Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of action-adventure and fantasy tales that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind end. She can usually be found chasing after her daughter or glued to the computer, working on her next novel or screenplay. Learn more about Bethany and her books at her website where you’ll also find links to other social media accounts.
This month as I geared up for the release of my Christmas mystery novella, Winter Wonderland, I found myself moving straight past Thanksgiving at the speed of Santa’s sleigh. I am more than ready for some holiday cheer, and I’m relieved that the calendar is about to hit December and I can officially fly the holiday flag AKA don my Nakatomi Towers Christmas Party shirt. I’m not always so Yule inclined but this year, like my heroine Larissa Frost, I want ALL the Christmas. I want cookies, crafts, and enough candy canes to build a fence. Unfortunately, my family are more in the category of my hero, Marcus Winters, and have forbidden decorating until December first.
I have lured my daughter onto my side with crafts, but my husband is unswayed by glitter. He knows that decorating means that at some point there will be the struggle to have an upright Christmas tree and sees no reason to rush into such things.
I can’t blame him. Verticality is both the hallmark and bane of a Christmas tree. If we wanted them to remain upright, we really should stop chopping them down. In the past, we've had two trees that decided to lodge complaints with management and went for a more recumbent position. They have a right to protest, of course, but it seemed unfair to take the lights and ornaments with them.
I also understand the hesitation to launch into the extra work that the holidays take. Some years I don’t have the energy to invest in the full holiday extravaganza. (See pandemic years 2019-2021.) But this year I feel like I've got a few extra bars of battery life and I could manage a gingerbread house and an extra batch or six of cookies.
If all you're up for is a soothing re-watch of Die Hard and White Christmas, then I salute you and wish you a warm couch, a good beverage, and a toasty dog for your feet. However, if you are also ready for some holiday cheer and would like a quick and easy craft, see below for instructions on how to turn paper sandwich bags into an oversized snowflake. This one is fun and good for kids who are of glue gun handling age. Younger kiddos can participate by pre-decorating the bags and letting their big people handle the gluing.
Note from Anastasia: Using a low-temp glue gun or tacky glue will allow full participation by the young ones. Just make sure to allow the tacky glue to dry completely before cutting out the shapes.
Materials: 9 paper lunch sacks with flaps, hot glue, scissors, twine, hole punch. (optional ruler, pencil, Xacto knife)
1. Glue the bags together, one on top of another, with the bottom fold flap side facing down. Make a T-Shape with the glue across the bottom fold and then 3/4 of the way up the seam toward the top of the bag.
2. After all the bags are glued together, cut out simple geometric shapes along each long side above the folded bottom portion of the bags the way you would have when creating snowflakes out of folded paper. You can first draw the shapes before cutting if you choose.
3. Unfold and glue the final edges together. Sometimes it helps to stick your hands all the way into the bag, but be careful. Hot glue is…hot!
4. Use a hole punch to make a hole. Thread with twine or ribbon and knot ends together for hanging.
Additional ideas: Add glitter or spray paint or have the kids color on the bags ahead of time.
A Rom-Com Mystery
Marcus "Bag Humbug" Winters is hiding from Christmas, and the rest of his life, when he gets an offer he can't refuse—the chance to photograph a top model with the enormous 70-karat Hartford Diamond. The Hartford Diamond shoot is also an answered prayer for set designer Larissa "I Love Christmas" Frost. But while she needs the job to pay for her brother's unexpected hospital bills, she does not need the headache of a demanding photographer who keeps calling her Larry. But when they finally meet on set, Larissa is unprepared for Marcus to be a hunk, for him to apologize profusely, or for the Hartford Diamond to be stolen. Now Marcus may be the only one who can keep Larissa from going to jail for a crime she didn't commit. For Larissa and Marcus, this Christmas is anything but a Winter Wonderland.