I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas!

May Christmas Joy Abound to You and Yours! I'll see you in the New Year....



(By paulabflat)

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Christmas Pyramid

As you can tell by my surname, I married a guy with a bit o’ German in him.

My hubby's paternal grandfather emigrated from Dresden Saxony to the U.S. through Ellis Island, and although he embraced his new country, he kept many of his homeland’s customs—including the Christmas Pyramid, or Weihnachtspyramide.

The Dietze Pyramid
Maybe you’ve seen smaller versions: they are shaped like wedding-cakes or towers with one or more tiers, small enough to sit on a table-top or large enough to light up the town square. Figures resting on each platform depict a scene from Christmas or everyday life: angels, a nativity, toys or something from the workplace. The tiers rotate around a central drive shaft like horses on a carousel, driven by the rising heat of candles placed on or around the body of the pyramid, which spins a propeller at the top of the pyramid.

A few offerings from The German Christmas Shop

Originating in the mountain region of Erzgebirge, Pyramids have been in use since the Middle Ages--although not necessarily as Christmas decorations. It's possible that the first Pyramids were modeled after the horse-powered gins in the local mines. Pyramids with movable mining scenes were displayed for the wedding of the Saxon prince in 1719.

Sometime around 1800, they became primarily a Christmas item (possibly predating the tradition of the Christmas tree), although the name “Pyramid” didn’t come about until after the Napoleonic campaign saw soldiers return from Egypt in the late eighteenth century. It became a traditional for the head of the household to create one for his firstborn's first Christmas.

That's what happened in my husband's family. The Dietze pyramid pictured above, which sits in the front window of my father-in-law’s house, was carved by my husband’s grandfather in the late 1920’s from linden wood, using a coping saw. He used figures imported from Germany to decorate the four tiers.

It is no longer driven by candle heat, which made the platforms spin too fast. As you can see from the photo, it is electric now, wired in 1934 to be lit by electric bulbs (which are now vintage and tricky to find). In 1939, a new adjustment was made when my husband's grandfather installed a record turntable to rotate the platforms.


Ready for a tour? Let's start at the bottom, which displays the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (this tier does not rotate). One half features Joseph, the Magi, and Mary with Baby Jesus on her lap.


The other half of the lowest platform depicts a shepherd and his sheep, lingering just outside the stable where Jesus was born. You can see one of the Magi behind the central blue light, and in the upper left quadrant, an angel hovers over the shepherd.


Up a level from the nativity scene, a traditional German hunting scene is shown. The hunter rests his rifle (and his dogs) while the forest animals go about their business. Some of the animals are quite perky--especially the fox, who has a squirrel in his mouth.


The third level from the bottom depicts farm animals: goats, cows, and “lucky” chickens—also a traditional scene.

On the top platform, gnomes (not elves) are busy getting ready to help Sinter Klaus prepare for Christmas Eve. I like how the gnome in orange is propped on the edge with a clarinet-type instrument.


The pyramid is crowned with the message, Ehre sei Gott in der Hohe, or honor to God in the highest. Housed within, just under the propeller, are three tiny bells. Their tones echoed through the house while my husband drifted off to sleep as a boy, and their notes still signify Christmas to him.


Remember what I said about huge outdoor pyramids? Below, I’ve included a you tube video of one in Fredericksburg, Texas. This one features Nutcrackers, a nativity, and some nice Christmas music.



Every family has precious heirlooms, and treasures or traditions that mean Christmas to them. With each marriage and birth, new traditions arise. Christmas morning, my favorite cranberry bread is served alongside my husband's traditional stollen, and alas, we have no Pyramid of our own. But the tradition of the Pyramid holds a special place in our hearts and memories of Christmas past.

What about you? What are traditions you’ve inherited from your family? What traditions have you invented for your children?

I'll share a few of our foodie traditions in the comments, but here's one of my favorite new family traditions that's come with my kids: The Toys Visiting Baby Jesus. This picture is a few years old, but "friends" still have a way of creeping into the stable to pay homage to the Newborn King.

Even Jedi and Polly Pockets need Jesus.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Wild Goose Chase Christmas Blog Tour!



Upon her grandmother's death, Izzy Fontaine finds herself in possession of a Wild Goose Chase pattern quilt that supposedly leads to a great treasure.

Of course, once the rest of the family finds out about the "treasure map," they're determined to have a go at the treasure themselves. And, if that weren't enough, Max Logan, a local museum curator, contacts Izzy and says that Grandma Isabella promised him the quilt.

What is it about this quilt that makes everyone want it? Is Izzy on a wild goose chase of her own, or a journey that will lead her to the treasure her grandmother intended?

***
A Wild Goose Chase Christmas by Jennifer AlLee is just the sort of book I love to curl up with at this time of year. Funny, touching, with memorable characters and a steady infusion of Christmas woven throughout, it's a keeper.

AlLee's plots are always so tight that the pace flows rapidly. When I read her books, I realize I've been lost in the story a lot longer than I intended to be--but they're hard to put down! This book is no exception. The romantic journey between Max and Izzy is sweet, and the supporting characters are beyond enjoyable (especially Virgil. I wish he were real.). And of course, I love the Christmas spirit in this book. Sometimes Christmas-themed books don't have much holiday to them until the very end, but from the start, Izzy and Max are surrounded by decorations, carols, the gift-giving plan of a spunky Grandma before her death, and the True Meaning of the season, which makes for a festive delight.

Thanks to Abingdon for providing a copy of the book for my review.


For an excerpt, click here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blame it on the Mistletoe Blog Tour!



Is There Really a Fountain of Youth in Paradise?

Welcome back to Bright 's Pond, where strange happenings are afoot at the Greenbrier Nursing Home. Strange even for Bright 's Pond. The residents suddenly act like kids again riding trikes, climbing trees, and of all things falling in love. Some of the townsfolk blame it on the crooked new gazebo, or its builder, a quirky little man who quotes Don Quixote, collects water from the fountain at the Paradise trailer park, and disappears on a regular basis.

While Chief of Police Mildred Blessing investigates the mystery, Griselda and her friends deal with a luau Thanksgiving, preparations for the Christmas pageant, and maybe even an upcoming wedding. Only, in Bright 's Pond, nothing ever really goes as planned . . .

***
Blame it on the Mistletoe is a fun read. Bright's Pond, Pennsylvania reminds me a bit of Cicely, Alaska in Northern Exposure: it boasts endearingly quirky residents, like narrator Griselda, the subject of gossip about her relationship with her flying instructor, Cliff, despite the fact that she's dating Zeb. Then there's Griselda's sister Agnes, who now lives in the Greenbrier Nursing Home, where strange things are afoot with the inhabitants. Little Mercy Lincoln might just need more from Griselda than books to borrow. Meantime, all of the goings-on might be too much for Mildred, the Police Chief. The sort of crazy holiday spirit running amok in Bright's Pond might give anyone a headache.

This is Book #4 in a series of Bright's Pond books by the author, Joyce Magnin, but it isn't necessary to have read the others to enjoy this one. I hadn't read them and managed just fine. This is truly a story about a community, with widespread ages among the characters. I love the sense of family at the heart of this town, which makes for an enjoyable read--appropriate for teens and grandmas alike.


Thanks to Abingdon for providing a copy for my review!

***
BLAME IT ON THE MISTLETOE IS ON SALE AT CHRISTIANBOOK.COM FOR ONLY .99 today! CLICK HERE.

You can read an excerpt of the book here.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman

Looking for an Amish Christmas story? Curl up with this holiday tale!
Will Annie find acceptance in the Amish community she left behind?

Annie Weaver always planned to return home, but the 20-year old RN has lived in Philadelphia for three years now. As her time of rumschpringe is about to come to an abrupt end, bringing for Annie an overwhelming sense of loneliness. She returns home and finds herself face-to-face with a budding romance with an Amish farmer and Annie has several important choices to make.

***

Vannetta Chapman's sweet and satisfying tale of restoration and hope is an enjoyable Christmas read that fans of Amish romance are sure to cherish.

Annie Weaver had no interest in encouraging any of the potential beaus in her small Amish community, so her family sent her to live with her aunt for her rumschpringe. In that time, she becomes a nurse. When she learns that her father has been injured, however, she is eager to return home. She has missed her family and life among the Amish. Still, she's not the same person she was when she left. Her education and skills may not be acceptable to her community.

Will she be accepted back in the community if she stays true to the call she believes God has given her? Should she forget her love of medicine and be baptized? As she develops feelings for Samuel Yoder, she struggles with the path she's supposed to take.

This is a satisfying Amish-set story. I enjoyed reading about the Amish community and Annie's journey to discern God's will. The romance is sweet, and the story's ending is a tender treat.

Thanks to Abingdon for providing a copy for my review!

***

To read an excerpt, click here.

A SIMPLE AMISH CHRISTMAS IS ONLY $5.99 ON CHRITIANBOOK.COM! Click here.

To read more about a continuation of Annie's story, scroll down to read the post below!

To learn more about Vannetta Chapman, visit her at:
webpage -- www.VannettaChapman.com
blog -- http://vannettachapman.wordpress.com
facebook -- www.facebook.com/VannettaChapmanBooks, and
pinterest -- http://pinterest.com/vannettachapman

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman

I love Christmas novels--and I'm not alone. Some of us start reading them when they start being released each September! If you're in the market for a little holiday reading, be sure to check out the Abingdon Press blog tour: until Christmas, they're spreading the word about some of their Christmas-themed titles!
I love the quilt on the cover!

The Christmas Quilt is an Amish romance by Vannetta Chapman, one of the books in the highly successful Quilts of Love Series. (After the excerpt, be sure to read my review!)

Annie's life is deliciously full as the Christmas season approaches. She helps her husband, Samuel, attend to the community's minor medical needs. She occasionally assists Belinda, the local midwife, and most days, she finds herself delivering the buggy to her brother Adam. Annie’s sister-in-law Leah is due to deliver their first child before Christmas morning, and Annie is determined to finish a crib quilt before the boppli arrives. With six weeks to go, she should have no problem . . . but God may have a different plan. Leah is rushed to the English hospital when the infant arrives early, and Annie discovers the Christmas quilt may hold a far greater significance than she ever imagined.

To read an excerpt, click here.

***

I love Abingdon's Quilts of Love series. Every novel features a quilt of special significance, which introduces themes of family, celebration, gift-giving, treasure, and beauty.

This is certainly true as Annie labors over a baby quilt for her brother's wife, Leah. But when Leah must go into the hospital and her husband stays behind at the farm, Annie wants to be there for Leah. Too bad she won't be able to finish the quilt before the boppli arrives...unless she and Leah work together. Something precious happens when they sew--and Christmas is a miraculous day indeed.

This work of fiction is a continuation of Annie's story in A Simple Amish Christmas, but it is not necessary to have read that book in order to enjoy this one. Chapman is a skilled writer and she sprinkles just the right amount of Amish detail in to make the reader feel the spirit of their way of life. In this story, marriages are strengthened, families are celebrated, and Jesus is the center of Christmas.

Thanks to Abingdon for providing a copy for my review as part of their December blog tour!