Posts tagged with: 12 Bandita Days of Christmas

Grounds For War–Jeanne & Cassondra Food Fight Day 2

Jeanne: So, Cassondra, were you surprised by yesterday’s food fight results? I know I was! So many people like Krispy Kremes! And I think you won the total overall vote for glazed donuts. (Pardon me while I roll my eyes, okay?)

Cassondra: Well, they’re popular for a reason.

Jeanne: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So moving right along…what about dipping? Do you dip your donut in coffFood fight milkee or tea?

Cassondra: Neither. I dip in milk. I like milk with my donuts.   Ha! Bet ya didn’t see THAT coming. *grin* Do you dip?

Jeanne: I’ve done it on occasion, in my coffee. *looks smug*

Cassondra:  *wrinkles nose* Speaking of coffee.  How do you like yours?  Do you go for the holiday specialties at the coffee shop?

Jeanne:  Ew.  I’d like to avoid it, but you know how it is this time of year. EVERYTHING has a “special holiday flavor” – I know that makes me sound like the Grinch,

Cassondra: *interrupts*   You’re a MEAN one, Jeeeeeeanne Grinch…

Jeanne: Snork! Great, now I’ll have the song stuck in my head all day….Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Griiiinch!

Anyway, I really hate flavored coffees or teas. I like my Starbucks Mocha, or plain coffee with creFood Fight Dec 2014 Jeanne's coffee from starbucks extra whipam. No caramel. No hazelnut. No vanilla, and for heaven’s sake NO PEPPERMINT!!

Cassondra:  What?

Okay y’all, you might as well know. I could order for Jeanne at Starbucks. I’ve seen her do it often enough. In fact, I HAVE ordered for her.  That’s it over there on the right.  “I’d like a Venti non-fat, extra-whip Mocha.” *tries to look taller as she bats eyelashes, pretending to be Jeanne*

Jeanne: Snork! You do that far too well!

Cassondra: If only I could look blonde.

Okay, okay.  Now when it comes to the fancy coffee drinks from Starbucks or Peet’s or Seattle’s Best–and Jeanne’s mocha definitely qualifies as one of those–or when it comes to a plain old cup of coffee, I don’t like many flavors. I like flavored coffee ONLY in certain circumstances, and only certain flavors.

But hey! This is one of those circumstances!  It’s that time of year, right? Peppermint things are dancing around Christmas trees for cripes sake.

Jeanne: *shocked*: You mean you DO like peppermint coffee?? How could I not know this about you?

Cassondra: *gesticulates wildly* How can you not like peppermint?

Jeanne: Oh, I like all those flavors on their own. I just don’t like them in coffee. Or tea. OMGosh, I despise flavored teas. Give me good old Earl Gray, or a hearty black leaf tea like Orange Pekoe. Twinings. Constant Comment. Hearty tea. And if its gonna be hot – perfect for this time of year – there’s to be no milk. No lemon. None of this foo-foo flavoring. Bleech.

Cassondra: I really, REALLY hate to break it to you, but darlin’, Earl Grey Is. A. Flavor! So is MOCHA in coffee, for that matter. I like the idea of mocha, but honestly? It’s the textureFood Fight Dec 2014 Cassondra coffee. Mocha is chocolate flavored but it’s thick. It makes the coffee “thick.” So now I really want a peppermint mocha from Starbucks, but I can’t stand the texture so instead I get a peppermint latte with whipped cream and fancy fixins.  That’s it over there on the left.  Cuz I don’t want…you know…THICK coffee.

Jeanne: Snork! You are so picky.

Cassondra: YOU like thick coffee. Admit it.

Jeanne: Absolutely. Chocolate in coffee, and whipped cream, are naturally occurring additives. They’re fitting. They’re companion flavors. Adding other things, like the new Starbucks Roasted Chestnut Latte, are just icky. And seriously, they made a mistake the other day and made me a peppermint mocha instead of my usual mocha.

Cassondra: Yum! (except for the thick mocha part)

Jeanne: Hey! I’ve been going to “my” Starbucks since it opened – more than 15 years! – and they’ve never made it with peppermint. I took a big ‘ol drink as I walked out the door. Nearly choked. Turned right back in and handed it to the barista. Poor thing, he was the new guy.   He blushed.food fight candy canes

“What?” he asked as all the other baristas gathered around. They know me.

“It’s Peppermint,” I said, handing it to him.   “Icky. No peppermint. Ever.”

Laughter from the other baristas.

“Just a mocha,” they chorused. “Not white mocha, not peppermint, nothing but mocha .”

“And extra whip!” the longest-serving barista added.

See? They know me. No foo-foo flavors.

Cassondra: WAIT just a minute. YOU get to pick WHICH flavors are foo foo and which are not just cuz you like some and not others? *waggles finger* I don’t think so. And they aren’t saying anything about the CHOCOLATE flavor—and the THICK coffee.

Seriously. Ew.

Here’s the deal. I don’t like ANY pre-flavored coffees—like those pre-flavored beans you get at the grocery store?  I know, I know, lots of people like those. But me?  Blech. Gross me out the door.

Jeanne: Whew! I’m glad we agree there, I was beginning to worry!food fight cinnamon

Cassondra: Yes, but if I go to a coffee shop, and it’s the right time of year, I’ll get a peppermint flavored coffee. It just seems fitting.

And here’s a secret–once again—just a plain cup of coffee, with no fancy steamed milk or froth and no espresso. At home, during these long, dark days of winter, I’ve been known to pull the cinnamon out of my spice cabinet and put a tablespoon of ground cinnamon in the coffeemaker on top of the ground coffee. *slurp* I learned this trick from one of my favorite little restaurants in Nashville, Calypso Café. They serve fabulous cinnamon coffee year-round, and they’re known for it. Just the right hint of cinnamon. And it’s REAL cinnamon. You know—bark from a tree–nothing fake. It’s an antidepressant.

Jeanne:  Okay yeah. I’ve had that coffee. It was decent. But I wouldn’t want it very often.

Food Fight Dec 2014 KeurigCassondra:  Oh! And y’all…..there’s this whole other thing. I happen to know that Duchesse Jeanne has drunk the Keurig Koolaid. *pauses for effect* Yep, that’s right. She’s gone to the “pod” coffee. Which to me, is kind of like having a pod person replace your husband, but whatever.

Jeanne: I LOVE my Keurig! I don’t make a whole pot and have to throw it out!

Cassondra: I make a whole pot, and I don’t throw it out. Just sayin.

Jeanne: That must be what puts the famous sarcastic bite in your humor. And seriously, if I drank the pot? *Boing! Bing! Smash! Crash! Boing!* That would be me, barreling oFood fight dec 2014 cuisinartff the walls for the rest of the day.

Cassondra: Hey. I own that sarcastic bite. But seriously. A pod-brewed cup, while a VAST improvement over sorry single-serving hotel packages, does not taste the same as a POT of brewed coffee.

Jeanne: Oh, yes it does. What do you think is different?

Cassondra: A pot has time to sit there and mingle. It has time for all the coffee molecules to dance around each other and become something fabulous. Coffee from a pod can never escape its humble beginnings. It just can’t.

Jeanne: *rolls eyes* I love my Keurig. Serious Keurig love. A hot cup anytime, always a great taste. And look at all those gorgeous colors you can get if you buy a mini Keurig! That’s like the desktop model!

food fight KeurigminiCassondra: So it’s a Keurig of mini colors!

Hey, looky there. I made a joke.

Jeanne: Snork! Always a comedian in the bunch. Coffee from a Keurig is damn close to as good as a pot –as in 99% close. And hey…NO PEPPERMINT in sight! How about that? Besides, as the only one who drinks coffee in the household…yeah, like I said, I’d drink the whooole pot… so really, by brewing only a cup at a time, I’m doing the world a biiiig favor.

Cassondra:  Okay, I’ll give you that.  Nobody wants to face either one of us on too much caffeine.

Jeanne: Which brings up an important point. You ALL need to know that, while Food fight dec 2014 coffee groupingflavorings are at issue here, and definitely worth a fight, my evil twin and I are akin in one MAJOR thing.

We drink coffee for YOUR protection!! (Bwahahahaha!!)

Cassondra: Alas, it’s true. You don’t want to talk to me between the time I’ve gotten up and the time I’ve had the first cup of coffee. Word to the wise.

Oh and speaking of tea–Earl Grey or English Breakfast.  Herbal tea at night.

Jeanne:  *raises eyebrows*

Cassondra:  Hey, I’m not a complete throwback. *raises pinky finger in the air, sips mock cup of tea*

Jeanne:  Snork!

food fight half and half Cassondra:  And although I’ve weaned myself off of sugar in coffee. I use cream. Lots of it. Real half and Half. No fake creamers allowed.

Jeanne: On THAT, my evil twin, we agree. Lots of cream

So…How about it Banditas and Buddies? Coffee or tea in the morning?

With cream? Sugar? Or black and strong?

Do you like any additions? Peppermint? (BLECH!)

Cassondra: Hey! So do y’all like peppermint? Especially at theFood Fight 2014 Keurig pods holidays? Caramel? Chocolate? Chestnut flavoring? Hazelnut? Pumpkin pie spice? Cinnamon?

Do you go for the special holiday drinks at coffee shops? Like the Pumpkin Spice latte or the Peppermint Mocha?

Or do you shuffle in, caffeine deprived, and say, “tall dark roast coffee please”?

Jeanne: Do you have a favorite coffee vendor? Are you a coffee snob and like Starbucks, Peets, Seattle’s Best and their ilk? Or do you refuse to get into all that…

Cassondra: *interrupts*… Like my mom–she buys her coffee at the grocery store.   If that’s what you do, is it Folger’s? Maxwell House? Store brand?Generic?  Special roast or the plain old original?

Jeanne: Or do you have a substitute like Bandita Donna? She carries a sleeve of Diet Coke wherever she goes. While we’re waiting for the coffeemaker to get going, she’s on her way with a *pop..fffffffizzzz…ahhhhh!*

 And just for the sake of a survey….do you use a Keurig? Or do you brew your coffee in a pot?

Cassondra:  We’re doing the same giveaway again today… in honor of the 12 days of Bandita Christmas, Jeanne is giving away ANOTHER Washington, DC, Starbucks mug and a $10 Starbucks card so you can have YUMMY coffee with your Christmas Donuts.

And I’m doing another grab bag of  two random novels plus one piece of fun swag from my leftover box of conference swag. (Both giveaways are Continental US only.)

 

The Great Donut War – A Cassondra and Jeanne Food Fight

Cassondra: A really, really bad thing has happened.

Jeanne: Oh no!

Cassondra: That’s a picture of the bad thing down there on the left. See it?

Jeanne: *squints* Is that a donut shop?

Food fight dec 2014 krispy kreme bg storeCassondra: Oh, heck yeah. That’s a brand new Krispy Kreme donut shop. It opened this week in MY town.

Jeanne: Ew. Yes. That is a bad thing.

Cassondra: *takes a moment*   Wait. You’re serious?  *takes another moment* Are? You? Kidding? Me?

Jeanne: Nope. Don’t like ‘em.

Cassondra: You are my evil twin!  HOW can you not like Krispy Kreme? OMG. They’re from your home state! Wait…don’t say it. Just DON’T.

Don’t say you like cake donuts.

Jeanne: Yup! Grins. Love ‘em.Food Fight Dec 2014 Dixie Cream sign

Cassondra: Okay buddies, I think the busy season has fried my evil twin’s brain. And I can understand why.

It’s that time of year, after all.  It’s the time of year when we all get so harried and rushed that we’ll break rules. Rules like “I don’t eat that.” Not because it’s just so yummy it’s irresistible—though that may well be the case—but because we’re too darn busy to fix real food. It’s cuz of all those relatives visiting.

Jeanne: All those presents to buy.

Cassondra: All those presents to WRAP.

Jeanne: The house to clean.

Cassondra: The fridge to stock. The meals to plan.

Jeanne: And the travel. Don’t forget the travel. Up early and on the road at the crack of dawn.

Cassondra: What’s that? I’m not familiar with this crack-of-dawn thing.

Jeanne: Snork! Wish I wasn’t familiar with it… Anyway, it’s true. When everyone lands at your house on the holidays, what’s the fallback for breakfast?

Cassondra: Donuts.

Jeanne: Yep. A great big box of ‘em. Who can resist a donut?

Cassondra: I can. If they’re cake donuts. Or if they have gross filling.

Jeanne: *heavy sigh*Food Fight 2014 box of glazed donuts

Cassondra: Hey. Sue me. I like plain, old-fashioned glazed donuts.  YEAST donuts.  Hot and fresh out of the oven. *closes eyes, imagines yeasty, sugary donut smell* See that box over there on the right?   You bring me THAT at your theoretical crack of dawn, all hot and yeasty-yummy from the oven, and I might become familiar with the concept of morning.

Jeanne:  *looks skeptical* Seriously? All that fat and sugar just dripping off of that round, air-filled fluff of a thing? Where’s the substance? Where’s the OOMPH! That’s what can get you going in the morning. I mean, really, if you haven’t got time for the serious eggs, grits, bacon, biscfood fight dec 2014 apple fritteruit breakfast, this at least has heft to it!

Cassondra: Blech. Heft like an anchor. If I’m going to eat cake, I’ll eat real CAKE. Leftover homemade. German chocolate or red velvet with homemade icing. Not some thick, smarmy, heavy thing that’s been coated and deep fried.

Jeanne: You NEVER buy cake donuts?

Cassondra: Not for me. I have to buy apple fritters sometimes for Steve. And he likes those disgusting French Crullers.food fight dec 2014 cruller

I mean, really. French Cruller? Sounds like a fishing vessel.

Jeanne: Snork! LMAO

Cassondra: See that box down on the left? The one with the cake donuts? I could have missed all three meals in one day, and that would still gross me out. What is that pink thing anyway?

Food Fight dec 2014 box of disgustingJeanne: That’s a donut. With strawberry icing.

Cassondra: Can somebody open a window? I need air. Or maybe alcohol. Or both.

Jeanne: *fans Cassondra*   Oh, come on.

Cassondra: I like my donuts to have YEAST in them. It’s fried bread, okay? It’s slurpy good. Simple. Yeasty fried bread with simple sugar glaze on it.

Jeanne: Cake is bread.

Cassondra: See that photo down there on the right—the one of the Boston Crème donut in the box? There’s a reason that’s the last donut in the box! Not only does it have icky icing, but it has Food Fight dec 2014 LONELY boston creamdisgusting gooey…filling…stuff. Ew.

Jeanne: Okay, okay.  I don’t care for the fillings either, but don’t talk about the filled donuts in front of my oldest son. He loves those.

Cassondra: He’s a teenage boy. Need I say more?

Jeanne: Nope.  He can eat his weight in donuts, no matter what kind, but really likes those icky filled ones.

Cassondra: I feel faint.  The gladiators might have to resuscitate me.

Jeanne: *Grins* Yeah, nothing like a good gladiator for resuscitation!  And you’ll probably need a second go at it when I tell you that my husband likes the Boston Cremes, and will fight my son for them. Do you think it’s because his family is originally from Boston?

Cassondra: *rFood Fight 2014 plain glazed donutolls eyes and tries to ignore the cake donuts*  Maybe.  It just proves, once again, that men will eat virtually anything.

Jeanne: As a caveat, I have to say that my younger son, like you and I, eschews (so to speak) anything with filling unless it’s a corn dog.

Cassondra: That’s a different food fight – things on sticks. Let’s–*grin*–stick–to the point here. Glazed donuts are the only REAL donuts.

I mean, c’mon, Buddies and Banditas, look at that yummy goodness over there on the left.  It’s a glazed YEAST donut.  The ooooonly donut.  Don’t you agree?

Jeanne: *Scoffing* I beg to differ, oh, my evil twin. CAKE donuts are the original. Like those on the right.Food Fight dec 2014 plain cake donut

Cassondra:  Blech! But just so we can preserve our evil twin status on SOMETHING, I know you agree that none of this gooey-center glop should grace the box, especially if you have company.

Jeanne: Absolutely.  But….What do YOU think, Banditas and Buddies?

Cake donuts? Yeast donuts?

Plain or covered in anything?

And please, really, tell us you don’t eat those filled things?

Food fight dec 2014 christmas starCassondra: Or if you do like the filling, what kind?

And French crullers? Apple fritters? Bear claws?

*Cassondra hesitates*  What the heck is the point of making a pastry with toes, anyway? 

Cassondra: OMG! Look at that red blob on the left!  What the heck is THAT?

Jeanne:  That’s a star-shaped Christmas donut.

Cassondra:  Is it alive?  OMG!  Buddies, run! Run for your lives!

Jeanne: *facepalms* Okay, in honor of the 12 days of Bandita Christmas, we’re giving away goodies!  I’m giving away a Washington, DC, Starbucks mug and a $10 Starbucks card so you can have coffee with your Christmas Donuts.

Cassondra: And on top of that, I have a HUGE box of books. I’m going to do a grab bag. I’ll reach in and grab two random novels plus one piece of fun swag from my leftover box of conference swag, and I’ll ship it all to you if you’re in the continental US.

Tell us, Bandits and Buddies…how do you like your donuts?

It’s A Wonderful Life

Just like George Bailey, I thought we’d take a trip back to Christmas’ past in the Bandit time machine. Come closer….gaze with me into the crystal ball. See what we were up to in 2008:popcorn

We’ve been very busy here in The Lair getting ready for the holidays. Demetrius cut down the Christmas tree with his gladius and Lucien has been stringing popcorn which has taken longer than we anticipated as he eats two bowls of the stuff for every  one that makes it on the string! The GR was in charge of ornaments, flapping up to the boughs to place each ornament just so….which also took extra long as he kept getting distracted by all the shiny balls. The hockey hunks solved that by replacinbroken ones with pucks!

Marcus keeps shaking the packages while Sven insists that today is NOT the first day of Bandit Christmas but Lucia day….a tradition from his home country where it is believed man and beast require extra nourishment……..Stop! Boys! Stay away from the cookies!!!cookies

Sigh.
Yes, we are steeped in tradition, steeped in good will, steeped in eggnogg…..Oh, wait! That’s just Anna C.  and AC  (squints at shoes sticking out from beneath the table) maybe….Suz???

xmas tree

Tawny, Jo stop standing under the mistletoe winking at the glads….no…no. ack! Jeanne! Stop shaking the packages! No, there is not C4 in the green one…no! Really! Don’t. Shake. It.

Oh, wonderful. Anna S. just breezed in from England with a huge bowl of wassel….like we NEED more alcohol…and now she’s taking down the mistletoe and chasing the hockey guys around!
What? Yes, yes Donna that corset is very pretty in green and red. Oh, my…it lights up…and in the most interesting places. Look, Susan and Kate have just arrived from the cave…..nice Elf hats girls. Do ya’ll hear that? What is that carol Nancy, Caren and Christie are singing? “Deck the Halls with SuperHero Figures”…no, I think the words are…
Stop! Stop! Kirsten, honey really I don’t think doughnuts will hold up as a wreath..the glaze don’t you know. Ah, Christine…just in time….I need help with….what have you got on your head? A candle wreath? You say you’re name is Lucia??? Sven! Sven…come back here and finish the wreath! Beth, Trish….step away from the long, weapon like package KJ just put under the tree…um, don’t put it close to that green package!
Now, excuse me….Cassondra is putting TRUCK NUTS in the stockings!!!!
This party is getting out of control and we haven’t even served the cake…er, pie…er, cake.
(Collapses against reindeer) Never mind. Let’s get on with the Christmas trivia.
**Wow, that was so much fun! Remembering those early days in The Lair. Fond memories of our Bandits who are trailing other paths. Memories of fun with the young cock….er…GOLDEN Rooster! Yeah, that’s the ticket. He’s kind of creaky in the wishbone nowadays. A lot of wonderful BB’s and more characters than you can shake a cock..er, a chicken, er a magical shillelagh at. I’ll need all of you to get us through the day. I’ll be at work and will only be able to pop in now and again. So once you answer these Christmas trivia questions, post one of your own. Grab some eggnog and let’s do it!

"Naughty, naughty, ooo...nice..."

“Naughty, naughty, ooo…nice…”

 

1. What do the carolers in the song “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” insist they be given?

2. Who wins the decorating contest in “A Charlie Brown Christmas?”
3. Where did the Grinch steal Christmas?
4. When a Ukrainian finds a spider web in their Christmas tree, what does it signify?
5. Who was the first ghost to appear to Ebenezzer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?”
6. What Christmas song was introduced in the movie “Holiday Inn”?
7. What non-traditonal Christmas movie sports the character Oogie Boogie?
8. What actor won an Academy award playing Santa Clause?
9. What branch of the American military is associated with Toys for Tots?
10. What did Carol Brady lose that jeopardized the Brady’s Christmas celebration?

12 Days of Banditas Christmas – GRAND PRIZE WINNER!

BanditBootyThank you to all the wonderful readers who commented during the 12 Days of a Banditas Christmas! We had so much fun, and we hope you did, too. The grand prize winner, selected at random from among everyone who commented on Christmas Day is…

Teresa Hughes!

Congratulations, Teresa! I’m so happy for you!!! Please send your snail mail address to me at email hidden; JavaScript is required so we can get your prizes in the mail.

The grand prize package includes…

  • From Christina Brooke, a signed trade paperback of the Australian edition of London’s Last True Scoundrel
  • From Suzanne Ferrell, Kidnapped plus Godiva Chocolates
  • From Anna Campbell, A Rake’s Midnight Kiss
  • From Trish Milburn, Out of the Night
  • From Donna MacMeans, The Casanova Code
  • From Jeanne Adams, a Rooster Mug and Saucer, plus a download of her brand new novella
  • From Jo Robertson, her Christmas novella, The Perfect Gift
  • From Christie Kelley, Enticing the Earl
  • From Caren Crane, Kick Start
  • From Tawny Weber, Nice & Naughty, Naughty Christmas Nights
  • From Susan Sey, Taste For Trouble (Kindle or paperback) and Talent For Trouble (upon January release, also Kindle or paperback)
  • From Joan Kayse, Kindle download of The Patrician
  • From Nancy Northcott, Renegade, Guardian, or Sentinel as download
  • From Kate Carlisle, A Cookbook Conspiracy and some cool Bibliophile swag
  • From Anna Sugden, A Perfect Distraction plus Cadbury’s chocolate
  • From visiting author Katie McGarry, her latest YA Crash Into You
  • From visiting author Natalie Richards, her latest YA Six Months Later

Merry Christmas, Banditas and Bandita Buddies!

The Romance Bandits want to wish all of you who celebrate Christmas the merriest of days! (And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas… be merry today.) Hope you’re spending the day with people you love. We’ll be popping in and out throughout the day to say hello. Be sure to post a comment below so you’ll have a chance to win today’s Grand Prize in the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas celebration!

The grand prize package includes…

  • From Christina Brooke, a signed trade paperback of the Australian edition of London’s Last True Scoundrel
  • From Suzanne Ferrell, Kidnapped plus Godiva Chocolates
  • From Anna Campbell, A Rake’s Midnight Kiss
  • From Trish Milburn, Out of the Night
  • From Donna MacMeans, The Casanova Code
  • From Jeanne Adams, a Rooster Mug and Saucer, plus a download of her brand new novella
  • From Jo Robertson, her Christmas novella, The Perfect Gift
  • From Christie Kelley, Enticing the Earl
  • From Caren Crane, Kick Start
  • From Tawny Weber, Nice & Naughty, Naughty Christmas Nights
  • From Susan Sey, Taste For Trouble (Kindle or paperback) and Talent For Trouble (upon January release, also Kindle or paperback)
  • From Joan Kayse, Kindle download of The Patrician
  • From Nancy Northcott, Renegade, Guardian, or Sentinel as download
  • From Kate Carlisle, A Cookbook Conspiracy and some cool Bibliophile swag
  • From Anna Sugden, A Perfect Distraction plus Cadbury’s chocolate
  • From visiting author Katie McGarry, her latest YA Crash Into You
  • From visiting author Natalie Richards, her latest YA Six Months Later

wrap1You know that I write a mystery series about a bookbinder, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’m a fan of beautiful wrapping paper. (Understatement!) Sometimes when I get a gift, the paper is so lovely that I open it carefully, delicately, because hurting the paper would hurt my feelings.

A Brief History of Wrapping Paper

Gifts have been wrapped in paper for nineteen centuries in China. Gift paper was popular in Victorian England, but it was much thicker and more cumbersome than what we use today, and it was only affordable for the upper classes.

wrap2Modern gift wrap came into being by a quirk of fate. The year was 1917. Americans at that time mostly wrapped Christmas gifts in red, green, and white tissue paper, but a card store in Kansas City ran out of tissue paper. The quick-thinking owners remembered that they had sheets of French envelope-lining paper in back. They priced the decorative sheets at 10 cents apiece (about $2.35 in today’s money) and watched them fly off the shelves… and an industry was born.

That company is still in business today. Hallmark. And all because of poor inventory control.

Have you opened presents today? What made you smile?

Merry Christmas Quick Five!

ornaments 1Only a couple of sleeps left! Is everyone getting excited? Are you ready for the big day? Presents wrapped, house decorated, food ready?

Here at Chez Sugden, we’re all set – just got to pick up the turkey and dig up the veggies from our allotment, then we’re good to go! 

Now, we couldn’t have Christmas fun without a special Quick Five, so here is your Merry Christmas Quick Five!

1. Go to this site and find out what your Santa elf name is.

2. Favourite Christmas carol and song

3. Favourite Christmas movie

4. Favourite Christmas ornament

5. What you’d like to find under your Christmas tree or in your Christmas stocking


Ornaments 2Christmas Stuffed Mushrooms (makes 1 doz)

1 dozen chestnut or portobello mushrooms (ordinary mushrooms will do – just make sure they all have stalks)

1 heaped tbsp butter

4 heaped tbsp Philadelphia Light cream cheese (works with regular too)

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

If you like garlic, you can also add 1 tsp of chopped garlic

Note: If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use Philly with the herbs already in it!

Ornaments 3

Preheat oven.

1. Carefully remove mushroom stalks from caps and set caps aside on a baking tray

2. Finely chop mushroom stalks.

3. In a small saucepan, melt butter and gently cook, mushroom stalks, chives and parsley (plus garlic) until softened.

4. Add cream cheese and let it melt and mix, until creamy

5. Using a teaspoon, scoop the mix into the waiting mushroom caps.

6. Cook in oven for 15 mins.

These are delicious hot or cold!

One lucky commenter today will win an A Perfect Distraction mug and some Cadbury’s chocolate.

COME BACK TOMORROW FOR MORE HOLIDAY FUN WITH THE 12 DAYS OF BANDITA CHRISTMAS! LOOK FOR MORE INFO ON OUR BIG CHRISTMAS DAY PRIZE!

 

O Plastic Tree, O Plastic Tree

I need help here. 

I’m going to say it.  Shameful as it may be, yes, I’ll say it, right here in front of God and everybody else.

Christmas treeI have a fake Christmas tree.

My house is 164 years old.  It’s partially restored but a long way from finished.  I’ll never forget the moment when I walked into the front foyer for the first time.  I looked up at the ten-foot ceiling, then I looked at the glass sidelights and transom that wrap around the glass-paneled front door, all original 1800s wavy glass panes, loose enough to rattle in the muntins, uninsulated, and leaky as hell, and I said,  “Think of the Christmas tree I could put in here!”

That’s half the reason I bought this ongoing-project-of-a house.

I love Christmas trees.

I love all of them, from the uber-chic designer trees to the tacky trees with ugly garland piled on a foot thick.

And falling somewhere on the upper middle of the Christmas tree scale, is mine.  I have a really gchristmas tree 6reat tree. 

Of course I can say that, because it’s always the same.  It’s a fake tree.

And okay, yeah.   I know.  That’s not nearly as good as a real tree. I know this because everybody around me has real trees and when I’m talking with somebody and I say I have an artificial tree, there’s a very brief, subtle pause, with just a slight lifting of both eyebrows.  You might not even notice it if you’re not paying attention.

Then they smile and nod, trying to hide the fact that they’ve just judged me.

“Oh,” they’re thinking.  “I thought she had better taste!  Bet she bought it at K-Mart.”

I could have bougchristmas tree7ht it at K-Mart.  Just two days ago I walked through their Christmas department and drooled over their awesome selection of really awesome artificial trees.

But I didn’t buy it there.  I bought it at an upscale Christmas shoppe. 

See?  There’s an extra p and an e on the end of “shop” which proves it’s upscale. 

Snork!  Ahem….

I don’t get a real tree for two reasons. 

First, I have an unusual attachment to trees. I feel a kinship with them.  I have such a deep love for trees that it’s almost painful for me to see one cut.  It’s a sad weakness.   I can’t enjoy having a cut tree in my house without wondering at what beautiful thing it might have become if I hadn’t cut it.  I just can’t do it.

Second, I like to put my tree up at the winter solstice, December 20th or 21st, and leave it up until  February 2nd, Groundhog Day.  Some of y’all remember a blog I did last January called Waiting For The Light To Come.  I confessed that I get clinical depression in the winter, and February 2nd is the point at which I can feel the season turning, spring coming, and hope renewed. So that’s when I’m ready to take down my tree and unplug its cheerful lights.

No real tree will last that long.

When I was a little girl, Daddy would take me out to the woods and we’d cut down a little cedar tree.  It was christmas tree redusually about six feet tall, and it smelled heavenly. 

Then a few years later we got a fake tree, and it was full and fluffy and perfect.  Every needle was stick-straight and the same shade of fake green.  I hated it.  From about a mile away you could look at it and say, “that’s a plastic tree.”  When I was little, fake trees were awful.

Things have changed.

Artificial trees come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and they’re beautiful.

Now my tree is nine feet tall, slender, and looks like a real evergreen, even up close. 

I wrap several strands of white lights in piles around the center “trunk” then wind many more lights through the branches.  I learned this technique from a book with a title I can’t remember, but it was probably something like “Martha Stewart rocks Christmas” or some such.  When I plug it in, with all those lights in the center, it glows like something from another realm.

But no matter how excellent my tree is, it’s still a plastic tree.

If y’all read the newsletter, you know that Marco, Paulo and some of the other guys on staff had some issues recently when they went out hunting for trees to decorate the various rooms here in the lair.   Christmas tree3

No fake trees here. 

So I did a survey in the lair about what kind of trees the Bandits get for their own homes.

Bandita Suz said, “We’ve always gotten a real tree since we got married. The Jazzman (aka, my hubby) loved them when he was small. Hated helping his mom put up the fake one.”

Bandita Nancy said, “We have a real tree.  We like the smell of it and the texture.

Yeah.  No love for the plastic tree.

Bandita Jo said,  “We generally like a live tree.  There’s something very satisfying and comforting about the smell of pine in the house.”

Yes. Yes, there is. *Heavy sigh*

Bandita Tawny said, “I love real trees, but both of my girls have really bad allergies. After a few sniffly, watery holidays I gave in and got an artificial tree.  Ours is about 8 foot, green and lit with whichristmas tree branchte lights.”

Finally, another artificial tree!

Small consolation though.  Tawny has a plastic tree, but she doesn’t like it.  “I miss having a live tree,” she said.  “The scent and feel of it is always wonderful.  But I do bring in a few boughs to decorate with, and we have a live wreath on the door.  Those don’t seem to send my kids into misery.” 

Okay she’s only doing this for the sake of her children’s health.  Hmmm..

I asked Bandita Trish what she had, and she said, “Fake. I actually have two, the smallish one I’ve had since college and a big one that I got when we bought our house because the front living room has a vaulted ceiling. I don’t like cleaning up after live ones, and knowing my allergies they would make me sneeze anyway.”

Hmmm…once again, allergies are the determining factor.

I’m still feeling like the odd woman out.

Joanie said, “Replica tree…yeah…that’s what I’ll call it…replica.  Don’t recall a real tree growing up as my brother suffered from allergies.”

Once again, it would be a real tree if not for the children’s health—or for the sake of the cats…“The artificial ones HAVE improved over the years, especially in assembly,” Joan said.  “I have a pre-lit one now about 6 feet tall that comes in 3 pieces. And I can tie it to the wall so certain kitty elves don’t topple it.”

Yes, the kitties do love to climb the Christmas tree.  Real or fake. 

Hey, at least Joanie tried to be diplomatic about it.

Christmas tree with white tipsBandita Caren said, “Our tree is fake. It’s a 6-foot Douglas Fir and is, naturally, pine green…We stick with fake because pine is the thing I am most allergic to in the world!”

Okay I’m getting a complex here.

Even my evil twin, Duchesse Jeanne, stands against me in this question.. “We always get a fresh tree, usually on my birthday,” she said.  “We’ve bought the kind you can plant before, but I’m running out of places in the yard to put them, so fresh cut it is.” 

Hmmmm.

Bandita Christina said, “We do a fake tree. Not many people have real ones where I live. It’s getting on in years now, probably needs replacing, It’s plastic, with dark green needles and it’s decorated with all the loChristmas tree2ve and tackiness we can manage.”

Yes, yes, YES!  Finally!  Apparently I would fit in better if I moved to Australia.  Ahem.

Bandita Anna Sugden, who lives in England now, said, “These days, a real tree – we always get a special “non-drop” tree (A Nordmann or a Norwegian Spruce, she says, which I’m assuming will not drop its needles) so that it’s safe for the cats…Have always preferred a real tree, but when we lived in NJ we couldn’t get non-drop trees, so bought a fab fake tree (which we still have in the loft), which looked very realistic!”

Yeah.  You can tell she’s just trying to make me feel better, can’t you? That’s the thing about the Bandits.  We always have each others’ backs, even if one of us is off in left field with regard to Christmas trees.  *heavy sigh*

Bandita Susan Sey said, “I Christmas tree fiber opticprefer real…In our on-the-road-for-Christmas years, we sometimes will buy a really small real tree (think Charlie Brown’s Christmas).”

I found a ray of hope, though.  She went on to say, “Sometimes, we just decorate my extremely tacky fake tree from Target.  It’s about two feet tall and comes complete with LED color-shifting lights built into the end of each needle.  It’s wicked awesome.  Like a disco ball/Christmas tree mashup.”

That’s the kind of tree that both my mom and my father-in-law have now.  Very space efficient.  And I’ve gotta say, they do rock. 

I remember a couple of years when my mom had a retro silver aluminum tree.  I hated those when I was little (when they were NOT retro) but now I think they’re kind of cool.  They reflect any colors around them and are Christmas tree vintage silver foiljust straight up fun.

Disco trees notwithstanding, artificial trees of all kinds  have come a long way.  I have to get up close to some of them–even touch them–to know whether they’re real or not.  

Still, it’s obvious that I’m outnumbered.  I’m thinking of applying for minority status.

My squeamishness about cutting down a live tree (or buying one that’s been cut down) is definitely in the minority.   With a fake tree, there’s no magical smell of evergreen that says “Christmas” any time you breathe it in.  There’s no “real tree in the house” energy about it.

But you don’t have to water an artificial tree.  And it doesn’t drop needles or turn brown. 

Just sayin.

Christmas tree purpleBandit Buddies, what do you do?

Is your tree real?  Or fake?

If it’s fake, what color is it?  How tall?  And do you miss the touch and scent of the real thing?

If it’s a real tree, where do you get it?  Do you cut your own?  If not, where do you buy it?

When do you put it up? Is there a special day each year?  Or is it whenever you manage to get to it?

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, do you participate in another festival or holiday this time of year? 

 

Watch for our annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, with fun and so many prizes Santa can’t carry them, coming in just a few days!

Season’s Greetings

Only a few days left till Christmas Day, so how ‘re you doing?

Tree up and decorated?  check

Christmas gifts purchased?  check

Presents wrapped?  check

Cookies, candies, cakes made?  check

Christmas cards mailed?  oh crap…

Of all the Christmas preparations, signing and mailing Christmas cards is one of my least favorite things.  I love to receive Christmas cards but sending them out is something else.  First, there’s the choosing of the card.  Should one go religious, cute, sparkly…?  Have to admit, I like the sparkly  :-P  .  Then there’s signing them all and tracking down mailing addresses.  It’s a wonder any go out.

The first commercial Christmas card was produced in England in 1843.  That’s it on the right.  Commercially produced cards didn’t take hold in America till 1875.  They’ve varied in popularity over the years but I think the current trend is heading down.  According to Wikipedia, American households received an estimated 29 Christmas cards in 1987.  This number dropped to 20 in 2004.  I’d bet it’s even lower now.  Postage costs and lack of time have taken a toll.  Sometimes, just signing one’s name over and over is a bit of a chore. (sigh)  

But receiving them is pure joy!

I’ve seen fancy boxes in which to keep Christmas cards, but I like to hang mine on the doors in the kitchen.  That way I get to look at them frequently, rereading the messages inside, revisiting the pictures of the newest family members again and again.  (I must be doing better that the average Joe as I’ve recieved 33 cards thus far this year.  This number doesn’t include the number of cards that will show up AFTER Christmas  :-P

I like the photo cards.  Sometimes this is the only way I get to see how the kids are growing each year.  Have you noticed how photo cards generally only come from people with small kids?  I don’t get many from seniors with a “see how we’ve aged” photo. :-D

Let me give a shout out to my international friends who sent season’s greetings over such a far distance.  Although I don’t save stamps, I like to see the postal stamps from different countries and how different countries depict Christmas.  Here’s a card from Australia where the temperatures are decidedly different from the snow and ice here.  If this card was to represent the climate in Columbus, Santa would be blue and the wave would be white.

Hats off to all those who sent handmade Christmas cards.  Those are indeed the most creative.  Heck, I have difficulty getting the storebought cards signed, addressed and mailed to family, friends, and clients.  But I do appreciate that someone took the time to make the card to send to me.

By far, the most unique card I receive each year comes from my best friend in high school.  She’s a talented artist who has traveled extensively in India.  Every year she has Christmas cards made from her artwork.  Hmmm….maybe I should do this with my book covers?  After all, the heroine on the cover of Redeeming the Rogue is wearing a green dress.  And what conveys the spirit of peace and love than a torrid kiss :-) .  My friend’s painting this year is titled “Miss Ohio.”

Have you noticed an increase in computer cards this year?  Some of those are really impressive and I love the animation.   I certainly can understand the convenience and postage savings of a digital card, but I can’t put them up on my door :cry:   Bummer.

So how about you?  Are you a Christmas card person?  My niece from Oklahoma is here with me and she’s shaking her head no.  With two little ones she says she doesn’t have the time to send them out.  I think I’d probably live in a year round world of guilt if I received cards and didn’t send any out.  But that’s me.  :-D

Do you have a preference for traditional or digital cards either sent or received?  Do you prefer religious cards or just festive ones?  Are you one to read a long Christmas letter?  I like to read them but I’ve never written one.  Let’s chat and share some season’s greetings.

As we’re approaching the end of our 12 Days of Bandita Christmas celebration, be sure to comment to be eligible for our daily Bandita prize as well as our SUPER-DUPER GRAND prize giveaway Christmas Day. There’s enough books in that prize package to fill Santa’s sleigh!  For today’s giveaway, I’ll add a Celtic Christmas ornament and a copy of The Casanova Code to the 12 days prize of a rooster ornament or a dragon cookie cutter and a sugar cookie mix.

Speaking of munchies – here’s an easy appetizer to make for your holiday celebration

Roll-ups

2 (8 0z) cream cheese

1 pkg. dry Ranch dressing (I use the Buttermilk package)

2-3 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1 small can sliced black olives (diced)

4 to 6 – 12″ soft flour tortillas

Mix the first three ingredients and then spread on the tortilla shells.  Sprinkle the other ingredients on top.  Roll the tortilla up into a cylinder.  Wrap in saran wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.  Slice and serve  (the ends I sacrifice to the chef).

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Bandita Day of Christmas Prize Winner

Our Ninth Bandita Day of Christmas Prize winner is:

Sandyg265! You’ve won a copy of Jeannie Watt’s CROSSING NEVADA plus either a rooster ornament or a dragon cookie cutter and sugar mix.

But wait! There’s more :-)

Hellion and Fedora you’ve both won copies of CROSSING NEVADA as well!

Ladies, please use the Mail Room link above to send me your snail mail info and we’ll get your prizes out to you as soon as possible.

Congrats!

It’s a Conspiracy, I Tell Ya!

I hesitate to tell you this in case “they” lurk around this blog. You know who I’m talking about. Them. The cookbook writers who are out to get me. For years now, I’ve been convinced that they conspire to make me feel inept. Although they look sweet and unassuming, mischievous intent lurks behind those fake, friendly smiles. They claim something is foolproof… but I fool them!

Smiling Cookbook AuthorOf course, as a mystery writer, I love a good conspiracy theory – and I simply had to find a way to use it in a book. The next Bibliophile Mystery is titled A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY, and now you’re in on the private joke. It stems from my irrational fear of recipes, a fear shared by heroine Brooklyn Wainwright.

A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY will be out in hardcover and ebook in June – my hardcover debut! –but it’s available now for pre-order on Amazon and BN.com. What’s equally thrilling to me is that the book’s blurb is posted on both sites, and I really love it! If I hadn’t written this book, I’d want to read it!

It’s a recipe for disaster when bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright is asked to restore an antique cookbook…

Brooklyn has always been a little obsessed with food, but it was her sister Savannah who became a chef, graduating from the prestigious Cordon Bleu school in Paris. She and her classmates all went on to successful careers, but none of them achieved culinary superstardom like Savannah’s ex-boyfriend Baxter Cromwell.

When Baxter invites the old gang to participate in his new restaurant’s gala opening in San Francisco, Savannah looks forward to seeing her friends, and even asks Brooklyn to restore a tattered cookbook—an old gift from Baxter—as a present for him. But Brooklyn immediately recognizes that the book, which has strange notes and symbols scrawled in the margins, is at least two hundred years old. She thinks that it probably belongs in a museum, but Savannah insists on returning it to Baxter.

Antique cookbookShortly after receiving the gift, Baxter is found dead, with Savannah kneeling over him, bloody knife in hand, and the rare cookbook has disappeared. Brooklyn knows her sister didn’t kill him, and she suspects the missing cookbook might lead to the real villain. Now Brooklyn will have to turn up the heat on the investigation before Chef Savannah finds herself slinging hash in a prison cafeteria.

A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY on Amazon
A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY on BN.com

To celebrate the blurby awesomeness of my latest blurb, I share with you a recipe that is better than foolproof – it’s Kateproof. And it’s perfect for those holiday potlucks you’ll be attending over Christmas and New Year’s.

Kate’s Black Bean Party Dip

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 C of your favorite jarred salsa
8 oz. Monterrey Jack cheese, cut into chunks

Warm the olive oil in a pan, and sauté the diced onion for about a minute. Add the black beans and mash them up in the pan. Add the salsa and the chunks of cheese and warm it all up together until the cheese gets nice and melty. Serve warm with tortilla chips. (Fake-gourmet cooking tip: If you warm the store-bought tortilla chips in the oven – in a bowl, not in the plastic bag – your guests might think they’re homemade. It makes a big difference!)

And don’t forget, we’re nearing the end of our 12 Days of Bandita Christmas celebration! Be sure to comment to be eligible for our daily Bandita prize as well as our SUPER-DUPER GRAND prize giveaway Christmas Day. For today’s giveaway, I’m also including a signed copy of PERIL IN PAPERBACK and some cool Bibliophile swag!

Are you attending – or hosting – any holiday parties? What food do you like to bring to a potluck?

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