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Traditions–the ties that bond

On the eleventh day of Pre-release, the author gave to me…

Traditions.

At Casa Richards there are only a few traditions set in stone. One is the decorations don’t go up until after my Dad’s birthday, on December 6th. For some people the wait for the appropriate time would be agonizing but, for me, not so much. It allows me a little more time to think about it all and make some plans. We’ve moved quite a few times over the last few years, so this year I’m once again trying to figure out where things will go. I need those extra days!

Another tradition is that at some point over the season we’ll get together with all the kids and have hors d’oeuvres for dinner. That started when I worked retail and always worked up until Christmas Eve. Back in those days we had to negotiate with the elder two’s Mum as to when we’d have them and for a number of years we’d have them the day before Christmas. So sometimes I was facing somehow having to produce a feast on a day when I wouldn’t get home until almost 6:30pm. One year I thought, “This is nuts!” and asked if anyone minded us having nibblies instead of a meal. We all enjoyed it so much, we do it every year now. Sometimes on Christmas Eve, sometimes on Boxing Day or even on the 27th, which is my hubby’s birthday.

The only other thing that I’m honor-bound to do is make Jamaican-style Christmas pudding. Most people hear those words and wince, but our pudding starts with fruit (raisins, prunes, etc.) that have been soaked in rum and wine…usually all year. Yeah. If I ever said I wasn’t making puddings I think I’d have a mutiny on my hands.

Old traditions, passed on from generation to generation, keep us in touch with our pasts, while the new ones help make sense of our present. In my new book, Jaguar in the Sun, book four in the Unveiled Seductions series, the heroine is facing a tradition she won’t survive. Yet there is no thought of shirking it, because she knows everyone is depending on her to follow through. I’ll freely admit that, in the midst of the craziness that the Christmas season sometime can be, following through on some of the traditions (especially the two day pudding bake!) feels like a chore, but in the end it’s worth the effort. Seeing the smiles and hearing the sighs of appreciation make it all good!

Enjoy the following preview and Happy Holidays to All!!

Anya

jaguarinthesun_9781419947193_msr_1Blurb:

Cassandra Solinar has a bucket list and jaguar god Xbal Montegro is on it. About to undergo an essential rite she won’t survive, she wants to wring every ounce of pleasure out of the time left. Including discovering if Xbal’s sex magic technique is as good as rumored.

It’s no hardship for Xbal to accept Cassandra’s invitation for one erotic encounter, but far more difficult to let her go once he gets a taste of the explosive passion between them. Now he’s determined to hold on to her, no matter what.

Cassie can’t tell Xbal the truth about what she’s about to do. It’s illegal, but without her death the entire world will perish. It’s a job she’s been preparing for from birth, but the loss will be greater now. For in Xbal she finds a soul-deep connection she doesn’t want to lose, and the one thing she made a point of not putting on her bucket list—love.

A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

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Journeys Through Seduction

Anya Richards/Anya Delvay books available from Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo.

Tradition of Change

We’re a family cut adrift from our roots. Dad was in the military. When he enlisted, he left his Midwestern family behind. He married my southern mother and ended up being stationed far, far away from *her* family. They started a family of their own – by adopting cats. I was a distant second thought. At least you know I come by the cat thing honesty. Regardless, the point is that my folks came from two very different cultural holiday traditions. They had kids in a state as far away from their respective families as the Air Force could possibly send them. Alaska. In 1964 (fortunately after the massive earthquake).

We moved often. Including overseas to Iceland. Each place we lived had it’s own set of traditions.

So we cherry picked. Nothing was sacred. Some of the food came from my dad’s family. Most came from mom’s. Everything else? Totally up for grabs. In Iceland, post Christmas, there’s a midwinter/early spring holiday wherein kids put a shoe in a window sill. In the morning, the shoe is filled with candy, treats and coins. My folks were willing to play that game, but only while we were in Iceland. Once we got back to the states, that was over. 🙂 We settled in the US after Dad retired and we fell into a set of traditions – maybe habits. They weathered me getting married – even reached out to encompass my husband’s family, and welcomed my younger sister’s baby into the mix.

But these days, change is once again the name of the holidays. For all of us. My husband’s family moved to sunshine. Florida. After last holiday season, my husband and I looked at my folks, you know, the only people with an actual house, and we realized they were exhausted after hosting the holidays. Mom had been doing most of the holiday cooking for the past fifty years.

It was time to cut my parents a break. Either my sister or I had to step up and host, or we had to come up with some new traditions again. I live on a boat with an oven the size of a bread box and maybe 400 square feet of living space. My sister lives in a trailer with her daughter. She has a real oven, but no more space than I have.

So this Thanksgiving, we’re going out for our dinner. I’m still at Mom and Dad’s doing the holiday baking. For Christmas? We’re not sure yet. Yes. My folks will put up a Christmas tree (for the granddaughter – but the girl is old enough now to do a bunch of the work herself). My husband and I will likely sail the boat over for the week of the Christmas holiday. But at this point? We’re playing tradition by ear, because really? All my life, my parents attempted to make my weird, nomadic childhood as normal as possible. Now, they’re in their 70s. It’s my turn to make their lives as easy and comfortable as possible.

Oh. And there’s still a cat. He’s gotten into the spirit of this season of change. He decided to contribute to Thanksgiving Dinner. Behold, Nicadeimos, the mighty hunter and his offerings for the feast:

grasshopperFirst – grasshopper. Crunchy!

ShrewSecond: the shrew. He is SUCH a good provider. 🙂

Sleigh Bells, the Big Guy and Finding Faith

Well, my darling MANhandlers, I have to say I would make a much larger effort to catch Santa coming down the chimney if he looked like this. Enjoy!

My parents are awesome on an epic level. I love them with a ferocity that defies basic description. It’s always been this way, even when I passed through the dreaded Teenager of Doom years. They are, quite frankly, amazing. But, because they are human and subject to human flaws, there were a handful of serious Parenting Fail moments growing up. The one I want to touch on was the day they told me Santa didn’t exist. I’ll never forget the moment. I had recently defended Santa to a classmate who insisted Santa was his dad and was bothered the classmate, Ryan McSomething-or-Other, proved so insistent. Jackass, right? That first forkful of crow was hard to get down. Here’s how it went down.

My parents were wheeling a small BMX bike up the front walk and I followed behind. (I’d been at a neighbor’s house while they were shopping.)
Mom: “Don’t tell your brother about the bike. It’s from Santa.”
Me: O_o … “Huh?”
Mom: “The bike. It’s from Santa. Don’t tell Andy.”
Me: “How is it from Santa?”
Mom: O_o … “You know we’re Santa.” (← statement of fact)
Me: (trembling chin) “You’re what?”
Mom: “Santa. Your dad and I are Santa. You knew that.”
Me: …

This didn’t bode well for the Easter Bunny, and I knew it with that crystal clarity inherent to life-altering moments.

I suppose I was a wee bit cynical that Christmas. Oh, I didn’t blow it for my brother with a casual, “Everything we’ve ever believed is a lie.” No, I let him have his excitement and his moment of wonder as I sat back and smoked a cigarette and sipped my scotch and contemplated the meaning of life. Not really. (C’mon. I was, like, eight. I didn’t like scotch yet.) In my mind, the moment was captured something like this:

 

 

“Don’t mind me. I’m just sitting over here living a lie, thanks.”

 

 

 

But this was the moment a tradition was born. My parents pulled me aside and told me that, as long I continued to believe in the beautiful mystery of Santa and maintained the Christmas spirit, the jolly red-suited big guy would continue to visit — ad nauseum. I chose right then to give up drinking and smoking and simply hold out hope the ‘rents were telling the truth. I remember easing back into the moment and feeling a little of the Christmas spirit revive in me.

It became a holiday tradition that my brother and I would sit down at the tree on Christmas Eve and shake our presents, trying to guess what we’d be opening come morning and then we’d lay a little wager about what Santa would bring. When he moved to Florida this year, at age 36, I realized I wouldn’t have that. I’m going to miss it. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on Santa, though. Nope. No way. I’ve even got my husband believing. We hang stockings every year and, lo and behold, they’re filled every Christmas morning and there are special presents for us, whether it’s around our tree or Mom and Dad’s.

Santa and I have come to a gradual understanding over the years. It’s pretty much: I get fantastic presents in exchange for faith based on cookies, time and tradition.

I can live with that.

Mexican Eggrolls for the Holidays? You bet!

Sexy athleteThere is absolutely nothing holiday-ish about this photo. Still, when I saw him, I knew my fellow MANhandlers would appreciate his…ball. It’s clearly the focus of the photo, yes? I’m suddenly nostalgic for my days in the soccer keep. I was quite good, you know–recruited for the Miss Budweiser Ladies’ Traveling Team. But that’s another tale for another time. Ogle away while I get the recipe you need for the holidays.

So, every year we have this tradition that we do a predictable holiday meal for Christmas, but for New Year’s Eve, we do a huge Mexican food feast. It was easier to pull this off when we lived in New Mexico (the South simply doesn’t understand tamales or green chili that is not a bell pepper). We are a diligent and resourceful lot, though, and we make it work. The recipe below is ridonkulously simple, clearly unhealthy and guaranteed to taste good. We lean on the latter and ignore the middle altogether for this one night every year.

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Mexican Eggrolls

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 clove of garlic, minced (more if you’re fending off the undead)
1 white onion, chopped (less if you intend to kiss your sweetheart)
1 can chopped green chilies (use two if you’re a chili addict and don’t forget to pick out the skins)
1 large bag sharp cheddar (large means the BIG bag)
2 packages eggroll wrappers
1 bag frozen potatoes OPTIONAL  (like O’Brien potatoes but without the peppers–trust me on this)
Salsa
Small bowl of water
Oil for frying

Heat the oil.

Brown ground beef with garlic, onion and green chilies in a deep pan. (I add the green chilies when the meat’s almost done and use the spoon to spread it around and pick out the skins.) Drain grease off meat and put back in the pan.

Fry potatoes. Drain them well and pat excess grease off with paper towels. (Seems pointless, but trust me. Too much grease is just too much grease.) Keep grease hot.

Add the bag of cheese to the meat and turn the heat on low. Stir it in and make sure it melts well. The meat should stick together really well.

Add the potatoes and mix in.

With on corner of the eggroll wrapper facing you, add a small spoonful of the meat mix. Dip your fingers in the water and trace the edges of the wrapper. Fold the nearest point over the meat, fold the outside corners in and roll. (It’s very important to make sure you get the seams sealed, but don’t mash them. Eggroll wrappers are temperamental and tend to tear out of spite. It’s true. I swear.) Set aside. Repeat the process until you’re out of wrappers, meat or alcohol.

Fry your eggrolls until they’re golden brown. (Usually takes a minute or so.) Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Suggestion: Have someone fry while you roll. It makes things much, much easier because the eggroll wrappers tend to stick to the counter as you set them aside.

Serve with salsa and enjoy! (Really, though? They don’t need it.)
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There you have it, my faithful readers — a Tompkins tradition since 1948. Okay, that’s a lie. We started this around 1995. But traditions sound better if they’re older. You’re going to thank me. Your hips will curse my name, but the belleh will be happeh.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, happy holiday season and prosperous New Year full of wonderful new reads. And Mexican Eggrolls.

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