Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Twenty Third Post – Review

Dashing Through the Snow
by Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark
From beloved mother-daughter duo Mary Higgins Clark, America's Queen of Suspense, and Carol Higgins Clark, author of the hugely popular Regan Reilly mystery series, comes Dashing Through the Snow, a holiday treat you won't want to miss.
In the picturesque village of Branscombe, New Hampshire, the townsfolk are all pitching in to prepare for the first (and many hope annual) Festival of Joy. The night before the festival begins, a group of employees at the local market learn that they have won $160 million in the lottery. One of their co-workers, Duncan, decided at the last minute, on the advice of a pair of crooks masquerading as financial advisers, not to play. Then he goes missing. A second winning lottery ticket was purchased in the next town, but the winner hasn't come forward. Could Duncan have secretly bought it?
The Clarks' endearing heroes — Alvirah Meehan, the amateur sleuth, and private investigator Regan Reilly — have arrived in Branscombe for the festival. They are just the people to find out what is amiss. As they dig beneath the surface, they find that life in Branscombe is not as tranquil as it appears. So much for an old-fashioned weekend in the country. This fast-paced holiday caper will keep you dashing through the pages! (Goodreads)

This was book four on my Christmas Reading Challenge list. I cheated somewhat by listening to the audio book rather than actually reading it. Does that put me on the naughty list? I had never read nor listened to any books by Mary Higgins Clark, or Carol Higgins Clark and Dashing Through the Snow was a pleasant surprise. The book was read by one of the authors and grabbed my attention from chapter one. Often when I listen to audio books while driving, my mind drifts in and out of the story. Not so with this book. I found myself eager to get to my car, to continue with the story. I had to resist the urge to drive the 'long' way to get places – gas is just too expensive. Although the story was predictable, it was fun and well worth my time. I will be looking for more books by these authors….

What is your favourite Mary Higgins Clark and/or Carol Higgins Clark novel?
Happy reading,
Carol (as in Christmas)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twenty Second Post – Review

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS | September 7, 1988 | Trade Paperback

Hey! Unto you a child is born!
The Herdmans are absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie and steal and smoke cigars (even the girls). They talk dirty, hit little kids, cuss their teachers, set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toolhouse, and take the name of the Lord in vain. So no one is prepared when the Herdmans invade church one Sunday-and decide to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of them has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation -- the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating-- has a lot of people up in arms. But the actual pageant is full of surprises for everyone, starting with the Herdmans themselves! Chapters/Indigo


Without a doubt this is one my top five favourite Christmas novels. I first stumbled upon it when it was made into a TV movie starring Loretta Swit and Jackson Davies. It was filmed in my hometown of Vancouver, BC and it immediately became one of our Christmas staples. Years later, when my children were a bit older I found it in novel form. I was out of this world with delight. I believe I was teaching grade 7 at the time and read it to my class during that Christmas season…..a tradition that carried on until I moved from classroom teacher to counsellor. I never could get through the reading without stopping to control my quivery voice and impending tears. I recall one student (who could have fit nicely with the Herdman clan) scooping up the box of classroom Kleenex and bringing it to this weepy teacher. "Here, Mrs. O. I think you need these!" How fitting that this story brought out such kindness in my student. If you haven't read this book and have a spare hour or two, it is so worth the time. It is a treasure. Many local theatre groups have performed this lovely story during Christmas and it is still my hope (albeit a fading hope as I move nearer to retirement) to have one of my schools present this story as their Christmas production.

Merry Christmas and….
Hey! Unto you a child IS born!
Carol (as in Christmas)

My third Book for the Holiday Reading Challenge 2010  and Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Twenty First Post - Transition

Transitioning from the intense pace of work to the relaxed pace of holidaying is often a challenge and this year has been no different. My life as a school counsellor - at two Elementary schools, and one Middle school is rewarding but hovers at the cusp of doable/not doable. Work goes full tilt until the final bell before break brrrringsss, and then my momentum comes screeching to a halt. All or nothing! This year brought several added challenges and by the time I pulled out of the school parking lot, I was sooooo done!
Saturday was spent cocooning at home. No visitors, no visiting, no Christmas cheer; only tears of exhaustion. I'm glad to report that by Sunday, my emotions were getting back on track. I finished a book and moved into another one - part of the Holiday Reading Challenge. I got out to the mall EARLY and finished up my Christmas shopping. My husband is visiting family way up in the cold, cold north for a few more days and so the remainder of my solitary day was spent, reading and planning the menu for Christmas week.
The transition was a rocky one, but it is so tranquil and peaceful on the other side; to have balance restored.'s time to move from my comfy bed to my comfy couch and read some more.......I could get used to this!

How do you manage the transition from work to holidaying?

The transition can be like trying to go up the icy driveway.
It's slippery and you can lose your footing for a while,
 but eventually equilibrium is re established and all is well.!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twentieth Post – Book

How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas
by Jeff Guinn, Mark Hoffer (Illustrator)

In How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas, Jeff Guinn combines solid historical fact with glorious legend to deliver another heart-warming holiday book for the whole family. It's 1620 and Mrs. Claus's dear husband is off in the New World planting the seeds of what will become a glorious Christmas tradition. Meanwhile, Mrs. Claus has chosen to stay in England, where the first signs of a dangerous threat to Yuletide cheer are in evidence. The Puritans have gained control of Parliament and appear determined to take all the fun out of Christmas. But Mrs. Claus knows that it's time for serious action when, in 1647, a law is passed by Parliament that actually punishes anyone who celebrates Christmas. Using as its springboard the actual events of a day in 1647 when ten thousand peasants marched through the streets of Canterbury demanding their right to celebrate a beloved holiday, How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas is rich in historical detail, adventure, and   plain ol'  Christmas fun.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 19th 2006 by Tarcher (first published 2005) Goodreads

The title of this book intrigued me -  Mrs. Claus as the hero...hmmm, sounded interesting.  I wished I had heard of it when I was still a classroom teacher. It would have made an excellent "read to" book for most intermediate grades. Admittedly, I'm not much of an historian, however I love reading about historical events in fiction format. I loved the storytelling by Mrs. Claus. The middle of the book got a tad slow and it took me longer to finish then I had intended. By the time I got to the last quarter, the pace picked up again. It was a gripping account of the 1647 peasant march through Canterbury. It was surprising to read how close the celebration of Christmas came to being banished - something I'd never considered.  Ultimately the book reminded me of the importance of passing on Christmas traditions to our children and grandchildren. We must not take for granted the freedom we have to celebrate a faith based holiday. The blend of sacred with secular was nicely woven.  Hooray for Mrs. Claus and the part she played in the liberation of Christmas!

Peace and Hope to you,
Carol - as in Christmas 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nineteenth Post - Wonder

Why are snow globes so entrancing? Why do we keep shaking them and watching them, shaking them and watching them, over and over and over? Why do music boxes capture our imagination? Why can we wind them up and listen to them, wind them up and listen to them, over and over and over? Why can we gaze upon twinkle lights on a tree, or at decorations, or the outside of a house lit up with a delicious display of all things Christmas, and have them remain fresh and new.

Wonder. It captures our hearts and magically lifts us out of THIS moment into another realm.

Do we lose our sense of wonder as we age? I don't want to. Will we lose our ability to wonder as we learn more about how things really work or are? As we make new discoveries about neuroscience and how our brain functions and how its function affects our thoughts, behaviours and feelings, will wonder cease? When will we know so much that we won't have to wonder? With Christmas upon us, it is the perfect time for joy, delight, amazement and wonder. My wish today is that my life will be filled with moments of wonder and that I will cherish them. I will let myself set aside hypotheses, science and fact to relish in the pure joy of not knowing why, but being amazed and delighted in the mystery. My prayer is that I will always have a sense of wonder about God…….that I will awash myself in His Mystery and Love. I will cloak myself with the wonder that because He is who He is, I am enough! What wonder!

What do you wonder about?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eighteenth Post - Advent

My earliest memories of Christmas may well be my fondest. Our family was held together by a glue we lovingly called Omie! Omie was my mom's mom and the family matriarch.There were (still are) ten cousins (three girls and seven boys). Christmas celebrations began on Christmas Eve with the entire family attending the yearly Sunday School Christmas Pageant. Our classes would perform, the congregation would sing Carols, and the pastor would give a short sermon which would include the Christmas Story. We'd sit with minimal squirming - our parents may disagree -knowing that at the end of the service all the children would be given a brown paper bag filled to the brim with an assortment of Christmas goodies. The best treat of all was the mandarin orange – what a treasure! I vaguely remember my older brother trying to scam me out of my orange. Once church was over and friends were properly greeted, we'd head to Omie's house to eat and exchange gifts. Uncles, aunts, and cousins would all arrive at similar times. We'd pile our coats high on the bed in Nanny's old room and then gather in the living room. Omie would have her tree decorated and food prepared. Our Christmas Eve feast included  rye bread (from the German Bakery), a baked ham, deli meats including summer and hunter sausage, homemade head cheese, liver sausage, pickled herring (my dad's favourite) stollen, mohnkuchen (poppy seed cake), poppy seed roll, pfeffernuesse  (brown honey cookies) as well as other German Christmas foods. 

1960 (before our two younger
 brothers were born)

Magically,  Christmas Eve would morph into Christmas Day. Off the family would go to another church service (German Baptists really
liked their Christmas Services). I'd snuggle beside Omie, breathing in the smell of her fur coat, which was soft and had the familiar smell of mothballs and cough candies. Christmas dinner was hosted at one of the Auntie's houses. There was a huge turkey dinner, and an afternoon filled with lots and lots of singing and music making around the piano. Those were such precious times.

Random memories of my childhood Christmas:
  • New nighties for all three girl cousins
  •  Marjorie (NOT Barbie) dolls for the girl cousins
  •  Playing in Omie's l o n g hallway
  •  Graduating from the kid's table in the kitchen, to the kid's table in the living room
  •  A flute, trumpet, clarinet, French horn, trombone to accompany the piano 
  •  Singing through Handel's Messiah – most of it anyhow
  • Omie's special Christmas decorations – the 'bird', icicles, and her very special baubles (some of which I still have)
  • Auntie Trudy and Uncle Longin arguing – everyone had an opinion
  • Uncle Rainer describing his newest car – of course the BEST car EVER!
  • Omie's honey cookies
  • Cousins at play
  • Lots and lots of loud laughing and talking

Omie and me at a time other
than Christmas

I'm now in my fifties and have never successfully recaptured the sweetness of my earliest Christmases. If the purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ, we did it in grand style. Omie never made a big deal about talking about Christ's birth, she never preached at us, but I remember vividly that HE was with us. Our celebration was wrapped with love and trimmed with an enduring legacy of warm memories.  Auntie Trudy, Omie, Uncle Longin and Auntie Mildred have all passed away. I suspect they're having their own celebration in the heavenlies. I miss those good old days, but have been blessed with the opportunity to lay down another generation of memories with my own children, who are now passing them on to their children.
And the Gift goes on…………

 Merry Christmas,
 Carol (as in Christmas)

If you want to read other posts on the Virtual Advent Tour, look at the dedicated Virtual Advent Tour blog to see the schedule of postings, including others today.

December 6:
Natasha @ Maw Books