A Spekkie Author Christmas Part 4

A Spekkie Christmas (2)Christmas is a time steeped in tradition–religious, cultural, and family tradition! I don’t think too many families celebrate Christmas just alike. And that’s what makes this month so unique and fun!

At our house, we have started the Family Night Box tradition on Christmas Eve. Kind of like the “open one present” tradition both my husband and I had on Christmas Eve growing up, our family opens up the Family Night Box, which includes new PJs for everyone and either a family movie or family game. (I try to alternate–this year will be a game!)

So, I just had to know how my spekkie friends celebrate their Christmas season and what makes their traditions unique.


When I was a kid, one of our family traditions was making lefse, a Norwegian flatbread. Every Christmas we would make a batch, then eat it with butter and sugar, rolled up or cut into triangles and served with tea. Both sides of my family would serve this traditional Norwegian food as part of our heritage. —Morgan Busse


It’s pretty standard fare for us to splurge on the Christmas meal. We usually get a beef tenderloin and bake it/grill it up with delicious seasonings. It’s typically a larger, more expensive cut of meat, but it always hits the spot. I am a carnivore, so of course I love it. —Ben Wolf


Baking a Birthday cake for Jesus. We get ‘em – so why shouldn’t He? —Josh Hardt


My family and I have a specific routine on Christmas Eve. When it gets dark, we heat up some apple cider (or snag a Starbucks), blast Christmas music, and drive around to look at as many Christmas lights as we can in the area. After we return home, we give each other one or two presents that have something to do with Christmas morning be it a new coffee cup or pajamas or when I was little, a new stuffed animal. —Victoria Grace Howell


We don’t get to do this much anymore, but every Christmas my family would go out soon after Thanksgiving and get our Christmas tree. No, I’m not talking a lot in town or a plastic tree from the attic, we’d pack up snacks and hot chocolate then head up to the mountains. Then the search would begin for the perfect tree. Those are some of my fondest memories with my family, hiking all over (sometimes in feet of snow) to find that perfect, 12 foot tree (we’ve got tall ceilings). I’m excited that this year I get to participate in this tradition again since I’ll be going home earlier than normal. I’m definitely looking forward to it! —Emilie Hendryx


We wrap up a gift for Jesus. It’s an empty box with an imperfect wrapping job to remind us how imperfect we are. Then we put a slit in the top, and every family member writes on a piece of paper what they are going to give to Jesus for the coming year. No one knows what anyone else has written; it’s very personal. Then we put the papers in the box and place the box in the fireplace and light a fire. It’s kind of our burnt offering to God. —S.D. Grimm


One tradition we have that dates back to my own childhood is that we allow the children to choose one small gift to open at midnight Christmas Eve. I loved the tradition my parents started and have enjoyed sharing it with my children. —Ronie Kendig


At New Year’s Eve, we drop the Christmas Yeti. It’s a stuffed toy that my sister in law brought back from the 2012 Winter Olympics. The end of the year always makes me depressed and melancholy, because I’m naturally pessimistic and tend to focus on things I didn’t accomplish. So my husband came up with dropping the yeti as our own personal ‘New Year’s Eve’ ball. Since then that goofy yeti’s descent has been the main thing that really makes me laugh and not overthink the whole end of the year concept. —Janeen Ippolito


What is one unique family tradition YOU have at Christmas time?


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A Spekkie Author Christmas Part 3

A SPEKKIE CHRISTMAS (1)I love giving gifts at Christmas time. I’m definitely one of those who agonizes over finding just the right gift that complements family and friends. Sometimes I run out of time or never land on the perfect present. Still, I love watching people open presents–the light in their eyes, the smiles on their faces . . . *happy sigh*

I think the best present I ever received was the year my husband was deploying to Kosovo. He left in October for training, but wasn’t actually going overseas until January. His unit was able to come home for a short Christmas break before heading off. I think that is one of the most special times I got to spend with him.

So, I asked my spekkie writer friends what their best Christmas present ever was, and they had some very unique answers . . .


One of my best friends got me How To Write A Children’s Book and Get It Published by Barbara Seuling when I first interested in writing picture books. That was back in 1997. I read that thing over and over! But her support of my dream was the most important. She’s still one of my biggest fans! —Pam Halter


I think I was about sixteen, maybe fifteen, when my parents gave me a real desk for Christmas. I’d been asking for one for ages. It had a hutch bookshelf on top. I filled it with all my favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and writing how-to-books. It made me feel like a real writer to have my own writing desk. —Kristen Stieffel


Oh boy. I’ve gotten so many good presents, but one that I still use a lot today is my WACOM Bamboo Tablet which is an artist’s tablet I use for drawing my characters. My mom gave me the tablet and I didn’t expect to get it because it was expensive, but I put it on my list several years ago anyway. I use the tablet so much and it makes drawing so much easier and faster! —Victoria Grace Howell


My family is so generous and I can think of many that impacted my life one way or another. But one of my favorites was a hope chest. My parents gave one to me and each of my sisters. Before I was married, I filled it with dishes and cute kitchen things for when I’d get married. Now that I’m married, it holds all 23 of my journals. (Yes, twenty-three.) —Nadine Brandes


We brought our newborn daughter home less than 2 days before Christmas. I’m probably required by Proud Daddy Code to say her. —C.W. Briar


A hand-made wooden dollhouse from my parents and grandparents. Mom and Dad bought the kit, and Grandma and Grandpa assembled it. It has windows and doors that open and close, and it was painted the same color as our house at the time. It must have been Christmas of 1992. I still have it, and every time I see it, I smile. Such amazing, fond memories of that Christmas morning. I was so surprised. —A.C. Williams


The best Christmas present I received happened when I was 16. It was the gift of my mom’s ingenuity and humility. My mom and I were on alone and she had just enough money to pay rent. There wasn’t money for food let along gifts, so I was shocked to receive three gifts that year – a sterling silver swan ring holder, a brass/glass mirrored perfume tray, and earrings, I think. She hadn’t bought any of them. She’d gone through the mall, humiliating herself by filling out credit applications she knew she wouldn’t be approved for (based on income), but with each application, they gave away a gift. And that gift became my Christmas present. She was always creative and ingenious that way. I really miss her. —Ronie Kendig


When I was a kid, personal computers weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now. When I was ten or twelve or somewhere in there, I woke up on Christmas morning to find two huge boxes sitting amidst all the other presents. One was for me, and the other was for my sister. We tore the paper off and found two brand new desktop computers in the boxes. (My dad was and is a tech geek, so he had the hookup.) —Ben Wolf


What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?


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A Spekkie Author Christmas Part 2

a spekkie authorChristmas is my favorite time of year–always has been. So many memories . . . Like the time I bought my mom a special book and made her cry, or the time we were moving over Christmas and “decorated” our van, or the first Christmas I spent with my husband. What’s not to love?

So, this week, I asked the speculative fiction authors what their favorite Christmas memory is. As with any group, it’s a fun array of answers!


Oh, so many! My siblings and I would stay up all night long reading books in a blanket-tent in our upstairs library, trying to keep the fire going all night long. This was a yearly tradition (that made it tough on Santa since the stockings were over the fire) and cultivated a lot of bonding between me and my siblings. —Nadine Brandes


One Christmas my dad made me a mobile of gifts and I got to cut away each one revealing a fun gift. It wasn’t so much the gifts that I liked as it was the thoughtfulness my dad put into it. He has always loved giving gifts and does so with love and care. It reminds me of how God loves us and cares for each one of us with just as much love and care. —E.A. Hendryx


One year, I found weird ways to wrap everything. Nothing went into a nice, happy box unless the box was the entirely wrong size and shape for the thing that went into it. I wrapped a necklace after putting it into an empty, plastic tape dispenser. A DVD was taped to the bottom of a shirt box. A shirt was wrapped around a metal coat-hanger bent into a loop. This happened because the previous year, one of my relatives boasted that he could guess what all his presents were, and he was right most of the time. I decided to mess with his head, and everyone else’s. —Cindy Koepp


Nearly every year, my mom and my grandma and I would make Christmas candy. We made fudge and peanut butter fudge and toffee cookies and all sorts of treats that we could share with the whole family. Every year, I’d look forward to it because as I got older, I got more responsibility in the kitchen. I used to just fetch ingredients, but then I moved up to stirring pots, and eventually I got to chop nuts. In the last few years, I’m the one in charge of candy making, and it’s my mom and grandma who assist. So it’s pretty cool to see how we’ve come full circle. —A.C. Williams


T’was the night before Christmas, and for some reason I was in a shopping cart in the toy section. Whatever I pointed to usually went into the cart. I didn’t really understand this memory until I spoke with my mom. Apparently they had fallen behind in Christmas shopping, so they had us pick out all our presents, wrapped them, and then we unwrapped them the next day! Apparently we were still completely surprised. —Janeen Ippolito


When I was in fifth grade, my grandma was diagnosed with advance lung cancer. At the time, my mom was a single mother trying to raise four kids and go to college. But when my grandma was diagnosed, my mom took that semester off to take care of her mother (who was also single). All of our income was tied up in school loans, so when mom took that time off from school, we had no money.

A couple days before Christmas, my grandma passed away. It was a dark time for our family. We had no money for Christmas and we had just buried my grandma. Not only was it going to be a hard Christmas, it looked like there would be no presents under the tree.

Unbeknownst to us, a family member submitted our names to an Angel tree to provide us with gifts. On Christmas Eve, a couple packages showed up with food and presents. We all gathered in my grandma’s tiny house and gave thanks for the generosity of others during our time of need. I’ve experienced many Christmases since then, but I will never forget that one. —Morgan Busse


We didn’t start doing the Elf on the Shelf until our kids were older, and the last couple years of elfing have been so fun. Wendy (our elf) gets into lots of mischief. This year, she’s going to be looking for love on some online dating sites. —Lindsay Franklin

What about you? What is YOUR favorite Christmas memory?


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Happy & Healthy: Preparing for the Holidays

2015If you’ve been following me on Facebook and such, you know that I haven’t been keeping up with Happy & Healthy this year. I know, I know–shame on me. However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take the opportunity RIGHT NOW to start anew, to make better choices, and to share the ups and downs with all of you.

Of course, I would choose the months with the craziest food holidays to jump back in. Let’s just say, my biggest goal is not to GAIN any weight this holiday season. Losing weight would just be icing on the cake–I mean, gravy on the potatoes–wait, no, dressing on the salad?

Going into this time of year, there’s a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Halloween candy should be banned after Nov. 1. Get rid of it. Pawn it off on the neighbor kids or do some cool science experiments with it for your own kids. There’s no reason to be plumping ourselves up before we even get to the big event.
  2. Find ways to get/stay active, even as the weather turns cooler. If you don’t like the outdoors, find some workout videos or visit a gym. My church will let people come walk around the track over our gym on certain days! Yard work might be killer, but it also burns calories!
  3. Say this with me: “It is okay to indulge a little during the big meals, but do NOT overdo it!” C’mon, now, the holidays are important. Families comes together over this deliciously prepared food–and lots of it. While you may normally avoid the starchy mashed potatoes to “trim the waist,” there is no reason you can’t have a small helping on Thanksgiving Day. Now, if that helping takes up half the plate, or if that “small helping” happens 10 times over 2 days–that’s not good. A small dessert plate with a couple favorite desserts is NOT going to completely throw your diet into a tailspin.
  4. In fact, some experts say that denying some indulgence completely can actually cause more issues, including totally giving up, overindulgence when stressed/guilty, depression, etc.
  5. After the big meal, though, show some restraint. Combine leftovers with healthy options, eat smaller portions, etc.
  6. When you do eat a little more, just be sure to find ways to keep your metabolism high: a family football game after dinner, a quiet walk with a close family member, serving in a soup kitchen for a few hours . . .

I think I’m about ready for the holidays. Right now, I’m more worried about NaNoWriMo, and how my body is going to survive that! My priority in November is to make sure I am consistent in taking my medications, that I find ways to move around while I’m being productive in my more sedative jobs (writing, editing, homeschooling), and that I keep portion sizes in mind while I eat.

How do you combat overindulgence during the holiday season?