Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


AngelFire: Did Your Blog Make the Cut?

Naches wildflowersIt’s time for the 2012 AngelFire Awards!  This award goes to the finest in thoughtful, literate blogging over the past year based on my purely subjective opinion:).  Winners must display a high quality of skill in the writing craft.  Additional selection criterion:

– Consistently high levels of creativity, imagination and ingenuity, including new twists on familiar subjects.

Insightful posts that go beyond pedestrian, predictable re-hashes of tired topics.

Frequency of guest authors/contributors.

Originality.  Are posts fresh, vital, intriguing?  Do they compel you to “turn the page”?  Do they fire the imagination and urge readers to keep reading, thinking, questioning, exploring or consider another perspective?

– Blogs with a significant number of posts evidencing a biblical worldview rise to the top.

Spelling and punctuation count.  If you can’t differentiate between “you’re” and “your” and “its” and “it’s,” don’t expect your blog to be among the finalists.

– Egocentric, online diary-type blogs are exempt.  AngelFire Awards are limited to blogs that speak to something bigger than the author.

Fish Tarn croppedAnd the winners are (in no particular order):

* Sandy’s Ramblings – Cozy, insightful stories and anecdotes from Sandy Keith, a well-published writer of more than 30 years.

The Writing LifeTerry Whalin offers readers an inside look at the publishing industry as an editor and a writer.

* The Writer’s Friend – help and advice for both the beginning and advanced writer from freelance writer, editor and proofreader Donna Goodrich.

* Easy WriterKathy Macias communicates God’s vision with creativity and passion (Hab. 2:2)  through her books, devotionals and speaking ministry.  Also promotes other authors.

* Dickens and Christianity – Not a blog per se, but this site by author Rev. Cheryl Kincaid devoted largely to Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is intriguing and thought-provoking.

Do you have any favorites to add to the list?  If you’d like to nominate your blog or someone else’s for consideration next time, let me know with a response in the Reply section below.

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Writing it Real in the ‘Weird Season’

Xmas window treatmentsWe’ve just hit what I call the Weird Season.  You know, the “dip days” after December 25 and before January 1, when some of the patina of Christmas  fades in the rear view mirror and New Year’s is  down the road aways.

Does it feel… weird?  Like all the hope and hype of Christmas has dulled and you’re either basking in the afterglow of a warm and wonderful December 25, or you’re relieved at surviving another dreary disappointment, glad it’s gone and history?

How ’bout you?

Was your Christmas festive and fun, full of frolic and holly-decked halls? Did you enjoy a great office party?  Snowball fights with the fam?  Caroling, wassail-ing, mistletoe-ing and piles of gift-wrap?

Maybe your Christmas was lonely, meager and thoroughly forgettable? Did you logged off Facebook because you couldn’t stand scrolling through one more friend’s idyllic family gathering, all cozy and comfy around a kitchen table heaped with Christmas cheer? Maybe Christmas was replete with dashed hopes and unmet expectations?

Whatever the case, can I make a suggestion on how to deal with the Weird Season that hits between December 26 and January 1?

Write it out.

Whether you journal, blog, knock out a short story, write a letter or  jot notes on the back of a cereal box or a paper napkin, write it out.  Was your Christmas:

  • Disappointing? Write it out.
  • Filled with wonder and awe and memorable moments? Write it out.
  • Joyful and triumphant? Write it out.
  • A time of angst and stress and forced family ‘togetherness’? Write it out.
  • Did you make mistakes in 2012 that you want to avoid in 2013?  What lessons did you learn, what bridges did you build or discover in 2012 that you’re taking into the New Year?  Remind yourself. Write it out.

House with wreath, snowBe honest.  Process your disappointment, anger, frustration or “love and joy come to you, and a merry Christmas too!” or “I wish it could last forever” post-Christmas let-down by writing it out.  Writing it real can not only help you get a handle on your Weird Season emotions, it’s also healthy.  A release.  A good way to gain some perspective.

‘Weird Season Therapy’

As you write, you may find fresh insight or understanding nosing around that wreath-wrapped window, curled up under that light-lit lintel.  You may also discover some unopened Weird Season “packages” like increased sensitivity toward those who may struggle to be “all in” at Christmas.  More empathy for the less fortunate.  A bigger heart for the lost.

Think of  writing it out as Weird Season Therapy.  If you’ve read this far, you know what I mean.  It’s okay.  You’re a writer.  If this holiday season lost some of its luster, was less than you hoped for, or you’re not quite ready to let go of the goodness, do what you do best: write about it.

There.  I feel better already.

How do you cope with the ‘Weird Season’?

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‘Sweet Hymns of Joy…’

My favorite Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sings my favorite Christmas carol:

Sweet hymns of joy in
Grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us
Praise His holy name!
Christ is the Lord,
Oh praise His name forever,
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim
His pow’r and glory
Evermore proclaim.

You can find the rest of the  lyrics in English and a brief bit of historical background here.

What’s your favorite Christmas carol? Share by leaving a reply in the space provided.  And Merry Christmas!

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‘Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Listening… or Reading?’

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

In the lane, snow is glistening…”

Whether you’re snowed in or working on your tan, December’s here and that means CHRISTMAS!  YESSSS!!!  Here are some of my favorite seasonal reads.  (Chime in if you don’t see your favorites here.)

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.  I’ve read and re-read this book every year since it first came out in 1993.  A modern day classic.

The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.  A delightful short story about heaven’s littlest angel who’s not quite “angelic,” but close to the heart of God.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.

Another favorite seasonal read.  Jim and Della, one dollar and eighty-seven cents and it’s Christmas Eve.  Told in O. Henry’s matchless short-story style, a heart-warming tale of giving, receiving, and sacrifice.

The Homecoming by Earl Hamner.  A warm, richly worded story about a Depression-era family in the Blue Ridge Mtns. of Virginia awaiting their Daddy’s arrival home on Christmas Eve.  The seed that grew into TV’s “The Waltons.”

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

The author began writing his “little carol” in October, 1843 and finished it by the end of November in time to be published for Christmas. Feuding with his publishers, Dickens financed the publishing of the book himself, ordering lavish binding, gilt edging, and hand-colored illustrations and then setting the price at 5 shillings so that everyone could afford it. This combination resulted in disappointingly low profits despite high sales. In the first few days of its release the book sold six thousand copies and its popularity continued to grow. The first and best of his Christmas Books, A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas tradition and easily Dickens’ best known book.

  “The Greatest Gift” is a 1943 short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern which became the basis for the film It’s a Wonderful Life.  Need I say more?

The Little Drummer Boy, By Henry Onorati, Kristina Rodanas, Harry Simeone, Katherine Davis.  A  classic story of the encounter between a poor boy and the baby Jesus embodies the true spirit of Christmas.

Silent Night: A Christmas Carol is Born, by Maureen Breet Hooper.  The story of how the Christmas carol “Silent Night” was created.  Beautifully illustrated.  A great book for read-alouds with the kids – don’t forget to break out your singing voices and some hot chocolate, too!

  ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without this seasonal standard.

Christmas Every Day by William Dean Howell.  The title says it all.  Another classic.

The Gospel According to Saint Luke.  The four Gospels can be divided into various categories.  These are Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are known collectively as the Snyoptics.  Of the three Synoptic gospels, only Matthew and Luke include the Nativity stories.  Of these two, Doctor Luke’s account is perhaps the most beloved and best-known, with its focus on the King of Heaven being born in a humble manger.

What are your favorite seasonal reads?


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FREE (No. Really.)

FREE Christmas Gift!

Grandma Peggy's Kitchen Cover.1

If you’re not yet in the Christmas spirit, grab a free copy of my newest ebook, Holiday Recollections & Recipes from Grandma Peggy’s Kitchen.  Favorite, time-tested recipes plus easy, inexpensive craft ideas to spruce up your home for the season.  Also a section on Simply Celebrate! – which pretty much says it all.

Grandma Peggy’s Kitchen is my Christmas gift to you to thank you for reading.  Download your free copy here.

A Favor?

Would you do me a favor?  If you enjoyed this brief book, kindly share the links and/or post a review.  Thanks.

Isabella's Torch Cover Photo.3Also, my Thanksgiving-themed memoir, Isabella Torch, is still available.  Yours free here.  Stir up a mug of hot cocoa, add a peppermint stick, a cozy fireplace and treat yourself to a two-fer!

Stay warm and well and Merry Christmas!