The Story of My Thanksgiving Story

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When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, Thanksgiving was spent in Massachusetts either at my grandparent’s farm in Littleton or at my Aunt Loe’s house. I loved the excitement of traveling up to the farm, passing open fields where deer were grazing, and stopping at the Hebert candy mansion for some toffee and fudge. But most of all I couldn’t wait to see my cousins.

My mom comes from a family of seven children so I had a lot of cousins. While the turkey cooked, we played Risk or Hide ‘n’ Seek or rummaged in my grandpa’s barn that was filled with antiques, tools for anything needing fixing, and old cars. When it was time for dinner, the cousins all sat at the kids’ table while the grownups sat together at the big table. Then in Norman Rockwell fashion, Grandpa, standing at the head of the table, carved the turkey and the feast began.

Thnxgiving-1There are many scenes in The Night Before Thanksgiving that were inspired by childhood memories.

That night we were nestled

all snug in our beds,

while visions of turkey legs

danced in our heads.

The turkey legs were coveted among our family, perhaps because there are only two. I always hoped that there’d be some dark meat left by the time the platter made its way to the kids’ table. Then I’d plop a big blob of mashed potatoes on my plate next to the turkey meat, press an indent in the top of the mound with my spoon, and fill it with gravy. After saying grace, I’d slice the side of the potato crater with my fork and gravy would spill down onto my turkey like lava.

All were assembled

except Uncle Norm,

who called us to say

he was stuck in a storm.

Every once in a while there’d be a snow storm either the night before or on Thanksgiving day that inhibited a family from attending, or made for a long drive to get there. Usually it was my cousins in Pennsylvania. But I can remember driving up in snowstorms and all of us being super anxious about making it.

The very next morning -

Thanksgiving – yippee!

We got up and watched

the parade on TV!

We kept the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on in the background while the dinner was being prepared and oh! The pageantry! The floats! And Santa Claus!

When Mom wasn’t looking

we stuck olives on fingers,

said they were puppets 

and grand opera singers.

What kid hasn’t stuck olives on their fingers? In the book the kids have green olives, but we had black. Mom always scolded us for doing it, but we thought it was hilarious.

We ate and we ate,

yet last but not least…

the very next day

was a leftovers feast!

Our family didn’t wait until the next day. The cousins went outside to play football while the uncles smoked cigars and watched football, and soon people were helping themselves to a turkey sandwich and another slice of pie.

Thnxgiving-3

I hope you make lasting wonderful memories of this holiday that you can pass down to your children.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast.

Win a 4 lb. chocolate turkey from Hebert. Enter here.

Christmas Wish

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Santa and me

Dear Santa,

This Christmas I am wishing for a new house. We are living in a rental and this morning our cat peed on the bed because she’s out of sorts after the move, I found a bug in the refrigerator, and the furnace man told us there’s a colony of black widows living under the house.

I want a charming home with a writing studio that I can decorate with my children’s artwork. I want bookshelves galore, and a writing desk I can stand up at. And I want a door that I can close so I can separate my working life from my relaxing life.

Is that asking too much, Santa?

Yours truly,

Natasha

Paleo Pie Crust

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Since I wrote my pie book, A Slice of Humboldt Pie, I have gone gluten-free which means I can’t eat a single crust in my book. But with Thanksgiving coming, I cannot go without having some kind of pie. So I (gulp) bought a frozen gluten-free pie crust to try this year figuring if I don’t like it, then I didn’t waste the expense of buying all the ingredients.

My nutritionist gave me this recipe as an alternative that I’ll try on my husband and me later instead of on my friends for the first time on Thanksgiving. But if you’re up for it, here’s a printable allergy friendly (nut and egg free) paleo pie crust recipe that uses coconut, honey and flax seeds.

If you want traditional pie crust recipes check out my book.

John

Pie on stove

Happy Thanksgiving!

PiBoIdMo Day 19: Kelly Light Wants to be the Hardest Working WO-Man in Show Business (plus prizes!)

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Natasha Wing:

Inspiration from the tireless late James Brown.

Originally posted on Writing for Kids (While Raising Them):

dinerkellyby Kelly Light

“I want to be The Hardest Working WO-Man in Show Business”

But I’m tired. Are you?

It’s been an insane few months in my life. My book, Louise Loves Art, came out September 9th! Then I went on a 27-day book tour.

When I sit down to work and I have A LOT of work…sometimes, I got ‘nuthin.

Sometimes we feel like we just can’t go on.

We can’t do no more.

But you can. You can get back up. Like James.

You can find it in yourself. You have come this far.

You can still dance and spin.

You’ve got more ideas inside of you, dig. Dig deep.

Throw off that cape! Pull yourself up.

Let’s channel a little James this year.

Watch this:

James Brown.
The hardest working Man in show business.
Even he just has to fall on his knees and ask… Please.!?!?
Please…

View original 440 more words

Blog Tour Begins

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I’m doing a blog tour to let people know about my new book, The Night Before Hanukkah. There will be reviews, interviews, and giveaways so check out these posts:

Nov. 18

Guest Post on The Children’s Book Review

The Angel Forever Tuesday Tales

Upcoming links will be updated when they go live:

December 1  Interview Patricia Stoltey
December 2  Giveaway Kosher on a Budget
December 5  Review ReaderKidz
December 7 Interview ProvatoEvents
December 8 Review/Giveaway Tara Dairman
December 11 Guest Post Michelle Edwards Blog
TBD From Tots to Teens
TBD  GeoLibrarian
TBD Review MommyRamblings
TBD Review Sandra Bornstein

 

Stars Go Blue Review

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My interest in this book is that Laura Pritchett is an award-winning Colorado author who lives outside of Fort Collins. My book club is reading this for their next selection and I’m looking forward to the discussion. Also, my aunt’s husband has Alzheimer’s disease and so does the main character in Pritchett’s story.

The novel is about an elderly estranged couple living in different quarters on their Colorado ranch. Like the ranch, Ben Cross’s mind is declining and he’s having trouble remembering and identifying things. His hardened wife, Renny, is a reluctant caretaker and is pushed to her brink. In the meantime, they find out that the man who killed their daughter is being released from prison and that stirs up bad memories for them and the daughter’s children. While Ben still has some cognizance, he plans to revenge the killer and sets off in a snowstorm to find him armed with reminder notes in his pocket, some cash he stole from his wife, and two syringes to get the deed done.

This story is emotional in how much a relationship can deteriorate and be strained as a result of Alzheimer’s, and is touching when there are break-through remembering moments. It also brings up the question of how can one die with dignity after being an able, intelligent person. The Renny character struck a chord since she reminded me of people I know who are hard on the outside, but aching for love in the inside.

The setting is palpable, you get a good sense of life on a ranch.

I recommend Stars Go Blue particularly for people who know someone with Alzheimer’s disease, couples who are estranged, and ranchers. There are some gentle reminders that there is still a human being underneath all that forgetfulness, and that love still exists, even when life gets hard.

Word is there’s a movie option on this book so let’s hope it makes it to the big screen. I had thoughts of the movie Nebraska while reading this.

Counterpoint, June 2014

Buy it on Amazon

To learn more about Laura and her books go to her website.

Dory Story Review

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When I was signing books at the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association conference recently, I asked the Penguin Randomhouse rep what book at the children’s booth was popular. She handed me Dory Fantasmagory.

I read the chapter book and was enamored by the drawings and the genuine child language and actions. Turns out the creator, Abby Hanlon, was a first grade teacher. Inspired by her students’ storytelling and drawings, Abby began to write her own stories for children. This is what I admire most – she taught herself to draw after not having drawn since childhood! (Something I hope to do someday.)

Not only did Abby capture the body language of young kids in her drawings, but she nailed the older sibling/pesky baby in the family relationship. The youngest kid, Dory, has a wild imagination that’s ticklishly funny, like when she pretends to be her brother’s pet dog, and her conversations with her imaginary monster friend, Mary.

Here’s an overview of the storyline: As the youngest in her family, Dory really wants attention, and more than anything she wants her brother and sister to play with her. But she’s too much of a baby for them, so she’s left to her own devices—including her wild imagination and untiring energy. Her siblings may roll their eyes at her childish games, but Dory has lots of things to do: outsmarting the monsters all over the house, escaping from prison (aka time-out), and exacting revenge on her sister’s favorite doll. And when they really need her, daring Dory will prove her bravery (which involves plunging her hand in the toilet), and finally get exactly what she has been looking for.

I recommend this book for kids who are the baby in the family and for authors studying examples of well done chapter books. Another Dory story is slated for 2015. I’m sure young readers can’t wait!

 

Abby Hanlon

Abby Hanlon

Abby Hanlon is a former teacher who taught creative writing and first grade in the New York City public school system. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their two children.

 

The Origins of Halloween

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On October 30th I am Skyping with kids in India to introduce them to another culture’s holidays. I was asked to explain to the kids why we celebrate Halloween. So I did some research and found out why we now wear costumes, carve pumpkins and trick-or-treat.

In case you’re curious, here’s what one site said:

Origins of Halloween
Halloween is one of the oldest of all American holidays, but it’s rooted in a tradition even older still: the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sa-whin).

The Celts were an ancient pagan people. They lived primarily in present day Ireland and United Kingdom. The Celts honored their gods by performing crop and animal sacrifices.

On the Celtic calendar, November 1st marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of a new year. But it also marked something darker. The Celts believed that Samhain, the god of the dead, released the spirits of the dead into the world of the living on October 31st. To honor Samhain, as well as the end of the harvest, the Celts held enormous celebrations. They built large bonfires and wore animal costumes during these celebrations that they believed protected them from the roaming spirits of the dead.

In an attempt to aid the conversion of the pagan Celts in the British Isles, in the seventh century the Catholic Church superimposed one of its own holidays over the pagan holiday of Samhain. This holiday is now known as All Saints Day but at the time it was known as All Hallows Day — in Middle English alholowmesse means “All Saints Day.”

The night before All Hallows Day was known as All Hallows Even’, which was shortened to Halloween. Later, around the year 1000, the Church further added its mark on Halloween by designating November 2nd as All Souls’ Day, a holiday to commemorate the souls of all the dead. Much like Samhain, this holiday was celebrated with bonfires and costumes.

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Halloween and Trick-or-Treating
Despite the fact that October 31st now marked a Christian holiday, many of the Celtic traditions from the festival of Samhain lingered, especially in Ireland and Britain. One of these was the practice of dressing up in costume on Halloween night. This, coupled with another old British practice, may have led to trick-or-treating as we know it today.

Some scholars believe that modern-day trick-or-treating evolved from the medieval practice of going “a-souling.” In medieval times, many people still labored under the pagan belief that the spirits of the dead would return to the land of the living during Halloween. To prevent these spirits from entering their houses, people would leave wine and food outside of their front door.

The Church, which didn’t particularly approve of pagan customs, began promoting the practice of “souling,” in which people would go door-to-door asking for “soul cakes” — small treats in exchange for promises of prayers for the dead.

Other scholars suggest that trick-or-treating also draws its origin from the medieval custom of “mumming,” in which people dressed in costumes went from door to door, trading songs or skits for food and drink. In Ireland, a custom known as “Halloween rhyming” involves children going from door to door performing rhymes in exchange for money.

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Halloween and the Jack o’ Lantern
Perhaps not surprisingly, the jack o’ lantern also has its roots in Irish and British tradition. Though some scholars point to the Celtic bonfires as precursors to modern-day jack o’ lanterns, many folklorists point to an Irish folk tale as the jack o’ lantern’s fore bearer.

The folktale known as “Stingy Jack” tells the story of an Irish villager named Jack who was known not just for his stinginess but for his overall bad behavior. Twice the Devil came to take Jack’s soul in punishment for his earthly behavior, and twice Jack tricked the Devil into promising he would not return for his soul ever again. When Jack died, he was refused entrance into heaven. But when Jack reached the gates of hell, the Devil reminded Jack of his promise and sent him away with a single piece of burning coal as a lamp. Jack made a makeshift lantern out of the coal by putting it into a hollowed-out turnip, and was doomed to eternity wandering the Earth with this dismal light, earning the nickname “Jack of the Lantern.”

During Halloween the Irish began making their own version of Jack’s lantern, hollowing out potatoes and turnips in which to put their candles. Pumpkins, however, are native to North America and would have been unknown to British and Irish villagers centuries ago. The version we know today using pumpkins only started much later, when the tradition of Halloween spread across the Atlantic.

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Halloween Today
But how did Halloween become such a popular tradition in America? Historians suggest that the great Irish potato famine of the 1840s had a lot to do with it. From 1845 to 1849, blight on the potato crops of Ireland forced many to flee their homeland. A large number of them moved across the Atlantic to the United States, bringing with them their customs and traditions, including Halloween.

As the decades passed, the Halloween tradition became more and more of a secular holiday, leaving many of the religious meanings and overtones behind. In fact, nowadays most Americans aren’t even aware of the religious history behind the holiday, and very few celebrate “All Saints Day” or “All Souls’ Day.”

In other parts of the world this isn’t necessarily the case. In Ireland, many of the earliest pagan traditions, such as lighting bonfires, still exist. And in Mexico, Spain and Latin America, the three-day festival to honor saints and souls is still observed. In these countries, November 2nd is known as El Dia de los Muertos — The Day of the Dead. Beginning October 31st, people prepare altars and decorate the gravesites of family members in preparation for their deceased relatives return to the living.

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Book Candy

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Halloween is only a week away! I’ve got my costume picked out. You know those witch-on-a-broomstick decorations that people put up on the side of their houses or on poles that look like the witch crashed?

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I’m going to be that witch with a crumpled hat, black eye and leg brace. So look for me in Old Town Fort Collins.

Now about that trick-or-treat thing…I love me a yummy Snickers Bar or Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup but if you’re looking to hand out something other than a sugar treat, how about a book?

My writer friend Teresa Funke mentioned a program where people give out books instead of candy for Halloween. It’s a great idea, especially if only a few kids come to your door each year. It’s called Books for Treats and you can get more information here: http://booksfortreats.org

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I contacted the founder and here’s what she suggests neighbors and communities can do:

* Collect gently read children’s books, especially from baby through second grade. Perhaps run a book drive (at work, play groups, schools, churches).

* Sort the books before Halloween. Instructions are in the free downloadable kit at www.BooksForTreats.org.

* Tell your neighbors, friends and coworkers about Books For Treats and encourage them to participate this year.

* Alert your local newspaper so they can do a story on Books For Treats (then send us the link so we can add it to the website).

* Hand out books to trick-or-treaters. Send us your best few pictures from your event and details on who hosted and what city/state (provence).

* If you’d like to make a monetary contribution to support our web hosting, label printing, etc. let us know and we’ll tell you where to send the check or there’s a PayPal link at http://www.BooksForTreats.org. We’re a 501c3 which means your donations are tax deductible!

We also need help writing and distributing press releases. Let me know if you have experience in this area and can help.

Please let me know if you can help!

Rebecca Morgan
Founder and Executive Director
Books For Treats
“Feed kids’ minds, not their cavities. Give brain candy.”

May I suggest a fun book to hand out?

Halloween

Check with your local bookstore to see if they have any in stock or here’s the Amazon link.

Happy Halloween!

New Book Released

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The latest in The Night Before series.

The latest in The Night Before series.

The newest Night Before title about Hanukkah was a challenge for me. For one, there are eight days of celebrating versus one. So did the night before refer to the first night or second night or third night or? Secondly, which spelling of Hanukkah should I use in the title and text? Hanukkah or Chanukah? And lastly, I’m not Jewish. So for this story I called on some Jewish friends from high school.

There’s an Amity Regional High School Facebook page so I threw out some questions like, “What did you eat to celebrate?” Where did you place your menorah? Did you give presents every night or just the last night? What games did you play? And I got back some wonderful nuggets, some of which I incorporated into my story. I’m giving a shout out to Mike Stern for the candle idea.

I’m excited to announce that The Night Before Hanukkah was released today and want to thank everyone for their input.