes cobbling together bits and pieces from other plays and pageants to create something to fit our small cast.
After the program, Santa would arrive to the ringing of the church bells. He would hand out the gifts that had been left under the big cedar tree. Everyone in church would then be handed a brown paper bag with an orange, an apple, some candy and nuts from Joe Deal’s store and later, a gift from the church. Those who participated in the play would be given an additional small gift such as gloves or a hat.
Most of my favorite memories center around that old church and the people in it. Hayrides on the back of an old farm truck, singing Christmas carols with the youth group and a few brave adults, returning to the church to drink hot cocoa and eat hot dogs and homemade fudge and rolled cookies. I miss those days, I tortured my boys with parts in the Christmas program. Unfortunately for them, they often participated in three, sometimes four Christmas programs: my home church where I was often in charge, in-laws’ church where their aunt was in charge, my grandparents’ church were my aunt was in charge and when we started attending another church as a family, we still tried to participate in all of them until the boys staged a coup. Because I enjoyed being a part of the holiday programs, I thought they should too.
Tonight is Thanksgiving eve. I love this time of year. From Halloween to Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating loved ones. While here in the US, we celebrate Halloween mostly by dressing up and going door to door begging for candy, I have always felt it was the beginning of our family celebrations.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I love it even more than Christmas. It is not just about the eating but I have to admit, I love the turkey and all the trimmings. Forme, Thanksgiving is a time of reflection. It’s about stopping to consider what I am truly thankful for. It’s about being thankful for little things as well as the big things. I know when people look at us, they see people on the edge of middle class. We’re hardly rich yet I have so much to be thankful for. I have six amazing sons and a husband who still takes my breath away. I have lovely daughters-in-law who complete our family with their talents and kindness. Ihave a tribe of grandchildren who make me feel like a little kid again. I am blessed and so very thankful for each of these treasures. I am thankful to still have my mom, my in-laws and my aunts and uncles who are always willing to give a word of encouragement or lend a helping hand. For an only child, it is the sense of belonging that comes with my large crazy family that is more precious than money or fame.
I love cooking the turkey and dressing, using my mom’s recipes. It is the one thing I like to keep traditional. I enjoy experimenting with side dishes and like to try a variety of recipes, but there should always be something with cranberry and something with sweet potato or it’s just not Thanksgiving. When I first took over the bulk of the cooking I feared not being as good as my mom and mother-in-law. Now much of the responsibility for the dinner is being passed to the next generation. Part of me is sad to pass the torch but another part is glad that I have someone willing to take up the tradition. I know the children will not do everything the same way I did. I didn’t do everything the same way my parents and in-laws did. We take a little of the past and bring it with us into the future, creating new traditions along the way.
Not all of my children come home for Thanksgiving and while I miss them, I know they have to celebrate with their families, creating their own traditions as they blend what they have learned from me and what their wives bring with them, creating their own. As I try to write this blog, I am sniffling and snotting over Hallmark Christmas movies. One of the great things about sharing this holiday with my daughter-in-law is not having to be in the kitchen tonight after having a busy day at the store.
Before I endthis Thanksgiving blog, I want to list a few things I’m thankful for: I’m thankfulfor loving parents, both my own and my in-laws. I’m thankful for a husband whosupports my crazy dream and pushes me towards it, for good friends whoencourage, enable and console through the many trials of becoming a publishedauthor and the days when I was just trying to survive raising six sons. I’mthankful for my sons with array of personalities and talents, for their wives/girlfriendswho put up with them, and for the beautiful grandchildren they’ve given me. Recently,a friend told me of his idea to have a community Christmas tree. He hopes tobring the community together to spread the holiday cheer. Being a part of thiscommunity is another thing I’m thankful for. It is my love of my town and thepeople in it that inspires my stories. The people here have influenced theraising of my children, helped us when we lost our home to fire, and they haveoffered us friendship and support.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss