Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Emma's Gingerbread Men

"And I had but one penny in the world, thou should'st have it to buy gingerbread"--William Shakespeare

I've always had a thing for gingerbread men. Maybe it's because it's so fun to decide which part to eat first--the head to put him out of his misery? A foot to prolong the agony? A left arm?

Emma makes gingerbread men for a Christmas party in Emma: A Latter-day Tale, so I wanted to share my mom's recipe for gingerbread people. It's made with molasses and honey for those who don't like a heavy molasses taste. If you like the molasses taste, go ahead and substitute molasses for the honey. My mom adapted this recipe from one she got years ago in Colonial Williamsburg. Here it is:


Mix together the following in a large bowl:
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses 
3/4 cup honey
2/3 cup water

Mix together in a medium-size bowl :
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
7 cups flour

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 

Heat oven to 350.  Roll dough 1/3 inch thick on floured surface.  Cut with floured cookie cutters.  Place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Gratitude Helps Me Sleep

The weirdest thing happened after my youngest child started sleeping through the night. I found out I couldn’t sleep through the night. I’d wake up around three a.m. with all sorts of things to think and worry about. Those of you who do this know what I’m talking about. Usually, I would wake up the next morning and think, “Why did I spend an hour last night worrying about that?”

Gradually, I came to acknowledge that I have a slight case of anxiety. It never bothers me during the day—only at three a.m.. I’ve talked to doctors and specialists who recommended different approaches. I tried journaling and supplements. Nothing made that big of a difference.

Then, one day, I read a magazine article about improving your sleep. The article cited a study that showed that people who kept a gratitude journal slept better than those who didn’t. Study participants wrote down five things for which they were grateful before they went to sleep. I thought, “Hey, it can’t hurt to try.”

I have now been keeping a gratitude journal for six months. Most nights I write down five things for which I’m grateful. It hasn’t been a miracle solution, but it has significantly improved my sleep. When I wake up at three a.m. now, I’m much less likely to stay awake worrying. Keeping a gratitude journal has also helped me to feel more optimistic about life in general.

 Here's what I've learned about keeping a gratitude journal:

  • You have to write it down. For some reason, the process of writing makes it work better than just talking or praying about it. 
  • It works better if I come up with an original list each day. 
  •  I must write just before I go to sleep. 
It’s so simple, but it's made a huge difference for me. How has gratitude helped you in your life?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why I Write Clean Romance

What is clean romance? I guess everyone has their own definition, but for me it means romance I could recommend to anyone--including my daughter, my mother-in-law, and the young women I know at church.

For most of my life, I underestimated the power of romance novels. I certainly never saw myself writing one. When I did get an idea to write a romance, I resisted the urge to write. I didn’t want to be a “romance writer.” But the idea wouldn’t leave my head, so I wrote it just for fun. As I wrote, I began to see how important clean romance is. I experienced the difficulty of finding clean romance writers to be my role models. There aren’t all that many of us. At the same time, I watched teenage girls devouring chick lit. Some of them read more than a book a day. I saw adult women carrying stacks of romance novels from the library. Whether or not I liked it, romance was influencing the world around me. That’s when I decided that if I have anything to do with it, romance will be a voice for virtue. Think about it: more than any other type of literature, clean romance exemplifies the values of chastity and self-control. It teaches young women to see themselves as more than objects.

Some say that if romance is clean you are not doing it right. In contrast, I believe the most beautiful love stories are about quirky characters who maintain high moral standards. One aspect of Jane Austen novels that intrigues me is her brilliant heroines.  One of my favorite characters is Elizabeth Bennet. I love her wit and the message that intelligent, witty women can gain much more in life than those who throw themselves at men and devalue themselves. Elizabeth’s strength captivates Mr. Darcy so much that when he describes his feelings for her he says, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” No passion is missing in this novel. If anything, writing clean romance forces the authors to think even harder of how to articulate the feelings of their characters.

So my questions for you are:
Who is your favorite clean romance heroine?
What is it about the story that captivates you?
And what is your favorite line in the book?