Tag Archives: Christmas

What Christmas Means To Us

by Kassandra Lamb

On behalf of the whole gang, let me wish all of our subscribers, readers, fellow authors, and everybody else for that matter, an absolutely wonderful holiday season. Christmas means joy and peace and love, and we wish all of those things for you.

To our readers especially, a big holiday thank you! You keep us going. We create our characters but you breathe life into them every time you open one of our books and dive in.

Our blog is on hiatus for the holidays. We’ll be back on January 3rd with a huge 2017 surprise. (Hint: it’s an awesome giveaway. 🙂 )

In the meantime, here’s a couple of my favorite holiday songs by Pentatonix, to remind us of what the season is all about!

And with a bit more of a religious bent, one of the most beautiful songs ever, in my humble opinion.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

See you in the New Year!

5 Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

by Kassandra Lamb

ornaments on a tree

photo by Kris de Curtis CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

This is a joyous time of year, but it is also the most stressful time of year for many of us. Especially for those who are trying to make Christmas happen for their families.

Here are a few helpful hints on how to keep the stress manageable and the joy optimal.

1.  Write It Down.

Santa isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking twice.

This is actually 3 tips in one. First, making a list of everything that needs to be done will keep you from forgetting something that might then become a last-minute crisis/super stressor.

Second, you get the list out of your head and onto paper so you don’t have to stress yourself with trying to remember everything.

And third, it is very satisfying to physically scratch things off a list. Sometimes I put things on there that I’ve already done, so I can immediately scratch them off again. 😀

2. Keep It Simple.

Are there things you do for Christmas that nobody really cares about, maybe not even you?

A few years ago, during a stressful time for my family, we opted for a cold buffet instead of a big Christmas dinner. I was amazed at how little I missed the fancy meal (and all the prep, not at all).

We made the cold buffet a new tradition. We still have special things to eat (my DIL makes awesome cranberry chicken salad), but it can all be prepared a day or two in advance. Christmas Day, we open presents and enjoy each others’ company and spend very little time in the kitchen.

3. Pace Yourself.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you try to do too much in one day you will wear yourself out, and be tired and grouchy the next day.

If you want to be super-organized, you could mark the day you plan to do certain things on your list. Then on any given day, you are only stressing about that day’s chores.

hand and book

Take a break. Read a book! 🙂 (photo by David, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia)

Also this time of year, getting too fatigued can lead to illness, with all the nasty flu and cold viruses floating around.

Getting sick is definitely not going to help! Which brings us to…

4. Take Care of Yourself.

Schedule proper rest, eating and some exercise into your days.

My mother used to wear herself down to the nub by Christmas Eve. My brother and I would hide in our rooms as much as possible. She was so exhausted and cranky, if we landed on her radar, who knew what would happen?

By the next day, she was much better and we always had a great Christmas, but much of what she had done to prepare for it wasn’t really what made it special for us.

The specialness of Christmas came from having a whole day of relaxation and freedom to play and undivided attention from the adults in the family. Everybody was in a great mood and we had a blast.

child with toys

You can’t see my face but I’m grinning.

Oh, and there were new toys, of course.

5. There Is No Report Card!

Christmas should not be a contest or a performance for which we receive a grade. If you have someone in your life who tends to be that judgmental, you have my permission to uninvite them for Christmas.

If that’s not an option, then practice some lines you can fire back if they comment or even just glare at you judgmentally.

Something like “My house may not be perfect but my kids are happy.”

Or maybe “What would Jesus do?” to remind them that judging is definitely not in the spirit of the season.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Our blog will be on hiatus until January 3rd, at which point we have a BIG surprise for you. Stay tuned for an awesome 2017 giveaway!!

Merry Christmas

image by Ac1983fan CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

10 Ways to Make Your Imperfect Holiday a Happy One (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

Since I’m traveling today, on my way to visit my son and family, I thought I’d re-run one of my more popular posts. (The mp blog will be on hiatus until January 12th)

Merry Christmas, Everyone!!

~~~~~~~~~

This time of year is supposed to be joyful – full of good food, time spent with family, tinsel and bright lights and lots of packages under the tree.

We tend to have high expectations for the season, and also to feel that we have to meet others’ expectations so that everyone has a fabulous holiday! The reality sometimes falls short, and all too often in our attempts to make the holidays perfect, we end up short – as in short-tempered, and major stressed out!

Maybe we need to loosen up on some of those expectations… and prioritize what’s most important for ourselves and our families. First, let’s break things down a bit. We have gifts, decorations, food and family (I refer to Christmas below, but the same ideas apply to other holidays of the season.)

(This is actually a shopping mall in Canada; photo by Benson Kua, from Wikimedia Commons)

A shopping mall in Toronto, Canada (photo by Benson Kua, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

GIFTS: Some people (like me) love to shop; other’s loathe the process. If you fall into the latter category the first thing you can do is…

1. CULL THE GIFT LIST. Do you have people on your list for whom you have no idea what they want or like? Then you probably don’t know or like them well enough to be spending money on them. Are there relatives on the list with whom you exchange token gifts, neither party really caring whether the other likes what they get?

See if you can get them off the list without offending them. Suggest that you not exchange gifts, just enjoy each others’ company. (They may very well agree with great relief.) Or buy them something inexpensive and consumable, and repeat next year. You don’t have to be creative when nobody cares. (My mother-in-law got scented hand lotion from me every year. She was fine with that.) Suggest your extended family draw names and each person gets, and gives, just one gift.

2. SHOP EARLY. Whether you love or hate shopping, this is good advice. Yes, there are great bargains closer to Christmas but there’s also a lot more pressure. And these days, retailers often have sales going off and on throughout the fall.

Christmas shopping tends to bring out the procrastinator in many of us. It feels like such an overwhelming task. But the longer we put it off, the worse it will be. On the flip side, the sooner you start, the less pressured and the more fun it can be.

My brother and I begin in October with an all-day shopping trip. I love to shop; he’s not that keen on it. But we make it a fun outing. And because it’s only October, we know we have lots of time to find those items that don’t jump into our cart that day.

Get started early and get done early. You will be the envy of all your friends, and so, so much more relaxed as the holidays draw nearer.

3. DO YOU HATE TO WRAP? Or do you love it? If you love it (as I do) starting early on your shopping means you have plenty of time to enjoy the wrapping process. I make it part of my evening routine as I watch TV. Wrapping three or four packages a night, I’ve got it done in no time. And it gets me in the holiday spirit!

tow of red gift bags

Photo by Melinda & Cristiano, CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr/Wikimedia

But if you hate it, I have two words for you…

Gift Bags!!! For a buck or two apiece, your wrapping is done!

DECORATIONS:

4. DECORATE FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, NOT THE WORLD. Unless you totally get off on decorating (I know a couple people who do), keep it simple. Ask yourself what is most important for you and yours?

For years I struggled with those #%@&* outside lights, stringing them over trees and bushes and freezing my tuckus off in the process. Today, the inside of my house is a Christmas wonderland, because I enjoy putting up those decorations. But outside, there’s a wreath on the front door and a pre-lit table tree in the dining room window. That’s all my neighbors are getting from me.

And you know what? None of them have complained.

5. MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR. When I was a kid, my father was in charge of decorating the tree. He was meticulous. All the ornaments had to be balanced, the tree totally symmetrical. (He was an engineer.) He would carefully put one strand of tinsel on each branch.

449px-Christmas_Tree_(1) pub domain wiki

A slightly off-kilter tree, but still gorgeous! (public domain–Wikimedia)

He made my mother nuts!! And my brother and I fled to our rooms until the tree was done.

The blinkin’ tree doesn’t have to be perfect. Get the whole gang involved and it will be done in no time. And if you must have symmetry, you can move a few ornaments after everyone else is in bed.

FOOD: If you love to cook, go for it. If it’s not so much your thing (like me), look for ways to keep it simple.

6. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME. I learned this from my grandma. Every year, she came over to our house on Christmas Eve. She made the dressing that night, and prepped the turkey. The next morning, Mr. Turkey just needed to be transferred from the fridge to the oven.

7. IS THAT BIG MEAL REALLY WHAT YOU WANT? Again, ask yourself what really matters. You just had a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. Is it crucial that you have another one a month later?

A few years ago, my family was facing some stressors around the holidays that made us want to simplify things as much as possible. We decided we would have a cold buffet for Christmas dinner, for just that year. I baked two turkey rolls the day before and my daughter-in-law and I made or bought various salads. I was sure it would be a letdown not to have the traditional big Christmas dinner.

Guess what? We didn’t miss the traditional dinner one bit! The meal was just as tasty, and so much less stressful. Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time in the kitchen prepping and then cleaning up from a big meal, we spent that time balancing plates on our laps and laughing and talking as we enjoyed each other’s company. We’ve been doing Christmas dinner that way ever since!

FAMILY: This is, after all, the heart of Christmas, being with family. But how do we define our families?

8. SPEND CHRISTMAS DAY WITH THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER THE MOST. One of the mistakes I sometimes see people making on Christmas is that they spread themselves too thin. Christmases were special for me as a kid because they were relaxed. We opened our stockings, then had a leisurely breakfast. We opened our presents, then had a leisurely dinner.

Christmas with the extended family.

Christmas with the extended family, on 12/26. We’re having a ball, can’t ya tell? 😉

We went to visit the extended family the day after Christmas, or the following weekend. We saw everybody eventually, but NOT on Christmas Day!

The first year I was married, my husband and I tried to keep everybody happy. We got up extra early to exchange our own presents, then went to my parents’ house for brunch. Then we jumped in the car and drove for two hours to have Christmas dinner with his family.

Never again!

9. WHAT IS YOUR FAMILY OF CHOICE? If you don’t like your biological family, do NOT spend the most precious day of the year with them. Politely tell them that you want to spend Christmas with just your spouse and your children. If you’re not married, it’s okay to make your close friends your family of choice. If it feels too hurtful to say no to your biological family on December 25th, then designate another day–perhaps Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas–as your “family of choice” Christmas.

Last but definitely not least…

10. BE JOYFUL. The bottom line here is that this is a joyful holiday! So do your best to set it up so it is fun and relaxing for you and those who are most important to you!

Any other ideas for simplifying Christmas preparations and minimizing holiday stress? (Note: since I am traveling, it may b e a couple of days before I respond to comments.)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Are you a Pre-Crastinator? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

Way too many irons in the fire this week so I’m doing a re-run of an oldie but goodie post from a couple of years ago.

We just had Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S., so Americans are now all focused on…

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!! (A mall in Toronto actually; photo by Benson Kua, Wikimedia Commons)

While everybody else is gearing up, I’m done. I finished my Christmas shopping last Friday. Now before you decide to hate me, let me point out that my goal of being finished all yuletide acquisitions by December 1st is not necessarily coming from the healthiest of motivations.

There really isn’t a word for what I am. I’m the opposite of a procrastinator. Some people might say that I’m organized, or even disciplined. I am definitely organized. Not so sure about disciplined. Better descriptors for it might be obsessive-compulsive or even control freak! 🙂

Procrastinators put things off for psychological reasons. The task makes them anxious. They’re afraid of screwing it up, so they avoid dealing with it until the very last minute.

I am the opposite for equally neurotic reasons. I am afraid that something will go wrong if I wait too long. That somehow I won’t get it done on time. The thought of that makes me so anxious that I want to do it RIGHT NOW. Get it done and then I know everything is okay!

So I start my Christmas shopping in early October. My brother and I usually go on an all-day shopping binge trip, hitting at least two or three major stores. Now you might think this odd that my brother goes with me. Before you revoke his man card, let me point out that he does so in the hope that I will find things for him to buy for everybody in the family. And I usually do. I am a shopper extraordinaire.

If I could just figure out how to make a living from shopping…

But I digress. Once I’ve got a big chunk of my holiday shopping done on that trip, do I relax and cruise along, picking up a few things here and there? After all, I’ve got over two months.

Heck no! Once I get started, I want to get it done!

Afraid that I will forget someone, I make a list of everything I’ve got and who I still need some things for. Then I start methodically nailing down those final purchases.

I mentioned last week that I was going to my church’s Holiday Bazaar. We have a wonderful bunch of women (they call themselves the bazaar ladies, and yes the double meaning is intentional) who work throughout the year to make all kinds of gorgeous craft items–wreaths, jewelry, decorated baskets, ornaments, paintings, placemats, baked goods… just about anything imaginable related to Christmas or that would make a good gift. The prices are good, and the proceeds (95-100% of what we pay) goes to help the homeless in our town!

Going into the Bazaar I usually only have a few people left to buy for. This year, I got them all covered. Here’s my haul:

A wreath for my bird-watching friend, Doris (look close; you’ll see the birdies); some luscious-smelling potpourri for JJ; a necklace for Alice; a little something extra for the hubs (even though I thought I was done for him); a cute little felt bag to put a gift card in and… Voila, I’m done!

How about you? Are you a pro-crastinator or a pre-crastinator? When do you usually do your holiday shopping?

Oh, and by the way, I hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Contemplating Christmas and Cuba

by Vinnie Hansen

With the release of Black Beans & Venom, my seventh Carol Sabala mystery, my mind turns to Cuba, the book’s setting.

My husband and I ventured there during December, 2010, partly to attend the International Jazz Festival. But one doesn’t have to attend an event to hear the Latin beats there. Full bands perform on the sidewalk. Guitar and woodblock duets float from a park, and trombone players practice on the seawall.

IMG_3426

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3377

 

 

I did not miss the canned muzak that assaults us during the holiday season in the United States. In this communist country we saw few signs of Christmas—and heard fewer.

Which is not to say I dislike Christmas music. Last year the ukulele group for which I play keyboards, the All in Good Time Orchestra (AIGT), performed Oh Holy Night at two holiday events.

When that music swelled and our vocals rose in “Fall on your knees/Oh hear the angel voices,” the vibration filled me with ecstasy.

Vinnie playing her keyboard with ukulele band.

Vinnie rockin’ it with her ukulele posse, the All in Good Time Orchestra

Since other groups also performed Oh Holy Night, this year our director suggested we do a piece that no one else would do—a Paul McCartney song. I expected a familiar tune. Instead I was introduced to a short melancholy piece that is now stuck in my head like an earworm.

Junk is not a Christmas song. But after once again watching people on Black Friday punch each other in order to score a television set, the lyrics speak to me. To paraphrase: Buy, buy the ads cry, but why, why the discarded junk asks.

Which brings me back to Cuba, a place singularly lacking in true junk. We all picture the old American cars there, but those aren’t the only things kept alive on the Caribbean island. Between the U.S. embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people lack supplies.

IMG_3365

So a wooden seat is crafted for an old bike. A worn tennis ball becomes a kid’s baseball. Old headlights are brightened with silver paint.

 

IMG_3294

 

 

 

Kids play with slingshots fashioned from branches and elastic. A cart with no wheels squeaks by on rusty rims.

So many of the details of Cuba wormed their way into my heart and into Black Beans & Venom.  While primarily a story of suspense, the book is also a tribute to the resourcefulness of the Cuban people.

As the holiday season commences and AIGT rehearses Junk, I think of this island country pressed into recycling, reusing, and repurposing. Is there a way to catch that spirit of resourcefulness, I wonder, without being forced into it?

Are there countries or regions you’ve visited where you were particularly impressed by the locals? What’s your favorite Christmas music?

book cover Black Beans and Venom, A Carol Sabala Mystery

No one wants P.I. Carol Sabala to take the case. Her boss is apprehensive about an illegal investigation in Cuba. Carol’s boyfriend worries about her physical safety. But the client is rolling in dough, the office has unpaid bills, and Carol chafes under the mundane tasks assigned to her.

In Old Havana, Carol sets off to track down Megan, the client’s missing daughter, who is battling metastasizing cancer and running from a sociopathic boyfriend. Struggling in the exotic world of the island, Carol races to find Megan, before the disease or her ex-boyfriend kills her.

Now available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

10 Ways to Make Your Imperfect Holiday a Happy One

by Kassandra Lamb

(Note: If you read my teaser last week and you were expecting more about psychopaths today, I’ve postponed that post to January. I decided it was getting too close to Christmas to be talking about such a grim subject, so instead here’s a post on how to keep the holidays from stressing you out!)

This time of year is supposed to be joyful–full of good food, time spent with family, tinsel and bright lights and lots of packages under the tree.

We tend to have high expectations for the season, and also to feel that we have to meet others’ expectations so that everyone has a fabulous holiday! The reality sometimes falls short, and all too often in our attempts to make the holidays perfect, we end up short–as in short-tempered, and major stressed out!

Maybe we need to loosen up on some of those expectations… and prioritize what’s most important for ourselves and our families. First, let’s break things down a bit. We have gifts, decorations, food and family (I refer to Christmas below, but the same ideas apply to other holidays of the season.)

(This is actually a shopping mall in Canada; photo by Benson Kua, from Wikimedia Commons)

A shopping mall in Toronto, Canada (photo by Benson Kua, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

GIFTS: Some people (like me) love to shop; other’s loathe the process. If you fall into the latter category the first thing you can do is…

1. CULL THE GIFT LIST. Do you have people on your list for whom you have no idea what they want or like? Then you probably don’t know or like them well enough to be spending money on them. Are there relatives on the list with whom you exchange token gifts, neither party really caring whether the other likes what they get?

See if you can get them off the list without offending them. Suggest that you not exchange gifts, just enjoy each others’ company. (They may very well agree with great relief.) Or buy them something inexpensive and consumable, and repeat next year. You don’t have to be creative when nobody cares. (My mother-in-law got scented hand lotion from me every year. She was fine with that.) Suggest your extended family draw names and each person gets, and gives, just one gift.

2.  SHOP EARLY. Whether you love or hate shopping, this is good advice. Yes, there are great bargains closer to Christmas but there’s also a lot more pressure. And these days, retailers often have sales going off and on throughout the fall.

Christmas shopping tends to bring out the procrastinator in many of us. It feels like such an overwhelming task. But the longer we put it off, the worse it will be. On the flip side, the sooner you start, the less pressured and the more fun it can be.

My brother and I begin in October with an all-day shopping trip. I love to shop; he’s not that keen on it. But we make it a fun outing. And because it’s only October, we know we have lots of time to find those items that don’t jump into our cart that day.

Get started early and get done early. You will be the envy of all your friends, and so, so much more relaxed as the holidays draw nearer.

3.  DO YOU HATE TO WRAP? Or do you love it? If you love it (as I do) starting early on your shopping means you have plenty of time to enjoy the wrapping process. I make it part of my evening routine as I watch TV. Wrapping three or four packages a night, I’ve got it done in no time. And it gets me in the holiday spirit!

tow of red gift bags

Photo by Melinda & Cristiano, CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr/Wikimedia

But if you hate it, I have two words for you…

Gift Bags!!! For a buck or two apiece, your wrapping is done!

 DECORATIONS:

4.   DECORATE FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, NOT THE WORLD. Unless you totally get off on decorating (I know a couple people who do), keep it simple. Ask yourself what is most important for you and yours?

For years I struggled with those #%@&* outside lights, stringing them over trees and bushes and freezing my tuckus off in the process. Today, the inside of my house is a Christmas wonderland, because I enjoy putting up those decorations. But outside, there’s a wreath on the front door and a pre-lit table tree in the dining room window. That’s all my neighbors are getting from me.

And you know what? None of them have complained.

5.  MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR. When I was a kid, my father was in charge of decorating the tree. He was meticulous. All the ornaments had to be balanced, the tree totally symmetrical. (He was an engineer.) He would carefully put one strand of tinsel on each branch.

449px-Christmas_Tree_(1) pub domain wiki

A slightly off-kilter tree, but still gorgeous! (public domain–Wikimedia)

He made my mother nuts!! And my brother and I fled to our rooms until the tree was done.

The blinkin’ tree doesn’t have to be perfect. Get the whole gang involved and it will be done in no time. And if you must have symmetry, you can move a few ornaments after everyone else is in bed.

FOOD:  If you love to cook, go for it. If it’s not so much your thing (like me), look for ways to keep it simple.

6. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME. I learned this from my grandma. Every year, she came over to our house on Christmas Eve. She made the dressing that night, and prepped the turkey. The next morning, Mr. Turkey just needed to be transferred from the fridge to the oven.

7.  IS THAT BIG MEAL REALLY WHAT YOU WANT? Again, ask yourself what really matters. You just had a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. Is it crucial that you have another one a month later?

A few years ago, my family was facing some stressors around the holidays that made us want to simplify things as much as possible. We decided we would have a cold buffet for Christmas dinner, for just that year. I baked two turkey rolls the day before and my daughter-in-law and I made or bought various salads. I was sure it would be a letdown not to have the traditional big Christmas dinner.

Guess what? We didn’t miss the traditional dinner one bit! The meal was just as tasty, and so much less stressful. Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time in the kitchen prepping and then cleaning up from a big meal, we spent that time balancing plates on our laps and laughing and talking as we enjoyed each other’s company. We’ve been doing Christmas dinner that way ever since!

FAMILY: This is, after all, the heart of Christmas, being with family. But how do we define our families?

8.  SPEND CHRISTMAS DAY WITH THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER THE MOST. One of the mistakes I sometimes see people making on Christmas is that they spread themselves too thin. Christmases were special for me as a kid because they were relaxed. We opened our stockings, then had a leisurely breakfast. We opened our presents, then had a leisurely dinner.

Christmas with the extended family.

Christmas with the extended family, on 12/26. We’re having a ball, can’t ya tell? 😉

We went to visit the extended family the day after Christmas, or the following weekend. We saw everybody eventually, but NOT on Christmas Day!

The first year I was married, my husband and I tried to keep everybody happy. We got up extra early to exchange our own presents, then went to my parents’ house for brunch. Then we jumped in the car and drove for two hours to have Christmas dinner with his family.

Never again!

9.  WHAT IS YOUR FAMILY OF CHOICE? If you don’t like your biological family, do NOT spend the most precious day of the year with them. Politely tell them that you want to spend Christmas with just your spouse and your children. If you’re not married, it’s okay to make your close friends your family of choice. If it feels too hurtful to say no to your biological family on December 25th, then designate another day–perhaps Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas–as your “family of choice” Christmas.

Last but definitely not least…

10.  BE JOYFUL. The bottom line here is that this is a joyful holiday! So do your best to set it up so it is fun and relaxing for you and those who are most important to you!

Any other ideas for simplifying Christmas preparations and minimizing holiday stress?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Tis the Season of Magic!

Two of our authors use elemental magic in their stories, so we thought, in honor of this magical time of year, we would give you a little insight into how this magic works in each world.

First up is Kirsten Weiss discussing the magic used in her  Riga Hayworth Paranormal Mystery series:

Here’s an issue I confounded one of my editors with in my upcoming book, The Elemental Detective. What’s the difference between magical elementals and elements used in magic?

Elementals are mythical beings or nature spirits that have an affinity for an element. And in certain types of magic, the magician may embark on a pathworking, journeying through an inner landscape to interact with these elementals. It’s considered higher level magic, because elementals can be capricious and dangerous.

As to the elements in magic, that story begins with the ancient philosophers, who divided the matter of the universe into four elements: earth, wind, air and fire. It really got going in the 3rd century, when Plato proposed a fifth element: spirit. These elements were seen as the building blocks for everything in creation.

zodiac

Book illustration from “Quina Essentia” by Leonhart Thurneisser zum Thum. Depicts the correspondences between the four humors, four elements, and zodiacal signs from an alchemical perspective.

While this elemental philosophy developed, Renaissance philosophers explored the concept of correspondences – that everything in heaven corresponded to something on earth. For example, they saw a hierarchy in the skies. Heaven was just beyond Saturn, the planets forming a sort of descending staircase of increasingly dense matter, with earth in the lowest, most coarse position. This hierarchy was reflected in the hierarchy among humans – from king to commoner. The planets had many other correspondences. E.g. the moon (considered a planet) corresponds to water, to cycles, to change. In turn, the water element had its own correspondences, such as the emotions and intuition.

So in magic, you could use an element that corresponded to your intended effect and help charge your spell. For example in a love spell, which affects the emotions, you might use something that symbolized water, like a sea shell.

(Kirsten works part-time as a writer and part-time as an international development consultant. She writes the Riga Hayworth paranormal mystery novels. Her fifth book in the series, The Elemental Detective, will be available December 21, 2013.)

In Shannon Esposito’s Pet Psychic Mystery series, the main character, Darwin Winters, is half water elemental. Her human mother fell in love with an elemental magician. They had three daughters, who each wield one magick element–water, fire, earth. In the newly released book, SILENCE IS GOLDEN, you get to meet her sister Willow, the earth elemental.

Esposito-Silence-Is-Golden-EBOOK-small

Darwin’s connection with water was the easiest to imagine because water is such a necessary component of life. Humans are made up of 60% water, and water covers over 70% of the earth’s surface. Add to this the fact that at the basic level everything is energy, including our thoughts, and it’s not hard to create magic.

Darwin’s gift allows her a higher level of concentration, compressing the energy of her thoughts and allowing her to feed that energy into the water molecules. By doing this, she can control the water or add specific energy patterns to it–like love and happiness.

But, like everything in life, practice makes perfect and Darwin has only recently begun to embrace her gift instead of shun it. This means she’s also trying to figure out the ethics involved in using her gift. In this recent book, she gets into a bit of hot water with her hunky homicide detective boyfriend when she gives him magic-infused water without his knowledge.

One man, Dr. Masaru Emoto, has dedicated his life study to the effects of our thoughts and words on water. He has some pretty interesting ideas about water taking on the resonance of the energy directed at it. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, his photos of water are beautiful and give one hope that we do have some control over our fate in this crazy world.

If you had the gift of elemental magic, would you use it without your friend’s consent? Or is that meddling with the natural order of things?

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Bah Humbug Deux

Most of us here at misterio are running around like crazy, doing last minute tasks required to launch new books before Christmas. So I thought this would be a good time to re-run a post from last year. It’s about how to cope with the holidays if you are a bah humbug person who really doesn’t like Christmas.

I hate to say it since I love the holiday myself, but Christmas is not for everyone. Some people just barely tolerate it, some flat out hate it and some find it incredibly depressing. And the fact that everybody else is so gleefully looking forward to it just makes their lack of pleasure in it that much more pronounced.

Is blue your favorite color for Christmas lights?

If you dislike Christmas, or know someone who does, here are some tips for handling the Christmas Blues.

#1: Stop feeling bad about not liking Christmas. And especially stop feeling bad about yourself for feeling that way. First of all, you can’t control how you feel, only how you act (I know I do harp on this idea, but it’s true!)

Secondly, I am quite sure you came by your negative feelings about Christmas quite honestly. Perhaps you’re not as fond of Christmas as you once were because the people you once shared it with are gone. Even though I still love Christmas, I don’t get nearly as excited about it as I once did. It’s never been quite the same since my mother died. I didn’t realize how much her enthusiasm was the driving force behind everyone else’s pleasure, not until after she was gone. I’ve had to adjust to the new normal for the holidays, that I am now the matriarch of the family. *shudder*

Or perhaps there are unpleasant associations to it because of experiences from your past. You are not alone. There’s a reason why “A Dysfunctional Family Christmas” is one of Saturday Night Live’s all-time favorite skits.

#2: Establish new holiday traditions that feel right for you and your family.

This really helped a friend of mine overcome his bah humbug reaction to Christmas. He grew up with an alcoholic and abusive father. The holidays were just an opportunity and excuse for his father to get more drunk, more often which totally tainted all the Christmas traditions for my firend.

When his children were young, my friend and his wife started a new tradition. The family would go together to a nearby cut-your-own tree farm to pick out a tree. It became quite a ritual. The kids would spend an hour or more running around, trying to decide on just the right tree. Once it was cut down and paid for, while the tree farm staff tied it to the roof of their car, they would huddle around drinking hot cider and trying to decide if this year’s tree was better than last year’s.

Now the decorated tree didn’t remind him of his parents fighting anymore. It reminded him of the fun his own family had picking this tree out.

If you don’t have a family and/or it’s impractical to be with family who live far away, this may very well be why you aren’t all that into the holiday. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, you are being bombarded with images of happy families celebrating, while you’re looking forward to a lonely day.

#3: One approach can be to think of the Christmas holiday as just another day or two off from work, like Memorial Day weekend or Veterans’ Day. Breathe a sigh of relief that you have the time off and do what you would with any other day off. Lay around the house in your jammies and read a good book, or even catch up on household chores or gardening.

#4: Travel. If you’re part of a couple but neither of you feel strongly about Christmas with your extended families, give each other a nice vacation, like a four-day cruise (or longer if you can afford it) to the Bahamas. If you’re single, find a friend or acquaintance in the same boat (no pun intended) and take that cruise, or go skiing in Colorado for a long weekend.

#5: An old standby is to volunteer at a senior center or soup kitchen serving Christmas dinner to those less fortunate. This can provide a sense of camaraderie and belonging with your fellow volunteers as well as a sense of satisfaction in the altruistic task.

#6: If dealing with extended family is what makes Christmas so hard, you can do one of several things. One option, if you’re not up for a family scene because you just didn’t show up, is to officially declare either Christmas Eve, or maybe the weekend before or after Christmas as your Christmas. Then Christmas Day itself becomes just another obligatory visit with the annoying relatives. (You may notice that nowhere in the Bible is the date of Christ’s birth mentioned. Biblical scholars don’t believe Jesus was actually born on December 25th; this date was chosen by the early Church of Rome because it was a pagan holiday they were trying to supplant.)

If you’re single, perhaps you have a circle of friends with whom you are closer than you are with your family? Then make them your ‘family of choice’ to celebrate the holiday with. Again, you may want to do this on a different day, so everybody can appease their biological families by showing up for turkey. But in your mind, make the day you gather with friends your “real” Christmas.

#7: Keep in mind that it’s one lousy day out of the year and this too shall pass! Again, it’s okay to not like Christmas.

#8: Adding a new item this year. If you hate to shop and that is bumming you out this time of year, here are some ideas to make life easier. Focus on online shopping; it’s still shopping but without the crowds and you can do it in your jammies. 🙂 Also consider taking a friend or family member out to lunch or to a fun event as a present. Gift cards may seem impersonal but if it’s to the person’s favorite day spa, or for books for an avid reader, that can make it special.

Think about gift ideas that are easy for you and yet the person will indeed enjoy the gift. I have a friend who hates to shop but she’s a fabulous cook. I asked her to bake me something yummy this year since I’m not much of a cook. A win-win!

If you happen to have mystery or pet lovers on your list, we can make life easier for you. Check out these two posts: Shannon Esposito’s Five Holiday Gift Ideas for Pet Lovers and K.B. Owen’s Cyber Monday for Mystery Lovers (and check out our boxed set below; it’s on sale this week!)

Women of Mystery boxed set cover

 

Three great mysteries, just 99 CENTS for a limited time.

Available at AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, and KOBO

Volume 2 will be out NEXT WEEK!

 

 

Are you a bah humbugger or do you love Christmas? Do you know someone who struggles with depression or loneliness over the holidays?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington Mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Veterans, Gratitude and My Post-Menopausal Fu Manchu (plus boxed sets)

November is a crowded month. We have Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping, plus another event I’ll get to in a moment.

First, a big salute and thank you to our veterans! They endure and sacrifice so much and I think everyone would agree that we should take care of their needs when they come home. Did you know that Gulf War era II (deployed since Sept, 2001) veterans’ unemployment rate, while on the decline, is still almost 3% higher than the national average? Come on, America, we can do better than that!

On a lighter note, here’s the hubs in his Army days!

young serviceman

Handsome devil, isn’t he? And dig that psychedelic, early 70’s wallpaper in the barracks. He says they only got away with that because they were deployed out in the middle of nowhere.

If you look close you’ll see the beginnings of the mustache he grew in the Army, and sported for several decades after. Which brings us to that other thing that’s happening in November.

One of my online writer friends, Susie Lindau, is a breast cancer survivor, But she hasn’t just survived and endured, she has thrived and inspired (see her Boob Reports). And now she’s participating in No Shave November or Movember, an initiative by the American Cancer Society to raise consciousness about cancer, and also money.

The idea is that you let your hair grow wherever it may–mustaches and/or beards for men, legs and/or underarms for women–and then donate what you normally spend in a month on self-grooming to the cause of fighting cancer.

I certainly plan to make a donation, but this whole thing got me thinking about menopause and hair.

After menopause, women’s hormones shift. Well, duh. You already knew that. But what you may or may not have known is that it isn’t just estrogen and progesterone that go down. Testosterone also goes down some in women post-menopause.

Wait! What? Testosterone in women? Yup, women have small amounts of testosterone produced by their ovaries and adrenal glands. This testosterone is responsible for sex drive (yay!) and body hair (nay!)

So here’s what happens hair-wise for older women like myself. Less testosterone equals less body hair. I now shave my legs every other week instead of every other day. But the little bit of testosterone we have left in our systems isn’t as cancelled out by estrogen (which discourages facial hair). So now we have hair on our chinny-chin-chins. And mustaches. Oh, goodie!

I may not have to shave as often but I spend a lot of time in front of the mirror plucking out my fu manchu, and bitching mentally about how unfair it all is.

So what hit me right between the eyes about Susie’s post was this – November is also the month of Thanksgiving, of gratitude. Instead of bemoaning the fact that I now have a mustache, I’m going to focus more on being grateful: for my health, for my wonderful family and great friends, and for not having to shave my legs all that often!

And in response to Susie’s “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours” dare, here’s my fu manchu!

Kass's photo with fu manchu mustache drawn in
Another thing we at misterio press are grateful for are our wonderful readers, and to show our gratitude we’ve put together boxed sets of some of our books for Christmas-giving ease (or your own reading pleasure). Volume 1 has just released and Volume 2 will be out in December.

Women of Mystery boxed set cover

Just $4.99 ~ three books for the price of one. Yay!!!

WOMEN of MYSTERY, Volume 1 (click on titles below to see the descriptions):

Dangerous and Unseemly, A Concordia Wells Mystery

Collateral Casualties, A Kate Huntington Mystery

The Alchemical Detective, A Riga Hayworth Mystery

Available at AMAZONBARNES & NOBLE,  and KOBO

How about you? What are you grateful for? And just how hairy can you get for a good cause?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

When the Saints Come Marching In (and a New Release)

book cover

In honor of my new release, An Unsaintly Season in St. Augustine, I decided to write a Just for Fun Friday post about saints. (See below for details about my book.)

Now I know sainthood should be a reverent, serious topic but you go Google the list of patron saints and see if you aren’t smiling or even downright laughing out loud over some of them.

Most of us are familiar with St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, and St. Christopher who looks over travelers.

But did you know that St. David of Wales is the patron saint of doves and praying to St. Polycarp of Smyrna will probably keep you from getting dysentery?

stained glass window of St. David of Wales

St. David of Wales (photo by Wolfgang Sauber, CC share-alike license, Wikimedia Commons)

If you have arm pain, have a little chat with St. Amelia. If you’re going ice skating, a short prayer to St. Lidwina of Schiedam wouldn’t hurt (seriously, there is a patron saint of ice skating).

If you’re inclined to have fits of frenzy then St. Dennis is who you should be madly praying to (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

The various professions have their patron saints and the number of saints a particular profession has doesn’t seem to correlate with the degree of need for divine intervention. Accountants, librarians, bankers, barbers, chefs, engineers, engravers, gardeners, funeral directors, veterinarians, translators and whitewashers all have one each. (Yes, whitewashers have a saint.)

Soldiers have four which seems fitting but astronauts only have one, as do road workers, nurses and surgeons. Teachers have two, which doesn’t seem like quite enough considering all they have to deal with.

Prisoners have two while prison guards only have one. Hmm. Not sure I’d like those odds if I were a prison guard. Police officers and firefighters only have two each, while bakers and comedians have three. What’s up with that?

The ones I was most interested in were, well, interesting. The patron saint of therapists and psychiatrists is St. Christina the Astonishing. Oookkaay.

St. Francis de Sales and St. Lucy of Syracuse are the patron saints of authors and writers. St. Francis de Sales was a very pious fellow. He was the Bishop of Geneva during the Protestant Reformation and he used a lot of flyers and other writings in his attempt to convert Calvinists to Catholicism.

St. Lucia (or St. Lucy) of Syracuse is better known for being the patron saint of the blind. She was martyred around 300 AD and one story says her eyes were poked out before she was killed. Another version is that her pagan fiancé, whom she was trying to ditch because she was a devout Christian, had admired her beautiful eyes. So she plucked them out and gave them to him, saying something to the effect, “Okay, take them and leave me alone so I can dedicate myself to God.”

In artwork, she is sometimes shown holding a tray with her eyes on it.

Renaissance painting of St. Lucy

Renaissance painting of St. Lucy (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Eeeww! With all due respect to St. Lucy who, one way or another, died a gruesome death… Ixnay to the eyesway on the aytray!

But back to St. Augustine and my new book. It’s set in the city of that name in Florida. The city was named by the Spanish sea captain who founded it. He first sighted land on the feast day of St. Augustine in 1565. My guess is the scene went something like this:

Guy up in the rigging yells in Spanish, “Land! I see land!”

The captain, one Don Pedro Menandez de Avilla, falls on his knees and says, “Gracias, St. Augustine, for putting this piece of land between us and the edge of the world, because that Columbus was a fool. Everybody knows the world is flat.”

In addition to being the patron saint of brewers, printers and theologians, St. Augustine is the one to pray to for the alleviation of sore eyes. How apropos for me, since by the end of a day at the computer writing and/or editing, my eyes are quite sore.

Okay, you all check out my new release while I ask St. Augustine for some eye drops and then call my priest to set up an appointment for confession, ’cause I think I’m probably in trouble with the Big Man Upstairs after writing this post.

Then tell me about your favorite saint down in the comments.

(And because I love how this cover turned out, I’m gonna show it to you again!)

An UNSAINTLY SEASON in St. AUGUSTINE, A Kate on Vacation mystery

Even on vacation, Kate Huntington can’t seem to avoid other people’s troubles. While in St. Augustine, Florida for the Christmas holidays, she and her PI husband get caught up in trying to find a friend of Kate’s parents who’s gone missing. They soon discover that this isn’t just a case of a senior citizen wandering off. Can they reunite the elderly man with his wife before Christmas, or will others who mean him harm find him first?

This is the first of a series of novella-length mysteries with a cozy flavor to them. They feature the same characters from the Kate Huntington Mystery series. These are intended to be light, suspenseful reads that also allow the reader to travel vicariously to interesting and sometimes exotic places.

Available now as an e-book for just $1.99 on:

AMAZON    and    BARNES & NOBLE

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!