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, November 21, 2016

Stir Up Sunday

Ugh, you've skimmed down the post and seen the Plum Pudding, and now you're rolling your eyes. A Christmas post? But it’s not even Thanksgiving!

Yes, I hear you. But trust me. Our friends in England are shopping for yummy things this week because this coming Sunday is “Stir Up” Sunday: the traditional day to concoct the Plum Pudding for one’s Christmas dessert. (Puddings improve with a bit of age, so they are made several weeks in advance.)
Christmas pudding.JPG

When I say "Stir Up" Sunday, do you imagine a wooden spoon mixing flour, raisins (aka plums) and other goodies in a big bowl? Despite the actual stirring accomplished on “Stir Up” Sunday, this custom actually got its name from church!

In the Anglican tradition, the last Sunday of the liturgical year is the week before Advent (which begins four Sundays before Christmas--this year, the date falls on November 20, hence the timing of this post). For almost four centuries, congregations in countries all over the world that used the Anglican Book of Common Prayer prayed a collect that begins like this:

“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”

Hence, “Stir Up” Sunday. Nice that it fits with pudding-making, too.

(Fun note: This prayer was included in the Gregorian Sacramentary, which dates from approximately AD 600.)

(Fun note #2:  Since 1970, the last Sunday of the liturgical year in liturgical Protestant traditions has been known as the Feast of Christ the King. On that day, those in the Anglican tradition pray a collect that is more appropriate for that day. However, Anglicans still pray the "stir up" collect on the Third Sunday in Advent!)
1559 Book of Common Prayer--stir up our wills, Lord!
But back to pudding.

In days of yore, English families went to church together on “Stir Up” Sunday, then came home and met up in the kitchen to mix and steam the Christmas pudding. Everyone, from children to servants, took a turn stirring the pudding. The reasons for taking turns were both sentimental and practical: everyone got to make a special wish when they stirred, and the labor was distributed, because the stirring is harder than it sounds. The dough is thick and requires muscle to mix well.

making chistmas pudding.jpg
Stop tormenting your sister, young man or you don't get to make a wish! Found here.
Stirring was supposed to be done east to west, to honor the journey of the Magi to the Christ Child.

Clearly, puddings were a big deal, steeped in tradition and ritual. Not just the stirring, but the whole process. Some recipes include thirteen ingredients, one for Christ and each of the disciples. Families often made two, one to keep and one to share.

After the stirring process, the pudding was steamed and set aside for a few weeks to age. Then, before serving, some families added tokens to the pudding (by pressing them into the squishy dessert and, one imagines, covering the holes with decorative holly). One’s “fortune” was told by the token one received in one's slice: a shoe meant a journey ahead, a ring meant marriage, a wishbone indicated good luck, a thimble foreshadowed thrift, and a coin meant wealth.

Today, most people expect a token placed underneath their slice, a safe place so one need not nibble ever-so-carefully to avoid breaking a tooth or choking on an unexpected surprise. Also, sadly, most people today don't stir their puddings on "Stir Up" Sunday anymore. Not when there are so many puddings ready-to-eat in the market.

We had a Downton Abbey brand plum pudding for dessert a few years ago...and we set it on fire and everything!

Whether or not you craft a plum pudding this coming Sunday, I pray you are “stirred up” by the Holy Spirit to do the good works He intends for you to do! 

Including preparations for Thanksgiving next week. ;)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Herbal Bath Tea

Are you stressed out? Could you use a little break from the hustle and bustle of your schedule, as well as the cold autumn wind?

Why not try a warm, soothing bath with some herbal bath tea?

I don't mean the kind you drink while you soak in the tub, although that's good, too. I was referring, however, to the kind you soak in yourself!

It's easy and inexpensive.

First, compile the "tea" ingredients. The dried herbs are ones you can grow in your garden, or purchase.

2 cups epsom salts
1/4 cup Calendula
1/4 cup Chamomile
1/4 cup Lavender
1/4 up Oats
Optional: essential oil in a favorite scent (like lavender)

Lavender, Nature, Plant, Purple Flower, Meadow, Plants


Combine herbs, salt, and if desired, a few drops of essential oil. For each bath "teabag" put 3 Tablespoons into a muslin bag (or tie in a coffee filter). Add hot water to a 4-6 cup mixing bowl with a spout, or kettle, or something else that you can pour from. Steep the "teabag" in the hot water for fifteen minutes. Add the "tea" to your bathwater and enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2016

November Releases by ACFW Authors!

November 2016 New Releases More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical: Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope by Texie Susan Gregory -- In a deadly race to save her son, a young slave woman dares defy the most powerful man in the world. (Biblical from Barbour Publishing)

Contemporary Romance: Crazy Woman Christmas by Renee Blare -- A quiet cowboy whisks Bianca to his ranch to ride out the Christmas blizzard where she discovers life is cold but also beautiful in the “Cowboy” state. (Contemporary Romance from Inspired [Prism Book Group]) Other Than a Halo by Valerie Comer -- Even though she’s a new woman in Christ, single mom Bren Haddock was no angel as a teen. Now managing the Hiller Farm for a CSA, life is good until a friend offers to enter her daughter into the Little Miss Snowflake Pageant. Old insecurities flare when she meets the intriguing head of marketing the pageant. Rob Santoro isn’t so sure about handling the pageant portfolio until he meets Bren. Soon he’s fallen for her and her two kids. When a Thanksgiving adventure goes awry, he’s left wondering how to love a woman who refuses to be loved. What will it take for Bren to retire her tarnished halo and move into the future God has for her? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published) Do You Know What I Know? by Becky Melby -- What if a phone call from the obstetrician’s office went to the wrong person? Elizabeth Schmidt can’t figure out why her husband doesn’t seem excited about the news she’s sure he heard. Is he unhappy? Or is James cheating on her? Pastor Jay Davidson is in shock. Bethany Schmidt, the woman he’s in love with, is pregnant. Should he walk away, or is God asking him to play the part of Joseph in real life and not just in the church Christmas program? Bethany can’t figure out why Jay is acting so weird. Has he figured out one of the two secrets she’s keeping until after Christmas? Can a ponytailed itinerant carpenter with a pet chicken help unravel the confusion? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published) How to Charm a Beekeeper's Heart by Candice Sue Patterson -- Weddings are the last thing beekeeper Huck Anderson wants to be associated with, considering his past. So when he inherits a building occupied by a bridal boutique, he aims to evict the failing business and open a sporting goods store. That is until his tenant ends up being Arianne Winters, a woman he’s indebted to from a mistake made years ago. When a life-threatening injury derails Huck entirely, Arianne offers to aid in his lengthy recovery if he’ll allow her to remain in his building. But nursing her adversary proves challenging when her adolescent crush resurfaces. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican]) A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay -- After a whirlwind romance and marriage, Emily Price returns home to Italy with her new husband and learns that life at its richest is only found when she accepts its chaotic beauty. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Contemporary Women's Fiction: Forgiveness by Marianne Evans -- Country music bad boy, Chase Bradington is on the comeback trail. Fresh from rehab for alcohol addiction and transformed by the power of Christ, Chase is battling to rediscover the music he loves and a career he nearly ruined. Then he meets up-and-comer, Pyper Brock and instantly sparks ignite. Despite her rampant attraction to the handsome and talented icon, Pyper knows of Chase’s reputation and soundly dismisses his romantic overtures. No way will Pyper repeat the mistake of trusting a man whose done battle with the bottle. Can a sin-damaged past be released in favor of forgiveness? (Women’s Fiction from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Historical: Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson -- As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path. (Historical from Waterfall Press) Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert -- Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.) The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan -- On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Historical Romance: The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Amber Stockton, Niki Turner, Gina Welborn, and Becca Whitham -- Meet nine men and women whose competitive goals take them to state and county fairs between 1889 and 1930. From baking pie to polishing pigs, from sculpting butter to stitching quilts, everyone has something to prove to themselves and their communities. But in going for the blue ribbon, will nine women miss the greatest prize of all—the devoted heart of a godly man? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing) Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley -- In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler...but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood's marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace until she's left at the altar by her no-good fiancé. Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there's something about Meg's sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in...even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart. (Historical Romance from Sourcebooks) Mail Order Mommy by Christine Johnson -- Nursing a broken heart, Amanda Porter had answered a frontier mail-order bride ad placed by Garrett Decker's children—only to find the groom-to-be didn't want a wife. But his adorable children are determined she'll be their mother by Christmas… His wife's betrayal and tragic death demolished Garrett's life. Now he can't even look at another woman, let alone marry Amanda, who resembles his first love. But with his daughter convinced Amanda is the perfect mother, will Garrett realize she's also his perfect match? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) Hope's Design by Dawn Kinzer -- An independent city girl aspiring to be a fashion designer falls for a stubborn artist from the country who wants to keep his talent a secret. (Historical Romance, Independently Published) Brides of Wyoming by S. Dionne Moore -- Roam the Wyoming range alongside three couples who meet under danger from bands of outlaws. Renee escapes a gang of outlaws and lands in the arms of a sheepherder. Olivia’s sleuthing upturns secrets key to solving the murder of a reluctant rancher’s father. Maira is trying to keep her ranch running alone when a drifting cowboy offers a hand. Can love develop where suspicion and greed roam the range? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing) The Negotiated Marriage by Christina Rich -- When the railroad pushes to buy her land, orphaned Cameron Sims will do anything to keep the only home she and her sisters have ever known. Even if she must marry a stranger. Duncan Murray doesn’t want a wife. He wants Sims Creek, a sanctuary that can help him forget a troubled childhood. But his reluctant, and captivating, bride-to-be is key to making his dreams a reality. And despite their business arrangement, Camy and Duncan might be signing on the dotted line for true love… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) Love in the Seams by Jodie Wolfe -- A little girl on a quest for a new mama has the local seamstress in her sights. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense: His Perfect Love by Sharon K. Connell -- On the run from a hit man, Patricia Campbell is unaware of the FBI’s search for her to learn what information she might hold, so she continues to hide out. Then she meets a persistent computer technician, a charming philanthropist, and a handsome, wealthy businessman who wants to marry her. But her fears resurface, and she wonders if she can trust any of them. Can she survive long enough to find peace…and perfect love? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published) Counter Point by Marji Laine -- Her dad's gone, her diner's closing, and her car's in the lake. Cat McPherson has nothing left to lose ... except her life. And a madman, bent on revenge, is determined to take that, as well. Her former boyfriend, Ray Alexander, returns as a hero from his foreign mission, bringing back souvenirs in the form of death-threats. When several attempts are made on Cat’s life, she must find a way to trust Ray, the man who broke her heart. (Romantic Suspense from Write Integrity Press)

Speculative: The Flaming Sword by Heather L.L. FitzGerald -- When evil joins forces in the Tethered World, Sadie Larcen must risk all to protect the Flaming Sword and her family...even if it takes her life. (Speculative Young Adult from Mountain Brook Ink)