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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Holiday Music

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Ok, maybe this is not politically correct, and some will disagree with me; but I have to say I love Christmas music.
I grew up during a time when all kids sang Christmas carols no matter what religion you were. It was part of the school music programs. In high school, I enjoyed chorus with my friends Barb, Judy, Gail and Sherry–and many of us are Jewish. We sang the songs you rarely hear today in schools–songs like “Gloria” (in Latin) and “Silent Night” as well as “Winter Wonderland” and modern Christmas music. The music was lovely and we enjoyed practicing and participating in vocal concerts.
One of my favorite memories of college was my sophomore year, when there was a sing along at our student center just before our holiday break; and my friend Janet and I belted out “The 12 Days of Christmas” along with dozens of other students. (I can still name all 12 gifts).
I enjoy listening to the music in my car and when I hear Burl Ive’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” on the radio that’s when I know the holiday season has begun!
Some of this music is so beautiful, and I think it’s a shame that in our striving to be politically correct, we have cut many of these songs from school programs. I don’t see why they can’t be included if you balance some religious songs out with modern holiday songs and songs about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and winter.
Last year on 101.5 I heard a song I never heard before–about lighting a single candle, sung by a school in a competition. Does anyone know the name of the song? I’d like to hear it again.
People of all religions go to museums and admire religious paintings because they are works of art. Why can’t we admire Christmas carols because they are works of art too–beautiful music that sounds good?
My favorite songs to sing when I was in chorus were “Go Tell it on the Mountain” (becuase of the harmony) and “The 12 Days of Christmas” (because it is FUN!). My favorite to sing along with in the car is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”  And of course I love Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song!
So do you think Christmas songs should be included in holiday programs? And what’s yoru favorite to sing along with or listen to?
Happy Holidays everyone!
Roni Denholtz

Lightsoflove

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The last time I blogged, we were bracing for Hurricane Sandy, and some people, who shall remain nameless, thought I was going a little overboard in my preparations.  I’ll say this–they later thanked me for stocking up on canned goods and water!   Anyway, I hope everyone fared well during the storm.  Aside from no power, minor damage, and a household of sick people, we made out okay.

Since I had been so prepared, my Nook was fully charged, and I had batteries in my book-light.   I read several books and I’m here to reveal some of my favorites.  First, I read The Witness by Nora Roberts.  It’s a romantic suspense of four hundred and eighty-eight pages.  The heroine witnesses an event that changes her life forever.  I have never read a book of Nora’s that I didn’t like, and this one was no exception.   Then I read a couple of more books that were mediocre until I dived into Lisa Scottoline’s Daddy’s Girl.  Lisa spoke at a New Jersey Romance Writers Conference a few years back and I had bought this book.  Since then, I have read others of hers that I truly enjoyed, but I must have forgotten about this one.  Anyway, Daddy’s Girl was the best thriller I’ve read in ages.  The main character, Nat, is a law professor who happens to visit a prison on the day a riot breaks out and someone dies.  She becomes suspect number one and spends most of the book trying to prove her innocence.  Loved it!

After the storm and all the devastation, I’m not sure what possessed me, but I started to purge and organize my house.  Maybe because so people lost everything, I decided my family has entire too much stuff.  So I attacked my To-Be-Read piles of books.  First, I pulled out several I knew I would probably never read.  In addition to some books I had already decided needed to be donated, I made a separate bag of other books and gave them to a friend.  She is an avid and quick reader, so I asked her to return to me any books that she designated spectacular-must-reads.

Next, I searched for holiday themed books and found three.  I read Holiday Hideout, a collection of novellas, the common thread being a rental cabin that seems to spark romances between couples.  Vicki Lewis Thompson wrote about Thanksgiving, Jill Shalvis, about Christmas, and Julie Kenner about New Year’s.  All were enjoyable, cute and sexy stories.

Now my immediate reading list plan includes the two holiday romances I found buried in my piles, Robin Carr’s Bring Me Home for Christmas and Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs, and newer titles Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom for my bookclub, Take Me Home by Nancy Herkness, and Jane Porter’s The Good Woman.  This novel is part of the Brennan Sisters Trilogy.

I’m so looking forward to reading all these selections under the twinkling lights of my Christmas tree.

Happy Holidays,

Elizabeth

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Welcome 2012!

Now I have to admit that I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve and have always had a feeling of trepidation as the day approached.  To me it signaled the end of the holidays and the evening never lived up to all the hype.  When my kids were little we couldn’t afford a babysitter, so we began to celebrate at home by renting movies and loading up on junk food.  Then we would watch the ball drop and go to bed.  Although it was a simple celebration, we enjoyed the quiet arrival of the New Year.

This year I wanted to change that feeling of apprehension.  First on my list was to make plans for New Year’s Eve–something different now that my kids are grown and making their own plans.  I said yes to an invitation to Hunter Mountain with friends.  Next, I made a decision to not watch or read any thing about the events of the past year.  You know, when the media reflects back on the good and bad key events of the previous year.  I find it depressing and I don’t want to remember the bad.  I want to look forward to the good things that I will experience in the New Year.  So every time I saw the segment appear on the television I changed the channel and I skipped over this section in newspapers and on the Internet.  Doing this worked for me.  I felt relieved!

The only resolution I made was to do more yoga.  I am a novice, but enjoy doing it and I want to continue learning and practicing.  Other than that, instead of making resolutions that I never keep, I’ve decided to continue on my path to embrace peace and harmony.  Maybe that sounds corny, but I’ve been moving in that direction for a long time.  First, I will try to make time for the things I enjoy, such as reading and writing, and spending time with my family and friends.  Then I will continue to focus on a healthier lifestyle.  Last, I will eliminate stress in my life as best as I can.  It can be as simple as avoiding a dangerous intersection by driving a different route or saying no to demands that I don’t want to fill and can refuse without major repercussions.   By surrounding myself with positive people and things I enjoy, the path I am on is easier to travel.  I look forward to this New Year.  I know it’s going to be a good one!

Happy New Year!

Elizabeth

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I both love and loathe the New Year. Love it because it is full of possibilities not yet realized. Loathe it because it means I’m probably behind schedule getting some projects out the door and I blew another year. But regardless of where I find myself with my long list of wips, the New Year comes anyways. So why fight it. Right?

I gave up making resolutions years ago. There is always that horrible sense of failure when you blow them to kingdom come by Ground Hog’s Day (Or Presidents’ Day in some cases). Where is the positive motivation in making a list of things you want to change, do better, or improve if you’re going to fall back into your old ways by month’s end? There isn’t any. Nor is there a sense of accomplishment. So here is a strategy that works much better than setting some grandiose plan in motion that has more workable parts than Big Ben. Instead of making a list of goals for the New Year, make them for the week. It’s a much shorter period of time and your chance of accomplishment is so much greater and even more realistic. There is a sense of pride and an “Oh, look what I did!” when at the end of the week you’ve checked everything you wanted to do off your list.

And if you make the same goals for next week, big deal. It’s easier to set smaller short term goals and make it over those hurdles than to make a huge one that could cause you to fall on your face. Also, you don’t have tell anyone your goals. Keep them to yourself. There isn’t a prewritten mandate that says all goals must become public knowledge or they are null and void. No one has to know that you want to take an online course, or train to run a marathon, or start rock climbing. Not that they wouldn’t be interested, but because if you fear failure of not reaching your goals then don’t put it out there for others to ask you about later. I can’t count the amount of times I set a goal for whatever it happened to be (weight loss is usually my big stumbling block) and had people ask, “So, how is that going?” – Yeah, doesn’t feel very good to point out you had dreams of bathing in chocolate pudding the night before and woke up to eat an entire bag of Lindor truffles.

And if a week seems too much, take in three-day increments. If that doesn’t work than day by day. Hour by hour or minute by minute. Anything to help you get over the blocks you might face in reaching your goals. And don’t forget to budget time for the unexpected things that crop up in your life. If your goal is writing a novella by May 1st, add a few weeks and make it May 15th. Or have a backup date in place. If not this date, than this at the latest. But visualize and concentrate your efforts on the first one.

The Secret teaches us that the universe likes speed. That might be true, but when the goal is something that by the nature of the craft takes time, then time is what it takes.

Also, if you fall off your goal path, step back on. Don’t let a little backslide screw with your head. Say you want to lose weight, but those homemade toll house cookies someone brought to work to share are calling your name. Have one. Just one. But make sure you work out and eat right the rest of the day or week. If you want to finish writing that book your editor is waiting for, but you get hit with edits from someone else, do a little on both. Break up the day by doing half of one and half of the other. That way you make progress on both. (deadlines permitting of course.) And it makes you feel good, because you’re making progress. You are getting things done that you wanted to do. See how that works?

Because at the end of the day, what it all comes down to is strategy and what one are you going to take to reach your goals? But whatever you want to achieve, whatever your dreams are know that you can make them happen. The only one who can take that away is you.

Blessings and happy goal setting,

-Kate

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Helping others

During the holidays, I believe that most of us think of those who are  less fortunate; and we try to do something for those who need our help. And there are so many ways to do this!
When my kids were little, we would go to a store and they would each pick a toy to donate to a local toy drive. This way we knew the items they selected would be appealing to children their age. My children learned early that acts of charity are not only a good thing, but bring you feelings of satisfaction from helping others.
Now that they are older, I’ve added a new tradition to our holidays. We make a contribution to a charity they support. In their cases, it’s Rutgers Dance Marathon and Penn State Thon–both charities that help children with cancer.
My local NJ chapter of Romance Writers also supports the Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter with donations. And I personally always make a contribution to Noah’s Ark Animal Welfare, the local animal shelter where we got our dog.  

Of course, giving of your time is equally important.  Many of us contribute by helping at events like fundraisers, gift-wrapping, soup kitchens etc.    In my first published romance novel, “Lights of Love” my heroine and hero help out at a community soup kitchen.  It was one of my editor’s favorite scenes and was fun to write!  I based the scene on my experiences serving at the soup kitchen of Morristown.
Even during years when our budget was tight we managed to do something for others. I believe it’s important to put aside money–even if you can only afford a little–towards some kind of charity from your holiday gift budget. You never know what a difference it can make!
What charitable traditions do you and your family have?
Happy Holidays to all!
Roni Denholtz

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Oh, the holidays!  Christmas has always been one of my favorites.  When I was a child, my family followed the same traditions.  One of my fondest memories is of waiting by the front door for my grandparents to arrive on Christmas Eve.  They would come up the steps carrying shopping bags filled with presents and baked goods.  Mom had been cooking and baking for days, and so, by evening we would have a wonderful meal.  Later, Santa would arrive and we’d opened presents.  Gifts might be new winter boots for me and home-sewn clothes for my dolls.  Perhaps a knitted sweater, hat, and mittens set for my brother.  Nothing excessive, but most appreciated.

When my kids were growing up, I tried to keep some of these traditions and make some new ones.  We would bake the same cookie recipes and build a gingerbread house, but Santa would arrive Christmas morning and put loads of presents under a twelve-foot tree.  My children might have gotten bigger and better things than I did, but they still craved the same gift—time spent with family.

I realized this more so when most of my husband’s family moved south and my brother moved west.  My parents are elderly and don’t wish to travel so I no longer have twenty-five guests at my house on Christmas Day.

Another tradition that has changed is that the tree is no longer twelve feet, but has been replaced with a pre-lit seven-foot tree.  Boxes and bins of decorations stay stored in the attic and only a few are hauled to the living room.  We may have scaled down our decorations and cookie-baking extravaganzas, but I hope some of our traditions never change.

During the holiday season we make it a point to get together with family, neighbors, and friends and celebrate with good food and drinks.  I still send out cards, but now I create them online with a family photo and  preprinted message.  In the past I’d to choose to buy presents for the children listed on my church’s “Giving Tree” who were the same ages as my own.  Now that my kids are grown, I searched the tree and chose the person who wanted a gift card to the bookstore.  I’m much happier shopping at Barnes and Noble than in the toy stores.

We still try to go to at least one Christmas show or event.  This year, while others braved the stores on Black Friday, we went to New York City to Radio City Music Hall.  We enjoyed the show, walked around the city, stopped at Rockefeller Center to see workers setting up the tree, and ended the night at an Irish Pub.  We finished the weekend by putting up some decorations.

Although my holiday traditions may have changed, the things that really mean something haven’t.  Spending time with family and friends is what’s really important to me.

What are some of your traditions and have they changed throughout the years?  I’d love to hear about them.

Happy Holidays!

Elizabeth

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