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Mine never look this beautiful. Image from hdwallpapers.com

Mine never look this beautiful. Image from hdwallpapers.com

This is the only cookie recipe I’ve ever committed to memory. These are pretty much the best rolled cookies there are. I used to call them “Sailboat Cookies” because for some reason, I was in possession of only one cookie cutter, and it was shaped like a sailboat.

  • 1-1/2 cups pure unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour

(You can add optional flavorings like lavender, almond oil, lemon extract, etc.) Cream the butter together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, then salt and flour. Roll and cut. Don’t make these too thin, because they’re very tender and will break (see below). Make them nice and thick. Lay on ungreased parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 325F for about 10 minutes, just until they start turning brown at the edges. Frost with your favorite icing or make a glaze of confectioners sugar mixed with an egg white. Sprinkle on colored sugar. Barkis is interested in the cookies.

From the Gundersen family right-brained recipe file. No cookie cutters required!

Christmas Morning Plum Bread

2 c. self-rising flour
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 c. oil
3 eggs
2 jars baby food plums

Dump everything in a bowl and beat with mixer. Pour batter into oiled and floured pans. Makes 2 medium loaves, 4 mini loaves or one bundt pan. Bake at 325-350 for 50 min. to 1 hour.

Intensely Flavored, Moist Gingerbread

I adapted this from the Splendid Table website. I cannot tell a lie–I simplified it, increased the sugar and added the candied ginger and cayenne pepper. It’s pretty much the best gingerbread ever.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup molasses (dark corn syrup works, too)
  • 3/4 cup very hot water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with waxed paper (you can also use 2 loaf pans or 4 mini loaf pans), coat with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Beat together the butter, molasses, hot water and brown sugar. Beat in the egg and quickly add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until blended. Pour into pans. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack in the pan.

all is calm...all is bright

all is calm...all is bright

The Nimitz came in this morn. Happy holidays!

LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS has arrived. First time in paperback. Yay! I’m so excited. Thanks to Pam for the field report from Susanville CA:

After the Daisy question, probably the most frequent query I’ve had from readers this month is this:

so many books, so little time

so many books, so little time

“Why did you publish the latest ‘Lakeshore Chronicles’ book, Lakeshore Christmas, in hardcover, after hooking readers into the series with paperback originals?”
A: I’m glad this question has been asked (and asked and asked) by readers. It is annoying to get hooked into a series at once price point–pocketbook-friendly paperbacks–and then to find the next eagerly awaited book as a hardback that costs more than twice as much.
The explanation is, it’s a balancing act. Having low-cost paperbacks available is a great way to build a readership. A reader is more likely to take a chance on an author she’s never read before if she only has to invest $8 or so in the book.
On the other hand, the lack of a hardcover edition creates huge problems for the public library. With their dwindling budgets, libraries can’t afford to buy many paperbacks, because they tend to fall apart. So that creates problems for libraries with tough choices to make.
When I decided to write a Christmas book about saving the library, the best choice seemed to be a hardcover edition, followed by a paperback edition a year later.
It’s not a perfect solution, and it doesn’t thrill me to ask paperback readers to wait. But anyone with a library card can read the book (or audio) for free by taking this form http://susanwiggs.com/library_form.html to the local library and asking them to acquire the book.
That said, I should point out that the decision about a book’s format is made by the publisher. Sometimes the author is consulted, sometimes not. The publisher makes the call based on their goals and marketing research.
Question for readers–does your library provide a “patron request” service? I’m happy to say mine does! Thank you, Kitsap Regional Library!

Q: “Why did you publish the latest ‘Lakeshore Chronicles’ book, Lakeshore Christmas,* in hardcover, after hooking readers into the series with paperback originals?”

A: I’m glad this question has been asked (and asked and asked) by readers. It is annoying to get hooked into a series at once price point–pocketbook-friendly paperbacks–and then to find the next eagerly awaited book as a hardback that costs more than twice as much.

The explanation is, it’s a balancing act between fulfilling the mass market needs (individual readers) with the hardcover market reads (libraries and hardcover fans). Having low-cost paperbacks available is a great way to build a readership. A reader is more likely to take a chance on an author she’s never read before if she only has to invest $8 or so in the book.

On the other hand, the lack of a hardcover edition creates huge problems for the public library. With their dwindling budgets, libraries can’t afford to buy many paperbacks, because they tend to fall apart. So that creates problems for libraries with tough choices to make.

When I decided to write a Christmas book about saving the library, the best choice seemed to be a hardcover edition, followed by a paperback edition a year later.

It’s not a perfect solution, and it doesn’t thrill me to ask paperback readers to wait. But anyone with a library card can read the book (or audio or large print edition) for free by taking this form to the local library and asking them to acquire the book.

That said, I should point out that the decision about a book’s format is made by the publisher. Sometimes the author is consulted, sometimes not. The publisher makes the call based on their goals and marketing research.

Question for readers–does your library provide a “patron request” service? I’m happy to say mine does! Thank you, Kitsap Regional Library!

*Note: All the links in this article will take you to WorldCat.org, or Better World Books.  Both are book sites with a social conscience and library-centric attitude. 🙂

Christmas Memories by Susan Wiggs, author of Lakeshore Christmas
Lakeshore Christmas is my first full-length novel set during the holidays, so I relied on my deepest and most cherished personal memories for inspiration.
First, there’s the weather. I’m originally from a tiny town in the wilds of New York State, and to a child, the winters there are a time of enchantment. The snow is so deep and thick that the streets become virtual tunnels, and everything looks beautiful. My very favorite sports–skiing, sledding, and curling up with a good book while sipping hot chocolate top the list.
Next, there are the cookies. Are you kidding me? Between my mother, two grandmothers, various aunts and other women in my life, the holiday was one giant cookie. My Grandma Anna was the inspiration for Helen Majesky, who founded Avalon’s Sky River Bakery, and she was a maniac in the kitchen. The smells alone conjure up warm afternoons with my mother–cinnamon and cardamom and ginger, butter and marzipan and chocolate–and evoke vivid memories of standing on a step stool to help with the frosting and sprinkles.
One of the reasons I included a playlist in the Cookie Exchange Cookbook (a special end-of-book feature of the novel) is that there is no way I can separate the memories of making cookies from the background music. I had a very musical childhood, and our Christmas record selection was vast, from “Alvin and the Chipmunks” to Handel’s Messiah. Our selections were extremely secular, I have to admit. We were as likely to be found making gingerbread men to the tune of the William Tell Overture as we were to Herb Alpert’s “Tijuana Taxi.”
Readers of Lakeshore Christmas will find a tribute to the most treasured resource of any community–the public library. The library of my small-town girlhood loomed large in my imagination. Like the library in the book, it was an imposing, Gothic-revival-style building filled with all the wonders of the world. At the holidays, a tall fresh tree would grace the atrium of the building, and each year I would fashion a special ornament to hang on it. One year when I was about eight years old, I wrote a Christmas story on tiny pieces of paper, made it into a book and hung it on the tree. I don’t know what ever became of that story, but you can bet it had a happy ending.
And finally, there is inspiration in the magic of Christmas itself. I was a true believer long after most of my friends moved on to reality. And I still am. When I see a glow of happiness in a child’s eyes, or observe a stranger’s act of kindness, or hear a song I’ve known all my life, I know the Christmas spirit is present.
This is the Christmas story I’ve always wanted to write, and to be able to tell it in the context of the Lakeshore Chronicles is just perfect. I’m excited to share it with the world.

Lakeshore Christmas is my first full-length novel set during the holidays, so I relied on my deepest and most cherished personal memories for inspiration.

First, there’s the weather. I’m originally from a tiny town in the wilds of New York State, and to a child, the winters there are a time of enchantment. The snow is so deep and thick that the streets become virtual tunnels, and everything looks beautiful. My very favorite sports–skiing, sledding, and curling up with a good book while sipping hot chocolate top the list.

Next, there are the cookies. Are you kidding me? Between my mother, two grandmothers, various aunts and other women in my life, the holiday was one giant cookie. My Grandma Anna was the inspiration for Helen Majesky, who founded Avalon’s Sky River Bakery, and she was a maniac in the kitchen. The smells alone conjure up warm afternoons with my mother–cinnamon and cardamom and ginger, butter and marzipan and chocolate–and evoke vivid memories of standing on a step stool to help with the frosting and sprinkles.

[above: sfogliatelle. An Italian pastry that will change your life.]

One of the reasons I included a playlist in the Cookie Exchange Cookbook (a special end-of-book feature of the novel) is that there is no way I can separate the memories of making cookies from the background music. I had a very musical childhood, and our Christmas record selection was vast, from “Alvin and the Chipmunks” to Handel’s Messiah. Our selections were extremely secular, I have to admit. We were as likely to be found making gingerbread men to the tune of the William Tell Overture as we were to Herb Alpert’s “Tijuana Taxi.” To sample Maureen’s playlist, click here. To see Eddie’s, click here.

Readers of Lakeshore Christmas will find a tribute to the most treasured resource of any community–the public library. The library of my small-town girlhood loomed large in my imagination. Like the library in the book, it was an imposing, Gothic-revival-style building filled with all the wonders of the world. At the holidays, a tall fresh tree would grace the atrium of the building, and each year I would fashion a special ornament to hang on it. One year when I was about eight years old, I wrote a Christmas story on tiny pieces of paper, made it into a book and hung it on the tree. I don’t know what ever became of that story, but you can bet it had a happy ending.

And finally, there is inspiration in the magic of Christmas itself. I was a true believer long after most of my friends moved on to reality. And I still am. When I see a glow of happiness in a child’s eyes, or observe a stranger’s act of kindness, or hear a song I’ve known all my life, I know the Christmas spirit is present.

This is the Christmas story I’ve always wanted to write, and to be able to tell it in the context of the Lakeshore Chronicles is just perfect. I’m excited to share it with the world.

How about you? List some of your most vivid Christmas memories below.

A list of things to talk about while you’re eating cookies and talking about Lakeshore Christmas. Note–some of the questions might be spoilers. I don’t think so, but if spoilers drive you crazy, don’t read this until after you’ve read the book:

Reading Group Questions for Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs
1. What is Maureen’s role in her family, and how does that shape who she is?
2. Have you ever changed your dreams like Maureen did when she gave up on acting?
3. If you were the Havens, how would you have raised Eddie?  Do you think they did the right thing by keeping him on the road?
4. What are your thoughts on Maureen’s inability to trust men?  Do you think her experience in Paris gives her reason to doubt all men?
5. If you were Daisy and you knew that one of those men, Logan or Julian, was carrying an engagement ring, who would you hope was going to propose?  The man who holds your heart or the father of your child?
6. If you were Maureen, a dedicated librarian, how would you have reacted to the budget cuts and the imminent closure of the library?  What would you have done?
7. Do you think that Maureen should have taken Mr. Byrne’s offer and given Cecil the main role in the play if it meant saving the library?
8. Maureen’s favorite time of the year is Christmas. What is yours?  Do you get excited about the upcoming holidays or is it overwhelming?
9. What do you think Jabez’s role in this book was?  What purpose did he serve?
10. Have you ever had a life altering experience like Eddie had the night he crashed his van?
11. What are your fondest memories of the library?
12. What are some of your favorite traditions during the holiday and where did they come from?

1. What is Maureen’s role in her family, and how does that shape who she is?

2. Have you ever changed your dreams like Maureen did when she gave up on acting?

3. If you were the Havens, how would you have raised Eddie?  Do you think they did the right thing by keeping him on the road?

4. What are your thoughts on Maureen’s inability to trust men?  Do you think her experience in Paris gives her reason to doubt all men?

5. If you were Daisy and you knew that one of those men, Logan or Julian, was carrying an engagement ring, who would you hope was going to propose?  The man who holds your heart or the father of your child?

6. If you were Maureen, a dedicated librarian, how would you have reacted to the budget cuts and the imminent closure of the library?  What would you have done?

7. Do you think that Maureen should have taken Mr. Byrne’s offer and given Cecil the main role in the play if it meant saving the library?

8. Maureen’s favorite time of the year is Christmas. What is yours?  Do you get excited about the upcoming holidays or is it overwhelming?

9. What do you think Jabez’s role in this book was?  What purpose did he serve?

10. Have you ever had a life altering experience like Eddie had the night he crashed his van?

11. What are your fondest memories of the library?

12. What are some of your favorite traditions during the holiday and where did they come from?

You’ll want to live on Angel Lane when you read this terrific new novel by Sheila Roberts. Here’s her guest post:

DOUBLE THE FUN

fabulous new book

fabulous new book

What’s more fun than having a new book out? Having a new book out at the same time as your good friend! I’m excited about my new release Angel Lane, but I’m doubly excited that it coincides with the release of Susan’s fab new Willow Lake chronicle, Lakeshore Christmas (my personal favorite!). This means we get to do some fun events together to celebrate the birth of our new brain babies. And our calendars are full! We’re doing everything from women’s show appearances to radio interviews. At one of our book signings (Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, WA) we’re even having a Christmas cookie contest with a fabulous prize for some lucky winner. How fun is that? Several of our events will include our buddy Suzanne Selfors, popular YA author, who is enjoying the success of her latest book Coffeehouse Angel, so then it will be triple the fun.

and another!

and another!

Since we moved out to our little lake I haven’t seen as much of Susan as I used to, so I’m looking forward to some serious hang-out time and hoping lots of readers will come hang with us and find out what our new books have in common.

Speaking of things in common . . . at first glance Miz Wiggs and I might look like polar opposites. She’s totally fit and is a fearless skier. I’m an out of shape blob who dreams of someday conquering the bunny slope. I could happily spend hours playing all kinds of goofy parlor games. Susan plays with me just to be a sport. If locked in a room and left to solve the world’s problems we would . . . never reach an agreement on how to do it. So, you may be wondering, what the heck do we have in common? The same thing most girlfriends do: love of family, loyalty to friends, delight in finding a great new recipe, an addiction to chick flicks, What Not to Wear, and anything chocolate. We also share a love of reading and a sense of adventure. (No, I won’t climb Mt. Rainier with her, but I’ll cross the ocean in a rowboat (we’ve done something darned close to that!). And we both keep each other highly entertained. Now, here’s hoping we’ll keep you entertained this fall, too.

what’s on my mind right now:

  • Signing books with fellow Author Elizabeth George onboard the luxurious Silversea Cruises Mystery & Romance... fb.me/xRSGBMEJ 1 hour ago

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