Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Sharing some Christmas memories from the 1960s by Nancy M Bell

This is a novella of Christmas Eve in a small town peopled by the characters from A Longview Romance series. CLick here for more info. Also available at Amazon.

Yes, I am that old! Growing up in the 1960s was a much simpler time that now. We had only black and white television and one phone in the house. It seems to me looking back that families stayed closer together, not so far flung around the country and the globe. That's not to say that Christmas like all holidays and celebrations didn't sometimes dissolve into family disputes, but generally at least we were all together. My mom's brother and his wife always came for Christmas dinner, my maternal grandparents lived with us and my older sister and her family joined us at the table as well. Our living room was not large, the expanded 'good' table took up most of the floor and to get from end to the other you were required to walk on the couch as there was no room behind the chairs at the table.

Below are some excerpts from a small chapbook I created to help preserve these old family memories for later generations.

This is one of my favourite pictures of my dad. It was taken in 1963 or 1964, you can see the remains of the Christmas feast. I'm guessing we got doctor's kits for one of our presents. LOL

The Rafter Family Christmas Eve was always a variation of the same theme.

My parents would pack up the two youngest children, myself and my sister Wendy, and set off in the car to visit my Dad’s sisters ( my aunts) who lived in various parts of Toronto and the outlying area.
My Aunt Ola and Uncle Bunny lived near Whitevale, Ontario with my cousins Rose and Fred. They lived on a farm and had the most amazing white farmhouse. The floors always were polished to diamond brilliance and I loved their kitchen. Lots of room and tons of windows, it was a wonderful welcoming place. The adults would visit and we would play with Rosie and Freddy our cousins, either outside in the snow or inside on the floor. We would drop off our gifts and receive the ones that went home to go under our tree.

After eating Christmas goodies we would all pile back into the car and head off to the next aunt’s house.

Auntie Joy and Uncle Norm lived in the west end of the city with a house full of our cousins. Glennie was the oldest and then Charlie, Suzanne, Wayne, Billy, Dennis and Brenda. There was always lots to do at Auntie Joy’s, we played games and one year when they lived in Streetsville we played in the ravine near their house and got totally covered in burrs. We were not popular children when we got home. There was great food and the cousins always had the latest in games and toys to play with. We dropped off the presents and packed the ones for us into the car and we were off again.

Next stop Aunt Loral and Uncle Bob and cousins Debbie and Lori. Aunt Loral’s was usually the last stop in the early years.

My Aunt Gloria and Uncle Tommy and Cindy and Tammy Lori lived in Caladar, which was up near North Bay when we were young, we would go and visit them on New Year’s Day every year. Later years they moved to Toronto, not far from Aunt Loral and we stopped there on Christmas Eve as well. Aunt Irma ( who later changed her name legally to Rocky) and Uncle Wally lived near Ottawa and we did not get to see them as often, or our cousins Gary and Scott.
Aunt Loral had a very small house and it always seemed so crammed full of Christmas. The living room was usually quite dark and the tree seemed to fill it up totally. She had the most amazing tree topper that was all the colors of the rainbow and it sent the colors all over the room, reflecting off all the walls and the front room window. As this was our last stop Wendy and I were both tired and didn’t spend too much time actually playing with Debbie and Lori. It was also getting late and near bed time so that Santa could come and leave his gifts for us. There was always time for yet more goodies and more pop. Aunt Loral always had great fruit cake at her house. Dark and moist. She also had a zillion of the little statues that used to come in Red Rose Tea. They were lined up on the top of the door frames in her kitchen and just about anywhere that you looked There were so many of them that I could never actually count them without loosing track. I liked the horse one and the gingerbread man the best. Then it was time to go home. Wendy and I usually fell asleep on the way home to West Hill in the far east end of the city. We lived with my Grandma and Grandpa Pritchard and before 1963 when she got married, my older sister June lived with us as well. There were seven of us in a little house. June had her own room, Grandma and Grandpa shared what would have been the dining room but worked quite well as a bedroom at the front of the house and Wendy and I had bunkbeds in Mom and Dad’s room.

Grandma and Grandpa were always waiting for us when we got home and Christmas Eve and helped to put the presents under the tree.
We always put the tree up on December 20th as that was my birthday. Mom and Dad never wanted to put the tree up earlier than that as we always had a real tree and they worried that it would dry out.
We had these really cool bubble lights that were all different colors but got really hot when you left them on too long. There was a fluffy white angel on top.
One Christmas Eve when we were still outside in the driveway just getting out of the car Wendy and I got a huge surprise. There, coming down the Cooney’s driveway, who were our next door neighbors, was Santa Claus!

We both screamed and then bolted for the back door. If Santa came while were still up and awake he wouldn’t leave us anything. We tore through the back door into the kitchen and down the back hall to the bedroom. With our wet snow boots and coats still on Wendy and I scrambled into bed and pulled the covers over our heads. I had a harder time getting into bed as I had to climb up into the top bunk, but I made it. Mom and Dad came in and tried to get us to take off our coats and boots and change into night clothes. Wendy and I wouldn’t budge, we were pretending to be asleep so that Santa would leave our presents. We were sure that he was coming to our house any moment because we KNEW he just next door and he hadn’t been to our house next. He must have already been to Jo-anne and John Lee’s place because they lived on the other side of the Cooneys, so we had to be next. Mom and Dad must have removed our boots after we were asleep because they were gone in the morning. And Santa did leave our presents for us that year.
Things changed in 1964, June was married and living on Homestead Ave with Butch and my brother Timmy was born in July. So Christmas 1964 was a little different. There was one more of us to track all over the city to visit my aunts.
Sometime in the 1960’s Aunt Gloria and Uncle Tommy and Cindy and TammyLori moved to Toronto. My Grandma and Grandpa Rafter moved from Constance Lake near Ottawa and bought a little store on Davis Lake, near Kinmount. Every winter they would come to Toronto and stay with Aunt Gloria and Uncle Tommy, so now we had even more excitement and visiting on Christmas Eve. We often went to Aunt Gloria and Uncle Tommy’s for New Year’s dinner. The turkey dressing was always yucky, it had so much sage in it ( which Gramma Rafter LOVED) and sometimes sausage. Not my favorite part of the meal I’ll tell you. There was always way too much to eat, tons of turkey and cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Our Christmas dinner at home was always large. June and Butch and their sons Geoff, Peter and Terry would come. My Aunt Frances and Uncle Jim came on Christmas afternoon early and brought their sausage dog with them. The first dog I remember was Sandy who was quite portly and smelled like DOG. He would bite my dad if he tried to discipline us in front of him. We liked Sandy. Sandy would also dance with us, running around while we pranced around laughing. Aunt Frances always gave us Avon for Christmas and her packages were always decorated with cool stuff. Uncle Jim is my mother’s only brother and he has one daughter Marilyn who lives in the States. There would also be My Gramma and Grampa Pritchard who lived with us, Wendy and me and Timmy. Mom would pull the big table with all the leaves in it out into the middle of our small living room and the table would stretch from the front window to the door to the kitchen. It was set with these cool plates that we only used at Christmas, all pale yellow ,blue and pink around the edges with white roses in the centre. Mom used her good silverware that Dad bought her one year for Christmas and a tablecloth that never seemed to escape the cranberries or the gravy. Our small house was full of the smell of turkey and gravy and boiling potatoes. There never seemed to be enough room but somehow everyone managed to get seated at the table and Dad would carve the turkey. Wendy and I would fight over the drumsticks, although in later times Timmy always got one.

Lots of great memories of those no longer with us, and those who still are. As long as we remember them they are never gone, but live in our hearts.

Here are few memories from later Christmases.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas is Coming - Janet Lane Walters #

Christmas doesn’t figure in many of my stories and I’m not sure why. But one of my books The Leo Aquarius Connection revolves around the holiday.

The nurses stare as he exits the elevator on the Pediatric Unit. “Enter the handsome doctor.” Those are Doctor Caleb Winstone’s words as he steps off the elevator. Though he’s embarrassed, this Leo doctor rolls with the punches. He’s returned home to join an older doctor in the practice. Before long he learns the new nurse manager of the unit is a woman he knows. Of all the women in the world, she is the last one he wants to see. How can he manage to work daily with her?

 Before the day ends, he discovers his mother has decided who he should marry and the woman is quite willing. Not for him. 

Suzanna Rollins is an Aquarian and now the guardian of her half-brother who was badly injured in a car accident. She takes the position as nurse manager of the Pediatric unit for several reasons. One is the move from the city re-unites her with college friends, the Grantley Gang. The other is for the excellent Rehab Center.

 On the day of her arrival, she encounters Caleb. What is he doing here and why? Can she work with the man she fell in and out of love with the night he offered her less than marriage? Caleb’s interest in helping her half-brother gives them more together time than they imagined.

The heroine has never had a real Christmas with tree, lights, many presents. Nor has her younger brother. The hero’s Christmases have been orchestrated and he will be alone this year. 

Now what does that have to do with my Christmas. I love the holiday and right now, I’m in the process of filling eighteen stockings for my children and grandchildren. I love doing this and finding a lot of interesting presents. I’m getting to the point in the process of having to figure what left to find for perhaps one or two of the stockings.

Eight are done. Once the stockings are finished. Then it’s on to decorating the tree and the house and then baking cookies. The rush will be over before the day arrives but then there’s cooking the dinner.
The only good thing about all this madness is that I am managing to write a little. If I don’t see a bit of progress every day, I lose the Christmas spirit. Five hundred words is enough to keep me happy. 

So Christmas is coming and the stockings will be hung, actually some are sent to Florida and the others will cluster around the tree,

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A pew and a Kavanagh link, by J.C. Kavanagh

It started with an old church pew. I bought it in 1989 from the St. James parish church in Colgan, Ontario. The church was celebrating a 100-year anniversary, and part of the celebration was replacing the pews, which were built from local trees and by local carpenters in 1889.

The 6' pew was in decent condition when I brought it home - made from pine, oak and walnut. The 'legs' were cast iron, fashioned in the Gothic/Romanesque style of the day. The wood holder for hymnals and booklets was intact, as was the card-sized metal plate frame that displayed the name of the family that donated money for the pew / church. Even the kneeler was included. And so a new life began for the old pew, first in my kitchen. Children and their friends ate meals on this historic pew - a pew that had once been reserved for peace and quiet. Not so in a kitchen filled with youngsters.

Years later, it began another life - outside on my covered porch. Many a person sat on that pew with a cigarette or drink in hand (back when smoking was discouraged inside your home and encouraged outside). It sat for many years on that porch, holding strong and steady.

And then this year, we brought it back to its original glory. My partner and I love to refinish/refurbish/re-do oh, just about anything. We had just built a 7'4" table for our kitchen, using 100-year old maple planks from a local tree. We had the planks planed, glued and kiln-dried through a Mennonite business and then finished it ourselves - sanding, staining and then two coats of epoxy. That project led to the next project - re-finishing the kitchen chairs, including my father's old captain chairs. And that of course, led to the thought, "Well, wouldn't the pew look grand in here too?"

So the pew was resurrected from the basement, where it had been resting for the last six years. We carefully separated the back from the bottom, the arms from the legs, and began a two-week project that included hours and hours of sanding, re-gluing cracks, re-gluing the back/bottom tongue-in-groove joiners, staining and varnish. Oh, and sand-blasting the iron legs and then spraying a protective clear-coat gloss varnish.

New table (temporary legs as we're still designing permanent legs), 
re-furbished chairs and pew.

We kept most of the original nails in place - the heads were rectangular! 

That's when I decided I would research the history of the pew, because I do love history. And to my surprise, I discovered that the pew may be linked to my own history - the Kavanagh clan. Back in the 1800s, the Colgan area was being settled by Irish Catholics in large numbers - sufficient to build several churches within a 5-mile radius. St. James was the grandest of them all, first built in 1851 and then replaced in 1889. The main church, still an active parish, accommodates about 700 people and the upper gallery about 150.

Artist's sketch of St. James church in Colgan, Ontario. 
Top right, weather-beaten church circa 1855.

And who were the builders contracted to construct this magnificent church? The Kavanagh brothers, Sam, William and 'Lil.' They had already built a small mission church, St. Francis Xavier, in nearby Tottenham. My mom told me that some of her father's uncles had emigrated to Canada and New York during the Irish potato famine (1845-1852). Unfortunately, they didn't keep in touch with their Irish kin. My grandfather's name, by the way, is William Kavanagh, born in 1902 and named 'William' in keeping with the tradition of carrying on the patriarch's given name. Coincidence? Only one way to find out. Research.

I'll keep you posted.

Current photo of St. James church, Colgan, Ontario, 
built in 1889 by the Kavanagh brothers. 
Total construction cost: less than $15,000.
Don't forget to add The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends to your Christmas list! Fantastic reading for young adults and adults young at heart. You won't be able to put it down.

Merry Christmas to all!

J.C. Kavanagh 
The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends (Book 2) 
The Twisted Climb, 
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers' Poll
Novels for teens, young adults and adults young at heart
Email: author.j.c.kavanagh@gmail.com
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Meeting a Voodoo priestess in New Orleans

It took some effort to connect with Priestess Miriam. When we arrived in the morning at the Voudon temple near the center of New Orleans, she was busy, even though we had an appointment.

“Come later,” she said. “I’m busy now.”

My son and I had planned this trip for months. We had flown to Houston and rented a car there; our plan being to travel across the South for two weeks.

We returned at noon, but the priestess couldn’t meet us. “Later” she shouted from the back. What did “later” mean? Time seemed to be a fluid concept for the priestess.

“I don’t think this is going to work,” commented my son.

I shrugged my shoulders. We spent the day sightseeing and, finally, at four-thirty in the afternoon, gave it one more shot.

“Alright, come in,” she said. She didn’t seem particularly welcoming. The priestess was past middle-age, with dark walnut cheeks, grey hair tied with a red bandana, and wore a white gown. The front of the temple contained a store, stuffed with various charms, liquids and herbs—traditionally called gris-gris, all necessary for the practice of Voudon. In the back was a large room, filled with an incredible number of knick-knacks—African masks, statues of the Virgin Mary, tie-died Hindu Deities and Tibetan Thankas. It was certainly an eclectic collection. She sat on a large seat while we occupied a small sofa in front.

“What do you want?” she questioned, getting to the point quickly.

“What is Voudon about?” I asked.

"It’s about healing. About allowing one to heal one-self.” She explained its history. “The English were not the only ones involved in the slave trade. The French also imported slaves to the Americas. But the difference was this: according to French laws, children were not separated from parents at an early age. Therefore, many African customs were transmitted to slave children, unlike in the rest of America. So Voudon became prevalent in Haiti and New Orleans.”

The old lady became more open as the evening progressed, as did we. The conversation took many turns: historical, social and even personal. I expressed my satisfaction of my travels with my son. She talked about the history of Louisiana, of New Orleans and the temple.

“The negative image of Voudon comes from Hollywood and sensational novels. They make it out to be something dark. But it is nothing more than the spiritual practices of West Africa, still practiced by over thirty million people—the Fon, Mandika and Bambra. However, over time, North American Voudon has become somewhat different.”

As she talked, she relaxed as did my son and I. Most of her visitors came for personal help: dealing with broken relationships and hurt. She healed and, in that, lay her power.

Finally, it was time to head out. I looked at my watch. It was eight-thirty.

As we said our goodbyes, she reached over to one of the shelves in the store. “This gris-gris contains some herbs. They purify the spirit. Please take it.”

We accepted the gift with gratitude. Maybe one day, we will be able to visit Priestess Miriam again.

Please read about this episode and others in Mohan Ashtakala’s new release, “Karma Nation.” www.mohanashtakala.com . 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas on a cruise ship and other places...by Sheila Claydon

Of all the books I have written, only Cabin Fever features Christmas, and even that is without the snow and cold we usually experience in the UK. If you, like me, prefer the sunshine, however, it makes a very different read for the holiday season. In it, the cruise ship Osprey makes it way down the coast of New Zealand to Sydney in Australia. With illness, secrets, jealousy, misunderstandings and an unexpected desire trying hard to get in the way, the entertainment crew still manage to pull together a spectacular Christmas show for their passengers, as well as finding a way to mend two broken hearts.

A few years ago I made the selfsame journey, arriving in Sydney Harbour on Christmas Eve. Although it was wonderful and was the reason I eventually wrote Cabin Fever, there was nobody on board as mesmerising as Ellie, the heroine, or as outrageously handsome as Drew, the hero. Reliving the memories got me thinking about my own Christmases, however, and I realised how very varied they have been over the years.

Instead of the traditional English meal of turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies I've enjoyed huge and juicy BBQ prawns on the beach in Australia, roast goose and red cabbage in Denmark, tandoori chicken with rice and chapattis in India, and Chinese wontons with noodles so hot and spicy they made my lips numb!

I didn't set out to experience Christmas in different places around the world but with a son who lives and works abroad it sometimes just happens that way, and each foreign Christmas has always been intriguing, delicious and enjoyable.

I've learned that hygge really is a thing in Denmark where Christmas is celebrated beside a blazing fire while candles flicker from every available surface.  Hot fruit tea and chocolates really are best enjoyed snuggled up in a furry rug. Schnapps, which makes an appearance at random intervals throughout the day has to be downed in one swallow accompanied by a loud shout of Skaal (cheers), and the specially brewed Danish Christmas beer really is much stronger than anyone realises until it's too late!

In Australia it is far more laid back with daily BBQs and a lot of sun, sand and beer. The excitement grows as New Year approaches though until what seems like the whole population converges to watch the always magnificent firework display at Sydney Harbour.

In India we were taken to the Golden Temple at Amritsar where Sikhs go in their thousands to celebrate the New Year. As one of only a handful of westerners there, it was a mesmerising experience. Also, that same Christmas, for some now unremembered reason, I ended up riding a camel as well as being marooned in the middle of an enormous boating lake while vultures flew overhead the cloudless sky. If that sounds a bit scary it wasn't, it was stomach clutchingly funny. It is, however, a story for another day.

Of course I love the traditional English Christmas too and that is mostly what I experience. It was best when my children were small, that is until grandchildren arrived and reworked the Christmas magic for all the adults in the house.  Last year it was a traditional family Christmas at home with the whole family, something that is not always possible, and with a 3 year old in the house in the lead up to the celebrations we had to find a different hiding place for the Christmas Elf every day and then remember that there was still a chocolate to be eaten in the Advent calendar!

This Christmas, however, we're back on our travels and off to Hong Kong. We have no idea what to expect except that the people we know who have experienced it say it's one of the best places to be at Christmas.  Let's hope they are right because I've just received this picture as a precursor and I think the elves look a bit scary!!

For Cabin Fever and the rest of Sheila's books go to:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sharing a Holiday Tradition by Helen Henderson

In honor of the holidays, I’m sharing how they are celebrated in the series, the Windmaster Novels. You might ask why a fantasy world would have a holiday. Their world is different than ours as far as its history and heritage. There would be no president named Washington, no Christmas, no Fourth of July. Even in our contemporary world, despite differences in cultures and traditions, you can find annual celebrations. Some are secular, others religious. Traditional activities can pertain to a given time of year such as the harvest or the winter solstice.

Since annual traditions and celebrations are such a part of our world it made sense to me that the one I created should have some also.

Turn’s End is celebrated to mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Parties brighten the dark hours of the cold season and everyday work clothes are exchanged for more formal clothing. Entertainments include dancing and in some instances, newly composed music. Special food is another aspect and as evidenced from the snippet from Windmaster an enjoyable one.

“Ellspeth performed a fast mental inventory of what gowns were packed in the wooden trunks in the adjacent attic storage rooms. The green one she wore to the last turn’s end festivities piqued her interest. Eighth hour, she decided, should be just enough time to air the preserving leaves from the gown. No dallying or I'll miss the chilled crustaceans and the sweet bread will be soggy.”

While not every event in our world needs to have an exact correlation in the fantasy one, how we celebrate an event can serve as inspiration for a fictional one. New Year’s Eve helped form Turn’s End. The Lantern Festival in Windmaster Legend during which Lady Pelra tries to decide which of the two men her heart wants was inspired by two events, the Lantern Float held annually on Memorial Day on Oʻahu’s south shore and the sky lantern festival of Taiwan. In one, lanterns are set afloat on the water in a personal and collective moment of remembrance and offering of gratitude to those who have gone before. In the other, sky lanterns are released into the night sky with people's wishes written on them.

The one sky lantern launch that I’ve seen in person combined both water and sky. A grieving family sent a single lantern aloft over the water in memorial of a loved one’s passing. I couldn’t see if it bore handwritten wishes or if only a picture of the loved one was carried skyward.

While the emotion in that launch was somber, I wanted the one in Windmaster Legend to also have a counterpoint. So a festival tradition was added, “When lanterns fill the sky, a man—or woman, can claim a kiss from anyone they chose.” You’ll have to read Windmaster Legend when it is released (March 2019) to see whether Pelra followed the festival tradition… and which of the two men was the recipient.

From Windmaster Legend, an excerpt that includes the lantern set aloft by a couple celebrating wedding anniversary.

“One by one the other ships assigned as launching platforms slipped into formation until they formed a straight line of bobbing lights beneath the darkening skies.

To distract herself from the emotions rising at Iol’s closeness, Pelra read the handwritten notes on the sky lanterns closest to her. Some were thanks for a profitable year, while others were prayers for the one to come. Many were poignant remembrances of loved ones who had passed beyond the veil. The dream listed on one lantern clutched at her heart.

Air and sky together forever,
May our two lives be as joined.
With nothing between but a gentle zephyr.
Air and sky, bless our journey.”

To end this post, I’ll be sending a virtual sky lantern aloft with the wish that all your hopes and dreams come true in the coming year.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Meeting the Creator of Peter Rabbit

For more information about Susan Calder's books, or to purchase visit her Books We Love Author Blog.

Beatrix Potter, author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other beloved children's stories, grew up in London, England. Her family spent their summer holidays in the countryside, where she discovered that she loved animals and nature more than cities. The Lake District in England became the place of Beatrix Potter's heart. Last spring I came to understand why she loved that region when my husband Will and I spent a week in The Lake District. One of our many highlights was a boat ride across Lake Windermere to Wray Castle, which the Potters rented for several family vacations.

Wray Castle - Beatrix Potter's parents must have  had a fair amount of money to be able to rent such a large summer cottage. They were wealthy enough that they scorned working for a living. 

Rambling Wray Castle is now a tourist site, its rooms containing an eclectic assortment of displays. Some depict the life of the woman who built the castle, Margaret Dawson, an early feminist. Other rooms show drawings and scientific studies made by Beatrix Potter. There are a large number of playrooms for children, which include replica scenes from Peter Rabbit and her other stories. A friend told me she and her family spent a fun rainy day at Wray Castle letting their children run loose. 

Will steals cabbages from Mr. McGregor's garden

I join Beatrix, her family and their guests for dinner

From Wray Castle, Will and I walked the path along Lake Windermere. At a beach we met a friend, who wasn't shy.  

Beatrix Potter studied animal habits meticulously to make her character's actions realistic. We caught a ferry to the town of Bowness and visited The World of Beatrix Potter museum, which featured dioramas of Beatrix Potter's stories.

In 1905 Beatrix used income from her books and a small inheritance to buy a farm in The Lake District. Eight years later, at age 47, she married a local solicitor. While she continued to write, her interests shifted to country life. She bred and raised Herdwick sheep, a breed indigenous to the region, and became president of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders' Association. Some credit her progressive policies and methods for helping to save the breed from extinction. 

Herdwick sheep are born black and grow lighter with age. 
Beatrix Potter wrote her greatest works before she settled contentedly into the life she was meant to lead. No doubt she was happiest in her later years, but fans of Peter Rabbit and her other charming characters can be glad for her younger days when she struggled to find her place in the world.  

Beatrix Potter and me in The World of Beatrix Potter

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Everything's Coming up Snowflakes by Karla Stover

Image result for snowflake clipartbwlauthors.blogspot.com    Image result for wynters way

Jericho is a little town of about 5,000 in central Vermont. It’s the kind of place where folks photograph the Truman Galusha House built in 1790 or the Old Red Mill and Mill House built in 1856 or to visit the Snowflake Bentley Gift Shop. Yes, an entire gift shop devoted to snowflakes.

First off, let’s make sure that we’re talking about the feathery ice crystal, typically displaying delicate six-fold symmetry and not the autumn-blooming Eurasian flower. Now that we’ve clarified that, let’s look at how the giftshop began.

Three steps were required. First: on February 9, 1865, with the birth of a baby named Wilson Alwyn Bentley. Second: on his 11th birthday, when his mother let him look at a snowflake though an inexpensive microscope. Third: when Wilson was given a compound microscope and camera for his 20th birthday, thanks to his mother because his father thought (and did so for all of his life) that it was an unnecessary extravagance.)

After that, and every winter for the next 50 years Wilson set his equipment up in an unheated shed, and as soon as the first flake fell began to capture/record them on glass plates. When a storm started, he stood in the shed's open doorway and caught snowflakes on a smooth, black-painted, square foot board which he held by wire handles. Then he carried the board inside, examined the crystals through a magnifying glass, and brushed the damaged ones away with a feather, all the while holding his breath so as to not melt one. The perfect ones he transferred to glass slides. Finally, with the camera pointed toward a window, he took each picture through the microscope with the light passing through the snowflake which became magnified from 64 to 3,600 times its size. The process involved an apparatus consisting of wheels, ropes, and other odds and ends. Exposure ranged from ten to 100 seconds. The last steps were to treat the plates to a fixing bath and then wash the plate in the ice cold water of his backyard spring.

Wilson divided his snowflakes into origins of high or low altitude. It was his opinion that low altitude flakes had the most beautiful designs.

During his lifetime, Wilson  captured and preserved some 6,000 snow "crystals." He contributed articles to The Annual Summary of the Monthly Weather Bureau Review, had his photographs used in science classes, included in encyclopedias, and numerous magazines. Artists and jewelers found and find inspiration in them. Three weeks before his death on December 23, 1931, Snow Crystals, his magnum opus prepared in collaboration with Dr. W.J. Humphreys of the U.S. Weather Bureau was published.

Monday, December 10, 2018

In Search of the Perfect Gift


Books We Love and I are excited to offer you, our readers, a free collection of romantic short stories as a Kindle Exclusive. "Before Tomorrow Comes" will be free on December 8, 15, 22. Even if you aren't a Kindle Unlimited member, the book is only $4.99 to download. This special collection is my thank you for your loyalty which has provided me a platform for twenty novels. ENJOY!

Is it harder and harder every year to find a gift just perfect for all the people on your holiday list? Perhaps you've been looking in the wrong kind of store. I invite you to go shopping with Carolyn as she is "In Search of the Perfect Gift."

As numerous people converged on the single checkout lane, Carolyn began putting her items on the counter. Halfway through, she faced the cashier, realizing she was missing a key item on her list.
“Oh, dear,” she mumbled. She kept stacking the rest of her purchases on the counter, not noticing that Holly, the one and only cashier, was anxiously looking back at the line of people behind her.
“Ma’am, if you forgot something, perhaps we can put your other purchases aside so I can help the next person in line.”
Carolyn looked around, totally unaware that she was holding everyone else up. “Of course,” she rapidly scooped the glittering and twinkling items back into her basket. “I’ll just go see if I can find that one last item. I simply can’t do without it.” She turned her cart around and headed toward the back of the store. She glimpsed the line of customers. It would seem a tremendous number of people had found out about this unique store, which specialized in all things happy and joyous for the holiday season.
Carolyn glanced at the shoppers’ carts as she hurried along the line. Almost everyone had a twinkling box that contained just what she was looking for. How could she have forgotten it? In this day and economy, she supposed it wasn’t unusual for people to buy a little extra portion for the holidays when they could find it. This particular store, tucked in a small strip mall at the edge of town, was the only place she knew that had all the items she wanted for her Christmas gifts.
She slowed as she came to the cherish aisle. Among the different size boxes of affection, a small television advertised cherish with a short video of an older couple, celebrating their 75th anniversary. How many people could cherish and hold each other in reverence for that length of time?
Next to cherish was a whole section of belief; more than should be there at this time of the shopping season. The aisle was almost dark; the boxes dull and lifeless on the shelves. Didn’t people believe anymore? Thinking over the latest news and the stories her friends had told her, she understood how hard it was to believe. One friend and her family had lost their house; another had lost a job and still another had recently lost a parent to a crippling disease. It was no wonder people quit believing in good things happening. Even though she already had a box of belief, Carolyn put another in her shopping cart. Her friends needed it.
She turned down the next aisle, not because she needed anything but she couldn’t resist the children she heard. As she walked slowly among the happiness and laughter holograms, she was caught up in their merriment. Regardless of where they were from -- and it looked like there were children from all over the world -- they played as if they had not a care in the world. Perhaps it was a case of innocence; that small children could forget about the cares of the world and be themselves – happy and carefree, if only for a short time.
Finally Carolyn came to the aisle containing the item she had neglected, although how she could have, she really didn’t know. As she gathered up box after box of hope, she counted her blessings. Hope contained the joy and faith of the season. When mixed with love and the faith and belief of good things to come, hope made a powerful mixture that could not be denied. Hope helped people survive the day to day trauma that at times was overwhelming. They found hope in family ties and community efforts.
As Carolyn hurried back into line, she realized she wasn’t the only one hoping for the best. Glittering and twinkling boxes of love and faith, among other wishes, had brought these customers to this magical store and each and every basket glowed with light. Customers in line had a special look about them. Eyes twinkled and lips tipped up in various stages of smiles. Every person’s face held a memory from some past, happy holiday. Carolyn hoped that regardless of the problems people faced, her small wishes would help them have a better holiday.
Wishing you and your family the best of the holidays with...

Sharing some Christmas memories from the 1960s by Nancy M Bell

This is a novella of Christmas Eve in a small town peopled by the characters from A Longview Romance series. CLick here for more info. A...