December 12, 2012

The Holiday Season is Upon Us

By Debra St. John

“The holiday season is upon us, hmn?” Ross to Rachel: F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Season 6 – The One Where Ross Got High 

I’m a big fan of the holiday season. For me it starts with Halloween. That’s the first holiday I get out boxes of decorations and completely do over the house and porch. It’s when the heat of summer fades to the chill of Fall and brilliant color appears all around. 

In the quote above, Ross was referring to Thanksgiving. On the show, the Thanksgiving episodes were some of the funniest and the best. There wasn’t always a Halloween episode, and there wasn’t always a Christmas episode, but there was always a Thanksgiving one. 
Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It’s often overlooked in the rush to get to Christmas, which drives me no end of crazy. But it’s such a cozy time when no one expects candy or presents. It’s simply a time to be with those you love. In An Unexpected Blessing (available now from The Wild Rose Press) my heroine, Katy, shares this view. When I wrote that story, it was with a plan firmly in mind to include all of the best things about the holiday. Lists of what we’re thankful for. Crisp autumn air and colorful foliage. Football games. And of course food. What would a Thanksgiving novella be without food?! I even included recipes in the back so readers can celebrate with the Roths.


Single Mom Katy Roth thinks life can't get any worse. In the past six months she's been let go at work, had to move back home with her parents, and found out her ex is cutting his child support payment. As Thanksgiving approaches, she finds little to be thankful for in a life that is quickly spinning out of control.

Joe Mason is the town's bad boy. Literally. He's just returned from a four year stint in prison. He wants nothing more than to put the past behind him and get on with his life. He’s had a secret crush on Katy since grade school, but when Katy’s parents hire him to be their handyman, she’s less than thrilled to have him around.

But soon, through her young son’s eyes, Katy discovers the good in Joe. As their feelings for one another deepen, small town gossip and prejudice threaten to ruin everything. Will Joe’s past come between them, or will they be able to get beyond it and hold onto a love neither expected?

Once Thanksgiving is done, then and only then is it time to celebrate Christmas. We don’t brave Black Friday, but we do transform the house into a Christmas wonderland that day after Thanksgiving. White lights get wound on the bushes in front and the tree in back. Two trees (one upstairs and one downstairs) go up. Ornaments we’ve gathered over the years grace the one upstairs and each one provides a memory. Everyday decorations get packed away and the Christmas ones come out. That night we watch our first holiday movie of the season. We usually start with Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation”. The next Saturday is cookie baking day. Our favorites to make are the Hershey Kiss ones: generally three varieties: peanut butter cookie with milk chocolate Kisses, oatmeal cookie with caramel Kisses, and chocolate cookie with mint Kisses. Last year we also added chocolate-peppermint crunch. One of my favorite things of the season is wrapping presents. I think I have more fun wrapping gifts for others than opening my own. And those brightly wrapped packages look so festive beneath the tree. I always try to get my wrapping done as soon as possible so I can enjoy looking at the presents for as long as possible! Through it all Christmas music plays on the stereo. It was Kenny and Dolly’s “A Christmas to Remember” which inspired me to write my novella of the same name for The Wild Rose Press last year. For years I always pictured a story in my head while I listened to that song. I finally wrote it down.


Newly single, Heather Morgan gathers her courage and decides to take a Christmas ski vacation on her own. However, the festive holiday atmosphere reminds her how dispirited and alone she feels. When she meets a mysterious stranger, her lonely vacation takes an unexpected turn.

Sam is at the resort at the urging of his brother, who thinks he needs to get out and have a little fun. Having no desire to get involved with anyone, Sam needs a way to get his brother off his back. The intriguing Heather seems like the perfect solution to his dilemma, so he makes her an offer she can't refuse.

Sam restores the joy of the season to Heather. Their time together is magical, something she'll never forget. Soon her feelings for him deepen beyond their romantic holiday fling. But Sam has a secret, one that could prevent the fantasy from ever becoming real.

Below are two of my favorite recipes from the season: Cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving (featured in An Unexpected Blessing) and that Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch for Christmas.

Cranberry Sauce


1 bag fresh cranberries
1 c water
1 c sugar
1 Macintosh or Rome Beauty apple (cut in pieces)
¼ t salt


Rinse cranberries through a colander. Boil water and sugar. Add cranberries, apple, and salt. Boil about 10-15 minutes until cranberries are soft. Put mixture through a sieve until it’s the consistency of sauce. Let stand at room temperature about 15 minutes.

Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch


14 chocolate graham crackers
¾ c unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ c light brown sugar
¼ t coarse salt
30 white chocolate peppermint bark squares – chopped


Preheat oven to 350. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place graham crackers, sugared-side down, in a single layer with edges touching. Place butter, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and cook at a rapid simmer until mixture reduces and is bubbly and syrupy (about 2 minutes). Pour over graham crackers. Bake until bubbling (about 8 minutes). Remove from oven. Let cool 3 – 4 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped bark. Let cool completely. Break into pieces and serve.

Debra St. John writes spicy romance with sexy heroes and spunky heroines for The Wild Rose Press. An Unexpected Blessing is her fifth release. Although she’s a country girl at heart, she lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband, who is her real life hero. You can find her at or blogging at,, or


Debra St. John said...

Thanks for having me here today, Kathryn. It's been one of those days. Sorry I haven't checked in until now.

And now that I have, I need to go round up some visitors!

Paula Martin said...

It all sounds great, Debra! Must admit I haven't even put up any decorations here yet, and the Christmas cards I've received are still lying in a pile on an armchair! Living on my own, I'm afraid I get pretty lazy about decorating for Christmas! My grandson used to come around to help me put lights up, but he's now away at University, and I can't climb up to do it on my own :-(

Jennifer Wilck said...

I love Thanksgiving too, especially my mom's recipes (which are actually my grandmother's). I actually have the original recipe in my grandmother's handwriting, which is really cool. We do lots of decorating here, too. Happy holidays!

Ana Morgan said...

My daughter-in-law is deathly allergic to cats, so we celebrate all holidays and birthdays at her house a mile away. Our cats can't resist climbing Christmas trees, resulting in shattered bulbs and, once, a tree topple.
The educational toys I ordered just arrived. Yippee!

Debra St. John said...


I have no willpower when it comes to Christmas cards! I love opening them and couldn't bear to have them just lay there for any length of time. Today my hubby got the mail, but didn't open the cards. He knows me well!

Debra St. John said...

Jennifer - My mom may have some handwritten recipes from long ago from the grandmas. I agree...that's so cool! I have a cookie tin that was my grandma's that I use to store cookies every year.

Debra St. John said...

Ana - We don't have pets, I'm the allergic one! - so I can't totally relate to the tree toppling, but I have to say, it would make a great scene in a book!

Barbara Edwards said...

I've never put an apple in cranberry sauce, but I'm going to try it this year. Thanks.

Linda LaRoque said...

What a great idea to put recipes in the back of your books. I bet your readers love it.

I'm with Barbara, I've never seen a recipe for cranberry sauce with apple. I bet it's good. Sometimes it's the usual additions that make the dish taste great. My mother knew someone who put root beer in their dressing.

Debra St. John said...

Barbara - It's yummy! I hope it works for you!

Debra St. John said...

Hi Linda,

Since Thanksgiving revolves so much around food, I thought it would be fun to add a few family favorites in the back.

Speaking of 'different' ingredients, my mom has a recipe for appetizer meatballs in which there's grape jelly in the sauce. You'd never know it by the taste...which is quite yummy!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Debra. Chimming in late, it's been a busy day. Thanks for being my guest today. I'm liking the Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch recipe! Thanks for sharing.

PS, Santa just came by our and my granddaughter was so excited. The fire dept drives through town each year with Santa, who throws candy to all the good boys and girls.

Morgan Mandel said...

Great books and great recipes, Debra! And, I'm a great fan of Friends also. I watch it often from 10-11 or so most weeknights for a few laughs before going to bed.

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel said...

Forgot to mention how beautiful this blog looks! Love that cover photo! Very festive.

Morgan Mandel

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Morgan. Thanks. I got the picture from Dreamstime stock photos. I have several, so I've been switching them out about once a week. I do like this one, it's very sharp, as in focus.

Linda Carroll-Bradd said...

I love grahams and chocolate so that recipe looks like a winner. Thanks for sharing.

Debra St. John said...

Hi Morgan,

I'm a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. junkie. We have the whole set on DVD, so I don't bother with tv anymore.

Debra St. John said...

Hi Linda,

We made ours already this year, and it's so yummy!

Debra St. John said...

Thanks again for having me, Anna Kathryn!

Merry Christmas!

Calisa Rhose said...

Mmm these books sound delicious as the recipes, Debra! I think I'll read A Christmas to Remember this season if I get a chance to read!

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch sounds yummy. I'll have to try it.

We just finished decorating for Christmas a few days ago. We were running a bit behind. lol

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