The Family that Eats Together…

“Grandma always gathered her family for Sunday dinner, transforming the old scratched oak table into a royal banquet… Those times are long since past, and the old oak table now sits in our sister’s kitchen…but when she places a crocheted doily on the table and spreads an array of desserts and wines upon it, we go back in time to the days of our youth and a longing for a time so precious, so dear, that only in our minds can we go” (“Family Sustenance,” Country Home Magazine, December 1994).

Those words were written by my mother and referred to the family dinner table that once sat in her grandmother’s kitchen and now sits in my aunt’s living room where many of our family gatherings are held. Oh, if that table could talk…

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In Order to Form a More Perfect Union…

This morning, I hugged and kissed my baby goodbye and watched her drive away, beginning her five-and-a-half hour trip and fourth semester of college. I told her all of the standard things a parent should say, “Don’t speed,” “Be careful and pay attention to the road,” “Make good choices,” “Study hard,” and “Have fun.”

As I watched her go, I thought about the other goings on of the day–those taking place across the bridge, as we say here on the Shore. Today, we do what our Founding Fathers intended for us to do–we welcome a new administration to lead our country. I thought about the implications of that transition and about how my daughter will be impacted by our country’s leadership and how it will impact her.

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Clinging to Love

When I was a little girl, our family spent most weekends “down in the country.” This was, and still is, how my parents referred to the area where they grew up in Southern Maryland. Though we lived just ten minutes outside of Washington, DC, my parents always thought of St. Mary’s County as home. I came to feel the same way after spending so much of my childhood there. In fact, even as an adult, the dreams in which I am “at home” often take place at my grandparents’ house. My mother tells me that at the end of each weekend, I would cling to my grandfather’s legs and beg him not to let my parents take me back with them. While my parents are THE BEST, all I wanted was to be with my grandparents.

As I got older, I spent many, many weekends and extended summer stays with Granddad and Gram, as I always referred to my grandmother. Much of that time was spent crabbing, fishing, or “helping” Granddad with his tobacco crop.

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Share Your Love

This morning, my mother began taking down her Christmas decorations. As she frequently does this time of year, she replaced the decorations on her dining room table with the tablecloth that her mother-in-law made for her as a wedding present.

This tablecloth, with hours of love crocheted into every knot and loop, is one of my mother’s most prized possessions. She lost her mother-in-law less than ten years after she and my father wed, but Grandma Mac lives on every year when that tablecloth graces my parents’ table. For fifty-seven years, this tablecloth has been not only a beautiful reminder of my grandmother but a witness to baby showers and wedding plans and family dinners and all the sorrow and joy that comes from being part of a family.

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Not Your Grandmother’s Egg Nog

We’re in he midst of the holidays, and most people are still stuck at home. It seems that most home improvement jobs have been completed, the exercise equipment gathers dust, and Netflix binges are becoming stale. However, it looks like many are still cooking and baking and trying to come up with new recipes. We’ve been baking cookies, cakes, and pies and making hot chocolate bombs. Today, I’m going to experiment with pumpkin spice bread pudding. I can’t wait to taste it!

One thing that is always the hit of the party in our family is our homemade ice cream cake. At the end of Island of Promise, it’s what Kayla makes for Todd for his birthday, and subscribers to my newsletter received the recipe in my Island of Promise Companion Cookbook.

This year, my mother had the brilliant idea to make an egg nog ice cream cake for Christmas, and I decided to make my own version. We decided one a challenge to see what recipe seemed to be preferred. I can’t tell you that there was a clear winner because not a scrap of the cake was left over in either house. Clearly, this is one that may need to become a staple in our Christmas recipe file!

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A Little Bit More

When I was a little girl, I loved all of the Christmas specials. It was a big deal in our family when they came on TV. We all gathered in our basement recroom, the popcorn popper whirring the kernels around in the melted butter, the scent filling the air, as we waited in anticipation of shows that could only be watched when they aired that one time each year. My favorites were always The Little Drummer Boy and The Year Without a Santa Claus. I loved the latter because it proved that nothing could stop Christmas from coming–not a blizzard, not a heatwave, not a feud between two warring brothers, not Santa being sick, or lack of belief in the world. Mrs. Claus was determined that Christmas would happen no matter what.

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A Lifetime of Blessings

Last night, we had the opportunity to have dinner with our now married daughter and her husband at their new home. This is Rebecca and Anthony’s first Christmas living together and the first time they decorated their own Christmas tree. I stood for several minutes and looked at the ornaments from their combined childhoods and thought about all the years we’ve collected ornaments for our girls. It felt odd to see Rebecca’s ornaments on a tree other than our family tree, but it was a beautiful, comforting feeling to know that a big part of her childhood hangs on the tree in her new home. We are still tethered together by tradition even when miles apart.

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Be Prepared

A tree beside our house was struck by lightning the other day. It was scary. The entire house shook from the sound akin to a sonic boom, and a red-orange light filled every room, like a giant fireball hurled through the windows. We knew lightning had struck nearby, but we didn’t know where. It was raining too hard to go outside and look around, and everything in the house seemed okay, so we surmised perhaps it wasn’t as close as we thought.

That evening, we all sat down together to watch a holiday special on TV, and we had no TV… The Tivo was working. It told us what channel was on and what program we should be seeing on the screen, but all we saw was a message that there was no signal. We checked the other televisions in the house and found that we had no stations on any of them. Ken went outside with a flashlight and found that the antenna was still there, so he checked the booster in the garage where the signal comes into the house. The booster was not working.

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Whatever You Do This Holiday Season

6 days!

There are just six days left until my online launch party!

I’m so excited! On Tuesday, December 1, I hope you will join me between 4:00 and 6:00PM Eastern Time on Facebook or YouTube. You will have the chance to order Desert Fire, Mountain Rain, book one of my new series which takes place in the Ozarks. You can watch me sign your book while I answer questions and talk to readers who leave comments. It’s going to be so much fun!

I don’t know about you, but I really feel like I need something to look forward to this week, and what better thing to get excited about than a new book series? Seriously, winter is coming, fireplaces are ablaze, and those fuzzy blankets are being put to good use. This one is a gift I received last Christmas from one of my best friends, and I look forward to cuddling up with it every night! I love to cover myself with a warm blanket and lose myself in a good story. Can’t you just hear those book characters calling you?

You know what else I look forward to?

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The Secret Ingredient

One of my favorite memories as a little girl is of baking and decorating sugar cookies with my mom. Baking them for Christmas is a tradition I’ve taken over, and now my girls and I are the sugar cookie providers for our family and friends. Every Christmas, we do a huge cookie swap dinner with the mothers and daughters we are closest to. It’s something we look forward to all year long–planning, preparing, baking, cooking, decorating, and then finally enjoying. This year would have been our sixteenth cookie swap, and my girls and I are so disappointed that we won’t be able to have it under the current circumstances. However, we certainly will be baking our sugar cookies because they are more than cookies.

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