Holiday movies and stories, and seasonal baking competitions, these are a few more of my favorite things.
When I put away the Thanksgiving leftovers and start pulling out the Christmas decorations, I get in the spirit of the season by watching holiday movies, reading, or listening to Christmas stories, or turning on Christmas music. Over the years my favorites have changed but there are a few that will always put me in a holiday mood and they’re probably not everyone’s idea of a classic. 1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2) While You Were Sleeping 3) Last Holiday 4) How The Grinch Stole Christmas 5) Santa Clause 6) Frosty, The Snowman 7) The Little Drummer Boy 8) Holiday Inn 9) Stage Door Canteen 10) Jingle All The Way 11) Miracle on 34th Street 12) The Christmas Carol 13) Hallmark Movies Collectively
This year I might have to add The Noel Diary, it had all the feels and was a little more than the traditional holiday movie.
I love Christmas and Hannukah stories. I prefer romantic comedies to lift my flagging holiday spirits, but occasionally I’ll choose a story with deeper emotions, action or maybe even a mystery. Over the years I have downloaded several holiday audiobooks, ebooks and even bought a few in print. Anthologies are another of my favorites during the holidays. Who has time to read a full-size novel when you have to buy Christmas gifts, write and send cards, bake, go to parties, decorate, and whatever else the holidays bring. 1) Christmas Revels Anthologies (regency) by Kate Parker, Hannah Meredith & friends 2) ‘Twas the Night After Christmas (regency) by Sabrina Jeffries 3) Kissing Under the Mistletoe (historical) by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey and Anna Bennett,
This year I added a few new favorites. 1) Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter, be prepared to cry, 2) A Very Merry Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams, a fun story with the Bromance series characters, 3) It Happened One Winter by Christi Caldwell, not exactly a Christmas story but close enough and filled with romance, winter, kids, and hope, 4) Mansplainer by Avery Flynn, Book 3 finishes at Christmas but the whole series is leading up to Christmas and the last gift their grandmother left, 5) Highland Games by Evie Alexander, a funny twist on a Highland romance.
I love baking competitions but especially the holiday ones where everything is decorated with the spirit of the season. I also love to watch the holiday cookie challenge and the gingerbread competitions. The holidays are about warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. I love to bake cookies during the holidays. My favorite cookies are oatmeal raisin (or cranberry), ginger snaps, and cinnamon Snickerdoodle cookies. What are your favorite cookies? Do you like to bake or just eat?
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.
The holidays for me begin with Halloween and ease up after the first of the year only to be tossed into Valentine’s quickly followed by Easter, and May is a big birthday month plus Mother’s Day, then Father’s Day and suddenly it’s Fourth of July our anniversary, my birthday and before you know it Labor Day and the holidays start all over again.
With such a large family there are very few months we don’t have birthdays, anniversaries or something special going on, but Christmas, Christmas is the time of year when I try to remember each person in my life whether it’s with a card or gift. I want to let them know how important they are to me. Choosing the perfect gift isn’t always easy because let’s face it, most of us buy what we want throughout the year. No, the perfect gift isn’t always something expensive or even something asked for. The perfect gift to me is something the giver sees that makes them think of the other person, smile and say, “they will love that.”
I’ve been blessed by friends and family with some wonderful gifts through the years. Some of the best gifts I’ve received were not ones I’d even thought about: A book on Native Americans, a cheval mirror, a stuffed animal from my grandchildren. Gifts that came from the heart from people who know me. Somme of my most cherished are the anytime gifts, like when my husband or son brings me a coffee drink or one of my daughters-in-law are out somewhere and bring me home a cake or trinket just because they know I’ll like it. The best gifts are the gifts of time, sharing a moment with those you love whether it’s a phone call or a visit. Taking the time to say “I love you” is more precious than anything we can buy.
As I look back over this past year, the good and the bad, I know that I am blessed. We’ve known some heartaches, lost some friends and loved ones but at the end of the year I count more blessings than not. I hope you can say the same.
Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!
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?
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.