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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

O Great Mystery!

This is one of my very favorite pieces: Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium. It speaks "Christmas Eve" to me. It pierces my soul and brings me to the manger.

In the busyness of these days, I hope you can take a few minutes to experience His peace. Set aside time with your Bible. Pray. Reflect on what it means that the God of the Universe took on flesh and was born for your sake. That He loves you.

That's something this song helps me remember.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

Praying you and yours enjoy a blessed Christmas.

I'll be taking a break until January 5. See you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We've got a Winner!

Congratulations to Caryl! She's the winner of A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3, thanks to author Debbie Lynne Costello!

Caryl, I'll be in touch for your address.

Thanks for the giveaway, Debbie Lynne, and thanks to all who entered!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Welcome Debbie Lynne Costello...and a Giveaway!

Thanks to Debbie Lynne for being here today!
Debbie Lynne has enjoyed writing stories since she was about eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children’s director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, her and her husband enjoy camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Susanne. I’m looking forward to meeting your followers and chatting with them. I’m giving away a signed copy of volume 3 A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Past. To be entered I’d love to hear from you. Tell me some random information about you. I’d love to get to know you.  

 Let me see…ten things about myself.

1)      First thing would have to be that I am super sentimental! Oh, I want to keep so many things for memory keepsakes.

2)      I love Christmas and have so much decorations that my husband swears the attic is going to collapse.

3)      I raise Shetland sheepdogs aka shelties and have a litter right now.

4)      We plan to visit Scotland. My family genealogy has been traced back to 12th century Scotland.

5)      We were so poor in our first few years of marriage that I cut up curtains to make maternity clothes and then after the baby arrived I cut up my clothes to make baby clothes.

6)      I would choose camping in our fifth wheel over a motel any day.

7)      I cheered in high school and college and then coached cheerleading for over 10 years.

8)      I love animals and will go out of my way to help one in need. We’ve had lizards, chickens, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, prairie dog, birds, cats, dogs, miniature donkey, and horses. Thank goodness we didn’t have them all at the same time. I do draw the line on pet spiders. EEEEKKK!

9)      I love anything coconut.

10)  One of my favorite things to do is ride horses with my husband—r & r—relaxing and romantic.
Thank you, Debbie Lynne! We have a lot in common...Christmas, genealogy, and coconut, for starters!
Don't forget to leave a comment with a way to contact you to be entered into the drawing before Thursday, Dec 18, 11:59 pm PST (winner announced Friday, Dec 19)! Cup of Christmas Cheer is a keeper, just the sort of book I leave out all December long. The stories are short but full of holiday spirit. I can't say it enough: enter to win this book! You'll love it!
Christmas Cheer Volume 3
Available from Guideposts! Click here.
Here's a bit about Debbie Lynne's story:

      A recent WWII widow receives a mysterious letter seeking reconciliation with her in-laws, but when she goes for a visit only her father-in-law seems to be interested in mending fences. But as the days pass mother-in-law and daughter-in-law learn a little about themselves and the true meaning of forgiveness.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Cup of Christmas Tea

How is your December going?

I'm having a lot of fun so far with holiday prep, Christmas parades, open houses, shopping, gift-wrapping, and kids' activities.

But I'm not doing well at savoring the season. Sitting down with a cup of tea and enjoying a good holiday story while enjoying the tree, jotting a note to a friend, or thinking of the Incarnation and how it changed the world (and me, too!).

Will you join me in trying to squeeze in time for a cup of Christmas tea? You know the poem, but let's not wait until Christmas. Let's set aside time this week for quiet, peace, and reflection...and a nice hot cup of tea.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wassail! Wassail! All Over the Town!


That’s an Anglo-Saxon greeting of good health, part of an ancient custom that’s changed in meaning over the centuries. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the image of the wassail bowl, filled to the brim and redolent with sweet and spice, ready to be shared among friends.

When Anita Mae Draper sat down to write Here We Go A-Wassailing for Guidepost’s Cup of Christmas Cheer, she “thought of the song and imagined a woman on her way home, gathering people along the way as they do when they go caroling on Christmas Eve. It only seemed natural that when she got there her mother would have a steaming wassail bowl waiting.”
Purchase here!
Clearly, wassail is now and has always been about more than a warm, spicy drink. Today, we think of it as a Christmas tradition, but it was not specific to any holiday in centuries gone by. The first recorded mention of wassail—as an act of salute and fellowship, not just as a drink— is in the epic 8th-century poem, Beowulf.
The rider sleepeth,
the hero, far-hidden; no harp resounds,
in the courts no wassail, as once was heard.

One can easily imagine the fellowship taking place in the great halls of England as folk gathered on chill evenings around a bowl of wassail, wishing one another good health as they drank.
One wonders what such a drink tasted like. Originally, wassail was made of ale, mead, or wine, eggs, sugar, spices, and curdled cream, garnished with floating toast (the source of our modern day term for raising one’s glass to someone!). The addition of roasted apples and their frothy-looking pulp gave rise to another name for wassail, Lamb’s Wool.

Regardless of the recipe, wassail of days gone by was undoubtedly stout in its alcohol content. Fruit juice in the bowl, if any, was no doubt fermented. Only the wealthy could afford the wine and spices, so the recipes varied according to the finances of the family serving it. Wassail was heated and then served from huge bowls, often made of wood, silver, or pewter.
While wassailing in some areas of England had a pagan connotation (orchard-wassailing entailed to the health of apple trees and scaring away evil spirits), eventually, wassailing came to be associated with Christmastide. By at least the 16th century, wealthy landowners hosted villagers for a feast and wassail on Twelfth Night in exchange for the villager’s singing and toasts to the master’s health (a bit like trick-or-treating). Ever wondered why the singers demand figgy pudding in “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” after sharing their good tidings? It all goes back to wassailing—a salute in exchange for food and drink.

The Gloucester Wassail carol from the Middle Ages, puts it like this:
Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

By the 19th century, wassailing evolved into Christmas caroling, going door to door sharing holiday cheer but still expecting alcohol in return. Around 1850, the popular wassailing carol came about, and we still sing it today:
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Today, wassailing is almost synonymous with caroling, although modern folk don’t expect figgy pudding or mulled mead as the price of their songs. On the contrary, the fun and fellowship of the experience are payment enough, but if a neighbor offers cocoa to warm our cold hands, few of us are loath to say no.
Ready to make your own wassail for the holiday season? Some recipes call for claret mulled with spices. Others mix spices and juices (apple, pineapple, and orange) with sherry and brandy. Tamer versions (like mine, below) are alcohol-free. No matter the recipe, wassail will be fragrant with cinnamon and cloves, served warm, and sticky if spilled!

And best of all, it still tastes better when shared with friends.

Wassail Punch
Serves 6

In a crockpot or Dutch oven, combine:

6 cups apple cider (not juice)
1 cup cranberry or orange juice
In a cheesecloth pouch or large bag for steeping tea, place 4 cinnamon sticks, 8-10 whole cloves, and 8-10 whole allspice. Add to juices. If desired, add one sliced orange for color. I do not add sugar, but if desired, a small amount may be used.

Simmer until hot. Enjoy!
originally shared on Heroes, Heroines, and History Blog.