Tuesday, September 30, 2008
We gave you the wrong address for one of our blog tour hosts for today. If you get a chance drop by fiction author Lynette Sowell's blog. We left an "s" out of her address and sent you to some man's blog who posted only once in 2002! Sorry, Lynette. I was alerted to this error of ours through a Google alert. Her correct address is below.
A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts! My Slices of Life Blog By Lynette Sowell(Lynette Sowell) It's not Christmas--yet. But on August 1st, my husband and I enjoyed meeting author Cathy Messecar at Meet the Christian Authors night in The Woodlands, Texas. Cathy told us about her latest book co-authored with several of her friends. ...Slices of Life - http://myslicesoflife.blogspot.com/
Ok, then I discovered another wrong address. We inadvertently sent you to a real estate site instead of to Karen Whiting's Web site and blog: http://www.karenhwhiting.com/SOS/ Check out the book tour and leave a comment.....thanks...if you found other errors in our links, please let us know....Cathy Messecar
Here is the original Chex Mix recipe, and a sweet twist on it. And you can find a TON OF CHEX MIX recipes at Chex.com
The Original Chex® Party Mix
Still great after all these years! Chex® Party Mix has been a party favorite for over 50 years.
Prep Time:15 min
Start to Finish:15 min
Makes:24 servings (1/2 cup each)
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.
2. Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.
Spiced Nuts 'n Chex® Mix
Chili powder and red pepper spice up this party-perfect mix—it will disappear quickly!
Prep Time:10 min
Start to Finish:25 min
Makes:16 servings (1/2 cup each)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 cups Corn Chex® cereal
2 cups Rice Chex® cereal
2 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 can (11.5 oz) mixed nuts
Oven Directions: Heat oven to 300°F. Mix sugar, chili powder and red pepper. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in cereals and nuts until evenly coated. Stir in sugar mixture until evenly coated. Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes, until mixture just begins to brown. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.
Be sure to take time to visit our blog tour hosts today! This is the last day of the tour. Winner of the Christmas Basket will be announced October 19 right here!
Monday, September 29, 2008
First, thanks so much to all of you who have followed the book blog tour and to all our new readers.
This week, our topic is the Scrumptious Extras that we bake, make or mix up--only during the holiday season. For me, it's wassail, that Norse drink whose name means "Be in good health." In A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, page 79, I tell about my first taste of wassail in my childhood home and how I later acquired the recipe from the bank, who had earlier given some to Dad.
There wasn't room in the book to include the recipe, so here it is for you, and as I said in my essay, to now wrap my hands around a warm mug of wassail is to conjure up memories of my childhood home and that first whiff of wassail, like holding a cup of pumpkin pie. Enjoy!!
Do you have a scrumptious extra you make only at Christmas? Share with us, please.
Recipe ran in the Houston Chronicle Food Section years ago, submitted by then Bank of the Southwest. I hope that's enough credit to not infringe on copyrights. I tried to get one from them to include recipe in book, but couldn't reach the right person, and the bank has undergone many name changes since the recipe was published.
Wassail / Cathy
2 qts apple cider
1 cup lemon juice
2 cups orange juice
1 cup sugar or honey
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Simmer for ten minutes until flavors blend.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Last week at this time, eight days after Hurricane Ike, we still didn't have power, so last Sunday (landline restored and running computer on a generator) I decided to post a wonderful written memory by our publicist Dr. Larry Fitzgerald who also happens to be a Santa Claus model. If you missed it, be sure to read his Chirstmas "firsts" story.
Also, this past week, all of the other co-authors gave great tips to avoid overeating for the holidays. I'll share a few and then we'll be on to our topic for this week of the "scrumptious extras" we serve during the holidays, with a few recipes, too! I'll share that tomorrow.
Following are some of the things I really do. So far, I'm only 23 pounds over my pre-marriage weight, after 41 years of marriage. It hasn't come easy, but here are some of my suggestions:
To avoid overeating during December and Jan-Nov, too, I try to only eat when I'm hungry and refrain when I'm not. Get in the habit of asking yourself a simple question, "Am I really hungry?" Amazing how that question will prompt an honest answer. OK, so I answered myself that I'm hungry, then I ask myself a second question, "Are you really hungry or are you just thirsty?" Some of the time, my answer is, "Thirsty." Then I drink a big glass of water which helps boost energy level. Hint: It's a good idea to keep these conversations with self to yourself.
One other tip, keep lo-cal salty and any sweet treats (your favorites) on hand for cravings. For salty, I keep V-8 juice, pretzels and celery sticks to fill with pimento cheese spread. When my sweet tooth hollers, I'm ready with miniature marshmallows (a few of those endangers a sweet craving), sugar free hot chocolate mix, and any kind of other sweet. Here's the trick, sit down and really savor the flavors. Tell yourself "One is enough."
Can you make one pretzel last five minutes, one of those small ones? When satisfying a craving, eat it very slowly, tasting every grain of salt on the pretzel, or try and distinguish the flavors in the V-8? A lot of the time, we're not in the moment with the food, we're in the next room wrapping presents, or going over our to-do list, so we don't really satisfy the craving or enjoy the lovely gift of flavor we've craved. We gooble one or two down without thinking or being in the moment, then we try another and another to tame that craving. It can be tamed with one small portion if we savor the flavors.
The same with sweets. Make your sweet treat a real treat. Sit down. Put your feet up. You deserve a five minute break with a mini Snickers or an M & M candy (OK, you can have 5). Eat slowly. Enjoy, and all the while talk to yourself saying, "One is enough."
Let us know how you do this fall and if any of these tips help. Passyours on to us, too. Hey we're only good part of the time, we still overeat at others....Cathy
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Anticipating the Christmas season with the hope of peace and joy for all.
Visit today's blog tour host and wish her a Merry Christmas!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Buffets are the worst diet killers available. Especially those at a potluck dinner or on board a cruise ship. You want to taste everything and by the time you are done, you've loaded a plate with enough calories and fat and sodium to fulfill your dietary needs for a month. Don't hit the buffet without some sort of plan to avoid overeating.
For you cruisers, this is a workable plan for all the meals you take in that wonderful Lido buffet. I suggest looking into the other restaurants on board ship as well. Celebrity has a great spa lunch on some of their ships--healthy, lo-cal, and delicious. Eating in the main restaurant is helpful too if you limit your menu choices and keep the dessert choices to one at dinner time--no matter how many the waiter offers you!
Midnight buffets are almost a thing of the past on cruise ships as more and more people are becoming diet conscious. Once in a while there's a decadent chocolate buffet, or a fruit buffet, but for the most part, not too many are offered. At Christmas time, however, we experienced a beautiful huge buffet on the Queen Mary 2. There was a table that stretched throughout the main hall with Santa and his reindeer posed as if pulling all the goodies behind them. Everything from shrimp to sushi to beef Wellington to chocolate houses and confectionery delights. I may have overindulged on that one--just a bit.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I have no secret information on how to avoid overeating during the Christmas holidays.
Essentially, at our house, now that our children are grown up, it is easier to stock the kitchen with healthy foods, which is helpful.
Usually we have no ice cream or cake sitting around tempting us, but holidays are different, since we do have some decadent desserts. My husband and I each stick to one serving of dessert, and send the rest of the fruit tart / fudge cake / baklava home with our sons.
Is this too cruel to our sons? They are happy when they leave, laden with heavy duty paper plates loaded down with delicious leftovers for their next meal.
We drink lots of water at our house, before and during holiday meals, which helps to fill up faster.
I also subscribe to the idea that we eat more reasonably if we are not ravenously hungry when the dinner bell rings and the meal is served, so I put out things to nibble on, like shelled nuts and boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce. Yeah, I'm a big fan of protein.
I welcome tips on this topic.
Here are today's blog hosts, and be sure and visit them, since they have alot to offer.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Because my husband sat nearby while I happened to be working on this blog post, I mentioned the subject to him.
He hadn’t laughed like that in a long time!
“What is it with women? Why would anyone want to put that kind of pressure on themselves during the holidays? That’s why it’s the holidays. [Well, not really WHY, but you know what he means.] Start your diet on January 2nd, but don’t try to limit what you eat when all the goodies are just sitting there staring you in the face.”
Though his logic won me over, I still feel compelled to offer a couple of my favorite tips. If you ascribe to the Bret Wilson Philosophy of Eat, Drink and Be Merry because It’s Christmas, then stop reading now; however, if you’d like an idea or two to keep the January weight-loss challenge to a minimum, then read on:
· Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. You simply won’t be able to pack as much on it.
· Down with food! Sit down, that is, to eat. And slow down, chewing carefully and drinking a beverage in between bites.
· Don’t feel obligated to take food in pre-cut portions. Consider a piece of cake or pie. Cut off a tinier portion—half or less of what is already cut. That will leave an additional smaller portion for the next portion-conscious person coming along.
· Finally—gather in close because I don’t want to have to shout. If you taste something you don’t absolutely love, THROW IT AWAY! Your body is not a garbage disposal! Ignore your mother’s voice in your brain about the kids starving in other parts of the world. Your unwanted piece of cake isn’t going to help them anyway, but it will add extra pounds to your frame if you eat and don’t really want it. I repeat, THROW IT AWAY! There, you’re off the hook.
Now, excuse me, I need to go the buffet for seconds . . .
Oh, and don't forget to visit these blogs today!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
My dearest childhood friend has always fought the uphill battle with weight. Even as a teen she was obese. But her terrific attitude and fun, positive behaviors made her a joy to be with. She used to say, "Fat's where it's at and I got it." You had to love her. Today, ah hem years later, we're still "bestest buds."
This doesn't mean I encourage overeating nor obesity - but it is a fact of modern life.
If you're wanting to watch your weight and are open to a preventative overeating tip, have I got one for you. Eat more! Yep, that's what I said. Now, I don't mean eat more in quantity, but more often. Consuming six small meals throughout your day keeps your metabolism running at optimum caloric-burning levels so you don't crash with starvation and overeat. Studies prove that eating small meals prevents people from gorging themselves at a scheduled meal, and feeling so satisfied they even lose weight! By small, I mean one fist-sized apple or a serving of cheese with a few crackers or a 6-ounce container of low-fat yogurt. Honestly, you'll find you don't eat as much if you eat more often.
During the holidays when the temptation is to overeat at parties or binge at a family meal, try nibbling on something about an hour before. It proves what Mom used to say, "You'll spoil your appetite!"
Tell us your best tip to avoid overeating during the holidays?
Leave your tip here and then go on to visit these bloggers today and leave a comment to increase your chances of winning our Christmas Basket!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
But, I do exercise. I try to go to step aerobics class 3 times a week, as usual for me, during the holiday time. And I add in a jog or walk or to each week as well.
My theory is go ahead and eat what you want, but try to eat in moderate amounts. And exercise more to burn off those extra calories.
Sorry of that sounds lame. I know. Not a great tip form me this week.
But I do have some fantastic ways you can exercise during the holidays. this is from a post on my Tip of the Week that goes out every week. (You can sign up for free via my website.)
5 Tips to Staying Healthier This Holiday Season
1. SALAD DRESSING - Did you know that the cap to your favorite salad dressing is 1 tablespoon? So, if the serving size is 2 tablespoons, pour 2 cap-fulls onto your salad and you have kept those calories down.
2. SAUTE IN PAM - Many of you already do this, but you save a ton of calories by simply sautéing your food in PAM instead of butter or oil. And they have a variety of flavors, too!
3. NIBBLE NO MORE - If you are like me, you nibble as you cook. Those calories can add up fast and you end up overeating without even thinking about it. Here’s a great tip. Simply chew sugar free gun while you cook. No more nibbling, calories saved. (Chewing gum also works late at night when you are watching TV and have the urge to snack.)
4 .CHOCOLATE CRAVE - When you are up late at night wrapping presents or baking and you get that chocolate urge, grab a bowl of Special K Chocolate Delight cereal instead of candy. It has more nutrients, fewer calories, and will fill you up and satisfy that chocolate craving.
5. PLAY OUTSIDE - No time to go to the gym to exercise? Well, simply take your children sled riding. You will get plenty of exercise walking up those hills. Or grab a girlfriend, bundle up and go for a winter walk. The air will refresh your spirit and the exercise will refresh your body.
Most of all, don’t stress about things, especially exercise and dieting. Binge diets never work for long; you have to think long term. Keep your goals reasonable and attainable, make it a family affair, and make it fun. Being healthy is a journey not a destination. When you backslide, and you will, just start fresh again, and again, and again.
And here are some neat FAST FACTS on how many calories you burn every day
How Many Calories Does THAT Burn?
• Walking 30 minutes burns 149 calories
• Grocery shopping for 30 minutes burns 122 calories
• Fast dancing for 30 minutes burns 171 calories
• House cleaning burns 216 calories every 30 minutes
• Mopping your kitchen floor burns 153 calories every 30 minutes
• Kissing burns 1.2 calories per minute
• And even brushing your teeth burns 6 calories in 2 minutes
• washing the dishes or ironing burns 77 calories
• Even playing cards burns 59 calories
• And for all you couch potatoes out there, watching a 30 minute sitcom burns 36 calories (Must be all the laughing…)
* Data from The Calorie Control Council
So the best advice? Reduce your calorie intake, and burn more calories by doing more stuff. Break out those Christmas CD’s to start dancing in the kitchen as you chew gum and bake, and pucker up and kiss the ones you love!
Enjoy the journey- Trish
Don't forget to visit our blog hosts today! Leave a comment and increase your chances of winning our Christmas basket.
Monday, September 22, 2008
One of the most fulfilling ministries I've ever had the privilege to participate in is helping Santa Claus come alive for children and the young-at-heart. This I've done for about 37 years, now.
The first time to wear the red suit
I'll never forget my first experience as Santa ... when the phone rang nearly four decades ago. A friend of my father explained hurriedly that the guy who was supposed to make "Santa's first arrival" the day after Thanksgiving could not do it. He asked if I would fill in. "What am I supposed to do?" I asked. He replied: "Just put on the suit and say, 'Ho, Ho, Ho.'" But I found that children wanted more than that. They wanted to talk. So talk we did. Not just about what toys they wanted but about their lives.
The first time Santa cried
The first time I cried as Santa was when a child sat on my knee and said, "Would you bring my daddy back home for Christmas. He's in prison." That was a tough one. That's when I reassured this child that Santa loved him but sometimes mommies and daddies have to be away. "But," I said, "Maybe you can send him a special Christmas card." (The little boy's mother nodded.) He smiled at this.
Santa's most fulfilling experience
Being Santa for children (and the elderly) at church and in the community is rewarding. Serving as a model for print and television ads is fun. But the most fulfilling experience this Santa has ever had is working with children associated with hospice care. These are kids who are dealing with terminal illness in their lives. Either they have the illness or a loved one does. One young lady was given just three months to live. Her parents warned me that she hadn't smiled in several weeks. Santa came into her room with that one goal -- help her smile. I joked with her. And, smile she did. She asked for Santa to visit again the next day. After three months of daily visits, she was much improved. Today, she is 28 years old and in complete remission. The doctors were at a loss why she is alive but if you ask her, she will tell you why she's well: "Santa made me laugh."
Is Santa real?
Is Santa real? "Santa Claus" was a real life Christian hero named Nicolas of Myra. He was a kind and generous gentleman who cared for people -- especially children. Every time someone helps another or gives to others without expectation of return, then he or she is Santa. And Nicolas' life is honored. Is Santa real? Just ask a 28 year old who re-learned how to laugh.
P.S. Santa's favorite book ... Many months ago, I was privileged to read A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts in the manuscript form. I have a large library of Christmas books but, aside from the Bible, this is now my favorite. I particularly like the short stories of all the Christmas firsts. (Can't wait to try the recipes and tips, too.)
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Our world has changed. Christmas dinners are certainly more elaborate than that first simple meal. Perhaps we need to simplify and take more time to reflect on how the simplicity of that first Christmas brought such joy into our lives.
Today's blog host is:
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Since we relive the joy of Christmas through the wonder and excitement of children, we have in the past tried to make another family's Christmas a little more joyful when we have learned that they've been through tough financial times. Through our pastor or children's director, we have sought out a family in need and provided gift cards for Toys R Us and/or a local grocery store to help them supplement their Christmas celebration.
I share this knowing that the secret may get out but also knowing that there are many other "secret Santas" who gave as well and hopefully it will inspire you if you are able to give to another's Christmas joy this year.
Perhaps there are a few things in the Christmas Gift Basket you might be able to secretly gift to another. Increase your chances of winning that basket by leaving a comment at one of these blogs today:
Friday, September 19, 2008
I buy gas at the same gas station each time, and noticed a very down and out guy was sort of helping out there. I doubt they paid him but they probably gave him free coffee or food. I certainly hope so.
He looked so scruffy and thin and would walk around the gas station and pick up trash, and help out in small ways. At Christmas time, I asked what his name was, in the office, and said “I want to give him a Christmas card. I notice he is doing a good job helping out.” I got a Christmas card for him, wrote his name on the envelope, put money in the card, signed my first name, and when I saw him, I handed him the envelope and wished him “Merry Christmas.”
I left quickly, and am sure he was very surprised, and touched, and I felt happy I could do something kind for a stranger.
Another Christmas I read in our newspaper about a guy who was travelling around the country riding his horse, and who was in our town, and a bit short of cash. In some rural areas, he picked up cowboy jobs, but our city wasn’t very suited for that. I kept some money at hand, and when I saw him on his horse, on a busy city street, I pulled over, and ran up to him, and gave him the money while wishing him a Merry Christmas.
Surprising people can be a good thing for the giver and the receiver, no doubt about it.
We've gotten some lovely surprises with the nice comments you've left on our blog tour. Here are the hosts for today. Remember each place you leave a comment increases your chance of winning our beautiful Christmas Basket.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Here are today's hosts. Remember to leave a comment.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Remember the TV sitcom, "Gomer Pyle" starring Jim Nabors? He'd always turn his head from side-to-side, with a large "kid in the cookie jar" grin and repeat, "Surprise, suprise, suprise" when something unexpected happened.
That's what I think of when I'm able to pop a gift into someone's hand. Through the years, I've participated in my share of "Secret Pal" programs and it's always fun at the end of the period to reveal you are indeed somebody's "pal." I've also participated in oodles of giving to the needy programs or helping people at my church who needed a helping hand. The reward for me is seeing their eyes light up and joy fill their faces.
If you're wanting to surprise someone this Christmas, how about giving them a homemade gift. This will show your willingness to take time out of your busy schedule to make something as well as the thought of giving to another person with no expectation of a return gift.
I like this homemade face scrub recipe because it's easy and unusual and it saves my friends a ton of money buying the manufactured ones full of chemicals.
Sugar Face Scrub
- 1 1/2 Cup white sugar
- 2/3 Cup grapeseed oil
- 1 tsp Glycerin
Mix together and put in an airtight jar. Wrap with a pretty bow and give as a gift to those who love safe, natural body products.
What is a secret gift or surprise you bestowed on someone recently? Do tell . . . .
Don't forget to visit our blog hosts today and leave a comment to be entered in our Christmas Basket drawing!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Our first Christmas as husband and wife, he built a manger for me out of old barn siding from his parents barn. And every Christmas since then, he buys me 1 Fontanini figurine to fill the manger. (After 18 years of marriage, it is getting full in there!)
The Christmas after our first baby, Hannah, was born, he bought me diamond earrings. They were small, but so sparkly. That shocked me, since Mike is not a shopper, especially for jewelry.
And as wonderful as those gifts were, and they were, still the BEST most surprising gift Mike ever gave me at Christmastime did not cost a penny - just his love.
It was Christmas 2002, and I was VERY pregnant with our fourth child, Riley. Christmas morning dawned, and I sat my 8 1/2 month pregnant, whale-sized body in the comfy chair to watch the kids open their presents.
That's when Mike handed me an envelope and picked up the video camera to capture my reaction on tape.
I didn't know what to expect. Had no idea what could be in the envelope.
Once I opened it, the tears began to flow down my face. I could not believe that my husband had done such a thing.
Inside the plain white envelope, was a calendar. A schedule, as it were, of women from our church whom Mike had asked to come over and spend a couple of hours each day of the week for 2 months to help me get our three older children up, dressed, fed and on the school bus.
You see, Riley was due January 8th, and I now had 3 older children to get off to school. Mike knew I was a bit nervous about being up all night with a newborn, nursing, and then getting up with the kiddos and getting them off to school. Since Mike was a school teacher himself, he also knew he would need to leave before the kids did, and that left me alone and exhausted in the mornings.
So he spent several weeks walking around church with a calendar asking some of the older women in our church if they wanted to help him surprise me with this gift.
Guess what- THEY DID!
So, for the first couple of months after Riley was born, around 6:30 in the morning, an angel would arrive in the form of a friend. They would help get our 3 older children dressed, make them breakfast, and get them on the school bus for me so I could either rest with Riley, or nurse her or do whatever I needed to do.
And many of them then came back into the house to wash a load of laundry for me, do the breakfast dishes, or run my sweeper.
As long as I live, I will never forget the gift of angels Mike gave me that year. It was a gift wrapped up in love and friendship not just from my husband, but from a dozen women in our church. I grew closer to those women throughout the experience, and have deeper friendships with them even today, over 5 years later.
So, don't get caught up in the buying of gifts this Christmas. Sometimes the BEST gifts don't cost any money at all. The best gifts come wrapped in love and friendship, and time, and faith.
Think creatively this Christmas. How can you give a gift like that to someone you love. I guarantee it will be a gift they won't fever forget, one that will never gather dust in your attic or be re-gifted to Good will in a few years.
And as much as those diamond earrings sparkled, the gift of love shines for eternity.
Enjoy the journey, Trish
And be sure to visit these blog hosts today! Leave a comment to be entered for the Christmas Basket drawing!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Here are the blog hosts for today:
A wonderful new gift book is available for Christmas called A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Today, I’ve invited the six coauthors to share their unique story of how they came together to publish this exciting book full of stories, recipes, tips for simplifying the holidays and so much more.
First, let me introduce Cathy Messecar, Leslie Wilson, Brenda Nixon, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen and Karen Robbins. Thank you for being here today, ladies.
Karen: Thank you for the invitation.
You are from three different areas of the country—Texas, California, and Ohio. How did you all meet?
Terra: We all six joined The Writers View, an online group for professional Christian writers. Trish and Brenda met in person in 2004 for lunch, I understand, and on 9/18/04, after reading a post Brenda sent to TWV, I sent an email to Brenda, asking if she would like to join with me and walk alongside each other, as a Barnabas group. Brenda said yes that same day, and suggested Trish too. Very quickly Cathy, Leslie and Karen joined in and our stalwart band of six was formed. Living in California, I was so happy to find 5 Barnabas writers in other states so we could bring together a wealth of different viewpoints and expertise
Brenda: Actually, We haven’t met. We’re all great colleagues and friends via the internet. Four years ago Terra and I formed a dyad to support each other as Christians who write in the secular markets. Along came Trish, Cathy, Karen, and Leslie (not necessarily in that order) and we formed a close knit bond of support, creative energy, and professional accountability.
Karen: I met Trish through an online forum called The Writers View and she invited me to join the group.
Trish: Although we belong to the same Yahoo writing group, we met one by one online. Eventually, the six of us decided that since we all write as Christians for a secular market through magazine articles and newspaper columns, we could support and encourage one another.
Leslie: Though we met virtually through The Writers View, I have been blessed to give and get hugs from Trish (at a MOPS conference), Cathy (in the area on business) and Karen (in town for a writers' conference). I can’t wait to meet Terra and Brenda face-to-face, though I feel as though I already know them!
How did you come up with the idea to do a book together?
Brenda: The book is Cathy’s brainchild. She mentioned the concept of telling stories of events that happened for the first time at Christmas and sharing holiday historical tidbits and recipes and each said, “If you need any help, let me know.” That offer morphed into each of us equally contributing and co-authoring A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.
Trish: Yep, Cathy came up with the idea and the title, and asked us if we wanted to join her on this project. Of course, we said Yes!
Terra: Cathy mentioned the idea for a Christmas book to the group, and someone (I think it was Leslie) suggested that maybe our group could all write the book together. Cathy agreed to lead the way on the project. The earliest email I have on this is from 9/7/05, which shows that this has been a three year collaboration from idea to publication.
Karen: (Chuckling) Terra is a librarian and keeps our historical records by saving our e-mails.
Leslie: Actually, Terra, I wrote that comment (in a group e-mail) kind of tongue-in-cheek. Cathy, the ultra-sweet person she is, took my joking at face value and here we are. However, I believe God prompted the passion and ideas we all bring to the project and that He will do mighty things as a result of our collaboration!
Why did you decide on a Christmas theme?
Brenda: It was Cathy’s concept to write a book centering on Christmas.
Cathy: For several years, I’d been thinking about Christmas as a threshold to introduce Jesus to folks who aren’t familiar with him, and I love a simpler Christmas with the emphasis on family, friends and doing for others. I knew of some families who had experienced “firsts” at Christmas—reunions, losses, special surprises—and I wanted to collect those stories.
Terra: Cathy’s idea immediately resonated with me because Christmas books are “a way past watchful dragons,” as C. S. Lewis wrote. Many people won’t buy a book about being a Christian, but will buy a holiday and family fun book, thus the “past watchful dragons.” People who want to grow in their faith, and people who have no faith but celebrate Christmas will buy our book and hopefully be led to put the focus back on Christ for the holiday, and for their lives.
Leslie: Though Cathy birthed the idea, the rest of us quickly hopped on board. Not only is Christmas special to me—especially now that I have a family of my own—but also that particular holiday cries out to be simplified, to return to the meaningful aspects of celebration, and to lose some of the hype and commercialism.
Tell me a little about what is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? What is your favorite part?
Cathy: I like that you can read one chapter in about 15 minutes and, with all the different suggestions, it feels like Christmas Eve. Makes you want to set up the nativity! Many of the suggestions for family activities can be adapted for any family get-together.
Karen: There are heartwarming stories about things that happened for the first time at Christmas. For instance, one of my stories is about the first Christmas with our adopted children. And the book is pretty. When I first saw the colorful pages and drawings, I fell in love with the illustrator’s work.
Brenda: I don’t have a favorite part – I love it all!
Terra: I like the way the parts are woven into a seamless whole, like a patchwork quilt, that is stronger and more beautiful than the parts.
Trish: It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, all the best tips and recipes, and neat stories all wrapped up in this perfect little package.
Leslie: I love reading the special stories, hints, recipes—whatever—and imagining the precious family time that precipitated each moment. Plus, the book is gorgeous, beautifully printed, truly something to be proud of. And we are.
I’ve heard that the book is really a nice gift book; can you tell me a little about the format?
Cathy: Yes, it’s a hardbound book, full color interior. The layout makes it easy to read. It has a definite scrapbooky look on the interior. Different logos identify sections, such as an oilcloth-look Christmas stocking appears beside the “Stocking Stuffer Tradition” (help for connecting family members), and the “Cookie Canister” recipes are on a recipe card, and the back ground of “A Gift For You” is a gift box with bow. It’s a classy gift that they can be placed on a coffee table or in a guest bedroom during the holiday season.
Brenda: I like to describe it as a Starbuck’s sorta gift book. It’s high quality, crisp, and practical.
With six different personalities and areas of ministry, how did you manage to put this all together and still remain friends?
Karen: We pray a lot for each other and it helps that none of us have an over-inflated ego.
Cathy: There were no squabbles. Surely, we had differing opinions, but we knew that any of us could suggest an idea for this book and that each idea would get fair reviews from others. We actually voted on some aspects—everyone in favor say, “Aye.” If you’ve ever watched women at a Dutch treat luncheon when they divide up a meal ticket, it can be intense as they split the ticket down to the penny. As the project came together, I was in awe of my gracious coauthors, unselfish women who respect each other.
For some decisions, we did a round robin—things like book title and chapter titles and what categories to put into the book. Then, as compiler, I’d send out a list of needs to The Word Quilters, that’s what we call ourselves. For instance in a section we call “Peppermints for Little Ones” (hints for children’s activities), I’d put out a call, and the WQs sent in their hints, and then I put them into appropriate chapters.
Brenda: (Smiling) Are we still friends? Seriously, we each have our own platform, ministry, and family life, and those interests kept this project in perspective – it was important but not the only thing on our plates. No one was so enmeshed in this project that she campaigned for her own way. We never had a bitter disagreement or insistence to be “right.”
Terra: We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.We offer support and ideas for our separate writing projects and for personal prayer requests. I love these ladies, and I have only met one of them in person. So far, Karen is the only one who has met each of us, and one day we hope to meet in person, in a circle of friendship and love.
Trish: I think we are all very flexible and forgiving. We do have a variety of personalities here, but God has worked amazing things through our little group.
Leslie: Though I have seven non-fiction projects in various stages of completion, I could not be more thankful that this is the one to reach publication first. I am truly blessed to have worked with these women, learned from them, watched as they’ve poured heart and soul into crafting a product that will impact lives for the Lord.
Where can my readers get a copy of SOCF?
Cathy: The coauthors all have a supply, plus our publisher http://www.leafwoodpublishers.com/ has plenty of copies and discounts for buying five or more. Or they can be bought at most online stores and also ordered by your local bookstore.
Karen: And anyone who leaves a comment here can be entered in a drawing for a free book and a gift basket worth $60! Check our blog, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts,
often for the possibility of other free books.
Tell me more about your blog.
Karen: We started our blog in July and it is accumulating a wealth of information about Christmas. Each of us posts one day a week following the theme for that week. Watch for new recipes, tips, ways to simplify, stories, etc., similar to what is in our book.
Leslie: Ooh, ooh, let me answer this one. I’m probably the newest to blogging among the group, but I LOVE it. I’ve enjoyed posting and receiving comments back from readers. What an amazing adventure having an online voice can be! This blog will focus on a different theme each week—anything from tips to avoid overeating during the holidays to how to give a guest room special touches—and expand on the material in the book. I think readers will get to know the authors’ individual personalities and connect on a more personal level. Plus, they get that many more ideas, information, inspiration (!) at no additional cost.
WQs: As an added bonus for inviting us to your blog, we’d like to pass along this Christmas tidbit to you and your readers:
Enjoy a blessed Christmas this year! And thanks for inviting us to share our book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, with you.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Blog hosts will draw a name from their comments list and send it to us. We will combine those names with the names from those leaving comments on our blog during the tour and a winner will be drawn and announced on October 19!
It all starts tomorrow! Ready, set, Blastout Blog Tour!!!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
8 lbs apples washed, cored, and quartered (sweet-tart apples work best) 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
Place all into a roasting pan and set the oven for 325°. Let bake uncovered until apples cook and mixture thickens. Stir occasionally to break up apples and get proper consistency. About 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours later, carefully ladle the hot mixture into clean sterile canning jars. Be sure to wipe any apple off of the rim of the jar. Close with hot sterilized lids and rings. Turn jars upside down. Lids will seal as contents cool. (You know they are sealed when you can press the top of the lid and there's no give.)
Friday, September 12, 2008
6 cups of nuts (walnut halves, pecan halves, almonds, cashews).
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons water
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger (optional)
2 tablespoons grated orange peel (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
sprinkle of cayenne pepper (optional)
Beat egg whites and water until frothy, then add nuts and stir. Combine remaining ingredients, add to mixture and stir. Spray cookie sheet with oil and bake at 250 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally and do not overcook. Store in airtight containers.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This one comes from the mom of one of our son’s friends. Teresa always makes a ton of this hot cinnamon candy and passes out bags to just about everyone she knows. She’s given us both the mild and hot versions. My boys like it hot!
From Teresa Twedell
(who usually doubles this batch!)
Looks, smells and tastes like Christmas!
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
¾ cup Karo syrup
1 tsp red food coloring
1 or 2 tsp cinnamon oil (depending on how hot you like the candy)
Mix sugar, water, and Karo syrup together in a large saucepan. Cook on high to a hard crack stage. It will boil for about 20-30 minutes before reaching this point. To test for a hard crack stage, drop a small amount into a bowl of cold water. If it hardens within seconds, it is ready. Remove from heat.
Add the food coloring and cinnamon oil.
Stir thoroughly for 2-3 minutes. Pour onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with Pam. Let dry until hard (at least two hours). Break into pieces and coat with powdered sugar.
Teresa makes the round of family and friends to distribute the candy in cellophane bags or aluminum tins available at any craft store. Our family is going to try this recipe this year!
The Wilsons other favorite gift food is shelled pecans. One of Bret’s clients has her very own pecan grove and shells us several pounds worth every year. Each half is huge and the pecan “meat” is delicious.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Yummmy! The following recipe is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, but I want to share it with you today. Our family loves these light, slightly crunchy, peppermints that easily (too easily) pop into the mouth. They're so airy we don't feel the calorie crunch only the clean refreshment of peppermint.
When writing assignments or speaking engagements slow for me during December, that's when I pull out my kitchen cookware and "go to town."
But first, a bit 'o history -- The first Christmas my husband and I were married -- and poor as church mice -- I found this recipe in a newspaper and decided to give it a try since it required only three inexpensive ingredients. To my delight, it was not only easy and delicious, but made a whopping batch that I could share with others.
- 4 Egg Whites (room temperature)
- 1 1/4 Cups sugar
- 1/4 Cup finely crushed candy canes
Put egg whites in a large bowl and beat with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form when the beater is slowly raised. Continue beating, and add sugar two tablespoons at a time. Beat well after each addition. Continue beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is slowly raised. Gently fold in the crushed candy canes. Drop mixture by small teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Try to keep them all the same size so they bake evenly. Sprinkle with additional colored sugar if desired. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until slightly browned on bottom. Cool on wire rack and store in an airtight container. Yield: 4 dozen kisses.
What is your family's favorite holiday snack? Will you share a recipe here?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
In Chapter 4 of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, we were asked to share our favorite food gift, but not the recipe. So, here is the recipe for my Sand Art Brownies from page 54.
I love giving these to my children's school teachers as well. It is like home-baked brownies in a jar. And they are an inexpensive way to say thank you to someone like a teacher, neighbor or friend, around the holidays.
You will need some wide mouthed mason/canning jars, quart size. And I like to decorate each jar with a cut square of Christmas fabric on the lid tied with a ribbon to make it festive as well.
Enjoy the journey- Trish
Sand Art Brownies (Trish Berg)
PREP TIME 20 Min
READY IN 20 Min
Yield: 1 jar which makes 1 9x9 inch pan of brownies
5/8 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup vanilla baking chips
1/2 cup walnuts
- In a clean, wide mouth 1 quart mason/canning jar, layer the ingredients in the order given.
- Attach a decorative tag to the out side of the jar with the following directions. (Hint: You can print what is here or cut and paste it into Word to make it simpler to label jars.)
Sand Art Brownies
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Grease one 9x9 inch square baking pan.
- Pour the contents of the jar into a large bowl, and mix well.
- Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, and 3 eggs.
- Beat until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
Monday, September 8, 2008
In each chapter of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, we have categories of ideas for Christmas celebrations. One of those is a list of "Our Favorite Things." In Chapter Four we list our favorite homemade food gifts, and we're gifting you with those recipes today.
Mine is Cherry Biscotti. Last year, I layered the dry ingredients in a jar, attached the recipe and gave them to my friend Doris. She and her granddaughter baked the biscotti one day during Christmas vacation. This is one of our favorite biscotti mixes to give away. It's tasty with a cup of bold roast coffee or good with a cup of gently flavored hot tea.
What homemade food gift do you like to give away? A suggestion, gift a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and include the ingredients to make one of our Cookie Canister recipes found in each chapter. The picture was taken the day I received my first copy of our book. Yippee!
Cherry Biscotti / Cathy
7-8 Tbs. of softened butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup chopped dried cherries
¾ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, eggs and sugar. Add flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the rest of ingredients. Mix dough with hands. Shape into two loaves: 9 inches long by 2 inches wide. Bake on greased cookie sheets for 25-30 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut each loaf diagonally into ½ inch thick slices using a serrated bread knife. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, turn over and bake for 8-10 minutes until biscotti is dry and crisp. Store in airtight containers.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
You will need mini-muffin pans and paper inserts for this as well as shopping around for vanilla wafer cookies that are small enough to fit in the bottom of each cup. I think some of the 100 calorie count boxes may have the right size. The last time I tried this recipe I found Nabisco had increased the size of their cookie.
Cherry Cheesecake Tarts
Cherry pie filling (Mom always bought Thank You brand)
Mini tart liners
Set liners into mini-muffin pan and place one wafer (cookie) in the bottom of each cup.
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbl. vanilla
1 Tbl. lemon juice
Beat at high speed for 5 minutes. Place 1 Tbl. of mixture in each lined cup of muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until set. Add a cherry with a bit of filling to the top of each.
Now just try to keep them from going straight to your waist!
Friday, September 5, 2008
It is so much fun to set aside a morning or afternoon and have a family event making gingerbread men cookies, and then decorating them with frosting and sprinkles.
This is a recipe from my step mother, Barb, who got it from her mom.
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup dark molasses
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 and 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sour cream
Cream butter, add sugar and mix well.
Add beaten eggs, molasses, flour mixed and sifted with soda and spices, alternately with sour cream and the cream of tartar.
Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Chill.
Knead on floured surface and roll out about 1/4 inch thick.
Cut with cookie cutters. Use all the designs you like, including gingerbread boy and girl, reindeer, Christmas tree, star, camel, Santa Claus, and more.
Bake on greased sheet in 350 degree oven 15 or 20 minutes.
For frosting stir powdered sugar and a little margarine and milk until blended.
Add food coloring to several different bowls of frosting, and put on the work table all of the sprinkles you can buy. Chocolate sprinkles are our favorite and the green and red sugar sprinkles.
In my family we spread on the frosting and then add artistic touches of the sprinkles, making realistic gingerbread people, Christmas trees, candy canes, etc.
They are almost too gorgeous to eat! Almost but not quite.
Half the fun is tasting as you add the frosting and sprinkles.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
My maternal grandmother, Nana (Remember the one who lived to 103?) used to make crescents every Christmas. Traditionally known as wedding cookies, we didn’t have to wait for someone to get married to enjoy these melt-in-your mouth treats. My mom and grandmother rolled the sugary balls of dough in their hands, expertly shaping the ends to a point, then bending them to the form of a crescent moon before baking. My job was the most important: sprinkling them with powdered sugar. We—and, by that, I mean Mom and Nana—filled two giant Tupperware® cake-takers of the buttery treats.
What’s not to love in crescents?
See the recipe below.
Crescents (Wedding Cookies)
2 sticks of butter or margarine
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
Preheat oven to 325°.
Hand mix together until well blended:
½ cup of powdered sugar
Slowly add sifted flour to the mix (You don’t usually have to use all of it.) Mix dough to resemble soft “play-dough,” adding flour as you mix.
Add pecans. Pinch off a dough ball approximately one inch in diameter. Use the heat from the palm of your hand to soften as you roll into a small “cigar” shape with the ends slightly pointed. Curve as you place dough ball onto cookie sheet.
Bake 30 minutes until tips are slightly browned. Sift powdered sugar onto baking board or waxed paper and place crescents onto the sugar. Sprinkle additional powered sugar on top.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
by Brenda NixonDid you know that cooking with kids helps develop their fine motor and language skills, and their understanding of math and physics? Yep! When children cook they
- use their hand, wrist and finger muscles;
- hear words not used in ordinary conversation;
- learn fractions and counting; and
- watch what happens when foods bake or chill.
I have more fond memories than I can count baking with my grandma. She allowed my creative love for messin' in the kitchen to bloom. Mom also encouraged my cooking skills (but, you know how moms always want you to clean up, but grandmas don't care). Grandma would often just sit at the table and watch me, answering my questions and chattering. She always made me feel like whatever I did was right. Kids need an admirer at times.
During these fun-filled holidays, keep your kids in the kitchen! You may be amazed how much they learn during "play." Plus, you'll grow memories to look back on. There are more tips and ideas for being a great parent (or grandparent) in my newest book, The Birth to Five Book: Confident Childrearing Right From the Start (Revell), available in all bookstores.
For more recipes that you might want to try with your kids, see A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. This may be your first year to bake something together.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Some memories stay with you for a lifetime, and for me , a lot of those memories involve smells, tastes or feelings.
Christmas memories tend to revolve around the taste buds for me. It is such a time of sharing meals and yummy desserts, and a lot of love.
I remember as a little girl when we would visit my paternal grandparents in Brooklyn, New York. They were 100% Italian, through and through. We would eat the meal, and then sit around the huge dining room table as the adults would talk and talk (argue and argue over nothing much at all) and sip espresso while eating Italian pastries and desserts.
And they always had Biscottis there to dip in their coffee.
My grandparents have both passed away long ago, and my dad died in 1997 after a long battle with pneumonia. And with their passing, my Italian heritage seems to have gone away as well.
I miss them. Even though life at their house was never perfect, full of loud "discussions" and family struggles, it was also full of love.
And for a city-girl-gone-country mom like me, living on a farm in Ohio, I enjoy keeping some of my Italian heritage around in little ways.
So a few years back, I found a fantastic recipe for Chocolate Cherry Biscotti's, and ever since then, it has become a tradition for our family.
I wanted to share not only this recipe with you all, but a new one I found online that I am going to try this year as well. My recipe is for a dark chocolate biscotti, and the new recipe is truly colorful and Christmas looking with it's red and white.
This year, I will be making both Biscotti's, and dipping them in my evening coffee as I watch the snow fall outside my window.
And maybe, just maybe, I'll pull out our old photo album, and invite some wonderful memories to join me.
Blessings to you all, Trish
Dark Chocolate Biscotti (Trish Berg)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 55 minutes
Yield: 46 cookies
2 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 Tbsp. Baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 cup chopped almonds (optional)
1 cup crasins, or dried cherries (optional)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line 2 baking sheets with foil, then coat foil with Pam.
- Mix all wet ingredients. Mix all dry ingredients in separate bowl.
- Slowly add wet to dry ingredients and blend with wooden spoon.
- Divide dough in half. Shape each half into logs, about 2 1/2 by 15 inches each.
- Bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and with serrated knife, cut into slices about 1 inch think.
- Bake slices on their side for 8 to 10 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown. Turn, and bake on other side an additional 5 minutes, or until browned and crisp.
- Let cool and dry for 30 minutes. Store in air tight container, and enjoy with coffee.
Chocolate Cherry Biscotti (www.AllRecipes.com)
PREP TIME 25 Min
COOK TIME 40 Min
READY IN 1 Hr 15 Min
Original recipe yield 3 dozen
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped candied cherries
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped white chocolate
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the almond extract.
- Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended.
- Mix in candied cherries and mini chocolate chips.
- With lightly floured hands, shape dough into two 10 inch long loaves.
- Place rolls 5 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet; flatten each to 3 inch width.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set and light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes.
- Using a serrated knife, cut loaves diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange slices cut side down on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown. Turn, and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Cool completely.
- Melt white chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 20 to 30 seconds until smooth. Drizzle cookies with melted white chocolate. Store in tightly covered container.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Later in life, my son told me about when he and a friend ran into another two friends at the movies one holiday weekend. My son's favorite bought holiday treat is Borden's egg nog. He and his friend bought two pints and had them in their letter jackets. They showed their buddies, who then opened up their jackets--they had two rolls of cookie dough to eat during the movie!
The Old Recipe: My Grandmother Dora Covington used to make an "Ice Box Cake" at Christmas, meaning it was refrigerated, but never saw the inside of a baking oven. Hey, Karen, maybe you could make this for your family.
I've made this two different ways with candied cherries and with chopped dried apricots. The latter has more of a tart flavor.
This cake can be made way prior to the holidays and stored in the fridge or freezer and sliced when needed. Its sweetness makes it go well with a bold cup of coffee (preferably free trade coffee, Sam's Club carries some).
1 box vanilla wafers crushed
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 large can coconut (or bagged equivalent)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
8 ounces candied cherries, chopped or 8 ounces chopped dried apricots
2-3 Tbs. melted butter
Mix ingredients thoroughly, press into a medium size loaf pan, sprayed with Pam.
Enjoy this old recipe passed down through four generations of women in my family: Dora to Sylvia to Cathy, and I've passed it along to my daughter Sheryle. Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite family recipe that you make during the holidays?