Saturday, December 26, 2015

New Year's Resolutions You'll Be Able To Keep…and other miscellaneous end of year stuff

New Year's resolutions have basically become an annual joke.  Every first of January we make resolutions for the upcoming year and if we're lucky, they remain valid for the rest of the month.

So, this year how about making some resolutions you'll actually be able to keep during 2016?  Here's a list of several such resolutions.  I hope you accept these suggestions in the spirit of humor in which they are offered.  If I've offended anyone, I apologize in advance.

1.  Gain Weight.  Let's face it, you already have a start on this one with all the holiday meals, candy, beverages, and snacks.

2.  Go Deeper Into Debt.  You probably have a head start on this one, too, from holiday gift shopping.  After all, even buying new things for yourself…well, it was probably stuff you needed and with all the great sales this year who could resist?

3.  Spend More Money.  This goes hand-in-hand with the second item on the list.  Spend it now while you're still physically able to get out to do it.

4.  Don't Get A Better Job.  Since having any job is better than not having one, be happy with status quo.

5.  Whatever Shape You're In Is Fine.  Seriously…round is a perfectly acceptable shape.

6.  Don't Go Back To School.  Look at your current life and time schedule.  Now add a part time college schedule to that plus the cost of tuition (probably the same amount as that new curved 80-inch 3D HDTV home theater with Dolby Surround Sound you bought in item two on the list) and the cost of expensive college textbooks.  Hmmm…a fine bottle of rare vintage wine or a bottle of aged single malt scotch vs. Concepts of Economics Vol. 1.

7.  Drink More Alcohol.  Open that fine bottle of wine or scotch and watch your new 80-inch TV.

8.  Smoke Like A Chimney.  When someone chastises you for putting second hand smoke out there, ask them if they've traded in their gas-guzzling car for a bicycle.

9.  Stay At Home for your vacation.  If, however, you prefer to find toilet paper that's hard enough to scrape paint, really weird television, and even weirder food…then travel out of the country.

And last but not least…

10.  Don't Volunteer!

And now for something completely different (with apologies to Monty Python for stealing…uh, I mean borrowing…their catch phrase).

As a follow up to Christmas, a few words about that much maligned holiday treat, the butt of so many jokes, that humble yet seemingly inedible concoction—fruitcake.
Food historians theorize that fruitcake (any cake in which dried fruits and nuts try to coexist with cake batter) is older than Moses.  Ancient Egyptians entombed fruitcake and Romans carried it into battle, probably for the same reason.  Fruitcake was built to last and it did, well into medieval times.

It was in the 18th century that fruitcake achieved totemic status.  At that time nut-harvesting farmers encased fruits and nuts in a cakelike substance to save for the next harvest as a sort of good luck charm.

And thus the problem.  Any cake that is not meant to be eaten doesn't deserve to be classified as food.

Our love/hate relationship with fruitcake began in the early 20th century when the first mail-order fruitcakes became fashionable gifts.  It ended up as a mass-produced product using barely recognizable fruits and packed into cans as heavy as barbell weights.

And another something different…
While celebrating the arrival of the New Year, there's one thing you should keep in mind—the darker the liquor, the bigger the hangover.  According to a new study that compares the after effects of drinking bourbon vs. vodka, what sounds like an old wives' tale is true…to a point.

Brownish colored spirits such as whiskey and rum contain greater amounts of congeners than clear liquors such as vodka and gin.  And what are congeners, you might ask?  They are substances that occur naturally or are added to alcohol during the production and aging process, many of which are toxic.  They contribute to the alcohol's color, odor, and taste.  They also interfere with cell function, and I'm NOT talking about your mobile phone. :)  And they viciously punish your head and tummy the next morning.  According to the study, bourbon is aged in oak barrels and has thirty-seven times as many congeners as vodka, which is heavily filtered to remove impurities.

Drinking in the study was relatively moderate compared to some New Year's Eve binges.  The average blood-alcohol content of the survey participants was 0.1 percent, somewhere between 0.09 ("mildly intoxicated" and considered legally over the limit in most states), and 0.15 ("visibly drunk" and definitely on your way to jail).  The study's findings may not translate to your holiday party.

The bottom line, however, is that congeners are not the primary culprit in the dreaded hangover.  The credit goes to the alcohol itself

Wishing everyone a happy AND SAFE New Year's Eve and a marvelous New Year.  May 2016 bring you happiness and health.

And Peace On Earth for everyone.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

'Twas The Night Before Christmas…

Although many believe this to be the title of the popular Christmas poem, the actual title is An Account Of A Visit From St. Nicholas.  The long poem, written by Clement Moore in 1822 as a present for his three daughters, has become a Christmas staple.  Moore, an Episcopal minister, was initially hesitant about publishing his poem due to its frivolous content.

The poem, first published anonymously in the Troy, New York, Sentinel on December 23, 1823, had been submitted by a friend of Moore's.  It was first attributed to Moore in 1837 and finally openly acknowledged by Moore himself in 1844.

Four handwritten copies of the poem are known to exist, three in museums and the fourth (written and signed by Clement Clarke Moore as a gift to a friend in 1860) was sold by one private collector to another in December 2006 for a reported $280,000.

Moore's poem is largely responsible for today's image of Santa Claus as a "right jolly old elf" who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer.  A rotund fellow who entered via the chimney and left toys for good boys and girls.
In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast used Moore's poem as the basis to create a likeness of Santa Claus that matches today's image.  The cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa with a full white beard, a red suit trimmed in white fur, and a large bag filled with toys.  He also gave Santa his North Pole workshop, elves, and Mrs. Claus.

Over the years, there has been some controversy about the authorship of the poem.  There are those who contend that Henry Livingston, Jr., was the true author.  Livingston was distantly related to Moore's wife.  But the general consensus continues to be that Clement Clarke Moore is the true author.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Legend of St. Nicholas

the 'real' St. Nicholas

Who is that man in red? The man who, every Christmas Eve, brazenly breaks into people's homes, helps himself to cookies and milk, and leaves things behind resulting in a mess of wrapping paper and ribbon for others to clean up the next morning. Reindeer and a heavily laden sleigh can't be good for the roof. Soot from a chimney tracked all over the floor…something else left behind for others to clean.

Yet every year we anxiously anticipate his arrival, track his progress through the skies, and welcome him into our homes.

Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father when he provided them with a dowry so they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas' popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.

Sinter Klaas Comes to New York
St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick's Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society's annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a rascal with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a "huge pair of Flemish trunk hose."

Shopping Mall Santas
Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday's rejuvenation in the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a live Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.

A Santa by Any Other Name
18th-century America's Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas-inspired gift-giver to make an appearance at Christmastime. Similar figures were popular all over the world. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning Christ child, Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. British legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children's stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn't find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven. In Italy, a similar story exists about a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.
The Ninth Reindeer
Rudolph, "the most famous reindeer of all," was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.

In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, when Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn't be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh with the light of his red nose. Rudolph's message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May's friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph's story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences since 1964.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and PEACE ON EARTH.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH—a conversation with Chance and Marcie

In honor of the season, I'd like to introduce you to Chance Fowler and Marcie Roper and tell you a bit about their Christmas story.

Good morning Chance and Marcie.  I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

Chance:  Thank you, Shawna.  It was nice of you to invite us.  So…what would you like to know?

My first question is for whichever of you wants to answer it.  How did the two of you meet?

Chance:  (Winks at Marcie) Do you want to take that one?

Marcie:  My pleasure.  I was minding my own business, doing a little window shopping on my way back to my car from the book store, when he came along and accosted me in broad daylight.  He grabbed me against my will then proceeded to kiss me.  I was truly shocked and also a little frightened.  I had no idea who he was or why he had forced himself on me.

Chance:  Wait a minute…in my defense that wasn't quite the way it happened.

Marcie:  (grins) My way sounds more mysterious…and more interesting.

Did he literally grab you on the street, a total stranger, and kiss you for no reason?

Marcie:  Oh, yes…that's exactly what he did.

Chance:  Well…not really…not like that.

Ah, ha!  What's the true story?

Chance:  I was being followed by another one of those tabloid photographers who were always trying to get candid pictures of me that they could exploit…things taken out of context and blown up into something it wasn't.

As sole heir to the Fowler Industries fortune, an eligible bachelor leading a very high profile life including yacht racing and making the rounds of the club scene always with a beautiful woman on your arm, I can see where there would be an interest in your activities.

Chance:  Since I was on my way to one of my special projects, I had to lose the guy following me.  I was looking for a place to duck away from him…hide in plain sight, so to speak.  As soon as I rounded a corner and was out of his sight for a few seconds, I turned my reversible jacket inside out to a different color, but there wasn't any place for me to hide.  My intention was to put my arm around her shoulder so it would look like we were a couple window shopping together, but for some strange reason she objected.  So I did what I had to do.  The photographer ran on down the street without paying any attention to a couple kissing in front of a store window.  I tried to apologize, explain to her, but she ran off without giving me an opportunity.

Marcie:  It was later that I discovered who he was…Take-A-Chance Fowler, as the media referred to him.  Major playboy, always being photographed with different women, yacht racing, seen at all the trendy clubs.  In other words, a spoiled rich guy living off the family wealth who had never done an honest day's work in his life.

Chance:  Definitely not a very flattering assessment of someone she didn't even know.  I was determined to set her straight and change that erroneous assumption.

Take-A-Chance?  Where did that come from?

Chance:  One of those stupid tags the press pinned on me.  "Always willing to take a chance on some wild stunt."

Marcie:  I can't begin to tell you how embarrassed I was when he told me Chance was his legal first name, not some cute little nickname.  It was his mother's maiden name.  And the more I found out about the real person behind all those tabloid headlines, the more impressed I was and the more I liked him.

You mentioned your special projects.  What did you mean by that?

Chance:  I have several projects I finance and am actively, hand's on involved with, things I don't want the media to know about.  I don't want the other people involved to find their pictures and names on the front page of some tabloid newspaper.

What type of projects?

Chance:  (flashes a sly grin) You can find out all about them in the book.

Marcie, did you encounter any unusual problems when you began dating someone of Chance's…uh…notoriety?

Marcie:  (furrows her brow in a moment of concentration) Well, there were some uncomfortable moments with his family, such as the Christmas dinner at his father's house—

Chance:  (laughs) Merely uncomfortable?  That's an understatement!

Is there more to the family story than you're saying?

Marcie:  You mean other than his father being responsible for driving a wedge between us that nearly destroyed our relationship?

Chance:  My family is synonymous with the word dysfunctional.  They're the personification of that old joke…look up the word dysfunctional in the dictionary and you find their picture.  You'll find out all about them when you read the book.

I'd ask you to explain, but I already know what you're going to say.

Marcie:  (laughs) You have to read the book!

Thank you, Marcie and Chance.

When millionaire Chance Fowler first kissed the pretty stranger in his arms, he'd only meant to dodge the photographers who'd tailed him. Then she ran off—but he couldn't forget her tempting taste on his lips. So he sought out the tantalizing woman who'd ignited his long-dormant desire….

Lovely Marcie Roper was the first woman to close her eyes to Chance's fortune. And though she'd captivated the jaded tycoon, Marcie yearned for what his wealth couldn't buy—a man who would say "I do" and mean it forever. Could Marcie convince Chance that love—for the right woman—would last a lifetime?

Inside Front Cover Excerpt:
She was certainly different from the type of women he usually encountered. Her eyes sparked with the fire of emotion and her stance declared a very appealing independence. Yes, indeed. Marcie Roper was quite different—a breath of fresh air. He recalled the way she felt in his arms, the taste of her delicious mouth. He fought the almost overwhelming desire to pull her into his arms and kiss her again.

He watched her walk away from him—for the second time since he first encountered her. She had turned out to be a very intriguing woman. He already knew about the golden flecks in her hazel eyes, her soft pliable lips, her addictive taste and how good she felt in his arms. And now he knew she was certainly a challenge—and Chance had never been one to back down from a challenge.
Harlequin has reissued 16 of my backlist titles.  THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH was originally released by Harlequin in print and is currently available in ebook.

THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH, a Silhouette Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued by Harlequin in ebook and available at  Also available from Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook, and other online retailers.  Additional information and excerpts available on my website  Information and excerpts from my other books also available on my website.