Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Posts from Your Archives 2022 – Christmas and New Year Special- #HolidayExpenses #Charities Sharon Marchisello


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1200 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience…

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

This series is along the same lines and is a celebration of Christmas and New Year.

I do appreciate that this is not a religious festival for everyone but it is a time of year when families and friends come together and our thoughts turn to our hopes and wishes for the coming year. A new series of Posts from Your Archives is coming soon.

Today author and financial expert Sharon Marchisello shares some tips on keeping more money in your pocket and less in the taxman’s… and to counter some of the holiday expenses. It is also a time when people are more likely to give to charities and at times it is difficult to select those that are likely to make the most of your donation…

Mitigating Holiday Expense and Tips for Charitable Giving by Sharon Marchisello

Christmas is over, most of the financial damage from holiday spending is done. Here are some tips to help you get back on track:

1. Return unwanted gifts promptly. No use keeping something that doesn’t fit or cluttering your life with items you’ll never use. Turn them into cash or exchange them for something you really want or need. Many stores have restricted refund policies, so maximize the value of these new possessions by getting this task done as soon as possible.

2. Return unused decorations and party supplies. Some stores have “all sales final” policies on seasonal items; if so, put these away where you’ll remember to use them next year. Holiday cards and wrapping paper will still be good for another Christmas. But maybe you bought extra cases of soda or bottled water for a holiday gathering, and now you’re stuck with more than you’ll ever drink? See if the store will take them back.

3. Use gift cards promptly, before they get lost or the value expires. What if you received a gift card for a store or restaurant you don’t patronize? There are a number of websites where you can sell or exchange them online.

4. If you received cash or checks as gifts, deposit the money right away. You can decide later if you want to treat yourself to something you really want, or use the funds to pay off holiday bills first.

5. If you’ve put your holiday purchases on a credit card that offers reward points, see if you’ve earned enough to cash in. Redeem those rewards before they expire or the program changes and the benefits are devalued.

6. Purge your holiday greeting card list. Update addresses that have changed since last year. If a card was returned as undeliverable, remove that person from your list until you make contact again. Next year, you’ll save yourself some cards, time, and postage.

7. Clean out your closets, including unwanted gifts you can’t exchange. Pack everything up and donate it to a local charity. Get a receipt so you can take a deduction on your upcoming income tax return.

Tips for Charitable Giving

Late December is probably the most popular time of the year for charitable giving. People are still in the holiday spirit, and those who itemize deductions may be thinking about ways they can reduce the year’s taxable income.

There are so many worthy causes out there. How do you choose which ones to support? And all charities are not created equal; some are better stewards of your donation dollars than others.

Here are some tips for deriving the most benefit from your charitable contributions:

1. Don’t respond to solicitations by telephone, unless it is a charity you recognize and plan to support. Ask the caller to send you some literature or refer you to its website (which should end in .org, not .com). A legitimate charity will not mind. The crooked ones will insist that you give them your personal information over the phone. Keep in mind that many fake charities have names that sound similar to the legitimate ones.

2. Make your gift online by credit card or mail a check so you’ll have a record of it. Most charities will immediately send a thank-you email confirming receipt of your online donation, with the date and amount—documentation you will need to support your tax deduction. And try to give directly to the charity, rather than through a paid fundraiser, who will most likely keep a portion of your donation.

3. Research the charities you are considering supporting. Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) assigns ratings of one to four stars based on the organization’s financial performance, accountability and transparency. You can see how much its leaders are paid, how much of its income goes to programs—as opposed to administration and fundraising—as well as how the charity compares to other organizations doing similar work. You may be surprised to find that some of the better known charities don’t score very well.

4. Charity Navigator only rates charities that have at least a million dollars in revenues, so many small, local charities will not have a score. Check Guidestar (www.guidestar.org) for copies of the organization’s tax return (Form 990), mission statement, customer reviews, and programming/governance information shared by the charity.

5. Ask if your donation is tax deductible. The organization’s IRS status as a 501(c)(3) or similar should be clearly noted on its website, receipts, and/or other materials. If you’re unsure, visit the IRS website to verify. Also, if you accept a “thank-you gift” such as a tote bag, dinner, magazine subscription, etc., in exchange for your donation, the fair market value of that “gift” must be subtracted from your tax deduction.

6. Think about supporting small, local charities so your donation dollars will stay in your community. Many of these organizations are run entirely by volunteers and thus have lower overhead costs than the national powerhouses headed by CEOs making six-figure salaries. Also, you might be able to visit the site, meet and talk to some of the volunteers, and observe how well the charity executes its programs. And if you can’t help with your checkbook, perhaps you can spare a few hours of your time?

What tips do you have for mitigating the bite of holiday expenses and for donating items or money to charity? I’d love to hear your comments.

©Sharon Marchisello 2022

My thanks to Sharon for sharing these useful tips and although tax year’s might be different we are all still faced with making our money go further and making sure the money we donate to charities is spent appropriately.

Books by Sharon Marchisello

My review for Going Home 30th September 2021

This is a well written and thought provoking story that combines a care crisis that many of us face with elderly parents who have developed dementia, and the unravelling of the mystery surrounding a murder in a family home.

It is clear the author has experience of the challenge of communicating with someone who has short term memory loss, and brings in a cleverly crafted murder plot with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested.

There are flashbacks to the past and events which have a bearing on the present, and the reader is witness to the fallout that revelations result in as the search begins for a viable suspect amongst the outsiders who have access to the family home. It would seem that the authorities have only one suspect in mind, and without the ability to communicate coherently, an elderly woman must rely on her extended family to prove her innocence.

The author does a great job in keeping all the various strands of the plot running smoothly in parallel and brings the story to a satisfactory climax.

I recommend to those who enjoy well written murder mysteries and family sagas.

About Sharon Marchisello

Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press, Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019). She is an active member of Sisters in Crime.

She contributed short stories to anthologies Shhhh…Murder! (Darkhouse Books, 2018) and Finally Home (Bienvenue Press, 2019). Her personal finance book Live Well, Grow Wealth was originally published as Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy, an e-book on Smashwords. Sharon has published travel articles, book reviews, and corporate training manuals, and she writes a personal finance blog called Countdown to Financial Fitness.

She grew up in Tyler, Texas, and earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Houston in French and English. She studied for a year in Tours, France, on a Rotary scholarship and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her Masters in Professional Writing at the University of Southern California.

Retired from a 27-year career with Delta Air Lines, she lives in Peachtree City, Georgia, doing volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society and the Fayette County Master Gardeners UGA Extension.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – follow Sharon: Goodreadsblog: Sharon Blogspot – Twitter: @SLMarchisello

 

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have a wonderful week.. Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Posts from Your Archives 2022 – #Christmas #Santa Darlene Foster


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1200 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience…

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

This series is along the same lines and is a celebration of Christmas and New Year.

I do appreciate that this is not a religious festival for everyone but it is a time of year when families and friends come together and our thoughts turn to our hopes and wishes for the coming year. At the end of the post you can find out how to participate in this festive series.

Today children’s author Darlene Foster shares a delightful true Christmas story….do you believe in Santa?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Year I Discovered Santa Claus by Darlene Foster

Most children dream of seeing Santa Claus. I stayed up as late as possible every Christmas Eve but always fell asleep, only to wake up in the morning to see the jolly fellow had visited and left gifts.

***

It was to be our last Christmas on the farm. Mom and Dad had purchased a house in the city and planned to move in the next spring. The whole family was gathering at the farm one last time to spend the holiday with them.

We lived in Calgary at the time, a three-hour drive away. The morning of the 24th, Hubby was busy loading luggage as I pulled gifts out from under the tree to take with us. We had a couple of stops to make before arriving at the farm. It was important that the gifts that were to be dropped off first, went into the trunk last. Crawling under the tree to retrieve the carefully wrapped packages at the very back, a searing pain shot up my spine. I couldn’t move forward, backward or sideways. Paul came in for another load only to find me under the tree on all fours and in tears.

“I’ve put my back out and I can’t move,” I croaked.

He managed to lift me out from under the tree and lay me on the couch. From there I gave him instructions as to where to place each gift.

My ten-year-old daughter panicked when she saw me. “Does this mean we can’t go?”

“Are you sure you can manage the drive?” Paul asked.

I assured both of them I would be OK. I was not missing the last Christmas on the farm. So I took medication and hobbled to the car. I managed fine on the three-hour drive. Paul dropped off the gifts we needed to deliver on the way, while I stayed in the car. Once at the farm, getting out of the car proved difficult, but my dad and brothers were soon there, giving me a hand. Dad put me in his comfy chair and immediately put a heating pad behind my back. My brothers helped remove my boots and Mom made me a cup of tea. I was feeling the love, and happy to be home.

The kids of all ages, bundled up and went for a sleigh ride, a tradition in our family. Instead of using horses as he did in the past, Dad used a tractor to pull the open sleigh over the snow. I wished I could have gone along as it wouldn’t happen again, but didn´t want to risk it. I stayed back with Mom who prepared food for the evening meal and the big feast the next day. She wouldn´t let me help with the cooking preparations either.

I took more medication and by dinner, I felt better. We had a great meal as always and played a rousing game of marbles. We are a competitive family, so there was shouting and grabbing and perhaps a bit of cheating. All good fun and no one got hurt. Once the children were put to bed, Mom and I kept everyone out of the living room while we filled the stockings and arranged them around the tree. After a midnight drink, we all turned in. The beds at my parents´ house were comfy but old. The one we were given to sleep on had a very soft mattress and I kept rolling into the middle. Every time I did, the pain in my back worsened.

In spite of the extra dose of medication, I wasn´t getting much sleep. I finally grabbed a quilt, took my pillow and moved into the living room to sleep on the nice firm couch. Mom always left the tree lights on all night on Christmas Eve, which I found comforting. I felt like a kid again and soon fell fast asleep.

All of a sudden, I was woken up by someone switching on the bright overhead light. My brother, bare-chested and wearing a pair of beige jogging pants, popped things into everyone´s stocking. He obviously didn´t see me as he went about playing Santa. Then he left the room, switching off the light behind him. I smiled and fell back to sleep with no problem.

The next morning as we stuffed ourselves with pancakes, Dad asked me, “Did you sleep all right, dear?”

I replied, “I moved to the living room and slept just fine. And I saw Santa. He came into the room while I was sleeping and filled the stockings. And – he was stark naked!”

My brother turned red and shouted, “I was not. I had my jogging pants on.”

That was the one and only time I saw Santa Claus.

Enjoy the season, and if you’re lucky, you just might see Santa! 

©Darlene Foster 2022

My thanks to Darlene for letting me delve into her archives and I know she would love to hear from you.

About Darlene Foster

Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, traveling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not traveling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia.

Find out more about Darlene’s books and read the reviews: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Website/Blog: Darlene Foster WordPressGoodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @supermegawoman

A selection of books by Darlene Foster

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One of the reviews for Amanda in France

I’ve armchair traveled with Amanda a few times now, and I was thrilled to experience France with her this time around.

Even though these books are geared toward the younger crowd, I learn something about the different countries every time. Here are just a few examples from France: the purpose of gargoyles, there’s a lake beneath the Palais Garnier (just like Phantom of the Opera!), and the Louvre was originally a royal palace. Evidently I never paid much attention in history class.

Amanda has a talent for attracting trouble, and she’s not in Paris for long before strange occurrences begin. Why do they keep running into the same man everywhere they go? Who went through Aunt Jenny’s belongings in their room at Shakespeare and Company? Can their new friend Pierre be trusted? Amanda and her friend Leah (who’s beginning to show signs of teen moodiness) find themselves in the middle of a mystery all while touring the wonderful sites (and food!) Paris has to offer.

This is a fast-paced story easily finished in under two hours. I highly recommend this series as a way to introduce kids to different countries and cultures. Solving mysteries with Amanda is just a bonus. 

Thanks for dropping in today and it would be great if you could share Darlene’s post.. thanks Sally.

 

I would love to share one of your posts from this festive season and it can be a poem, short story, non-fiction in the form of a recipe, personal story, family memory, New Year’s resolutions etc. It does not have to be current but from any year in your blogging journey.

It is an opportunity to showcase your writing skill to my readers and also to share on my social media. Which combined is around the 50,000 mark. If you are an author, your books will be mentioned too, along with their buy links and your other social media contacts.

How to feature in the series?

  • All I need you to do is email me the link to the fiction or non-fiction post you have chosen either with aChristmas or New Year theme to (sally.cronin@moyhill.com)
  • As I will be promoting your books as part of the post along with all your information and links so I will not be sharing direct marketing or self- promotional posts in the series.
  • If you are an author I am sure you will have a page on your blog with the details, and an ‘about page’ with your profile and social media links (always a good idea anyway). I will get everything that I need.
  • As a blogger I would assume that you have an ‘about page’ a profile photo and your links to social media.
  • Copyright is yours and I will ©Your name on every post… and you will be named as the author in the URL and subject line.
  • Previous participants are very welcome to take part again.
  • Each post is reformatted for my blog and I don’t cut and paste, this means it might look different from your own post especially if you are using the block editor
  • If I do share a post which contains mainly photographs I will share up to five and link back to the original post for people to view the rest.

N.B – To get the maximum benefit from your archive posts, the only thing I ask is that you respond to comments individually and share on your own social media.. thank you.

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Posts from Your Archives – 2022 – Christmas and New Year Special – A Christmas Eve Poem: Children Singing in Latin by Elizabeth Gauffreau


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1200 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience…

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

This series is along the same lines and is a celebration of Christmas and New Year.

Today author and poet Elizabeth Gauffreau shares one of her poems that captures the essence of the meaning of Christmas.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Greenwich, Rhode Island*

Children Singing in Latin

When was the last time
You heard children
Singing in Latin,

Every note clear and sweet,
Every vowel in its proper place,

Your gaze transfixed
By the unwavering flame
Of brass-tipped beeswax?

If you ever again
Hear children
Singing in Latin,

Will you dare
Turn around
To see their faces?

©Elizabeth Gauffreau 2022

The Inspiration

I wrote this poem several years ago after attending Christmas Eve services with my brother and his family. (I’d been away from the Church for a while.) The purity of the children’s voices singing in Latin behind me left me so awestruck I was afraid to turn around.

*from St. Luke’s Facebook Timeline, January 8, 2014

My thanks to Liz for sharing this beautiful poem with us and there is nothing quite like a choir at Christmas filling a church with their voices.

Books by Elizabeth Gauffreau

One of the reviews for Telling Sonny

Telling Sonny, is an evocative and atmospheric tale featuring, Faby, a young, small town, girl from a conservative Catholic family just entering womanhood. The story’s beginning is not so unusual. Faby, allows herself to be seduced by a charismatic stranger who, surprisingly, “does the right thing” returns and marries her when she finds herself pregnant. But, as is often the case, doing the right thing, ends up being dead wrong.

We then follow the newlyweds on a series of mild adventures, as the increasingly pregnant Faby, moves from town to town, playdate to playdate with her new husband, America’s favorite hoofer, on the vaudeville circuit.

The author does an excellent job of describing the atmosphere of the small-town America of the 1920s. After a bit of a bumpy start, her prose stretches out and hits its stride in chapter two as the girl summarizes her situation: “Faby found herself confounded by their theme of commencement. It had been a year since her high school graduation and nothing had commenced for her, as far as she could tell.”

There are some wonderfully evocative passages: “They both laughed softly, the laughter hovering briefly between the two beds before drifting out the open windows.” And this pointed description of Faby’s first meeting with her new mother-in-law: “As Louis drove them back to the house in silence, his mother in the front seat beside him, Faby couldn’t recall ever having seen the back of someone’s head look so smug.”

If you are looking for a major theme and high adventure, Telling Sonny is not for you. However, if you can be satisfied with a intriguing tale of quotidian truth about real people, people, perhaps like your own grandparents, I’d highly recommend Telling Sonny. 

Read the reviews and buy: Amazon US – and : Amazon UK – Read more reviews and follow Elizabeth: Goodreads – Twitter: @LGauffreau

An image posted by the author.

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a B.A. in English from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Assessment for Champlain College Online, where she is an Associate Professor. Her fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines and several themed anthologies. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband.

 

Thanks for dropping in today and it would great if you could share Liz’s post… Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Posts from Your Archives – 2022 – Christmas and New Year Special -#Recipe #History – French Canadian Tourtière, Our Family Tradition by Dorothy Grover-Read


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1200 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience…

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

This series is along the same lines and is a celebration of Christmas and New Year.

Today newspaper and radio reporter, music promoter and hotelier Dorothy Grover-Read New Vintage Kitchen shares some of her family history and an amazing recipe that has been passed down the generations and enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

French Canadian Tourtière, Our Family Tradition by Dorothy Grover-Read  

French Canadian Meat Pie, or “tourtière ” is a traditional dish passed down in my family, served on Christmas Eve and other special occasion.

The story of my grandparents’ families is shared with hundreds of thousands who immigrated from French Quebec to work in the mills and farms in New England in the decades around 1900. Before that, our ancestors arrived in the 1600s from Brittany, bringing along to Quebec many of the cuisine traditions from there.

My grandmother, Dolora Martel, “Mémé,”was only four when she arrived. Alfred LaFlamme, my grandfather, “Pépé,” was born in this country, son of an immigrant day laborer. They raised 10 children and eventually settled in the Brattleboro area, where I probably have more cousins than I can count.

Meme and Pepe

Mémé & Pépé –Alfred LaFlamme and his wife Dolora Martel, in 1916. Originally from St. Francois, Ile d’Orleans, Quebec, my ancestors brought their family food histories and stories with them and passed them on to us when they arrived. They raised 10 children and eventually settled in the Brattleboro, Vt., area.

Food stories

They brought their food stories with them, a cuisine that evolved from French roots, modified by the climate of Quebec and New England: lots of dairy and butter, pork, wild game, hearty stews and soups, corn in every form, yeast breads, pickles, apple and berry everything, custards, fruit galettes and sweet maple pies. Every scrap of food they hunted, raised, or gathered was used, nothing wasted.

Warm spices in a cold land

Spices in both sweet and savory dishes included cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg, liberally used, along with maple and molasses. Meals were slow-cooked, hearty, full of carbohydrates and fat. It fed large families and hard workers who burned every calorie. What wasn’t served up fresh was cured, salted, canned, dried, smoked, and pickled to preserve for the rest of the year.

Of course, one of the reasons many of these dishes survive is because they are pure comfort food and taste really good! I learned to cook them the way my mother did, by watching someone else. Often, there was no written recipe, just a technique, so the passing on of this information was an intimate experience that created memories as well as skill.

The holidays

Many of the special dishes were tied to Catholic religious holidays. Bountiful Christmas Eve feasts are what those food memories are made of, and two recipes in particular stand out: a rich, savory meat pie called “tourtière,” and the beautifully elaborate “Bûche de Noël” a rolled sponge cake, sprinkled with brandy, and decorated as a Yule log with chocolate frosting, meringue “mushrooms,” piped holly leaves, and cinnamon candy berries, the favorite of the children in the house. There was always a big spread, midnight mass, and tired children!

I make both of these dishes most years, but, of course, I have added my own little twists to the original. My mother made the Bûche de Noël filled with homemade blackberry jam, and sometimes I still do because I love blackberries But I like it filled with whipped cream, too, and I always frost mine with whipped chocolate ganache.

The flexible tourtière

The tourtière was made with ground meat, pork or pork and beef, with potatoes and cracker crumbs, baked in a flaky lard pastry. It was served dripping with brown gravy. Every family had their own version and spice mix, and sometimes more than one – our larger family has three or four, including one with cheddar cheese on top!

The preparation of the meat pie is a bit peculiar; you boil the meat for nearly an hour! This changes the texture and extracts all the fat, allowing you to leave only what you want in the final dish. The ground pork included less important pieces of the pig, another way to make use of all scraps, even for holiday food. The dish was sometimes made with a meat-and-cracker filling, no vegetables.

Everyone has a recipe

You can use any type of ground meat, including turkey and chicken, just don’t mention it to one of the old guard! I created a version using soy sausage and a gluten-free crust, topped off with wild mushroom gravy that pleases everyone from meat eaters to vegetarians. My niece Keri loves this one!

But, make no mistake, even with the modifications, it is still Mémé’s tourtiere!

Family food tells the bigger family history, and offers a sense of connection with the generations. Along the way, the recipes evolve, the essence of the original enhanced to reflect the time we live in.

Many possibilities, even for the vegetarian in the family

This is one of the versions I make for my family; I have substituted local ground turkey and sausage for the usual beef and pork, but if you eat red meat, you may use it here, or substitute a soy sausage; there are many options for locally raised, sustainable meats where we live. Of course, when my grandmother made a French Canadian meat pie, she used the most sustainable meat possible, that which was raised on her own farm and fed with grain they grew.

I’ve also made it with ground soy protein and it tastes pretty much the same! In fact, one meat-eater grabbing seconds didn’t realize he had served himself from my vegetarian pie, and I didn’t tell!

This is Mémé’s “good times” version because it uses potatoes rather than just crackers.

This makes two bountiful pies, and they freeze well.

Mémé’s Good Times Tourtière

  • One large white onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, minced
  • 1 tbsp. duck fat or olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground Vermont or other local turkey
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh local sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 tbsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp. dried sage, or 2 tbsp. fresh, minced
  • 1 tsp. each ground cinnamon and ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika (my addition!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • Chicken stock or water to almost cover, about two cups
  • One sleeve Ritz or butter crackers smashed into crumbs
  • 2 cups diced potatoes, partially cooked but still a bit firm
  • 2 double pie crust recipes (total four crusts)
  • Egg wash

Sauté the onion and celery in the duck fat in a large pan. Add the ground turkey, sausage, spices, and enough stock to just cover with bits poking their heads up. You can also use just plain water here, that’s what my grandmother used, but I think the stock adds a little more flavor.

This is the strange part, but necessary, the meat must be boiled: bring to a boil, cover, reduce, and slow cook on low heat, covered, about an hour, stirring now and then. (Note: if using soy alternative, only boil for about 15 minutes or so). The house will smell like Christmas Eve!

Remove the lid, stir, and remove some of the fat and liquid that has accumulated. Add crackers and potatoes. Stir well, and spoon back a little of the liquid if need be. The mixture should be very soft and moist, but with no visible pools of liquid.

Cool the mixture. When cool, pour into two prepared bottom crusts and make smooth. Add the top crusts, and always a little pastry decoration. This is, after all, holiday food, so it should look as pretty as it tastes. I like to decorate with little leaves made from the pastry trimmings.

Brush all with an egg wash made of an exquisite organic egg and a little cold water and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 to 50 minutes. It should be golden brown! Check when the house starts to smell really good. It will let you know.

Let set at least 20 minutes before cutting, a half hour is better. Traditionally, this was served with a brown gravy, but I like it much better with a mushroom gravy on the side.

Wild Mushroom Gravy

Bring two cups of water to a boil and add a handful of dried porcini or other dried mushrooms. (I use wild maitake mushroms I dehydrate in my oven, but you can use any dried variety). Set aside for a half hour. Drain, reserving the liquid, and chop up the rehydrated mushrooms.

Sauté 10 ounces of fresh mushrooms, whatever you like, in a tablespoon of butter with a splash of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle in a little thyme. Add the rehydrated mushrooms, a little more butter, and a quarter cup of all-purpose flour. Mix well and slowly add the reserved liquid (the very bottom of the bowl may contain grit so pour really slowly at the end). Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes until thick.

Note: Check the dried mushroom package; many are being imported from China and are priced cheap. Because of obvious issues of quality control, you don’t want these!

©Dorothy Grover-Read 2022

My thanks to Dorothy for this wonderful slice of history and an amazing recipe. I don’t bake much these days apart from bread but I am very tempted by this pie.

About Dorothy Grover-Read

After spending years as a newspaper and radio reporter and magazine writer, I needed a change. So, my husband and I operated a small bed and breakfast inn in Southern Vermont for more years than I want to count, and as you can imagine, I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen, much of it looking for ways to save some of that time while still offering something memorable to my guests.

This also freed me to help produce local music concerts and festivals in our areas, including the popular Roots on the River Music Festival which finished it run in 2019. We have been blessed to have many wonderful singers and singer/songwriters stay at our humble inn, and a few who have performed here as well. Precious moments.

We were among the first Green Hotels in the state, and member of the Vermont Fresh Network. We are now open only for special events, cooking classes, and a little catering to keep things interesting. I write a food column for our local newspaper, focusing on local foods and products and our fabulous southern Vermont farms, seasonal and delicious.

Connect to Dorothy Blog: New Vintage KitchenTwitter: @VermontBnB – Facebook: Dorothy G Read

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Posts from Your Archives – 2022 – Christmas and New Year Special – HANDS – A #Christmas Story by Jan Sikes


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1200 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience…

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

This series is along the same lines and is a celebration of Christmas and New Year.

Today author Jan Sikes shares a Christmas story that highlights the fact that this time of year is not a happy one for so many, but there is still room for a random act of kindness.

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HANDS – A #Christmas Story

A heavy blanket of snow covered the city.

The commute had been brutal and after finally arriving at my office building, two hours late, I hurried across the street to the front door.

Homeless people are not an uncommon sight in the city. We become immune to them after a while. Why don’t they just get a job like the rest of us?

But, on this frigid morning, I found my attention drawn to a thin man huddled against the wall as if he could somehow draw warmth from the bricks.

Humph! Well, he made the choice to be out in this blizzard. But then, my attention went to his hands. He wore a coat and hat, but no gloves. As I watched, he drew his coat collar up higher and tugged his hat down, then thrust his hands into his pockets.

I wore expensive leather fur-lined gloves and still my hands were numb. I couldn’t imagine how his frozen his fingers must burn from the cold. While I watched, he drew them back out of his pockets, blew on them, then quickly thrust them back inside as if to hold that minute bit of heat.

I rushed through the door into the warmth of the building, the man forgotten. After all, as I said, it is a common sight in the city.

At lunch, I dashed outside with two co-workers to the Deli two doors down. Once again, the thin man with no gloves drew my attention. I must be getting soft. Maybe because it’s almost Christmas and we all get sentimental around the holiday.

What was it about him? He didn’t hold a sign and didn’t appear to be begging. He simply appeared to be melting into the side of the building he leaned against. Then he raised his eyes to meet mine and I saw a depth of pain that shook me down to my toes. Once again, I turned my back and darted into the Deli to a bowl of hot soup.

Maybe I should take some to the man. That would ease my conscience. When I checked out, I ordered a bowl to go. After my co-workers headed back inside, I made my way through the drifts across the street to the thin man. Without a word, I approached and held out the sack from the Deli.

He looked away as if embarrassed.

“Here. I got this for you. Maybe it will help warm you.”

His hands trembled when he took the bag. He mumbled. “Thanks, mister.”

“Do you have somewhere you could go to get out of the cold today?”

He shook his head.

“Well, try to stay warm.” I turned and rushed back to work.

That evening, as I pulled on my fur-lined leather gloves, I once again thought of the thin man and his cold hands.

When I stepped out onto the snowy sidewalk, he remained huddled in the same spot that he’d been glued to all day. Once again, I trudged across the street.

“Hey, mister. You’re going to freeze to death out here. You need to go to the Salvation Army or somewhere.”

Tears filled the old man’s eyes when he looked up at me. “She’ll be here any minute.”

“Someone is coming to get you?”

He nodded.

“Well, then the least I can do is give you some gloves to help keep your hands warm while you wait.” I slipped off my expensive gloves and thrust them into the man’s hands.

He gave me a toothless grin and slipped them on. He flexed his fingers, nodded and huddled even closer to the building.

When I turned to walk away, I knew the old man would be dead before morning and he would die with my fur-lined gloves on. I couldn’t stop the tears that filled my eyes.

I plunged my now cold hands deep into my pockets and made my way toward the train for the long journey home. Somehow I felt redeemed by giving the old fellow my gloves.

When I passed by a department store, I ducked inside and bought a new pair for myself.

Cold hands, warm heart. Wasn’t that how the saying went?

Merry Christmas!

“It is better to give than to receive.”

©Jan Sikes 2022

My thanks to Jan for sharing this poignant story with us.

A small selection of books by Jan Sikes

One of the reviews for Saddled Hearts

writester 5.0 out of 5 stars This One Has It All  Reviewed in the United States on October 30, 2022

This is the third and (to my knowledge) final installment of the White Rune series. After enjoying the first two, I really looked forward to reading the third. Let me tell you, the wait was worth it.

This story focuses on Colt and Sage, with cameos by some of our old favorites in her earlier works. It’s always a pleasure to me to say hi to old friends, and it was no different this time. But her leads steal the show. Colt is a girl’s dream—part cowboy, part musician. Someone with a heart of gold who doesn’t deserve his misfortunes. But he’s got a bunch of them. An absentee father, a deceased grandfather, the potential loss of his livelihood, and the unwanted/unwarranted attention of the police for murder. When he and Sage connect, it’s because he doesn’t know where else to turn. And while some people might consider her gifts to be delusions or flights of fancy, he takes her seriously. Readers can see the sparks from the second they shared a page. She is kind and sweet and generous, his perfect partner in every way. Watching them fight every obstacle in their path is a thrill. And the climax of the story will leave you breathless. 

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And : Amazon UK – Website: Jan SikesGoodreads: Jan on Goodreads – Twitter: @rijanjks

About Jan Sikes

Jan Sikes is an award-winning Texas author who has been called a wordsmith by her peers. She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. You simply can’t make this stuff up. It all happened. She chose to create fictitious characters to tell the story through, and they bring the intricately woven tale to life in an entertaining way. She released a series of music CDs to accompany the four biographical fiction books and then published a book of poetry and art to complete the story circle.

And now that the story is told, this author can’t find a way to put down the pen. She continues to write fiction and has published many short stories with a series of novels waiting in the wings. Jan is a member of the Author’s Marketing Guild, The Writer’s League of Texas, Romance Writers of America, and the Paranormal Writer’s Guild. I am an avid fan of Texas music and grandmother of five beautiful souls. I reside in North Texas.