Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Year's Day Food

My family often eats black-eyed peas and ham on New Year's Day. I can’t remember how that tradition got started, but most years we dine on the Southern dish because we like it not because we hope it will bring us wealth.

However, many people do believe eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring them luck. Throughout history, people have eaten certain foods on New Year's Day, hoping to gain riches, love, or other kinds of good fortune during the rest of the year. 

For some nationalities, ham or pork is the luckiest thing to eat on January 1st. That leads one to wonder how a pig became associated with the idea of good luck. Hundreds of years ago in Europe, wild boars were caught in the forests and killed on the first day of the year. Also, a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in a forward motion. Maybe people liked the idea of moving forward as the new year began, especially since pigs are also associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat. 

Austrians, Swedes, and Germans also choose pork or ham for their New Year's meal, and they brought this tradition with them when they settled in different regions of the United States. People in New England often combine their pork with sauerkraut to guarantee luck and prosperity for the coming year. Germans and Swedes tend to choose red cabbage as a lucky side dish, too. While folks in the Southern U.S. choose black-eyed peas.

In other countries, turkey is the meat of choice. Bolivians and some people in New Orleans follow this custom. But others claim that eating fowl (such as turkey, goose, or chicken) on New Year's Day will result in bad luck. Fowl scratch backward as they search for their food, and who wants to have to "scratch for a living"? 
People in the northwestern part of the United States may eat salmon to get lucky. Some Germans and Poles choose herring, which may be served in a cream sauce or pickled. Other Germans eat carp. 

Sometimes sweets or pastries are eaten for luck. In the colony of New Amsterdam, now New York, the Dutch settlers enjoyed sweet treats. Sometimes a special cake was made with a coin baked inside. Such cakes are traditional in Greece, which celebrates Saint Basil's Day and New Year's at the same time. The Saint Basil's Day cake (vasilopeta) is made of yeast dough and flavored with lemon. The person who gets the slice with the silver or gold coin is considered very lucky! 
Hoppin' John

Hoppin' John is eaten in many southern states. Hoppin' John is made with black-eyed peas or dried red peas, combined with hog jowls, bacon, or salt pork. Rice, butter, salt, or vegetables like celery, onions and green peppers may be added. The children in the family might even hop around the table before the family sits down to eat this lucky dish. 

toshikoshi soba

In Brazil, lentils are a symbol of prosperity, so lentil soup or lentils with rice is prepared for the first meal of the New Year. Thousands of miles away, the Japanese observe their New Year's tradition by eating a noodle called toshikoshi soba. (This means "sending out the old year.") This buckwheat noodle is quite long, and those who can swallow at least one of them without chewing or breaking it are supposed to enjoy good luck and a long life. 

Portugal and Spain have an interesting custom. As the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins, people in these countries may follow the custom of eating twelve grapes or raisins to bring them luck for all twelve months of the coming year"

I wish you good things for 2021. It’s got to be better than this year, right?

Do you have a special New Year’s Day dinner? Share with us what it is.

USA Word Find
by Vickie McDonough

USA Word Find is an entertaining word search book that will also test your knowledge of USA information and includes hours of mentally stimulating word search fun! USA Word Find contains 75 easy-to-read large print word search puzzles. These engaging puzzles feature United States topics such as state capitals, state nicknames, animals and birds found in the U.S., actors born in the U.S., and much more. Test your knowledge of the United States while enjoying hours of word find fun.

This word search is great for all ages and makes a wonderful birthday gift.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

HHH Book Day!


A broken heart, a controlling father, and an intrusive Scot leave Charlotte Jackson reeling. Accused of stealing an heirloom pin, she must choose between an unwanted marriage and the ruin of her family name. With the futures of her three younger sisters at stake, as well as her own reputation, Charlotte must navigate through injustice to find forgiveness and true happiness.

Eager to find the traitor that caused the death of his brother, Duncan Mackenzie comes to America and attempts to fit in with Charleston society. But when the headstrong Charlotte catches his eye, Duncan takes on a second mission—acquiring the lass's hand. After being spurned several times, he uses unconventional ways of winning her heart.

Meg Stratton is excited about having her boys for the holidays for the first time in seven years. But her ex-husband sweeps in and takes them with no warning. Wade Palmer knows Meg is trouble waiting to happen with her history of drug use, but he can’t fight his attraction to her.

When Wade and Meg agree to help an elderly woman with her nonprofit business to the home bound residents, Wade sees Meg’s strength of character, while she longs for the peace and steadiness of his faith. But, when Meg’s former drug dealer comes to town looking for her, and her ex refuses to let her have contact with her boys, what will that stress do to their budding relationship? And how can a small prayer quilt help?

After a life-threatening accident causes Joshua Thornton to rethink his life as a riverboat gambler, he has a chance encounter with the one man, a minister in is home town, whose unforgiving spirit chased Joshua away from his home after a foolish prank injured the minister and damaged the church. With the reverend is his daughter, Alicia, the one girl who captured Joshua’s heart years ago and has never left it. When Joshua learns his father’s shipping company may be in financial trouble, he decides to return to Havens Port in hopes of helping his father save the business. Alicia, who has always loved Joshua, is forbidden to have anything to do with Joshua because of his sinful past life. When tragedy strikes the town, Joshua proves himself to be a hero, but is it enough to transform the heart of the man Joshua scarred for life and allow two young people to follow their hearts.

2020 Selah Fiction Book of the Year
One woman with a deep desire to serve and help. One brave who will stop at nothing to save his people. Each willing to die for their beliefs and love for one another. Will their sacrifice be enough? As a female medical doctor in 1864, Sadie Hoppner is no stranger to tragedy and loss. While she grapples with the difficulties of practicing medicine at a Colorado outpost, she learns that finding acceptance and respect proves especially difficult at Fort Lyon. Cheyenne brave Five Kills wants peace between his people and the American Army. But a chance encounter with their female doctor ignites memories from his upbringing among the whites … along with a growing fondness for the one person who seems to understand him and his people. As two cultures collide with differing beliefs of right and wrong, of what constitutes justice and savagery, blood spills on the Great Plains. When the inevitable war reaches Fort Lyon, the young couple's fledgling love is put to the test.

Waltz with Destiny made it as a finalist in the 2020 Best Book Awards!
A story-book romance swirls into a rendezvous with destiny as the McConnell legacy is threatened.

The splendors of Detroit's ballrooms spin Esther (McConnell) Meir around like a princess in a fairy tale when she meets the handsome Eric Erhardt. Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and suddenly it’s a battle for survival. Eric is drafted into the Army and faces insurmountable odds traveling up the boot of Italy and Esther wonders if she'll have the grit to carry on the McConnell legacy.

“…I loved the suspenseful and well-crafted twists, turns, and vivid war scenes. They left me reading nonstop while biting my nails. Catherine’s lovely prose, sense of humor, and historical accuracy deliver an unmistakable wow factor…” Deb Gardner Allard AKA Taylor Jaxon, author of Before the Apocalypse

On the verge of starting her own company—and a fling with the hot star of a TV saga—Atlanta film makeup artist Ashlyn Jennings is willed a mysterious box containing a key from her grandmother’s estate. Mamie Lou, the former Hollywood B-lister who inspired Ashlyn’s path in life, always demonstrated a flair for the dramatic. But did Mamie Lou really expect her to put everything on hold to clean out a mountain cabin no one even knew about? And right at Christmas?

When Ashlyn arrives at White Falls Lodge armed with cosmetic bags and designer shoes, little is she prepared to be stranded by a snow storm, irritated by the handsome resort owner who seems determined to peel away her facade, and redirected by a God Ashlyn wants to forget, through Mamie Lou’s real gift … the secret story of her grandmother’s past.

Can Nicole learn to be enough of a lady to snag the handsome rancher?
Nicole Waterby heads down the mountain to fetch herself a husband, not realizing women don’t wear trousers or carry a gun. She has a lot to learn. Rancher Shane Keegan has drifted from one location to another to find a place to belong. When Nicole crosses his path, he wonders if he can have love, but he soon realizes she’s destined for someone better than a saddle tramp. Will love stand a chance while both Nicole and Shane try to be people they’re not?

A widower and his two daughters; a boy lost in the woods -- all in desperate need of a Christmas miracle. This sweet Christmas story weaves a tale of yesteryear into a current day life lesson for all.


Escaping Boston to avoid a marriage of convenience aimed at garnering society’s respect for her family name in the shadow of her father’s war profiteering, Meg Underwood settles in Spruce Hill, Oregon. Despite leaving behind the comforts of wealth, she’s happy. Then the handsome Pinkerton agent, Reuben Jessop, arrives with news that she’s inherited her aunt’s significant estate, and she must return home to claim the bequest. Meg refuses to make the trip. Unwilling to fail at his mission, Reuben gives her until Christmas to prove why she should remain in Spruce Hill and give up the opportunity to become a woman of means. When he seems to want more than friendship, she wonders if her new-found wealth is the basis of his attraction.

In 1778 Rhode Island, the American Revolution rallies the Patriots to fight for freedom. But the slavery of black men and women from Africa, bartered for rum, is a travesty that many in America cannot ignore. The seeds of abolition are planted even as the laws allowing slavery in the north still exist.

Lydia Saunders, the daughter of a slave ship owner, grew up with the horror of slavery. It became more of a nightmare when, at a young age, she is confronted with the truth about her father’s occupation. She is burdened with the guilt of her family’s sin, as she struggles to make a difference in whatever way she can. When she loses her husband in the battle for freedom from England, she makes a difficult decision that will change her life forever.

Sergeant Micah Hughes is too dedicated to serving the fledgling country of America to consider falling in love. When he carries the tragic news to Lydia Saunders about her husband’s death, he is appalled by his attraction to the young widow. Micah wrestles with his feelings for Lydia while he tries to focus on helping the cause of freedom. He trains a group of former slaves to become capable soldiers on the battlefield.

Tensions both on the battlefield and on the home front bring hardship and turmoil that threaten to endanger them all. When Lydia and Micah are faced with saving the life of a black infant in danger, can they survive this turning point in their lives?

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive?

In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands facedown in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Hills of Nevermore explores faith, love, and courage in the wild West.

Sixteen-year-old Lorena Leland’s dreams of a rich and fulfilling life as a writer are dashed when the stock market crashes in 1929. Seven years into the Great Depression, Rena’s banker father has retreated into the bottle, her sister is married to a lazy charlatan and gambler, and Rena is an unemployed newspaper reporter. Eager for any writing job, Rena accepts a position interviewing former slaves for the Federal Writers’ Project. There, she meets Frankie Washington, a 101-year-old woman whose honest yet tragic past captivates Rena.

As Frankie recounts her life as a slave, Rena is horrified to learn of all the older woman has endured―especially because Rena’s ancestors owned slaves. While Frankie’s story challenges Rena’s preconceptions about slavery, it also connects the two women whose lives are otherwise separated by age, race, and circumstances. But will this bond of respect, admiration, and friendship be broken by a revelation neither woman sees coming?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Pandemic of Smallpox

Elaine Marie Cooper 

In this unfortunate year of a pandemic, much comparison has been made to the 1918 Spanish Flu. But there have been other deadly pandemics through the ages, most notably smallpox. Many contemporary medical experts have not even seen a patient with that disease. Its eradication has to do with the vaccine that was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796. But even prior to Jenner’s vaccination, another type of immunity-producing method known as variolation was devised. This was a crude method of inserting the infectious pustule of an individual suffering from smallpox into a scratch or laceration on the arm of a well person. The procedure was crude, painful and could lead to death. Yet the chances of surviving the process were greater than if the individual caught smallpox. The disease caught from another individual would increase one’s chances of dying of the disease. Variolation was first practiced in Eastern Europe and the western Asian countries. (That is where the virus seems to have reared its ugly head first, in the years B.C.) Western travelers who were afraid of contracting the terrible illness often requested their local doctors perform the procedure on them.

Symptoms of smallpox usually began with a fever, then progressed to eruption of pustules on the skin. These were no ordinary pox, however. They could destroy eyesight, disfigure someone’s face and leave cavernous evidence of their destruction. Some of the images online were so grotesque, I declined to add them to this post. Evidence of smallpox pustules was discovered on the mummified body of Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt, perhaps indicating his cause of death. With Global travel emerging in the 1400’s, the disease spread to southern Africa and the America’s. While it was often accidental, the contagious nature of the illness made it a perfect tool for a biological weapon. The native peoples of the Americas had no immunity to smallpox and often succumbed. The Spanish were able to conquer the Incas and Aztecs due to the susceptibility of the natives. By the 18th century, smallpox had, unfortunately, found a comfortable home in America, killing about 30% of its victims. Then the American Revolution broke out, along with an upsurge in cases of smallpox due to enemy troops from England and Germany carrying the disease. When the American troops gathered in Boston, cases among the militia soared. At a time when General Washington needed a fit army, many were seriously ill. Washington considered the crude method of variolation to immunize the soldiers but could little afford to have the enemy find out that large numbers of his army were incapacitated while they recovered from the process. He realized that timing was everything and he devised a plan to have all new recruits undergo the procedure. According to, George Washington pulled off the first massive, state-funded immunization campaign in American history. This risky decision likely saved the day for America in the Revolutionary War. Fortunately, this disfiguring disease has been eradicated due to worldwide immunizations. It is considered the most successful achievement in international public health.

                                                                                                        Elaine Marie Cooper has a recent release, Scarred Vessels, which features the black soldiers in the American Revolution as well as some little-known history of Rhode Island. Her newly contracted Dawn of America series will begin releasing this April with Love’s Kindling. The series is set in Revolutionary War Connecticut. Cooper is the award-winning author of Fields of the Fatherless and Bethany’s Calendar. Her 2016 release (Saratoga Letters) was finalist in Historical Romance in both the Selah Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and HomeLife magazine. She also penned the three-book historical series, Deer Run Saga. You can visit her website/ blog at

Monday, December 28, 2020

Christmas on the Prairies in the 1860s-1880s – by Donna Schlachter


Christmas, 1876

Many of the images we conjure regarding Christmas have been around for a long time, including Christmas trees, Christmas pudding, fruitcake, and Santa Claus. Some are strictly American in origin, including the notion of Santa as a jolly, old elf. Most were brought to this country by immigrants from primarily Europe, including Germany, England, and France.

Cattle in snow storm


And while much of the more civilized parts of America were enjoying many of these traditions, life was much harder on the prairies, where a single winter storm or a poor crop due to insects or drought could mean the difference between life and death.

Farming and ranching still require attention to fields and stock every single day of the year, leaving no room for the week-long festivities we often enjoy today. Neglecting chores could mean no food tomorrow—or even today.

Plenty of food, with enough to share

Still, many families, particularly those with children, endeavored to set apart the day and celebrate Jesus’ birth. Laura Ingalls Wilder, who famously catalogued life on the prairies in her series, Little House on the Prairie, says that her mother cooked all day long, baking bread, beans, and pies.

In the forts, soldiers caroled while venison roasted over an open hearth. Depending on their country of origin, a family might bring in a Christmas tree, although perhaps they’d have hung it by the trunk from a beam. Children gathered at the kitchen table to make homemade decorations, including miniature corn husk dolls or yarn angels. If there was a little extra cookie dough available, they cut out gingerbread men and punched a hole in the raw dough, stringing a piece of ribbon or yarn through after it was baked before hanging it on the tree.

Preserved fruit and vegetables were enjoyed, with the women often beginning the process weeks in advance.

Yarn doll

Gifts were simple, usually homemade, and most often something the person needed. Knitted and sewn items such as caps, mitts, and scarves were favorites, as well as occasionally socks or a sweater. Knit or carved toys for the little ones were also enjoyed, and if the family enjoyed a good year financially, perhaps a few candies, fresh fruit, or a small gift from the mercantile in town would appear in their stockings, which were hung on Christmas Eve, often after church service or a time of family singing in their own home.

Carved toys


Following is a recipe used by Mrs. Isabel Beeton, a native of England:

Victoria Sandwiches

4 eggs (weigh them in their shells)

Caster sugar, equal to the weight of the eggs

Butter, equal to the weight of the eggs

Flour, equal to the weight of the eggs

¼ teaspoon salt

Jam or marmalade, of any kind

Cream the butter for about five minutes then add the sugar and beat for about two-three minutes. Add the eggs and beat for three minutes. Add the flour and salt and beat for an additional five minutes.

Butter a 9”x9” baking tin and pour in the batter. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. Allow to cool on a cake rack.

Cut the cake in half and spread the jam over the bottom of the cake. Place the other half of the cake on top and gently press the pieces together. Cut them into long finger pieces. Pile them in crossbars on a glass dish and serve.


Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery and Household Management, Isabella Beeton,
1874, London.


However you celebrate your Christmas this year, despite the changing world we live in and restrictions on numbers permitted in a group, I pray you’ll find the true meaning and joy of the season—Jesus becoming Emmanuel, God with us—and carry that with you all year through.






About Donna:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and they have been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, devotional books, and books on the writing craft. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, Pikes Peak Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.


Where to find me online: Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!



Books: Amazon: and Smashwords:


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Donna Schlachter -- Author Spotlight -- And Newest Release


Along the Oregon Trail

It’s 1879, and the Oregon Trail is still ferrying emigrants west to California, Oregon, and Washington. Hundreds of covered wagon trains with thousands of people every year, all searching for something better than they left behind.

Kate Benton has run just about as far as she can. After escaping the sordid life of a saloon prostitute the year before, she hid out in a wagon belonging to the younger brother of the Lame Johnny stagecoach robbing gang. All she wants is a fresh start.


Tom McBride, said younger brother, is running from his past, too. Forced to work for Lame Johnny to save his brother’s life, he’s on the run from the gang, the law – and God.

In the first book, Kate, their tale of adventure and love is filled with secrets, threats, and narrow escapes as they head for Oregon City. 

Oregon City, Oregon 1870s

Now, Kate and Tom have safely put their past behind them. Or have they? Kate realizes her dream of working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and her first assignment is to find a local missing woman. When she begins investigating, however, she is threatened and their house is set ablaze. But that won’t stop her.

Until her son is kidnapped.

Old revolver like the type Kate might have carried


Tom and Kate must work together to solve this case and find their child. In the process, they discover a God who loves them even more than they love each other and their little family.

The idea for this book came from a book I read about Kate Warne, the first Pink Lady detective.  As a young widow in the 1850s, Kate marched into the Pinkterton office and said she wanted a job. Alan Pinkerton thought she meant a clerical job, but no. Kate wanted to be a detective. And she turned out to be one of his best “men”, paving the way for many more female detectives in the coming years.

Kate Warne was a feisty woman with definite ideas of how she wanted her life to go, and so is Kate. While Kate Warne never remarried, I wanted my Kate to balance family and a professional career, a relatively new concept in the 1870s.

Watch for more books featuring Kate and Tom in the future, but for now, check out A Pink Lady Thanksgiving and my other books at




Sitting on the front porch of her rented house, Kate McBride propped aching feet on the footstool her darling husband crafted especially for her. At almost seven months into her pregnancy, she tired quickly, finding she needed to stop and rest more often throughout the day.

She sighed and rubbed at the small of her back. Her first baby. An exciting time, to be sure. But also one with its challenges. Thankfully, living in town meant she needn’t spend as much time tending a garden, pumping water, and hauling firewood compared to residing on a farm or ranch outside town.

Not that Tom would let her do those chores anyway.

No, siree. He hovered more than a mother hen over her chicks.

To watch him, a body would think she was the first woman in history to have a baby.

A baby.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, rocking in the chair he’d also made. She had no right to complain. He was the perfect husband. Loving, caring, tender, patient. Taught her everything she knew about cooking. Which wasn’t much. A year into married life, she managed not to burn their food more than once a week. A marked improvement over her days on the trail.

She smiled and opened her eyes. Their old wagon rested in front of their house on a side street in Oregon City, Oregon. Across the way, one of the Daley children chased down a chicken, almost catching it before the old biddy escaped by fluttering over the fence.

She rubbed her swollen belly, massaging a tiny heel or fist until the baby eased back into a more comfortable position—at least for her. Their son or daughter was an active one, kicking and jumping now for months. She sang to him. She hoped it was a boy for Tom’s sake although he said he had no intention of stopping with one so its gender mattered little to him. Her mama would be tickled pink to welcome this little one.

As usual, when thinking of the woman, her eyes watered. Mama would love to see this little one. Maybe a girl they could name Elsie Something—what was Tom’s mother’s name? She’d have to ask him.

Her feet and back weren’t ready to get back to laundry—maybe she should reconsider Tom’s offer of taking the dirty clothes to the Chinese laundry down on the main street. She’d choose to indulge them for a few more minutes. She picked up the copy of The Saturday Evening Post and skimmed through the pages.

Near the back, her eyes roved the small typeset. Personal ads, missing persons. . . wait, what was that? A correspondence course. Become a private detective. Set your own hours. Be your own boss. Hmm. Interesting concept.

Her mind cast back to the year before when she’d teasingly—but perhaps more in seriousness than she first thought—told Tom of her idea of becoming a Pink Lady. Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, renowned for hiring women agents, needed her nose for solving mysteries and averting crime.

She read through to the end of the advertisement. Two dollars for the correspondence course. She could manage that from her pin money, saved from selling eggs and frugal spending habits. Work at her own speed. She could complete it before the baby’s birth. Then, once back on her feet, Pinkerton’s would be sure to hire her immediately.

She tore out the notice and entered the house for a pen, envelope, and the money. As she completed the information required, her stomach fluttered at the thought of learning something new. Of taking a role in improving their situation. Of solving mysteries. Averting crime.

Yes, indeed. She’d be the Kate Warne of the West.

Wouldn’t Tom be surprised when she told him?



About Donna:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and they have been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, devotional books, and books on the writing craft. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, Pikes Peak Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.


 Where to find me online: Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Bonanza Books-in-a-Flash: order autographed print copies of books that are shipped directly from the author. Perfect for times when other online order services are slow.



Books: Amazon: and Smashwords:

What Can Be Online University: online courses on the craft of writing:

Etsy online shop of original artwork, book folding art, and gift items :


Saturday, December 26, 2020


Wrapping it Up (And a Giveaway!)

by Cindy Regnier

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Whether quarantined, sheltering or spending time with family, I do hope you felt the warmth and love of the season. We all know Christmas is not about the gifts, not really, but at the same time we’re pretty much dealing with the aftermath of that today. Maybe it's in a bag near your tree, maybe it’s sitting out on your curb waiting for a trash man or maybe you’re one of the ones who fold it all up carefully and re-use it. By now you know we’re talking about “wrapping paper.” Just where did this thing start and how come we do it? It seems expensive, wasteful, and a lot of work besides. Still, there’s something about a big red bow, right?

Let me preface this by saying I can’t verify the validity of this story but I did find it in more than one source. Plus, it’s fun so I’m going with it. Read along and be entertained. Obviously, it’s much more fun for the giftee to unwrap a gift and be surprised than to just hand them something. Wrapping gifts is too old a tradition to trace. It was done in ancient times with cloths, 





in the Victorian era with decorated paper,







and by stores using brown or manila paper wrappings for their wares.

Most popular during the early 1900s was the use of tissue paper, which was fairly inexpensive to make and buy. 




In 1917, as the story goes, two brothers in Kansas City who ran a stationery store were having such a good year that they depleted their supply of tissue paper. Faced with the dilemma of what to do and not wanting to jeopardize the wonderful year they were having, one of them found some fancy paper in a back room they had ordered from France a few years ago meant for lining envelopes. (Yes, lining envelopes was a thing back then.) At any rate the lining paper had never sold well so they had it packed away.  One of the enterprising brothers brought out the lining paper, marked it at 10 cents per sheet and encouraged customers to use it for wrapping gifts. How pretty would that look under a tree? It sold out instantly with people clamoring for more.

These two brothers were no dummies, so for the holiday season of 1918, they tried it again, offering lining paper as gift wrap. It was a huge hit, even more so than the year before. By 1919 they knew they were onto something so the two brothers began producing and selling their own printed paper. It was designed and decorated for the sole purpose of covering gifts from peering eyes until the big day arrived. With the continued success of the brothers’ idea, an industry was born that is still going full force today. You may have heard of these famous brothers. Their names were Joyce and Rollie Hall, later joined by another brother, William.  

Their store was named Hallmark.

Fun story, huh? And with that I’d like to leave you with this thought. We sing about the 12 days of Christmas every year, but after December 25 we’re pretty much done. It is my hope that you will begin thinking of December 26 as the 13th day of Christmas and that it may just be the most important day of all. The way we live on December 26 sets the tone for how we will live out the rest of the year. In the words of Dickens: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

I’m giving away a paperback copy of Mail-Order Refuge to one lucky winner, your choice of Kindle or paperback. Just leave a comment with your email address. I’ll contact you if you win.

Rand Stafford isn't looking for true love. He'd ridden that trail until his fiancée left him with a shattered heart. What he needs now is a wife to help him care for his orphan nieces. Desperate, he sends an advertisement to a Baltimore newspaper and hopes for the best.

Fleeing her former employer who would use her to further his unlawful acts, a newspaper advertisement reads like the perfect refuge to Carly Blair. The idea of escaping the city, the intrigue, and the danger to hide herself on a cattle ranch in Kansas is her best shot for freedom.

But its sanctuary comes with a price—a husband. While marrying a man she doesn't know or love means sacrificing her dreams, it's better than being caught by the law.

Or is it?