Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Favorite Christmas Memories

Since it's Christmas we thought we'd share some of our favorite memories. 
Each year I find something special to hold near to my heart. I remember one time when I was little. I had to be younger than six, but I recall thinking Santa wasn't real. I'm not sure how I can come to think this, but my parents took me out for our yearly ride in search of Santa and just as we pulled back up to the house I heard him. I really heard him. I looked and looked but didn't see him.
For many years we always had some sort of Christmas with that special Santa of mine. Grandpa passed away back in '99 (if I recall correctly), but I'll never forget the Christmas memories with him.
This year will be extra special. Our family has had a long, hard year, but God has been faithful and He has brought restoration, and continues to do so, into our home. We will have our own little miracle and we will all be together this Christmas and I can't wait to kiss and hug each one of my children when they walk through the door. 
Christmas 2005

This was the last Christmas spent with my Dad (center of photo). I'm so thankful for our family tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve together. Our lives are enriched as the generations gather, share favorite foods and sweet memories. When all the grandchildren open their gifts, it's a little like a Griswold Christmas! Wrapping paper flies through the air and little ones dive bomb the Christmas tree, looking for more gifts. The aftermath resembles the path of an E4 tornado. We never mind cleaning up the mess. Because sometimes, just being together is the greatest gift of all.

You can read more about Betty's favorite Christmas memory on my http://www.bettythomasonowens.com

Gift-20One fond Christmas memory occurred during our first year of marriage. My husband, Danny, and his sister, Kay, had gone shopping for last minute items while I stayed at his mother’s house, helping her cook for Christmas Eve.

I glanced up when I heard the front door open and in came Kay followed by Danny. He must have been carrying ten to twelve wrapped presents, shirt box size. It was all he could do to carry the unwieldy stack inside. And they were all for me!

Most of my clothes growing up were sewn by my mother and I was overwhelmed as I opened box after box of pants, sweaters, and shirts, all in matched sets. I don’t know if it was as much about the presents as having an empty place inside me filled, one I didn’t realize was there.

God is still working through other people to bless me and fill other empty places. And I daily look for other people who need a blessing in their life…

Friday, December 21, 2012

May I Have a Word?

Miss Jane Austen
(Wikipedia Commons)

What thought processes are set in motion by a simple polite question? “May I have a word?” or “May I speak with you?” "We need to talk." Can you tell the difference? 

I’m a big fan of Austen. But her prose is a little like Shakespeare’s. It takes time to get comfortable with it. Consider this passage, taken from Pride and Prejudice, Chapter Thirty-Six:

The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not to lay to Mr. Wickham’s charge exceedingly shocked her; the more so as she could bring no proof of its injustice.

At first reading, it may be a difficult passage to understand. How polite a statement it sounds. Translate it into modern American English. While profligate used as an adjective means: recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources, the noun form means: licentious, dissolute. 

Synonyms for the noun profligacy: extravagance, excess, squandering, waste, recklessness, wastefulness, lavishness, prodigality, improvidence, immorality, depravity, debauchery, abandon, corruption, promiscuity, laxity, dissipation, degeneracy, licentiousness, wantonness, libertinism, dissoluteness, unrestraint. 

About halfway through this list of synonyms, you start to get the picture. And since I now know the book, I understand Wickham’s character very well. Austen’s “...he scrupled not to lay to Mr. Wickham’s charge,” tells us Mr. Darcy withheld some information and Elizabeth reads between the lines and sees far more. In this instant, the truth dawns on her, and she is embarrassed over her misunderstanding.

The word scrupled means he hesitated because of the impropriety of the truth. He held back because he was a gentleman, and she was a lady. In more modern times, he probably would not hesitate to tell her everything. She would see it on the news or read it on Facebook or Twitter. He may as well be the one to tell her of it.

So do you begin to get an understanding of what Elizabeth thought of Mr. Darcy in this passage? He was much too polite to bring the true charge against Mr. Wickham, because of its extremely immoral nature. The man Wickham was a depraved drunk who chased after skirts. But in proper society, a true gentleman (Darcy) never laid such a charge on another man in the presence of a lady. 

What a great burden is placed on us as writers to convey to our reader exactly what we want to say in a way that is clear to the modern reader, yet maintains the purity of the era we’re writing about. How do we start? By reading books written in the era and translating them to modern. Then you can begin to piece together a work that sounds like the past, but can be easily understood. Never “dumb down” your writing, but make it clear and concise, with your reader in mind. 

Don't forget to submit your favorite Christmas memory––we'll choose the winner in a random drawing. The winner receives a $10 Amazon gift card. Submit as a comment, or use our contact tab.

Thanks for reading––

Tuesday, December 18, 2012



On my personal blog I have a segment I call digging deeper. I had decided weeks ago to write on the word Shalom. It's not an English word but most of us have heard it, know it. With all that has happened, in my local community where two police officers were shot and killed Sunday evening, Newton, Aurora, Oregon, and the Middle East (the list goes on and on), I thought it appropriate to revisit portions of a blog I wrote during the Easter season.

So here it is:

I've been thinking about the whole idea of prayer, repentance, taking care of the poor and fasting. I've also been thinking about the forty days Jesus spent in the desert and the forty days Moses spent on the mountain and how those forty days tie into Lent.

As I began to pray over what I should blog about today, God very clearly told me to urge His church to pray for Jerusalem.
But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel. 2 Chronicles 6:6 (NIV
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels." Psalm 122:6-7
Many of you know that the Hebrew word for peace is shalom, but do you know that the word shalom means nothing missing, nothing broken?

I love Psalms 137:5-6 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. (NIV) The Jewish Study Bible says, "let my right hand wither . . . if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour."
On a side, according to the commentary in the Jewish Study Bible (JSB), the breaking of glass at the end of wedding ceremonies is to remember Jerusalem at their happiest moments.
The commentary also suggests that if the right hand is useless and the tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth, then it is near impossible to play music or sing praises.

Are the prayers for Jerusalem an Old Testament edict only? I don't think so.
As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."
There is that word peace again~nothing missing, nothing broken. But more importantly, this incident occurred right after the triumphal entry.

And Paul's letter to the Romans says, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."

During the preparation for this Easter season, please remember to pray for Jerusalem, especially with the escalation of violence in the Middle East.

It's me again, today, December 18, 2012. What do you think of when you think of Jerusalem? Definitely not peace. It's been the center of conflict for thousands of years. When David made this holy city his capital it was the capital over the tribes of Judah. After Solomon's death, it was the Capital of Judah. There are so many things in the Bible that point to Jerusalem, this city of Zion, past, present and future. The Bible talks about the 'new' Jerusalem.

יְרוּשָׁלַם  Jerusalem

According to Strong's Concordance, Jerusalem is the teaching of peace. The past days have been difficult, not only for our Nation, but for the entire world. Well, to be honest, many people have lived difficult lives since they took their first breaths, but in a nation where we are blessed with prosperity and liberty, even those of us find it hard to make ends meet, these days have been difficult. Our understanding lacks, our words are few, our tears many, especially since these horrific events happened as we prepare for our holiday seasons, but may our prayers be many. Prayers of comfort, prayers of peace.

Christmas is supposed to represent a time of joy, a reflection of the greatest gift given to mankind by our Creator, but too often it is filled with stress. Christmas should be a time for giving with cheerful hearts. No, not with expensive, breaking the bank kind of gifts, but ones that come from the heart.

I was just telling a friend of mine that my heart breaks at the thought of the children who won't have anything under the tree this year, if they even have a tree. My heart cried at the little tags still hanging from the Angel Tree at one of your local Walmarts. My children have plenty. They have two praying parents, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. They know, without a doubt, their parents love them. They know they are cared for, not just in a monetary sense. Those children, represented by a piece of paper, may not know such things. Not that I believe a package of socks will give them that sense of well-being, but if the heart is in the right place, I believe God will bless the receiver and make them feel cared for.

So during this Christmas may we be 'teachers of peace' the kind of peace where 'nothing is missing and nothing is broken. May we be used on God's behalf to bless others.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Sherlock By Jennifer Hallmark

Historical words in December? Hmmm. While I searched for a good word, I was drawn to one of my favorite genres to read. 

Early twentieth century British mysteries.

Huh? Yes, I love writers like Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Agatha Christie. With sleuths like Lord Peter Wimsey, Albert Campion, and Hercule Poirot, what’s not to love? And who can forget Miss Marple?

In recently purchasing and reading The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, I came across several passages alluding to Sherlock Holmes.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Mrs. Venables, gingerly examining the  objects before her. “I’m afraid I’m not a Sherlock Holmes…”

“A colleague, as Sherlock Holmes would say, after my own heart,” said Wimsey, as he unfolded the thin enclosure.

“…My dear Watson, it’s staring you in the face…”

There was also the term “sherlocking” used in another place in The Nine Tailors, referring to someone investigating in a way similar to Sherlock Holmes. I found it fascinating that this novel by Ms. Sayers written in 1934 referred to this character so many times, a character first introduced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887.
 I conducted my own investigation at dictionary.com.  Sherlock is an old English name meaning “fair-headed.”  
Also Sherlock-noun, informal.  1. a private detective. 2. a person remarkably adept at solving mysteries, especially by using insight and logical deduction: Who's the sherlock who can tell me where my pen is? A 21st century slang for Sherlock means a clever and perceptive person.
Books, comics, short stories, television, movies, games, puzzles, radio, societies and screen plays have all sprung from a single character evolved in the mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Amazing.
What character names or phrases do you know that have taken on a life of their own?
Today's writing prompt:   Lila twirled a blonde curl as she winked at the young man in front of her. "Who do ya think you are? Sherlock Holmes?" Her laughter rang...
Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What the Dickens?

So, as I said last week, as an historical writer I have to take care with the words I use. If I'm not I'm bound to receive hundreds of emails pointing out my mistakes.

What the Dickens?

Yeah, really! I'm not fooling you. Readers, especially those who enjoy and know their history, aren't always forgiving. And since a lot of writers are readers too, that means they probably know their stuff, especially when it comes to slang.

You want to know something interesting? You probably already know it, but I'm going to share it anyway. Much of the slang I've encountered are creative exchanges for curse words. *GASP* I know, right!
Let's look at jiminy crickets. Do you know where it originated? No, not Walt Disney. According to the Internet, cause y'all know we believe everything we find there, jiminy crickets was used in England as a cursing word so as to not be guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain. Seems it was used in a few movies before Pinocchio even made the screen in 1940, but who knows when it actually came into use.

Remember the good 'ol days of Leave it to Beaver? Jeepers, Wally! Yeah, those were the days when children were respectful, moms cooked, cleaned and looked like they spent the day at the spa, dads used gentle discipline. It was real, right upstanding show with lots of moral values. Now, I'm not saying anything against the Beave, because I loved watching all the reruns, but Jeepers is another one of those words that exchanges our Lord's name so as to not take it in vain.  The word actually came into existence sometime in the 1920s. I imagine with the flapper era.

And who can forget The Fonz's 'sit on it'? *grins*

Now, here is an interesting one I found. Mainly because I see it a lot in 19th century historicals. And guess what? It's existence, according to dictionary.com, began in the 1920s. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what it means.

But here is one of my all time favorites. Mainly because I've been dinged (and if I'm to be honest I probably dinged a few writers too) for using it prior to the 1800s.

What the Dickens? Of course, at the time I hadn't a clue of the origination and it sent me on an adventure. I mean it only makes sense that this term is coined after Charles Dickens, right?


I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of. What do you call your knight's name, sirrah?
Merry Wives of Windsor
William Shakespeare
That's quite a few years before Charles Dickens was born. Over two hundred years to be exact. I'm sure you already know what it means, but just in case, it's what the devil.

I love discovering the origination of words, not just because I need to know them for writing, but because I find them interesting. Guess I'm weird like that. 

What slang did you grow up with or have used over the years? Do you know the origination or why it came into existence? Care to share?

Friday, December 7, 2012

May I Share a Word?

The English language is one of the most difficult on earth. I've heard it said and here is why: Well over 200,000 words in "common" usage, 20 - 25,000 estimated used by educated individuals.

Many of our "American English" words are combinations of words, derivations from other languages and underived foreign words. Think of the many types of bread you see every week in your local grocery. Baguettes, bruschetta, challah, tortilla, pita. . .and so many more. Because of the ethnic mix of races who call the USA their home, these have all been incorporated into our American English.

So how many words do you use in a given day? I admit my vocabulary is very limited. So I keep two books on my desk for reference, along with dictionaries and a thesaurus. (1) The Big Book of Words You Should Know, and (2) Endangered Words - A Collection of Rare Gems for Book Lovers. I read excerpts from these books from time to time, just to keep my mind working in a good direction. If you're a word geek like me, you'd love these two books as well.

One of my favorite words found in the rare words collection, is desipience: relaxed dallying in enjoyment of foolish trifles, according to Webster's Third New International Dictionary. Derived from the Latin desipientia and formed from desipere, "to be foolish." The word was found in use in the 17th century. These and other interesting facts fill this book.

Sometimes I think I understand and know the meanings of specific words. But when I'm put on the spot, I can't tell you without looking them up. And I have occasionally used a wrong word and been corrected by someone. So I'm not perfect, not by a long shot. It's never as funny as when Agent David blunders on NCIS. But I do try.

What's your favorite word? Drop me a line here and let me know. Also include the meaning, if you will. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Words, Words, Words

Hiya, Christina here. And I am super excited about this month's topic. Historical words. Why? Because I love words, and I love history.
Besides, without words there would be no communication, without communication what would we have? 

As a historical writer I have to take care the words I use.

Let's look at this rough draft of my current Work In Progress (WIP), The Chronicles of Janie Mason.

“Yo, Dudette, you's busted.” He cocked his ball cap to the side. His gaze shifted to the ink blotching her papers before piercing her with ice blue eyes. His right upper lip curled. So did her toes, right along with the roller coaster flipping around in her stomach. This dude was hawt to the bling, bling. Too bad he was four o four, like some wannabe gangsta.
So, it's obvious I need to brush up on my modern slang, but clearly this is a story set in 2012, because is sure wouldn't work in 1856 unless you are shooting for some sort of slapstick comedy steampunk. 
Let's look at the original piece.
“I hope that is not a habit, Miss Mason?” He lifted his felt hat from his head and laid it on the crude countertop. His gaze shifted to her work table before piercing her with his cornflower blue eyes once again. His right upper lip curled. So did her toes, right along with the waves tossing in her stomach. Why did God have to make a man with such abominable  character so very handsome?
That's more like it. At least for 1856. 
When I write, I just write. When I come across a word, I often leave myself a simple comment: check. Let's take abominable. When I wrote this piece I was uncertain of the origination date of the word. So, I left a little check beside it. When I start revisions I can do a quick check, usually on dictionary.com, to see what kind of information I can find on it. 
1325-75; Middle English (a time period during middle ages) dictionary.com

Now, what if I used the word grody instead of abominable? 

1960-65; Americanism (American 19th century) dictionary.com
Wouldn't work, would it? 

The four o four wouldn't either. Although I love the term. It seems to come from our technological age, 404. Yeah, you've seen it. Whenever you open an Internet page that's not working. Well, according to Modern Slang, it means somebody isn't where they mentally should be. Love it! 
For your reference, or maybe not ;) the following is how the History of the English Language is broken down. If you're curious about the history of our English language the link above is a good, short run-down.
Old English (450-1100 AD)
Middle English (1100-1500 AD)
Modern English (1500-1800 AD)
Late Modern English (1800- present day)

I, however, will also be sharing a word or two outside of our English language, because y'know that's how I roll. ;) Besides, I write historicals set in Old Testament times, so why not, right? 
Over the next month we will sharing some words, their history etc. I cannot wait to see what Betty and Jennifer come up with.

Have you ever thought much about the words you write? Have you ever come across a word you could not use because it was either too historical or too modern? What is one of your favorite words to use in your vocabulary? 
Mine? Discombobulate-1825-35 Americanism


Friday, November 30, 2012

November Prompt Winner-Crystal A. Murray

Thanks, all of you who entered a recipe in our November Prompt Contest.
We had a random drawing and drew out Crystal A. Murray.We hope you'll stop back by in the months ahead and try again.

Congratulations, Crystal A. Murray, winner of the November Prompt Contest.

"Crystal writes articles, stories, poetry, song lyrics, & web content. She loves variety in her writing as it keeps writing fun for her. As president of her local Christian writer's group, Crystal loves to find prompts and exercises to encourage other writers to have fun in their writing as well. Crystal's still under-development writing page on Facebook can be found at http://www.facebook.com/TheLordismyEditor"

Here is her winning recipe!

Easy Cream-Cheesy Pie...

Easy-to-make desserts always get my vote, and these are super yummy and have lots of variations.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust
1 large box of flavored gelatin
1 8oz tub of whipped topping
1 and 1/2 block of cream cheese (can use fat free version as well)

Soften the cream cheese to make things easier to mix. Mix in the whipped topping (I like Cool Whip Extra Creamy, but it also works well with some of the diet versions of topping). Add about half of the flavored gelatin powder (more if you want a stronger flavor, less if you want more of the cream cheese flavor to come through) and mix until the gelatin is dissolved into the cream cheese & topping mix.

Note: If you really don't want any granules of sugar, you can dissolve the gelatin in a glass cup in the microwave with a little water. It makes kind of a thick syrup.

Note2: Use your favorite flavor for the gelatin. I have found lemon and cherry to make the best-tasting cheese pies. I have also had good results making this with sugar-free gelatin, but I've been avoiding the aspartame products lately, so I'll probably stick to the sweet until they come out with a stevia-flavored one.

Pour all ingredients into the pie crust and chill until ready to serve.

Optional: sprinkle some of the remaining gelatin powder over the top for a sort of sparkly look. You can even use stencils to make a greeting on top if you like.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grandma’s Stuffed Cabbage/Russian Style

There are a few things I will always remember about the holidays.  One is the way my mom went out of her way to celebrate two Christmas’s a year.  My grandparents were immigrants to this country of Russian ancestry.  They brought many customs with them.  At Christmas they would put straw under and on the eating table to remember Jesus’ lowly birth.  They had other specific ways to celebrate involving food. Since they lived in Pennsylvania and we didn’t get to be with them at Christmas, we celebrated regular Christmas on December 25th and Russian Christmas on January 7th.    

 On Russian Christmas Eve, Mom would set up and decorate a small tabletop tree.  We would have a special meal prepared with seven dishes, all of Russian background.  My favorite was the stuffed cabbage.

When my mom was a child, her mother, Lena, would rise early, cooking for a houseful of children. She would go to the slaughterhouse for fresh ground beef.  As Grandma mixed the ground beef and rice, Grandpa would sneak bites of the raw beef, certainly not recommended today. Grandma harvested cabbage from her garden across the road from the house.

Russia is actually the largest consumer of cabbage worldwide. Cabbage is used in many ways, ranging from eating raw and simple steaming to pickling, stewing, sauteing or braising. Pickling is one of the most popular ways of preserving cabbage, creating dishes such as sauerkraut.

 Cabbage is used extensively in Polish and Russian cuisine. It is one of the main food crops, and sauerkraut is a frequent dish, as well as being used to stuff other dishes such as golabki (stuffed cabbage) and pierogi (filled pasta). Other eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, also have traditional dishes that feature cabbage as a main ingredient. In the United States, cabbage is used primarily for the production of coleslaw, followed by fresh market use and sauerkraut production. 

Holidays and food just go together, and make memories for a lifetime. Do you have a special dish passed on from grandparents or other relatives?
 My granddaughters, Ava and Sadie last Christmas


Stuffed Cabbage

2 ½ pounds lean ground beef

1 medium onion, diced

1 pound bacon, cut small

1 pound cooked rice

Salt, pepper, Nature Seasoning, to taste



1 can tomato paste

1 can tomato sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar


Wash rice, cook ten minutes. Drain excess water, set aside. Fry bacon and  onion til golden brown. Drain excess oil.

Put rice in large mixing bowl. Mix in ground beef, bacon and onions and mix well; add seasonings. Set aside.

Cut cabbage, core out about two inches deep and place head of cabbage in boiling water to steam until leaves can be removed easily. Repeat until you remove all cabbage leaves that are big enough to roll. Line the bottom of a large pot with leaves you don’t use.

Scoop filling and place in leave, tucking in ends and rolling. Pack stuffed cabbage in pot, then fill with hot water until barely covered. Place a plate on top, weighted down to keep stuffed cabbage from floating. Cook on medium low for forty-five minutes, then pour sauce into pot and cook fifteen minutes more. Good served with hot sauce or ketchup.


Today’s writing prompt: Jakob lifted the forkful of ground beef, rice and cabbage toward his mouth when his cat, Ralphsky, lunged…