Tuesday, December 29, 2009

All Unquiet Things Review

Title: All Unquiet Things
Author: Anna Jarzab
Release Date: January 12, 2010

Summary (from
www.barnesandnoble.com ):

Carly: She was sweet. Smart. Self-destructive. She knew the secrets of Brighton Day School’s most privileged students. Secrets that got her killed.

Neily: Dumped by Carly for a notorious bad boy, Neily didn’t answer the phone call she made before she died. If he had, maybe he could have helped her. Now he can’t get the image of her lifeless body out of his mind.

Audrey: She’s the reason Carly got tangled up with Brighton’s fast crowd in the first place, and now she regrets it—especially since she’s convinced the police have put the wrong person in jail. Audrey thinks the murderer is someone at Brighton, and she wants Neily to help her find out who it is.

As reluctant allies Neily and Audrey dig into their shared past with Carly, her involvement with Brighton’s dark goings-on comes to light. But figuring out how Carly and her killer fit into the twisted drama will force Audrey and Neily to face hard truths about themselves and the girl they couldn’t save.

Character Development: 10/10pts
Originality: 9/10pts
Plot/Story Line: 8/10pts
Ending: 10/10pts
Voice: 10/10pts
Recommendation: 10/10pts
Total Score: 57/60
Grade: A+

Age Appropriate Rating:
Cussing: 6/10
Drugs, alcohol, etc.: 10/10
Sexual Content: 6/10
Violence/Disturbing Images: 7/10

Written Review:

In a sea of fantasy and paranormal YA novels, something this genuine and gripping was very refreshing to read which made me absolutely adore All Unquiet Things. 

The mystery was great.  I wanted to find out Carly’s killer just as much as Audrey and Neily did and the twist at the end shocked me 100%. I never suspected the culprit at all. The ending was unpredictable, unbelievable, and made sure to leave no loose strings. All the clues matched up and finally made perfect sense. And though the pace starts out slow, after only a few chapters it picks up and by the end your heart is racing as everything clicks into place.

Tons of suspense, perfectly placed clues, and multiple suspects got me hooked almost immediately.  I stayed up multiple nights in a row trying to unravel the clues along with Audrey and Neily.  Plus the many twists and turns kept you second guessing yourself throughout the whole novel

I liked the double narratives. And though sometimes I got Audrey and Neily’s voices confused, the different perspectives as they both delve deeper into solving the murder, while also coming to terms with how it has affected them, greatly helped develop them as characters and lets Carly develop as well.

I am in awe at the hard work, passion, and dedication Anna Jarzab must have had to create this eloquent novel.  The wonderful prose and strong, authentic characters only enhanced the intriguing plot that made this novel so wonderful. The characters were Jarzab’s real strong point.  Their wide range of emotions made them all the more real.

Overall, All Unquiet Things is a thrilling mystery that flows together flawlessly as it takes the reader on an unpredictable journey to solve an intense case of drugs, scandal, and the brutal murder of Carly Ribelli.  It’s not only a story of seeking out the truth but also of learning to accept what you cannot change.
In one heartbreaking, suspenseful story and with more depth than most YA novels, Anna Jarzab weaves a complex story of murder, mystery, and the lengths one will go to cover it all up.
I strongly encourage everyone to read this book when it releases on January 12 of 2010.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The end of 25GoC and the beginning of a fabulous new year!!! By: Laura Wiess

Happy holidays! From Laura Wiess

 This week between Christmas Day and New Year's has always been a delightfully strange, introspective, sometimes chaotic, sometimes serene, Quick! Find-a-New-Year's-outfit, and No, spend the day relaxing in your pajamas time.
 I love it.
 I love the refrigerator crammed with leftover holiday food, hanging out with friends and family, the rummaging through the gifts now unwrapped and piled under the tree, the snow, the fireplace, the peace, the craziness and the laughter.
 Most of all, though, I love the tradition of looking back over the year at where I've been and what I've done, at the light and the dark moments, the times I could have handled things better and the times when I did better than I ever thought I could, the laughter and unexpected joy, the lessons learned, opportunities missed and the ones caught hold of, and celebrated.
 This week - the end of the old and the start of the new - fills me with hope and excitement, and makes me grateful for the chance to begin again, fresh.
 And so I wonder...what do I want to do, be, give, get and experience next? The sky's the limit, right? And even if I don't make half of it, who knows what great adventures I'll have along the way, as long as I can keep my mind open and don't let anybody (including myself) shut me down before I even try.
 This is a time of Endless Possibilities. A week of dreaming dreams for the New Year, and then revving up to try and make them come true.
 Let's do it. Let's try. Let's see what comes next.
 I mean seriously...why not?
 Hope your Christmas is grand, your week beautiful, and 2010 a year of dreams come true!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

25GoC: Kay Cassidy

An Eco-Friendly Christmas

By Kay Cassidy

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year.  The whole leading-up-to-it craziness can be a little overwhelming, but the holiday itself is wonderful.  One thing I've always noticed, though, is that with all the gifts and wrapping and everything, it's easy to let things go to waste.  I talk all the time on Living Your Five about my commitment to going green and, this year, I've decided to make some changes to my traditional way of doing things.  My favorite change this year?

Holiday bags!

Instead of wrapping gifts to put underneath the tree and wasting so much paper in the process, I've always wanted to make festive reusable holiday bags to put each gift in.  (Confession time:  I've been wanting to do this for FIVE YEARS, but somehow it's never gotten done.)

So this year, I decided I would go for it.  Just do it, as Nike would say.  I bought some darling holiday fabric in three different prints and spent about five hours putting together fifteen bags.  My feet hurt and my back was aching by the time I was done--and I'm certainly no Martha Stewart--but they are everything I hoped they'd be!  Here's a picture of how they turned out: 

Not only are they eco-friendly, but they look super cute under the tree.  And they're so easy to use!  You know how you always have at least one really weird-shaped gift that's almost impossible to wrap without it looking like the dog was in charge?  You just slip it into the bag and close it up. So-o-o easy.

One of the things I've noticed is that, more and more, people are ordering items online and having them shipped directly to the recipient without wrapping.  To me, it always seems silly to wrap them and waste paper after I've already seen what they are... and yet, who can resist a Christmas tree with lots of pretty boxes underneath?  Now that I have the bags, I may try something new next year.  Maybe I'll open the box with my eyes closed (after I cut it open, of course - no using box cutters with my eyes shut!) and then reach in and tuck the gifts into bags without peeking.  We'll see if that works.  :-)

Here's wishing you a happy holiday season and an eco-friendly 2010!




So do you remember how yesterday I posted how here in Texas the weather was so unbelievably wonderful and around 80 degrees. It was perfect weather that I couldn't even enjoy because I spent the day inside cleaning.

Cleaning for what you say? O just for our annual Christmas Eve party with a bounce house and apple cider and food and friends and everything that's good about Christmas. It's absolutly completely 100% my favorite thing abour Christmas time.

The party technically started 10 minutes ago and that perfect weather from yesterday is long gone. And instead it's replaced with snow. Tons of snow that is blocking roads that lead to our house which makes the liklihood of all of our friends showing up very slim. Actually none have shown up so far and in the last years everyone has shown up 30 minutes ago. I very much hate Texas weather.

I am very very very upset.

I'm going to go eat a cookie and try to be happy.

I hope you are enjoying your Christmas Eve more than I'm enjoying mine.

And as an early Christmas present from me to you I'm extending the contests. I haven't decided til win yet but you have more time to enter so please take advantage of that.

Thanks so much and Merry Christmas Eve!


Here are some pictures I took from our front porchl. Sorry they're blurry. I couldn't stand being out there for too long. I'm not used to this cold!

25GoC: Anna Jarzab

A Very Polish Christmas
By: Anna Jarzab

I'm Polish. This is not news to anyone who knows me, or who's read the FAQ on my website, but people tend to get confused by the last name and always ask, "What ethnicity is that?" So, I'm Polish. And, as is fairly common, I'm Catholic. We Polish Catholics have lots of Christmas traditions, and I'd like to tell you a little about them.
We Poles celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, with an event called wigilia (pronounced vigilia). Wigilia means "vigil", because Christmas Eve is the night on which we're waiting for Jesus to be born. We Jarzabs celebrate with my entire extended family on my mother's side, and it's a fairly big deal for us. I feel like a kid again just thinking about this year's wigilia, because last year I went home to California instead of to Chicago, where my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmother live, so we only did wigilia with my immediate family. I've been going through family withdrawal, so I can't wait for Christmas Eve.
Here's what you need to make the perfect Polish wigilia.
·         The First Star - Per Polish tradition, wigilia dinner cannot technically begin until the first star is sighted. My family nearly never eats before 6:00 on Christmas Eve, sometimes later. Before we start the festivities, my grandmother always sent us to the window to make sure the star is out.
·         Oplatki - After everybody has arrived and settled in and the first star can be seen in the sky, we break the oplatki. Oplatki is unconsecrated Communion host. We buy it at church (it has been blessed by a priest) in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Everybody gets a piece and we go around to each relative and offer them our oplatek. First, you wish that relative good luck in the coming year, sometimes something more specific ("I hope you get that new job you're interviewing for, it sounds great", "I hope you do well in school"). Then they break off a tiny piece (you don't want too much, it doesn't taste great, kind of like cardboard) and you break off a tiny piece of theirs, and you both eat it, and then you embrace. You do this with everybody in the attendance, and then you either eat the remaining portion of your oplatek, trick some foolish child who thinks it "tastes good" to eat it, or put it back on the tray surreptitiously so that Grandma doesn't notice.
·         Uszki - In Polish, uszki means "little ears", and these small dumplings (we're big on dough) are curled to look just like that. My grandmother's always have onion and mushroom in them, and pour barzcz (a beet soup) over them. This is the first course of our wigilia meal. It's always quite a production to get the children to eat the barzcz and the uszki, but I could eat them for every meal.
·         Pierogi - Traditionally, wigilia is a meatless meal, with the main course being fish. But in my family we kind of ignore that rule, because there are so many good Polish meat dishes it'd be a crime to exclude them. My favorite part of the wigilia meal is pierogi, which are potsticker-like dumplings that are stuffed with a filling, boiled, and then fried in butter and onions. We always have my grandmother's special pierogi, which have shredded beef, onion, and mushroom in them, and sometimes there are some cheese or potato pierogi.
·         Fish - Like I said, wigilia dinner is supposed to be meatless, but we're incorrigible and must have the meats. Regardless, we always have a fish option--usually something light and not too fishy, like talapia. To this day (and I'm twenty-five years old, you guys) my mom always demands I eat at least a small piece, for tradition's sake. I'd rather not, but I always do.
·         Kielbasa and kapusta - There's no real reason to have kielbasa and kapusta (Polish sausage and saurkraut) at wigilia, but it's a crowd pleaser and a staunchly Polish food, so it's there.
·         Dessert - After dinner, there is coffee and dessert. My family does cookie platters for Christmas dessert, and each family brings a big plate or two full of different kinds of cookies, that family's speciality. My cousin makes seven layer bars that are TO DIE. My family has, as long as I can remember, been in charge of bringing the kolaczki. We roll the dough into balls and then press them down with the bottom of a shot glass, so that there is a perfectly round depression. We put some kind of filling in the center--my favorites are apricot and raspberry preserves, but my mother also makes prune and poppy seed kolaczki because my dad loves them. Poppy seed cake is actually a traditional wigilia dessert, but this is as close as we get. We also drink coffee and tea.
·         Presents - After coffee and dessert (I'm sure you can imagine how antsy we were as kids at this point), we got to open presents. Christmas Day wasn't a big thing to me as a kid, because I usually just had a present from Santa, and ever since we moved to California we have no presents at all on Christmas Day, because we get our presents from our parents and each other on Christmas Eve.
·         Pasterka - The perfect wigilia is always topped off by Midnight Mass, which in Polish is called pasterka. Every Catholic church does a Midnight Mass, but it never seems quite the same if we don't go to the service at my grandmother's church, with the off-key old ladies singing in the choir loft. When I was very little, I was allowed to fall asleep at pasterka, and there's nothing like drifting off in your father's arms with a stomach full of pier
So that's it, my Christmas. Since we moved to California and thus don't have a house in Chicago anymore, Christmas Day is usually spent at my Auntie Kika's house. She makes a ham and we laze around watching TV and playing Nancy Drew computer games. Oh, that's another Christmas tradition--for years and years and years now, my sister, cousin and I have played a Nancy Drew computer game every Christmas. We always cheat with walk throughs and make fun of how dumb Nancy is and try to find creative ways for her to die, but we love them dearly. What will it be this year? Warnings at Wavery Academy? DONE.
Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

25GoC: Donna from Bites

Nothing. Is. Ever. Enough. Ever.
By: Donna from

It really sucks being a Guido at Christmas because, let's face it, we all suffer from 'IT'S NOT ENOUGH!"-aholicism.  Nothing.  Is.  Ever.  Enough.  Ever.  So what if there are 25 dozen cookies on the plate?  IT'S NOT ENOUGH!  You've spent $1,000 on Christmas gifts already.  IT'S NOT ENOUGH!  At this rate my ass is going to spread beyond a viable pants size and I'm not going to have enough money to even consider the thought of exercising.  Great.  There's another thing rearing it's ugly head: Italian optimism.
I go through this every year.  Last year I brought a box, literally A BOX of cookies ( we're talking maybe 20 dozen cookies) into work for people to snarf.  This year I told myself I wasn't going to do the box because that was way too much.  So I crammed 15 dozen cookies onto a serving dish.  Last year I bought people more stuff than they even have room to put it, thus launching my bank account into cardiac arrest.  This year I told myself I wasn't going to do that, yet my money's still hooked up to life support and is currently in a vegetative state.
Christmas is the one time of the year where I don't look at how much and I let the Italian-ness go into overdrive.  I WANT to do things for other people.  I WANT to make them happy.  Money and waistlines be damned.  It's also a time where I actually don't want to run other drivers off the road for their sheer stupidity.  I DON"T WANT to flip them off for cutting me off going 75.  I just want to sing Christmas music on my commute home.
Christmas is a time where you're either the type of person that goes into giving overdrive or you drive yourself to the opposite end of evolution and turn into a feral pig that would sooner gnaw its own foot off than let someone else have the last $20 Magnapox DVD player on the shelf at 4 AM the day after Thanksgiving.  Christmas is SUPPOSED to be a time for giving, for IT'S NOT ENOUGH.  Really, it's ok.  And so is the guilt of maybe giving a little too much.  You'll earn the money back and maybe next year you'll learn not to charge everything and only spend money you actually have.  At Christmas, it isn't ever enough because there are so many people in need that it's nearly impossible for it to actually be enough.  You can never give enough.
But you can go psychotic enough in your pilgrimage to give enough by turning into Cujo on the person behind you in line.  Remember - Christmas = happy times.  Giving times.  Pleasant times.  Next year do your shopping on line in November to avoid all those unwanted Rabies shots.  Take an extra helping or egg nog or Triptaphan-laden turkey to reduce those instances of vein-bursting rage while out in public.  It's not about you at Christmas.  It's not about everyone else.  And if you really think that special person would tell you to kiss their ass if you didn't get them that special ass-crack of dawn sale item, you either don't know that person very well or you need some new friends.  Is an extra $20 really worth all the people bites?
So remember, IT'S NOT ENOUGH.  It never is.  But if you need a hand truck to carry the cookie tray, perhaps you've outdone yourself.  If a personal loan comes into play, you've definitely overspent.  You can't help everyone, you can't be everything to everybody, and you are not Super(enter gender here).  Giving what you can is more than what anyone can ask for and more than what anyone expected.  And you'll be loved for it all the same.  Gauging yourself is also a nifty way to reduce blood pressure and have money left over for those pesky bills.  Just remember that.
Bites - Chomping on books and spitting out reviews

25GoC: Contest

25GoC: Sarah Ockler + contest

Christmas Pajama Breakfast: The Birth of Embarrassing Traditions
By: Sarah Ockler

In my family, you're never too old for matching pajamas on Christmas morning (and you're never safe from Mom's carefully planned pajama theme, no matter how new you are to the Ockler family scene).

It started quite accidentally, way back in the eighties when I was still a kid. Friends from our neighborhood were having a tough year--among other struggles, their teen daughter had gotten into a heap of trouble and wouldn't be spending the holidays with them. Worry, sadness, and loss had stretched the family so thin that to celebrate Christmas--to trim a tree, to exchange gifts, to pass food and laughter and wine at the dinner table--seemed like a cruel joke, a suggestion too ridiculous to even consider.

Mom learned all of this on Christmas morning that year. She'd called the neighbors to wish them a happy holiday soon after my younger brothers and I had tackled the mounds of presents left by Santa. We were buzzing from our third round of hot cocoa with tiny white marshmallows and comparing our stacks of loot when Mom told us to drop the toys and grab our winter gear. No matter that we were still in our pajamas, chocolate mustaches painted over our mouths, sticking-out-everywhere morning hair wild in the dry winter air. Brian and Emily needed cheering up, she'd said. Back then, the details we would get years later didn't matter. We had a surprise, Christmas-inspired mission to spread a little holiday cheer, and that was good enough for us.

Mom. Dad. My two brothers. Me. The five of us layered on our coats and scarves and mittens, stuffing our fleece-footed pajama toes into boots lined with plastic bread bags to keep the slush out. We marched in a line down the snow covered sidewalk, lifting our feet high to make new tracks in the unspoiled white powder, past the next door neighbor and the old house we lived in before we moved a few doors down to the current house. We listened to the snow crunch under our boots and watched our breath turn white in the air until we finally reached Brian and Emily's. Mom knocked on the door of the cornflower blue house, her and Dad on the top step while my brothers and I giggled from behind them at the silly sight of ourselves, outside on Christmas morning in our PJs and Wonder Bread boots.

Emily gasped when she opened the door, and though it was more than 20 years ago, I still remember the tears and the hugs. She and Brian welcomed us in and, after all the crying, cooked us a king's breakfast. We told them about our favorite gifts and laughed about what the other neighbors thought, if any of them had peeked through the frost on their windows as the five of us marched in single file down the bright white street. Brian and Emily were glad to see us and we were glad to be there. We stayed with them all day.

Our visit didn't erase their troubles or put back together the broken family. But for a while, they weren't alone on Christmas, and they knew that we loved them. And so in the following year, come December, they invited us again for breakfast. We had advanced notice this time, but there was a rule. A stipulation. Pre-conditions, you could say.

The breakfast invite would only be honored if we showed up in our PJs.

We complied. That year and the following and the one after that, too. Even when my family moved a few towns over, no longer within walking range, distance didn't stop the Christmas Pajama Breakfast. We'd just drive to their house in our pajamas, hoping only that my father didn't get pulled over. Because the dads had started a competition, it seemed, for the whackiest Christmas PJs ever. There were Santa hats and snowmen ties that lit up and candy cane striped socks and even old-fashioned men's nightshirts and nightcaps, and how would he explain that to the police? Mom started buying the rest of us new PJs just for the occasion--matching for the girls, matching for the guys, leaving the dads to their own delirious inventions. Another family heard about the festivities and added themselves to the guest list, and soon we were alternating years at our three homes. Over all the Christmases, the families grew and shrunk again, with boyfriends and girlfriends coming and going, then new spouses and babies. People moved away. Friends joined. Friends left. But always there was a table covered in food, surrounded by families in pajamas, sharing stories and laughing and being merry on Christmas morning.

Two decades later, Brian and Emily still live in the same cornflower blue house a few doors down from the gray one where I grew up. Their children are grown now too and have children of their own--Brian and Alice's grandkids. Their family has expanded, has mended and broken and mended again many times over, as all families do. They don't always attend Christmas breakfast anymore. Neither do I, as I've been away in the years since college and now have in-laws, another whole family out of town. My husband and I don't always get to spend Christmas with my side of the family, but we do always get the new pajamas. I like to say that it's embarrassing. That dressing up in matching pajamas with your mother and seeing your husband match your brothers and having everyone line up on the couch for pictures is ridiculous. But my eye-rolling is a lie. I love this silly tradition. And every Christmas Eve, no matter where I am, more than any other gift, I look forward to those new pajamas and everything they've come to represent--friendship. Family. Love. And a time of togetherness, even if the time for it has long passed. I still remember that quiet march down the snow-covered sidewalk. I still remember what it meant to Brian and Emily. I still remember what it meant to me, and what it means to me now, so many years and matching pajama sets later.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you, and best wishes for a 2010 filled with joy, love, and hope.


What a fun tradition, Sarah! Thanks for sharing it with us. At my home our only “tradition” is our Christmas Eve party ever year with lots of food and friends and of course a bounce house because what’s a party without one, right?

Sarah has very kindly contributed a little bit of summer on these bleak winter days (actually today in TX we’re experiencing spring weather that’s close to 80 degrees. And then later today it will drop to very cold and rainy and gross. O the joy of TX weather...)

Anyway, for the rest of you who live in normal places with at least somewhat predictable weather...comment to win a signed copy of Sarah’s much loved book, 20 Boy Summer.

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I hope all of y’all enjoy your very own family traditions this season,



Monday, December 21, 2009

25GoC: Elizabeth Scott

The Time of Year

By: Elizabeth Scott

There are a lot of things to be thankful for each and every year. I know I'm thankful for my family, my friends, and everyone who has done so much to support my writing.

But there's one thing I'm not so thankful for, and that's how stressful holidays can be.

Isn't is strange how the one time of year when relaxation and peace and love and understanding are supposed to reign seems to boil down to who got what for who--and when--and dinners that end too fast, or worse, seems as if they'll never end at all?

I think a lot of us--me included--put so much focus on the holidays being perfect that we forget that we are, ourselves, imperfect. And that, as strange as it may sound, is something I think we should celebrate.

Forget perfect, and embrace all the things that make you the amazing person you are. When you see the relative who makes you feel about two feet tall or realize you forgot to buy a present or--well, who doesn't have a holiday disaster story??--think about this:

This is the time of year to celebrate everything--not just life, but who we are. Celebrate yourself. Be proud of who you are, and carry that pride with you.  And if you can't pick who you share your holidays with, then plan to spend time with people you love and who love you back. Take the time to look back on this year with people that make you happy. (And if you have to miss out on eating leftover Brussel sprouts, well--that's just a bonus!)

We're all here for a reason, and we all matter. That, to me, is what the holidays should be about. Celebrating who we are and those we love.

I can't think of anything better than that.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

25GoC: E. Van Lowe

By: E. Van Lowe

I have a favorite Christmas movie.  When I tell people it's my favorite they invariably say: "That's not a Christmas movie."  Sometimes people laugh when I tell them.  "You're a comedy writer.  That's funny," they say.  And I'm thinking I didn't mean it to be funny.  It's true!

After I grew up and moved out of my parents home, I realized I had no Christmas tradition--like decorating the tree, or baking cookies with the family, or caroling, or pulling out the old yule log...  By the way, what is a yule log?  Anyone?  I'm from the Bronx.  We don't even have trees.  But I digress.  I wanted/needed a tradition--something I could look forward to doing every year.  Necessity being the mother of invention, I decided to create one.  I decided to create a family tradition of gathering around the TV on Christmas Eve night and watching Die Hard.  Yes, Die Hard. 

It's my favorite Christmas movie.  Well, why not?  It's got some great Christmas songs--like the classic "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" It has a great romance between Bruce Willis and Bonnie Bedelia, two people who only see each other at the beginning and end of the movie, and yet grow more in love with each passing moment.  It's got a villain even more unforgiving than Ebenezer Scrooge--played to perfection by Alan Rickman... and lots and lots of bullets.  I'm a boy, and boys like things that blow up.  I chose Die Hard because I wanted to pick a movie that my father and son would also enjoy, and wouldn't mind watching year after year.  A boy Christmas movie.

I've watched it on video tape and now on DVD, and I guess pretty soon I'll be watching on Blue Ray.  I've watched it with my father, my son, my wife, my friends, and in the lean years I have had to watch it alone.  But the lean years don't seem so lean when I pull it out of the jewel case and pop it into the DVD player.  Watching Die Hard is my one Christmas tradition, and I love Christmas.  Merry Christmas... now, let's go blow something up!


Visit E's Blog at http://vanlowe.blogspot.com/

Also be sure to check out his new E-Book available December 23rd, I Want You Back!

Find out more about it at http://evanlowe.com/iwantyouback.html



25GoC: Sarah Quigley + Fun Contest

Memorable Christmases
By: Sarah B. Quigley

1976: I crawled up to the tree and attempted to snack on the needles.
1979: The Tina the Ballerina Barbie Doll (complete with crown embedded into her skull) appeared under the Christmas tree, as did a Cookie Monster comforter. This is the first Christmas I have any real memory of.
1982: I saw E.T. in theaters seven times that year. I also experienced my first musical obsession in the form of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Imagine my delight when Santa gave me an album in which the Gloved One sings about E.T. and narrates the film.

1986: My family and I drove thirty miles to a church that had a live, outdoor nativity, complete with sheep and goats. Sounds like a great idea, right? Not when you live in Minnesota and it’s -12 degrees outside. A doll was used for baby Jesus since no parent in his or her right mind would subject an infant to such insane weather. We watched it from our car.
1989: I received a pair of Guess? jeans and was officially cool. Not. See http://sarahquigley.com/blog/?p=828 for more details.
1993: To my great surprise, I began dating the super-hot Norwegian exchange student my senior year. We said “I love you” for the first time on Christmas Day.
1995: Now a college sophomore, I’d long ago kissed Mr. Norway and another boyfriend good-bye. However, the latter dude phoned me on Christmas to say hi, and we got back together when the new semester started. It didn’t end up working out the second time around, either, but I’ll never forget the excitement and promise of that phone call.
1999: Not a fun one. I spent it at my grandma’s. One of my relatives was going through a personal crisis, and we were all a little nervous about Y2K. Oh, and I was engaged and spending the holiday apart from my man. Snow, sadness, and solitude.
2000: Now a married lady, I celebrated with my in-laws, an open-your-presents-Christmas-Eve type of family. Christmas morning was eerily odd, with everyone just eating cereal and reading the paper as if it were any other morning.
2007: My husband and I always traveled to see our families for the holidays, but I was eight months pregnant this year. For the first time, we got our own Christmas tree. We didn’t have any ornaments, so we threw an ornament-making party and invited all our friends. Best. Party. Ever.
2008: It was my daughter’s first Christmas, our first Christmas as a new little family. I cooked all kinds of special food, and we went out for a windy walk in the afternoon.
2009: My first Christmas as a published author!
Who knows what the coming years will bring…

Thanks for sharing Sarah! I hope this year is just as lovely. 
Sarah has very graciously contributed one of her famous, self-designed, hand-crocheted nosewarmers!

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Wishing you many blessings this Christmas,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

25GoC: Marlene Perez + Super Generous Contest!

This Christmas
by Marlene Perez

I’ll confess now. I am bending the rules a little (as usual.) I was asked to post about a favorite Christmas memory, but I wanted to talk about this Christmas, a holiday that may not be so bright for many people.
I am the youngest of twelve children. When my mother was pregnant with me, she divorced my father and began the overwhelming task of raising her children as a single mother. I’ve read about other people who lived in poverty as children, who’ve they didn’t know they were poor growing up. I did. I knew that there just wasn’t enough to go around, not enough money, not enough clothes, and sometimes, not enough food.
My mother worked miracles, though. She always had a huge garden, so we had fresh vegetables in the spring and summer and her canned goods in the winter. I remember my mother working non-stop in a hot kitchen canning vegetables and fruit, which would help to tide us over during the hard winter months. There was always food in the cupboard and my mother knew how to stretch a dollar with her family depression recipes, but I still remember wondering if there would still be enough for everyone next week or next month.
Today, too many parents are wondering how to find a job, how to keep their house, and how to feed their children. The economic downturn has everyone worried. Articles I’ve been reading say that kids aren’t asking for toys this year as much as they’re asking for things like food and socks.  I realize that times are tight for everyone this year and people are cutting back, but if you can, please stop by a food bank and donate a can or two.
Or donate to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Spark of Love, or the Salvation Army Angel Tree.
Here are a couple of my favorite holiday songs, which I hope will get you into the spirit of giving.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jEnTSQStGE Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUCbZhIfQbA This is Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2-rhtOKvCc Dig That Crazy Santa Claus by Brian Setzer

And in the spirit of giving, Marlene has kindly donated 2 copies of THE COMEBACK and 3 copies of UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENT!
To enter comment below!
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open to U.S and Canada

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 18, 2009

25GoC: Kristina Springer (w/ super fabulous recipes!)

Curl up with a good book and a yummy drink
Recipes from Kristina Springer

Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday and coffee drinks are one of my very favorite things ever. I make myself yummy espresso drinks daily on my little red Starbucks Barista espresso machine and I love to make them for others as well. Here are some super delicious coffee recipes you might want to try this season:

Candy Cane Latte
(from: http://www.recipezaar.com/Candy-Cane-Latte-271281)


3/4 ounce cherry flavored syrup or kirsch

1/4 ounce creme de menthe

2 ounces fresh hot espresso (or strong coffee)

4-6 ounces steamed milk

whipped cream (to garnish)

1 small candy cane (to garnish)


Pour the syrups and espresso into a 12 oz latte mug.

Add the steamed milk.

Garnish with whipped cream and hang a small candy cane on the rim of the mug.

Peppermint Patty Mocha
(from: http://recipes.suite101.com/article.cfm/christmas_coffee_drinks)


espresso-ground coffee beans

chocolate syrup

DaVinci peppermint coffee syrup

a peppermint patty chocolate candy

milk or soymilk


1 Start by brewing a shot of espresso.

2. Pour the shot into a 12 oz. coffee cup.

3. Add 1/2 ounce peppermint syrup 1/2 - 1 oz. chocolate syrup.

4. Fill the remainder of the mug with steamed milk or soy milk.

5. Stir the drink well and then drop a peppermint patty candy into the cup.

Egg Nog Latte
(from: http://www.egg-nog.info/Egg_Nog_Latte_Recipe.html)


1/2 cup eggnog

1/4 cup whole milk

Starbucks® Espresso Roast coffee (ground)

Pinch of ground nutmeg


1. Combine cold eggnog with cold whole milk. Cold non-fat milk or soymilk can be substituted for the whole milk.

2. Using the steaming wand on your espresso machine, steam the eggnog/milk mixture until the temperature reaches 145°F. Set aside.

Eggnog heats and scalds faster than milk, so watch the thermometer closely.

3. Tamp ground espresso into the filter. Pull a shot of espresso and pour it into the serving mug.

4. Fill mug with steamed eggnog and milk. Top the drink with 1/4"  foamed eggnog/milk mixture to the rim of the mug.

5. Garnish with a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

<3  Kristina Springer

THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, in stores now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

25GoC: C.K. Kelly Martin + contest

Christmas 1993: Faraway & So Close
By: C.K. Kelly Martin

I’ve been thinking about this Christmas post for awhile – about what I want to say about the holiday. Mostly I spend Christmas in Canada with family – exchanging cards and gifts, eating turkey and all the things that go along with it, watching classic (and not so classic) Christmas movies, and generally taking it easy. But recently I started thinking about a Christmas I spent in Dublin, far from family, way back in 1993.

I’d been living in Ireland on and off since graduating from university in1992 but 1993 was going to be my first Christmas away from home. I was working in a video store (a job that paid peanuts but which I loved) called Xtra-Vision, in a part of Dublin named Ranelagh, at the time. Our branch was going to be closed on Christmas Day but the Rathmines branch (only about a twenty minute walk away) would be open and they were looking for people from other branches to come in and help man the store for the day – double time pay.  

I didn’t think I wanted to work Christmas Day, regardless of the fact that my roommate and best friend was going to be out of town and that I had no real clue how else I’d spent my day. And then a friend who was part of the Dublin comedy circuit very thoughtfully asked if I wanted to spend Christmas with him and his family. Yes, I did, thanks very much!

In Ireland they have a name for people from other places who are living in the Emerald Isle, they call them blow-ins. Most of my close friends at the time happened to be other blow-ins. One was from Australia and had an amazing singing voice; another was a Kiwi and gave some of the best advice I’ve ever received. The three of us arranged to spend Christmas Eve hanging out at my flat. My friends stayed until about four in the morning and I can’t remember what we ate or what we talked about but I do remember thinking that hanging out with Louise and Michele was the absolute best was to spend Christmas Eve in Dublin. I didn’t feel far from home. I didn’t feel lonely. I felt like I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. 

The next day, Christmas itself, I spent with my comedy friend and his parents and siblings (who I’d never met before but quickly found to be lovely, generous people) eating turkey and handfuls of Cadbury Roses chocolate and playing Trivial Pursuit. And all of that was completely perfect too – a true Irish family Christmas. I slept over at his sister and her husband’s house that night and the next day (Stephen’s Day in Ireland and what we call Boxing Day in Canada) I went back to my job at Xtra-Vision, grateful that I’d had a family to spend Christmas with rather than earning double-time doling out videos at the Xtra-Vision in Rathmines.

I hope I thanked Ian, Michele and Louise at the time but guys, I still remember and I’m going to send you a link to this. Thank you for making my Christmas back in 1993!

To end this off and complete the flashback, I want to include a U2 song that was top of the charts in Ireland for most of December 1993 - Stay (Faraway & So Close):



Ms. Martin has so graciously donated a prize pack for one lucky winner. The
giveaway will be for a signed paperback of I Know It's Over, a signed hardcover of One Lonely Degree and a Lighter Side of Life and Death journal (picture to the right)

Open to U.S. and Canada only
Closes Dec.25th
+1 comment
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Thanks so much


25GoC: Jan Blazanin + Contest

My Dog’s Ten Favorite Things About Winter
By: Jan Blazanin

I’m not a fan of Iowa winters. If I could abolish snow, frigid winds, and freezing rain, I would be a happy woman. So I’m turning this blog over to my three dogs: Brewster, Gizmo, and Sassy. My lhaso apso Brewster is going on 14. He’s earned the right to be a couch potato. Gizmo, my 6-year-old Pekingese, loves howling randomly and chasing chipmunks.  Sassy, a 3-year-old Maltese-lhaso apso mix, is a running, jumping, licking champion. She’s also a registered coward.

In the interest of fairness, I asked my cats Sebastian and Raggedy Andy to contribute to this blog. They ignored me. So here are

My Dogs’ Ten Favorite Things About Winter:

10.       Gizmo and Sassy both spoke up for ice-skating on the driveway. (When you have four feet and your legs are six inches long, falling is not an issue.)

9.         All three dogs are fans of the long tummy rubs and unlimited snuggling that come when you’re snowed in with humans. (Confession—I enjoy snuggling, too.)

8.         Sassy mentioned digging up and eating frozen objects of unknown origin. (Since she also eats yellow snow, please ignore her dining suggestions.)

7.         One of Gizmo’s favorite winter pastimes is stalking mice that are tunneling under the snow toward the bird feeders. (He would prefer not to discuss his capture rate.)

6.         Gizmo and Sassy both like chasing snowballs, but they can’t figure out why the pesky things disappear when they land.

5.         All three dogs love being rubbed down with a warm towel after they’ve been playing in the snow. (It feels especially good when the snowballs on their fur are dissolved with warm water.)

4.         After the rubdown and rinse, Sassy runs all through the house, stirs every creature, rolls on all the furniture, and knocks the throw pillows off the sofa. (Hey, it’s a ritual!)

3.         Brewster’s favorite way to spend a winter evening is by sleeping on the hearth by a crackling fire. Sassy’s favorite way to spend a winter morning is by camping out on the heat vent in my bathroom. (Her belly is toasty warm. I’m freezing.)

2.         Gizmo and Sassy both recommend burrowing under the covers beside a nice, warm human being. (They find it especially satisfying if they’ve just run through the pet door from outdoors and their feet are caked with ice.)

1.         But of all the wonders of winter, all three dogs agreed that the very best thing is eating turkey leftovers—the more, the merrier. (Even the cats opened their eyes for that one!)

The dogs also asked me to mention their favorite holiday songs.

Brewster’s favorite is “Silent Night” performed WITHOUT words or music. (He needs his beauty rest.)

Gizmo loves Alvin and the Chipmunks singing “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” (He suspects that easy living has made them slow runners.)

Sassy adores “Barking Dogs Jingle Bells.” (What’s not to like?)

            From left to right we have Gizmo (with the black muzzle), Sassy, Mike (the human) and Brewster. All of them just came in from playing in the snow after the blizzard.

Jan Blazanin has so kindly contributed 2 copies of her book Fairest of Them All for 2 lucky winners! AND each winner will also win a fabulous bookmark made by Jan herself!

I reviewed Fairest of Them All HERE and made a book trailer for it HERE if you’re interested)

As always the contest is open to U.S. only and closes on the 25th.

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Thanks so much and Happy Holidays!