featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

NEW YEAR'S EVE

Anastasia and the gang wish to remind everyone to 
have a safe New Year's Eve.
Please don't drink and drive tonight. Choose a designated driver.

Monday, December 30, 2019

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR

Pantone Color of the Year
By Lois Winston

The Pantone Color Institute recently released its Color of the Year. For 2020 it’s Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue, described as “instilling calm, confidence, and connection” and highlighting “our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”


I don’t know about the second part of that statement (What new era are we crossing into?), but I’m sure we can all agree that in today’s world we could use some more “calm, confidence, and connection” in our lives.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Color Institute, it “advises companies on color for product and brand visual identity.” So you can expect to see Classic Blue showing up in everything from cars to bathroom towels to designer handbags and much more in the coming year as manufacturers create their new product lines.

The Color Institute has been working with companies for more than twenty years, but Pantone has been around much longer than that. The company began as a commercial printing company in the 1950s and introduced its color matching system in 1963 after being purchased by an employee who standardized and simplified their stock pigments and colored inks.

As someone who started her career as a graphic designer and illustrator (back in the prehistoric days before computer design programs), the Pantone Color Specifier was part of my daily life. Much like the paint chips you find at hardware and paint stores that help you choose wall colors, I worked with Pantone color swatches to indicate the precise colors the printers should use to produce the brochures and ads I designed. 

The big difference, though, is that those paint chips are free. The Pantone Color Specifier was a binder filled with pages of perforated heavy paper color swatches, and it was extremely expensive. I had no idea how expensive until my first child was born, and a lack of affordable childcare forced me to leave my job and begin freelancing. That’s when I had to purchase my own swatch book. It cost as much as I made in a week!

The design and publishing industries, as well as my life, have changed dramatically in the decades since then. I no longer have a need for a Pantone swatch book. I’m not even sure they’re produced anymore, now that everything is done via computer design programs. Still, having spent a queen’s ransom for that book, I find I can’t part with it. It remains on a shelf in my office. 

Maybe someday I’ll find a use for all those pages of perforated colored squares. I’m beginning to write the next Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery and need to choose a craft to highlight in the book. Collage, anyone?

Friday, December 27, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AMATEUR SLEUTH CARLY TURNQUIST


Today we sit down for a chat with Carly Turnquist from author Leeann Betts’ 
By the Numbers series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings? 
Apart from the time I was almost killed in a furnace because I poked my nose in one time too many, my life was pretty quiet. Lived in a small town on the East Coast. Married for the second time, with two adult children from hubby’s first marriage. Minding my own business. Sort of. Like I said, apart from the furnace thing. But you can check that out on here

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
My sense of humor. Not that I’m really funny, but I can laugh at myself. I always think that people who take themselves too seriously are—well—too serious.

What do you like least about yourself?
My husband Mike says I’m a full-time job. And he already has enough to do, so I guess if I could change one thing, that would be to make his life easier. I don’t know how I’d do that, though. Do you have any ideas? Maybe you could leave a comment for me at the end of this interview, which is starting to remind me of a lie detector test in some ways.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
My author has put me in some weird places. Most of them tiny towns nobody ever heard of, like a dude ranch in New Mexico, a tiny college town in Arizona that was overrun by the mob, and a dot on the map in Wyoming. But I think the strangest was a cruise to Alaska. Think Titanic meets Murder on the Orient Express

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Sometimes we argue. She tries to tell me how I should react, and I have to remind her who is in control here. Mostly I do that by pouting and not talking to her until she gives in.

What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that I will not solve the mystery. Since friends and family are almost always the suspects, that would mean an innocent person would go to prison.

What makes you happy?
Chocolate and binge-watching true crime shows.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I wouldn’t have married my first husband, and instead would have waited for Mike because I’m still carrying around baggage from that first fiasco. I’d rather have come to Mike untarnished by the past.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
In this book, the character who bugs me the most is the marshal. He’s supposed to uphold the law, and I don’t know if I can trust him. And by the time I decide if I can or not, I’ve already done his job for him.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I can’t think of anybody I’d want to trade places with, because then I wouldn’t be with Mike. And that’s just incomprehensible to me.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
My author fell in love with me when she wrote my first story. Much like Dr. Watson is to Sherlock Holmes, or Hastings is to Hercules Poirot, we agreed to keep telling my story as long as we both wanted. 

Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Missing Deposits is the eleventh title in her cozy mystery series, and together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. You can find her at www.LeeannBetts.com and www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com

What's next for you?
Next up is a story we’ve both been dying to tell for a couple of years, ever since she went to Peru. The title is Risk Management, and it will release in June 2020.

Missing Deposits
By the Numbers Series, Book 11

Carly looks forward to a vacation when Mike is hired to assist a rancher in western Colorado catalogue his various mineral rights following the discovery of a large field of copper. However, Carly soon learns that the real wealth--and the real danger--aren't below ground. Someone is out to keep a secret bigger and more profitable than gold and copper. And they're willing to kill for it.

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BONUS: Leave a comment for a chance to win a free print copy (US only) or ebook of Missing Deposits.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

MYSTERY AUTHOR HEATHER WEIDNER ON VIRGINIA NEW YEAR'S TRADITIONS

Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager, but because she’s been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew, she now writes mystery novels, novellas, and short stories. Learn more about her and her books at her website

Virginia New Year’s Traditions
Thank you so much for letting me visit today. I write mystery novels, novellas, and short stories. The three novels in the Delanie Fitzgerald series are Secret Lives and Private Eyes, The Tulip Shirt Murders, and Glitter, Glam, and Contraband. My sleuth Delanie is a sassy, redheaded private investigator who owns Falcon Investigations in Central Virginia. Her partner, computer guru (and hacker) Duncan Reynolds, is a whiz at getting computers to cough up information to help them with their investigations.

I write where I know. I have lived in Virginia all of my life (Virginia Beach and Chesterfield County – outside of Richmond) and all of my stories and novels are set in the Commonwealth. The region, with its mix of rural, suburban, and urban neighborhoods, is a great place to live and write novels. I work in downtown Richmond on a hill above the former Tredegar Ironworks with one of the best views in RVA. This region is home to the state capital, but in many ways, it’s still a close-knit community. And I’m excited to share some Virginia traditions for the New Year.

Virginia is full of culinary traditions that tie to its culture and history. Some are standard southern foods and others are used in holiday decorations and festivities.

Oysters have been a part of our menus since the Native Americans introduced them to the colonists at Jamestown. Oyster stew is often a regional tradition for New Year’s Day. Virginia is also famous for its peanuts. These are enjoyed year-round, but they are quite popular as gifts during the holiday and for tailgating parties. The taverns in Colonial Williamsburg are famous for their peanut soup recipes. Peanuts were first grown commercially in the U.S. in Waverly near Suffolk.

The pineapple, imported to the colonial era, is a holiday tradition in Virginia. It is often used in decorations and centerpieces. Through the years, the tropical fruit has become the symbol for “welcome” in Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg and the plantations on Route 5 are known for their traditional decorations. Later you could find representations of the fruit in and on textiles, china, pottery, silver, pewter, and paintings. 

The traditional Virginia New Year’s Day meal usually includes some representation of black-eyed peas, greens, oyster stew, pork, and cornbread.

Virginia cities ring in the New Year with their own traditions. Time Square in New York is famous for its ball drop. Richmond, the capital, has a ball drop. Roanoke, the Star City in the mountains, has a star drop. Fredericksburg drops a lighted pear, while Winchester, has a lighted apple drop. And the Eastern Shore, home of Misty of Chincoteague and the annual pony swim, has a lighted horseshoe drop.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that you get to enjoy and share your traditions with family and friends. 

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband 
A Delanie Fitzgerald Mystery, Book 3

Private investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in Glitter, Glam and Contraband. In this fast-paced mystery, the Falcon Investigations team is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a local drag show. Delanie gets more than she bargains for and a few makeup tips in the process. Meanwhile, a mysterious sound in the ceiling of her office vexes Delanie. She uses her sleuthing skills to track down the source and uncover a creepy contraband operation.

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ebook  

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS

Cross stitch design by Lois Winston
featured in the December 2002 issue of 
The Cross Stitcher magazine
A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS
Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Monday, December 23, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--ARTIST STEVE TERLIZZESE TAKES MOSAICS TO NEW HEIGHTS

If you’ve ever watched design shows on TV, you’ve probably seen tables, chests, and bar carts with mosaic tops made from broken dishes. Shows like Flee Market Flip often feature them. I have a problem with smashing perfectly good china, but for those pieces that are chipped and cracked, this is a way to repurpose them, especially if they have sentimental value or feature beautiful designs.


On a recent stroll through an outdoor craft fair I came across an artist who goes a step further in his use of broken dishes as an artistic medium. Steve Terlizzese is a collage mosaic artist. His whimsical pieces go far beyond typical tabletops, chests, and bar carts. He’s created hall trees, grand clocks, sculptures, and more. His creations feature broken china, porcelain, ceramics, and pottery as well as glass, tile, shells, game pieces, and jewelry. Or as he states on his website, “any other damn thing that’s shiny, curvy, bumpy, blingy, fancy, pretty, funny, or artsy.” 

Steve calls his style “maximalism” and describes it as “a party for the eyes, a riotous celebration of color and texture, a gathering of lots and LOTS of interesting objects that challenge the creative mind to find the commonalities, contrasts and clashes.”


Some of Steve’s work can be seen in public art settings around Chattanooga, TN. Now granted, his work is not for everyone, but what art is? Personally, his creations put a smile on my face. I wouldn’t mind having one of his small mirrors or wall pieces hanging in my home. What about you?

If you’re interested, you can check out some of Steve’s other pieces at his website and can contact him at stevetreatment@gmail.com.

Friday, December 20, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR KRIS PEARSON HAS YOUR LAST MINUTE GIFT-GIVING COVERED

Is there someone on your holiday gift you forgot about? Do you need a last-minute gift for an office gift exchange? Kris Pearson has your back. Kris is the author of eighteen romances and two cozy mysteries, and she returns today with an great idea for the romance readers on your gift list. Learn more about Kris and her books at her website. 

A Very Crafty Last-minute Gift
No glitter, twine or beads needed – simply two minutes of your time and 99 cents US.

Here’s an easy and different idea for a ‘little extra’ for your special people. If you have friends or family members who are keen readers, give them an Amazon online gift voucher for this e-book anthology of eleven Christmas-themed novellas. Your gift can be bought right up until Christmas Eve and it’ll still arrive on time. No postage required!

Romancing the Holidays 2019 follows on from the 2018 edition by some of the same writers. It’s a collection of romantic stories from award-winning southern hemisphere authors. Each story is a third to a half the length of a novel. Each is guaranteed to be a warm read with no explicit details. Aunt Elsie will not be offended.

The authors are friends online, but many have never met face-to-face. They’ve really enjoyed making each offering distinctly different for you, choosing the cover photo, and sharing the jobs of promoting the collection to the world. A little money and a lot of effort from each of them means the whole is a lot bigger than the sum of the parts. 

Romancing the Holidays 4

Sunny with a Chance of Romance by Susanne Bellamy 
Journalist Charli Jones is close to cracking the biggest financial news story of the year when her boss tasks her with fulfilling a boozy bet for him: she must bring a champion surfer to the media awards night. 

Her former neighbor, Damian Bartholomew—her best friend’s older brother and Charli’s secret teenage crush—fits the bill in more ways than one. But Damian is hiding a big secret, and Charli finds herself embroiled in a shocking conflict of interest.  

A Christmas Twist by Kris Pearson 
The Bennett twins spell double trouble for Gabriella Clifton, and a year of study in London with the handsome brothers ends with souvenirs she never expected.

More than twenty years later, home in New Zealand, a surprise visit from Donny Bennett turns her world upside down. Can she guard her heart against his unrelenting charm offensive?

As the Christmas sun shines down on the big old house by the sea, Gabi must decide the shape of her future.

A Second Chance for Christmas by Anne Kemp 
Ellie Briggs and Nick Harrington went their separate ways when her career pulled her in a different direction to his. Now she’s a social media diva in New York, while he stayed on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts to build his life. With Ellie’s current relationship crumbling, she heads to St Kitts for Christmas. She plans to catch up with old friends - but might luck re-unite her with Nick, the love of her life? Will a sprinkle of holiday magic be enough, or will they need a true Christmas miracle?

Christmas with the Boss by Annie Seaton  
What’s Christmas without a sexy surfer boss, a mysterious visitor, and things that go bump in the night?

Jilly Henderson was looking forward to her Christmas break. A week of bliss at the beach—alone, no work and no one to bother her. But her boss turns up, and he’s ditched the suit and turned into a gorgeous surf god. Can Jilly resist Dominic...and the secret visitor who won't leave her in peace?

A Very Aussie Christmas by Ebony McKenna 
Australian teenager RayChill is a Christmas Grinch. The mood at home is strained. She blames her dad for a lot that’s wrong in her life, including the crazy spelling of her name. It’s hot, and the air-con is on the blink, so she’s much happier working overnight on Christmas Eve at the warehouse. What good luck Jonno, the cute American she’s crushing on, is the only co-worker to turn up to shift.

It’s going to be a challenge keeping her mind on the job when it’s just the two of them and he’s so distracting. 

Plus stories by:
Susan Downham
Ashley Logan
Gudrun Frerichs
Monique McDonell.

Just click on ‘Give as a gift’, fill in your recipient’s email address, write a quick greeting, and you’re done. Giving was never so easy.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

AUTHOR CATHERINE KEAN ON A MEDIEVAL CHRISTMAS CUSTOM THAT GAVE BIRTH TO A ROMANCE

Catherine Kean is an award-winning author of more than twenty medieval romances, but when her Muse encouraged her to venture into other romance genres, she had the good sense to listen. Learn more about Catherine and her books at her website.

Setting a story in the Middle Ages around Christmastime poses some challenges, since eight hundred years ago Christmastide, for the most, part was celebrated as a religious holiday. However, when I stumbled upon information on the Lord of Misrule, I knew I’d found the perfect inspiration for A Knight’s Redemption, the sixth book of my Knight’s Series.

The Lord of Misrule tradition may have originated from the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which took place in December and involved a sacrifice, feasting, wild reveling, and appointment of a king who ruled over the festivities. In Medieval times, a man chosen from among the lower classes—say, a peasant or servant—was picked days before Christmas to become head of the household. He would rule as lord for a few days, weeks, or even months. 

Can you imagine a humble farmer, who’d struggled to feed his family and care for his livestock, suddenly being given all of the authority and privileges of his noble liege? It obviously provided an opportunity for abuses of power, but also added to the Christmas merriment.

The Lord of Misrule oversaw the Christmas feasts, pantomimes, musical entertainment, and general revelry. According to historical sources, celebrating the Lord of Misrule often led to widespread drunkenness, trickery, gambling, and licentiousness, which sounds a bit like some modern parties.

In A Knight’s Redemption, my hero, a fourteen-year-old squire, is shocked to be appointed the Lord of Misrule for Branton Keep. Bolstered by the wild cheering of the folk in the great hall, and intrigued by the shy, visiting Lady Mary Westbrook, he demands her kiss. He’d never be able to kiss her otherwise.

Mary is really in no position to refuse. But, believing that kisses are acts of love, she does say no, and for her defiance, is locked in the castle dungeon. 

Embarrassed to have been spurned by her, Holden only intended for her to be locked up a short while, but a fire in the town draws him away from the keep and only later does he return to let her out. She never wants to see him again. Nevertheless, Fate brings them back together six years later. 

Will Holden be able to right what went wrong at Christmas years ago? Holden and Mary’s story tugged at my heartstrings, but I do believe they got the perfect Christmas happily-ever-after.

A Knight’s Redemption
Knight’s Series, Book 6

Six Christmases ago, after refusing his kiss, Lady Mary Westbrook was locked in the dungeon by Lord Holden Kendall, a squire at Branton Keep. When an attempted child abduction days before Christmas brings Holden back to the castle, Mary must confront again what happened between them.

Holden is a grown warrior now, and he resolves to not only make matters right with Mary, but finally win her kiss. Yet, as peril ensues, Mary must risk far more than a chance at true love.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

EVEN VAMPIRES NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT ACCORDING TO AUTHOR KAREN MCCULLOUGH

Award-winning author Karen McCullough has written more than a dozen novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, paranormal, and fantasy genres. Learn more about her and her books at her website

What Is It About Christmas Stories?
Everyone loves a good Christmas story. Or, apparently, even a mediocre Christmas story, as long as it delivers some kind of feel-good message.

Hallmark offers a long list of Christmas-themed movies each December (and now reaching into November). Netflix supplies quite a few more. Search for “Christmas stories” on the Amazon or Barnes & Noble website and the resulting list of books and movies is practically endless.

What’s special about Christmas stories that we hunger for them? And, yes, I include myself in that group. I love them, too. What is the particular magic of the holiday that transforms a good story into one that tugs at the heartstrings? 

I think the question, as I worded it, contains its own answer in the words “magic” and “transform.”

Those of us in most Western cultures have been brought up to believe that the season is, in fact, magical. We may no longer believe in the storybook Santa Claus or Father Christmas or Kris Kringle, but there are remnants of belief lingering in the depth of our psyche. After all, the reason for the season is ultimately based on an act of divine intervention in the world, with the coming of Christ as a human baby who contains a spark of the divine as well.

I firmly believe that no matter how much our rational brains have rejected the idea of magic, elves, flying reindeer, and miraculous old men bearing gifts, a deep-rooted part of us still wants those things to be possible. And we also want to allow that those supernatural forces could work in ways that can transform us, individually and as a group.

The idea of a special holiday bringing out the best in people, and a generous flow of love from some persons influencing others in an outpouring of joy, care, openness, concern, and acceptance has nearly attained the status of a cultural myth. We may not believe in it, but we sure as heck want it to be true.

And because I totally buy into wanting the “Christmas Spirit” to be a true thing, I’ve written two Christmas stories that are very different from each other. Blue December is a traditional, sweet contemporary romance novel while A Vampire’s Christmas Carol is a darker, more Gothic paranormal story that still encompasses the Christmas Spirit.

A Vampire’s Christmas Carol

Can Christmas Eve get any more fun? On her way to her family's home, Carol Prescott’s car slides into a ditch in a deserted area with no cell phone signal. The only available shelter is already occupied…by a vampire. To Michael Carpenter, Carol is the bait of a trap.

In an effort to hold onto his soul, Michael has resisted the urge to drink human blood for almost a century. Now he hovers between human and vampire. If he doesn’t drink from a human before the night ends, he’ll die. He’s desperately thirsty, but Michael has seen the soulless monsters vampires are and he prefers death. Carol is pure temptation to him, the Christmas present from hell…or is it from heaven?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--MYSTERY AUTHOR NANCY J. COHEN'S HANUKKAH BRISKET RECIPE

Nancy J. Cohen returns today to celebrate offer us a Hanukkah recipe. Nancy writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Her books have won numerous awards, including her instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. Her latest title is A Bad Hair Day Cookbook: Recipes from Nancy J. Cohen’s Cozy Mystery Series. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys cooking, fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping. Learn more about Nancy and her books at her website and blog.

Hanukkah Traditions
Hanukkah was never as big a deal as Christmas when I grew up. Nonetheless, we made the holiday festive and celebrated the traditions. When I had kids, I continued these practices and added blue and silver decorations as they became prominent in stores.

As I prepared the holiday meal, I would play a CD with Hanukkah music. The strains of “I Have a Little Dreidel” played in the background as I made the brisket and potato latkes for a traditional meal. After dinner, we’d light our eight-branched menorah with the shamashcandle and exchange gifts. Staring at the lit candles, I would remember how an oil lamp had started the holiday.

In the old days, the Syrians—under the leadership of a tyrant named Antiochus—defiled the holy Temple in Jerusalem and abolished the practice of Judaism. Jews were given a familiar choice: conversion or death. But a resistance movement grew strength, led by Judah Maccabee. His forces liberated the Temple from Syrian armies. To purify the Temple, the saviors lit the eternal lamp that is in every synagogue to this day. But there was only enough oil to last for one night. Miraculously, the lamp burned for eight days. Hence, Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. It symbolizes freedom from oppression. This is why we eat potato pancakes, because they’re fried in oil. Jelly doughnuts are another traditional food.

Each night, we add another candle from right to left. Normally, the kindling is done from left to right so the newest candle is lit first.

Children play the dreidel game and eat the foil-wrapped chocolate coins known as gelt. At our house, we gave a gift each night of Hanukkah. Our kids got used to having at least eight wrapped presents over the holiday. It’ll be interesting to see how they celebrate these traditions with their offspring.

Brisket with Dried Plums
If you want a recipe for Hanukkah, try this one. You get a side of tzimmesout of it with the sweet potato chunks, prunes and apricots. You can serve potato latkes on the side with a dollop of applesauce.

Ingredients:
3-1/2 lb. flat cut beef brisket
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup pitted dried plums (prunes)
1 cup dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Trim fat off brisket. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven. Sear meat on both sides until lightly browned. Remove brisket and set aside. 

Add onions and sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix beef broth, Marsala wine, balsamic vinegar, honey, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon in a bowl. Place brisket on top of onions in pot. Pour broth mixture over meat.

Cover and cook for 3 hours. Then add sweet potato chunks. Scatter dried fruit on top. Cover and bake 1/2-1 hour more until meat is fork tender.

Transfer brisket to cutting board. Cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. With slotted spoon remove fruit and sweet potatoes from pot into a separate bowl. Ladle any pan juices into gravy boat. Slice meat and serve warm with fruit and potatoes on the side along with pan juices.

Facials Can Be Fatal is my book with a Hanukkah theme.

Facials Can Be Fatal 
Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial. The victim, Valerie Weston, was a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans. Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the killer. As she learns more about Val, she realizes the benefactress might have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep. She’d better prepare for a body count that has nothing to do with hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.

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