Happy New Year 2013! Join me for gifts galore!

It’s a blog hop with lots of stops and prizes!
Something for everyone!
I have an Amazon Gift Certificate for
for one lucky follower!
Announcing the
Happy New Year 2013
Giveaway Hop
Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Babs Book Bistro
January 1st – 7th 2013
A Rafflecopter Giveaway
In order to enter, you will need to click the following link and play the Rafflecopter on my other blog. Hope to see you there!

My Life. One Story at a Time.: Happy New Year 2013! Join me for gifts galore!

This giveaway has over 200 blogs participating!

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Don’t Store Gloves in Coat Pockets

Even though it’s the most convenient place to stash them, to keep your 

Oxblood Gloves

 

gloves in the best condition you should avoid sto

ring them in your coat pockets. Why? Because your hands perspire when you’re wearing gloves (yes, even when temps are below freezing), and they need to dry out once you’ve taken them off, which they can’t do wadded up in your coat pockets. Instead try putting them next to your keys on your entry table. That way they’ll dry out, and you won’t forget them when you rush out the door.


This is a reprint from Simply Stated (the link is below).


I thought I’d share this tidbit – because guess what!? I’m a confessed princess and that means there is a pair of matching gloves and a hat for each coat I have. And, guess where I’ve been shoving those little matching gloves? That’s right! In the pocket of the matching coat!


I guess this proves that you are never too old to learn a new trick!


Do you have any little tidbits you’d like to share? Please leave a comment.

Related articles

Lonely Hearts by Amanda Stephan (Review)

One lonely mother. Two matchmaking kids. Three eligible bachelors, and Lonely Heartssome very yummy apple pie! When widow Becky Callis moves to a new town, her intentions were to start over in a place where she’s not reminded of her dead husband. Her kids, however, take it as a chance to help her start over romantically. They soon realize it’s easier to find someone to like their mother than it is to figure out which man is best for her. To the delight of both kids, young and handsome cowboy Scott Boone makes his interest plain and starts courting Becky almost immediately.

Jack Anderson and Becky have been friends since childhood. When they’re reunited years after their lives have taken very different paths, this lonely preacher begins to wonder if God has brought her back into his life for a reason.  Pearce Morgan is a single parent raising his young daughter. Divorced and disillusioned, an unlikely friendship arises between him and Becky when his shy daughter decides she loves Becky and her kids. Lonely Hearts, is a heartwarming story of second chances and choices, and includes an exclusive apple pie recipe!

Excerpt:

Becky Callis was new in town, and she felt her intrusion.

A bearded man outside the hardware store stopped sweeping, broom held in mid-air and watched them narrowly as they drove past, perhaps wondering if she were the type to plunder and loot his shop.

A couple of older women that had been chatting outside a tiny florist shopsuddenly turned to stone, their mouths gaping open, snickering about what kind of woman would be caught dead in such an old pick-up truck. Becky even imagined one of their tongues hung out. She repressed a giggle and waved, receiving an incredulous half-wave from one of the women, and no acknowledgement from the others.

She hated being stared at, and tried to keep a somewhat pleasant smile pasted on her freckled face as she drove through. She could feel her fair skin literally burning with embarrassment. Her thirteen year old daughter, Jen, gave her a twisted frown.

“Mom, what is wrong with these people?” Her pixie face turned dark red as a teenage boy waved at her. “They act like they’ve never seen strangers before.”

Becky’s grin grew larger and more realistic as she gave a two-finger salute to the policeman leaning on his squad car with arms crossed as if daring her to go faster than the posted thirty mile an hour sign. Obediently, she stopped at the one red light the town could boast of and waited for it to turn green.

“I guess,” she said with a shrug, watching an old man sitting outside a diner pretend to read a newspaper. He spit tobacco juice into a jar and set it down next to his chair, his bushy eyebrows making it very clear he was looking at them.”They don’t get too many newcomers here.” Jen grimaced and pushed her sleeping brother’s head off her shoulder onto the vinyl headrest instead.

“Well that’s fine, but they don’t have to stare. Makes me feel like we’re pets in a pet shop.”

“Or beef at a cattle auction.” Becky laughed at her discomfort, noticing that the green light flickered faintly before going completely out.

Amanda Stephan
Image of Amanda StephanAward winning, bestselling Christian author Amanda Stephan is just a normal, everyday country girl. Amanda resides inMiddle Tennessee with her husband and children, who closely resemble several of the seven dwarfs, (Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy/Happy), three cats, (only because hubby refuses to get one of his own) one dog, and multiple roosters that love to roost under their bedroom windows.
Amanda loves to laugh and have a good time, and loves to read a good book. She finds writing to be an opportunity to share God’s love for others in a fun and entertaining way. Her first novel, The Price of Trust, was published in May of 2010, her second novel, Lonely Hearts was released at the end of October, 2011, and she is currently working on a Christian paranormal entitled The Haunting of Maddie Branson as well as a three book family saga series.
Connect with Amanda here:
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/amandastephan
My Review

Not having read a “Christian” romance before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised with the wonderfully innocent love story that unfolded between the pages. The story was far from mundane due to a young confident, but impressionable young man whose anger at rejection was all too real, as well as an older, grandfatherly character who was an anchor to the story.

“And I think she likes him too. Well, now who do we pick for her? Jack, Scott, or Pearce? I didn’t know it could be so complicated!”

“That’s one thing I hated when I got into trouble. My mom was always so creataive in finding work for me to do. Weeding was the worst. What’d he do?” “He was misbehaving in school. Not listening. Giving an attitude. Sassing. You name it, he was doing it.”…”Sometimes it’s hard to fit into a new school. He was probably just trying to impress the other kids.” “You know, I’d agree with you if he went to a pubic school, but he’s homeschooled.” If there were was a limit on how many times a person could be shocked in one afternoon, Scott was well on his way…His drawn out “Oh,” told her…

The book was an easy read, reminiscent of a soft, afternoon breeze; the characters charming and human, along with a setting of a beautiful little town. There was just enough suspense thrown in to keep you on your toes.

“…Most people would have turned their back on God.” She picked up the picture and stared at the heartless woman who hid behind a beautiful face. “But why do you keep Eva’s picture?” “To remind me that sin can look beautiful on the outside, but it’s as rotten as a dead horse on the inside,” he smiled at her, his eyes dark with pain and remorse. “I look at it everyday to remind me to seek God’s will and guidance in my life before I make another huge mistake.”

The writing was great, and I found the story to have a nice solid ending. The book reminded me a little of Little House on the Prairie, not the time frame, but the way it makes your heart feel – and that is important in a story of this nature. I definitely recommend the book to those of you who enjoy a soft, easy read with romance and faith thrown in.

“Dear Lord,” she began to pray, sitting down dejectedly at the table. “I’ve gone and made a mess of things again. There were so many things I was hoping for, that I forgot to ask your will to be done. Please forgive me, and lead me in a plain path. I beg for your peace and comfort in this whole situation. Let me know what you would have me do. In Jesus’ name, amen.” She sat still for a few minutes, letting the peace that passes all understanding take hold of her and reassure her.

If you found my review helpful, please consider taking a moment and voting “yes” on my review on Amazon. (Follow the link below.) Thanks!!
 
Lonely Hearts can be purchased on Amazon. Click the icon below:
 
 
Other books by Amanda Stephen:

 

Wishing everyone an early Merry Christmas!

A Gift Card Giveaway!

To wish everyone a Merry Christmas and show my appreciation for all of my loyal followers (and new followers), 

 I am giving away an Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner.
As always, Tweeting about the give away is appreciated!
The give away is international! Please let us know what country you are
visiting from and what your Christmas wish is!
Merry Christmas!

To enter the giveaway, click here: Wishing everyone an early Merry Christmas!  and fill out the rafflecopter! Merry Christmas!

“Xmas” or “Christmas”? An interesting tidbit. Did YOU know?

Christmas in the post-War United States
Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to this post from Grammar Girl!

 

Many listeners have asked about the origin and appropriateness of “Xmas.”

Retailers have long been accused of secularizing Christmas by using “Xmas” in signs and advertisements; therefore, I suspect many of you will be surprised to learn that “Xmas” has a religious origin.

In Greek, the letter “chi” is written as an X, and chi is the first letter of the Greek word for “Christ.” Greeks sometimes abbreviated “Christ” as “X.” For example, they abbreviated “Christ savior” as “XP.” (“P” is the symbol for the Greek letter “rho,” which is the first letter of the word “savior” in Greek.) TheOxford English Dictionary shows the first known English use of “Xmas” in 1551.

As for appropriateness, “Xmas” may have a religious origin and fit better on signs, but many people — both those who use “Xmas” and those who complain about its use — are unaware of the religious origin. If you choose to use “Xmas,” you should know that some people will be infuriated.

 

I know that I actually found this fascinating as I was “one” of those who NEVER dared used Xmas in place of Christmas, even if I needed to shorthand something really quick. I guess that proves we shouldn’t jump to conclusions on anything.

 

Against the Odds by Kat Martin (giveaway)

 This case may prove to be too hot to handle.Odds-Cover-(300by450)

 There’s silver out there: Sabrina Eckhart is sure of it. And when she finds the hidden mine on that big piece of West Texas desert, all of her financial problems are solved. That is, if she can find it. The man with the skills she needs is private investigator Alex Justice—a former navy fighter pilot and a current pain in the neck.

 When mysterious “accidents” start to plague their search, it seems Rina’s multi-acre inheritance might be more a curse than a blessing. And yet, there’s still something sensua

l about the heat…his arrogance…her stubbornness…being thrust into each other’s arms by danger… But the vultures are circling, and if they don’t watch their backs, the relentless desert sun could be the last thing Rina and Alex ever see.

Kat Martin

Kat---Ventura-Star-(275by20

 

Currently living in Missoula, Montana, Kat Martin is the bestselling author of over fifty Historical and Contemporary Romance novels. Before she started writing in 1985, Kat was a real estate broker. During that time, she met her husband, Larry Jay Martin, also an author. Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. “I love anything old,” Kat says. “I love to travel and especially like to visit the places where my books are set. My husband and I often stay in out-of-the-way inns and houses built in times past. It’s fun and it gives a wonderful sense of a by-gone era.”

To date, Kat has over twelve million copies of her books in print. She is published in twenty foreign countries, including Germany, Norway, Sweden, China, Korea, Bulgaria, Russia, England, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Japan and Greece.

 From author about the book:

 The book was interesting to write, a different kind of story that deals with survival in the harsh, inhospitable desert, family betrayal, and long-buried secrets.  The characters had to overcome stereotypes and learn to trust and love.Alex and Rina are two of my favorite characters, so different on the surface, yet oddly suited.  Though it takes a life-and-death struggle before they begin to see the truth.

Guest Post

CHRISTMAS IN TEXAS

 Though I’ve never experienced Christmas in Texas, I imagine it’s a warm country celebration.  In AGAINST THE ODDS, set in Houston, the Christmas Season is the heroine, Sabrina Eckhart’s, favorite time of year.

 Born in the little town of Uvalde, Rina and her mom looked forward every year to the celebration–until her Uncle Walter died on his way to her house on Christmas Eve.

 It’s the inheritance Rina receives from her uncle–an abandoned silver mine in the West Texas desert–that gives her the courage to ask her long-time nemesis, Alex Justice for help.

 G.Q. handsome and obscenely rich, Alex is a private investigator and an ex-Navy pilot.  Rina met him when he was helping with security for her best friend, Sage Dumont.  Sabrina doesn’t like him, but she knows he’s good at his job and she trusts him to keep her safe.

 Alex is just the man she needs to fly her into the desert in search of her late uncle’s property.  Running out of money, she’s determined to find the mine and make it productive, even if it means putting up with the cocky jet jockey she finds annoyingly attractive.

 The book was interesting to write, a different kind of story that deals with survival in the harsh, inhospitable desert, family betrayal, and long-buried secrets.  The characters had to overcome stereotypes and learn to trust and love.

 Alex and Rina are two of my favorite characters, so different on the surface, yet oddly suited.  Though it takes a life-and-death struggle before they begin to see the truth.

I hope you’ll watch for AGAINST THE ODDS–out December 18th–and that you enjoy the book.  What Holiday Traditions do you celebrate in your family?  Merry Christmas!  Kat

Excerpt from Against the Odds 

Rina’s adrenaline was pumping.  The thrill of being so high in an open-air helicopter was a rush unlike anything she had ever felt before.  Add to that, flying with Alex Justice, watching his long-fingered hands work the controls, seeing the capable way he handled the machine, made her heart rate soar even higher.  There was something about a man taking charge, a man who was good at what he did, that turned her on.

Not that she would ever admit it.

Alex wasn’t her type and she wasn’t his and both of them knew it.  Still, she wasn’t dead and Alex was definitely eye candy and more.

She forced herself to concentrate on the search they were making.  They’d been flying for more than an hour, had located the property but not the mine itself–assuming there was one.  There’d been nothing in the will to indicate its location or anything about it.  Just the legal description of the land itself, three-thousand acres, five-square miles, of what appeared to be dirt, rocks, and cactus.

Her gaze followed the contours of the property.  Ravines scarred the landscape, and ridges of granite rose out of the sloping desert floor.  Chaparral, mesquite, and scrub brush dotted endless stretches of rocks and sand. 

“Not much out there,” Alex said above the whip, whip, whip of the rotors.

“We haven’t covered that much area yet.  Maybe we’ll find something that marks the mine.”

“If there is one,” Alex said, reminding her there might not be anything more than exactly what they were seeing–miles and miles of vast, empty desert.

The hours began to blur together.  Once they had reached the property location, Alex had begun searching in a grid pattern to cover as much of the area as possible.  The temperature was rising, the heat building inside the chopper, the afternoon slipping away.  Rina yawned and rubbed her eyes, which felt gritty from the wind and heat.

An odd noise caught her attention.  The whop, whop, whop had been so regular she’d been trying not to fall asleep.  This sound was different, a kind of grinding that had her gaze shooting to Alex, who features suddenly looked grim.

Sabrina’s heart stalled and a few seconds later, so did the engine.

“Alex, what’s happening?”

Alex heard the fear in Sabrina’s voice.  There wasn’t time to answer.  Instead, his years of training and experience kicked in and he did what he had been trained to do–slamming the collective down to neutral, taking the pitch out of the blade.  The chopper fell like a stone.

“Oh, my God!”  Sabrina’s voice rose even higher as she realized they were in trouble.

The blades were flat now, the wind whistling up between them, making them spin even faster than the engine, which had gone deadly silent. 

“Just hold on!” he shouted.  “We’ll auto-rotate down!  We’ll be fine!”  He’d done it dozens of times, knew without thinking exactly how to make it happen.  As the inertia built, he began to search the ground for a place to land, but something didn’t feel right, something was altering their approach while they were still too high to make a safe landing.

It was the blades, he realized.  Instead of moving at the speed they should have, they were sticking and slowing, jerking instead of spinning smoothly.  They were going to hit the ground hard.  Way too hard.

At the last minute, he flared the chopper, hoping to slow it as much as possible, hit a little softer, keep the helo in one piece, but the chopper was coming in too fast and the ground rushed up.

Sabrina screamed as the windshield shattered and he leaned over her, tried to cover her as much as he could with his body.  The rotor blades tore free and spun away, shattering into jagged pieces that flew like deadly knives into the desert. 

The chopper shook and continued to disintegrate.  After what seemed like minutes but was only seconds, the machine finally started to settle.  Alex popped his seatbelt and reached for Sabrina, eased her back in the seat and saw blood trickling down her forehead.  She was moaning, conscious, but barely.  From the corner of his eye, he spotted the lick of orange flames behind them, rushing up from what was left of the engine. 

The fuel tank was going to blow.  They had to get out and fast.  Reaching behind his seat, he grabbed his emergency gear bag, slung the strap over his shoulder, then reached for Sabrina, popped her belt and started to pull her out of the chopper from the pilot’s side. 

The effort had him hissing in pain, his body telling him he had injured a couple of ribs, but there wasn’t time to worry about that now.  Ignoring the sharp stab in his side, he pulled Sabrina free of the wreckage, half dragged, half carried her over to an outcropping of rock, settled her behind it. 

There was just enough time to throw himself over her, protecting her as much as he could, before the helo exploded into a ball of thick black smoke and searing flames.  The blazing inferno shot into the sky, and a barrage of shrapnel sliced through the air around them. 

Alex felt a sharp sting as a jagged piece of metal cut through his shirt and sliced into his back.  A second explosion ripped through the air, then the only sound he heard was the crackle of flames.

He took a quick look over the rock to make sure it was safe, then turned his attention to the woman on the ground.  Her face was as pale as the sand under her head, and a thin line of blood trickled from her forehead to her left temple. 

She moved her head a little and groaned.  Then her pretty blue eyes cracked open and she looked up at him.  “Alex…?”

The pain and fear in her voice made his chest clamp down.  She was lucky to be alive.  They both were.  Lucky he’d been able to make any kind of landing at all.

“It’s all right, baby, you’re safe.  I need to take a look, see where you’re injured.”

She reached a shaky hand up to her forehead.  “My head…hurts.”  She swiped at the trickle of blood.  “I think I cut myself.”

His jaw hardened.  She had hired him to protect her.  But he couldn’t protect her from this.  “Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“No, I don’t…don’t think so.”

Jerking the strap of the canvas bag off his shoulder, he set the bag aside and made a cursory check for broken bones, felt her legs and arms, which seemed to be okay.  He checked for neck or spinal injuries, didn’t find anything obvious.  There were nicks and cuts from the crash on her neck and arms, but aside from that she seemed to be okay.  Alex breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn’t been hurt a lot worse.

“I’m kind of dizzy.”

“You probably have a slight concussion.”  He held up three fingers.  “How many do you see?”

“Three.”

He checked her pupils.  They looked normal.  “You remember what happened?”

“We crashed.  I remember how scared I was, how fast the ground seemed to come up from beneath us.  Then I blacked out.”

“We hit pretty hard.”  To say the least.

“Can we…can we radio for help?”

“Chopper exploded.  No time to call it in and now the radio’s gone.”

Her eyes widened at the news.  She sat up a little too quickly and hissed in pain.

“Take it easy.”  He tried to ease her back down, but she moved his hand away and managed to prop herself against the rock to look over at the slow-burning chunk of metal, all that was left of the helo.  “What…what caused the crash?”

A muscle tightened in his jaw.  “I don’t know.  Something went wrong with the engine.  We should have been able to auto-rotate down safely, but the rotors jammed.  We’re lucky we faired as well as we did.”

Her eyes remained on the chopper, then swung to his face.  “You saved me.  You got me out of there.  I never would have made it on my own.”

He thought of how close they’d both come.  “You’d have made it if you hadn’t hit your head.  It’s no big deal.”  He could see by the set of her chin that she didn’t believe him, but she didn’t say more.

He pulled his cell phone out of a pocket in his jeans, noticed a burn hole in his pant leg, felt the sting where the hot metal had struck.  He had the same nicks and cuts she had, a few more, maybe.  His back was bleeding, but he didn’t thing the cut was that bad.  He was just grateful to be alive. 

Flipping open the phone, he saw there wasn’t any service, as he had expected.  There weren’t any cell towers this far out in the middle of nowhere.

Sabrina silently watched him.  Tentatively, she touched the growing knot on her forehead next to her hairline.  “God, Alex, what are we going to do?”


RTBook Reviews“Martin just keeps getting better and better! Her characters have more depth, and her plots are more sinister, as the Against series continues. Set in the sizzling desert of Texas and rife with mystery, intrigue and twisted family secrets, this entry is sure to earn a spot on any fan’s keeper shelf.”

My Review

           As always, Kat Martin delivers an action packed thriller romance in the form of Against the Odds. The book is full of macho muscle wielding men who stand by their women when they aren’t busy rescuing them from danger.

           The book included loads of action that captured your attention along with enough romance to keep the pages burning hot.

           Kat Martin does such an outstanding job with her descriptions that the reader is transported into Houston, Texas and the surrounding area as though they are part of the story.

           If you are currently a Kat Martin fan, you are going to love this addition to the series. If you are a first time reader, you are going to become a fan.

If you found my review helpful, please consider voting “yes” for my review on Amazon by following the link below. Thanks!!

http://www.amazon.com/review/R29NS3JDAWZKQ4/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0778314227&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag= 


GIVEAWAY!!

Kat Martin has donated an autographed copy of Against the Odds for one lucky reader to win! Wouldn’t you lovc to win it?! 
Just leave a comment with your email for a chance to win!

Against the Odds can be purchased on Amazon by clicking the icon below.

 Additional information can be found on my blog here:

 

How to host a successful Cookie Swap

Cookie Swap 2011 009

     Every year for the past eight years, I have hosted a Cookie Swap. This year was no exception.

 Cookie Swap 2011 015

 

     I thought I’d write about it in the event that someone else may wish to host one, but the mere thought overwhelms them. I am telling you right now – do not let the thought even enter your mind. As long as you have a plan and stick to it, things will work out – or you wing it like I’ve been known to do (or maybe my friends have never caught on! lol)

IMG_2321
My sister & I were following each other’s progress

 

     I always try to send out a “Save-the-date” the first week of October. This, I send my email since everyone who is invited has email. If some of your guests do not have email, then send a little note in the mail or give them a call.

      I also have a spreadsheet that I use each year. It consists of four columns with the headings of: No., Name (which includes name, address, phone, email), Yes/No (attending) and last, Cookie (or treat bringing).

IMG_2322

     I use the number column, because at a quick glance, I can keep track of how many people are on my list. This way, if someone has been added/taken off, I know I can add someone and still keep the number within reason for the size of my house.

      Then, I try to mail out the invitation the first week of November with the RSVP date. Sometimes I write something cute and rhyming, and sometimes I use one I have found on the internet. Some years are more of a theme than others are.

 IMG_0354

     In 2011, I did a Candy land theme where I scattered the board pieces around the table and used the matching plates and napkins. It was really cute. That takes care of the invitation portion.

     With Pinterest, it is so easy to find new appetizers to serve. I started a board named Cookie Swap Ideas so I could quickly pin cookie ideas and appetizer ideas so I could come back later and explore. I also use Evernote. This app proved to be invaluable in many ways. Once I finalized the appetizer list, I clipped the recipes, complete with pictures to Evernote. Evernote syncs the recipes to my phone and Kindle Fire. It made grocery shopping and cooking a breeze. I pulled up the recipe at the market and quickly scanned the ingredients and added those items to my cart.

IMG_0352

    Throughout the year, I am always scouting for new cookie recipes and appetizer recipes so with Pinterest and Evernote, it makes finding these recipes a snap. I am already clipping and pinning for next year! It’s never too soon!

      The week before my Cookie Swap, I sit down with the recipes and figure out what can be assembled ahead of time and my baking time frame. It seems that no matter how carefully I organize and schedule, I am still last-minute, and the first guests there generally help with setting everything out. For me, especially this year, it was enjoyable. Judging from the remarks, I think this year was everyone’s favorite so far and I think it was because everyone was helping to get things on the buffet and it made the party – literally – everyone’s party. My sisters and a friend from high school that I was so fortunate to reconnect with last year – were the willing participants in the last-minute rush this year. It was so much fun laughing and talking and rushing around.

IMG_2337
A dear friend gave me a cupcake teapot.

     So, you can see that in my case, not having everything ready and waiting on guest is part of the fun – for everyone. So don’t stress out. Cookie Swap is all about fun.

 

     Let’s talk cookies now. I have read that many cookie swaps have a lot of rules and it works for them. I came up with my own set of “rules” based on my guests. I have friends who cannot bake, and some who make candy. My only die-hard rule is the treat MUST be homemade. Each year, we have a mix of candy, no-bake (for those non-bakers) and baked cookies. No one ever feels left out because everyone puts a lot of effort into their products (we are quite the competitive bunch!)

      After the RSVPs come in, I then email everyone with the number of treats to bring. I keep the number of participants down to a reasonable number and we bake and package six treats for each person coming. I have noticed that many cookie swaps ask that the person bake x amount of cookies and bring them on a platter and then they are distributed among those attending. I wasn’t particularly crazy about that idea (nor my guests) so we package our treats for each individual person. My friends are very creative and the packaging is one of the highlights. We also have the option of using our six cookies for the taste testing contest (more on that later.)

     I provide a huge Christmas gift bag for each guest, which I set up in the living room. As each guest arrives, she distributes the treats among the bags first, and then places their treats on the platters on the table for tasting. Since each guest may leave at a different time, she can just grab her bag on the way out. I find that this method of distribution works great for my cookie swap.

      Let’s see. So far, we have discussed invites, food prep, and cookie distribution. Next on the list is entertainment!

      It has become a tradition (because Hubby loves to be involved) that we have a story. The stories have ranged from Christmas to Candyland to baking, etc. Everyone looks forward each year to see what Jeffery has in store. This year, he did a story that contained Christmas songs and lyrics from Christmas songs. I’ll include it as an example. I am the one who gets to read the story and I must say that trying to establish a speed is difficult. I want to give everyone an equal chance to pick out all of the information, but not too much time – how else would we have a winner. But, it does work each year and it’s a lot of fun.

 

IMG_0355

Word Game Story 2012

(It is easier to view the parts on my other blog. I have it done in different colors – My Life. One Story at a Time.: How to host a successful Cookie Swap

It came upon a midnight clear, when away in a manger a child was born. There were no jingle bellsfrosty the snowman, or Rudolph. But it was a silent night and even more, a holy night.

 The people of that era were deep in despair and had very little hope. They cried out” o come o come Emanuel”. And He did. He came as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes to silence the cry of the poor, to build a city of God, and to bring joy to the world.

 Although He was not born in a beautiful setting like a winter wonderland, He did bring the first white Christmas to the little town of Bethlehem. This was brought about by His birth and sacrificing His life for ours, to free all humankind from sin and e’re pinning. So hark the herald angels singglory to the newborn kingChrist is born in Bethlehem, and the world has never been the same. May God wish ye merry gentlemen a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

      We always have a best tasting treat contest. It is based NOT on how the treat looks, but how it tastes to the palate. This can get pretty intense at times. This year a chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie won the honor. It provoked childhood memories for many of us, a taste of nostalgia. Do you remember as a child, the day the school cafeteria served those scrumptious chocolate oatmeal no-bake treats? I do, and so did many others. It was deserving of a prize this year.

      We have enjoyed many games throughout the years and enjoyed every one. Our last game this year was a new addition. A friend told me of a game that she had played at another cookie swap and it sounded like loads of fun so I added it this year. I asked everyone to bring a wrapped cookie cutter for a “Swap and Steal” game.

      I have to admit at this point, it was kind of a make it up as you go game and it ended up being so much fun that I am going to include it next year. The first round of the game, each person pulled a gift out of the basket as I called her name. The second round was where the fun began.

     As each name was called, you had the chance to keep your chosen gift or “Swap and Steal” someone else’s gift. There was a lot of cheering and yelling of “steal” going on because there was one gift everyone seemed to want – it was a beautiful gift bag! After much hooting and hollering, everyone had a gift of a new cookie cutter.

Games are another place to add loads of fun to the party. Let your imagination go wild: Prettiest Christmas outfit (or hat or shirt, etc.), craziest Christmas outfit, first to RSVP, # of gum balls in the jar (or jelly beans, etc.), best cookie packaging. The ideas are endless!

      Food – what can I say about food? I (and my friends – especially book club friends) DO NOT subscribe to the old adage that you do not try out new recipes for the first time on company. That is EXACTLY when we do it. In the food department – I say do what is comfortable for you. Either stick to tried and true recipes and maybe be adventurous and throw in one new recipe for a thrill.

      Up until this year, I always tried to do a new soup of the year, but not being much of a soup person, I have to admit, that got old. I did, however, discover that the ladies all love my chicken potpie. That has led me to use it several years in a row, but with a new twist each year.

      One year, I used my shell maker (I love gadgets) and made biscuit shells for the sauce (chicken potpie filling). The next year, I used little individual pie shells and last year I used Pepperidge Farms puff pastry shells (my all time fav). This year I used biscuits again, but used an idea I saw on-line. I lined muffin tins with rolled out biscuits. I then filled each one with the sauce and then folded the dough over the top and baked. Have I mentioned how wonderful they tasted? AND, what a hit!

      Also on the menu were little sausages in a cranberry sauce, the old standby of cheese and sausage balls, along with a pizza muffin/dipping sauce (again – on-line), a fantastic warm Caramelized onion and Gruyère cheese dip, an oriental salad, and can’t forget the Shrimp Dip (this is Southern Louisiana after all!)

      For beverages, I have a great Pineapple Punch that is additive – no kidding, cannot have just one glass – ask all who dare! And, this year, I found a Jingle Juice. I just loved the name and the taste wasn’t bad either! It made more than one lady a little too happy! lol (Did not let anyone leave tipsy.)

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     Now – for question time. Do you host a Cookie Swap or have you attended one? Have you blogged about it? AND, do you have any questions that I can help with? I invite you to share your experiences, questions, and of course – your FAVORITE treat for the rest of us (cookies, candy…)!

 Leave  a link and I’ll add it to the end of my story for others to read.