Dear Friends,

I hope you had a peaceful Thanksgiving.  Speaking of holidays, wasn’t it Christmas just a few days ago?  How did it get here so fast?  Santa must be giving the reindeer some serious caffeine.

Here we are again, in the season for shopping, planning, and manor angst.  I find it almost amusing when you go into a store during the holidays and there is only one cash register open among a row of eight, and the line of people wraps around shelves filled with “last minute” items.  I have a theory.  They do it on purpose so you’ll buy more stuff!  Ha.  But seriously, did Christmas come as a surprise to store managers?  And they wonder why people are shopping on-line more than ever.  I also have another theory.  People really like to shop in person.  I know I do.  You get to touch the stuff you are pondering to plop down your hard-earned money.  You get to see the REAL color of that sweater.  But the convenience of hitting a key on your computer is appealing.  Still…

I know I told you that we must have our Christmas decorations up right after Halloween or the Ornament Police will issue a summons and drop a chunk of black coal on your doorstep.  I’m only half kidding.  My kids arranged to decorate my house this year.  I usually go all out turning my modest home into a magical holiday scene, and this year was no different.  I must have thousands of lights in all colors; some are blinking, others are twinkling.  I even have one of those flood lights that shines an outline of Santa in the tree.  If it weren’t for the palm trees and lack of snow, you would think you were at Santa’s workshop!  It gives me such joy to see and know that a passersby can enjoy the magic of Christmas even for a moment.  Now we wait and see how long it will take before my little fur family decides the ornaments are their new toys.

And a friendly reminder for you.  Take it easy.  You will get everything done.   And if you don’t, don’t sweat it unless it means getting arrested.  LOL.  Breathe.  It’s good for the soul.  And remember to be kind even when you’d rather scream.  Life is too short to be in a crummy mood.  Sure things go awry all the time, which means you should choose your hissy-fits accordingly.  Most of the time it’s not worth getting yourself tied up in knots.  Wait five minutes and things could change.

Lots of book news to share.  Santa & Company has hit the shelves, along with Falling Stars.  At the end of December the mass market edition of Rock Bottom will be available.  It’s book 35 in The Sisterhood.  The longevity of this series is astonishing.  Goes to show you women like the satisfaction of seeing justice done.  More of us should be in charge!

This month’s contest will feature a signed Advance Reading Copy, known as an ARC, of The Wild Side.  Let me explain what that means.  In the publishing world, in order for the book to be reviewed it has to be submitted four months before the book goes on sale.  That gives the reviewers time to review it before it hits the shelves.  It’s a very limited print run in a large paperback format—even though the finished book will be in hardcover—and they print less than 100 copies.  That being said, this signed edition is a collectors’ item, for those collectors out there.  There will be a few other titles, as well as a Godiva mug with hot chocolate to keep you cozy while you read.

I mentioned this last year and it’s worth repeating if you are throwing a holiday party.  Ask your guests—instead of bringing wine, candy, cake, or cookies, etc.–bring an unwrapped gift for a kid and donate them to Toys for Tots or a local charity.  Another idea is to ask them to bring non-perishable food items [canned goods, rice, pasta, baby food] and donate them to the local food pantry.  It takes the pressure off your guests, you don’t end up with six fruit cakes, and everyone can feel good about doing a little something for someone in need.

I am including a lot of recipes this month because holidays are a wonderful reason to share a meal.

Be well.  Be Safe.  Take care of yourself and have a peaceful, wonderful, magical holiday and a sane, happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Warmest wishes,

You may often hear about the Italian tradition of Christmas Eve dinner when they serve seven fishes.  We’ll do an abbreviated version below.  Plus we have some scrumptious desserts from my friend Diane Sarrocco, as well as a yummy cranberry crumble from my former editor Esi Sogah.