N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s Christmas and Holiday Book Festival – Natasha M. Stark
Hello, all you lovely people, and welcome to the blog! I probably should explain the discrepancy between the name in the blog title and the name on the website itself — I write speculative romance (SF/fantasy/paranormal) as Nicola Cameron, but in 2020 I started writing contemporary romance as Natasha M. Stark. My very first contemporary holiday romance, One Sweet Christmas, is the story of an unemployed personal assistant traveling to LA who gets stranded in a Colorado ski town when her car breaks down. She gets talking into helping the local hot baker make an emergency wedding cake for an influencer Bridezilla––and hijinks ensue!
One Sweet Christmas was an absolute ball to write as it combined three of my favorite things––romance, banter, and baking. I can neither confirm nor deny that this story was influenced by The Great British Bakeoff, but I do enjoy baking assorted treats like mince pies and fruitcake, which leads me to my family holiday tradition. When I was a kid, my mother used to make a Polish fried cookie called Chrusciki (angel wings) every Christmas, and watching her making them was almost as good as eating them.
This was before the advent of silicone baking sheets, so she would spread a clean sheet over the kitchen counter to get a smooth surface, scatter it with flour, then roll out paper-thin sections of dough before slicing them into rectangles and cutting a slit down the center of the long side.
One end would get pulled through the slit to form a kind of dough bow tie, before going into hot oil and puffing up into a delicious, crispy cookie. The final touch was sprinkling them with powdered sugar (this had to be done while they were still hot and slightly oily so that the sugar would stick). You couldn’t wear anything nice when you ate Chrusciki because you’d get powdered sugar over everything, but we didn’t care because they were so yummy.
If you also love baking and want to take a crack at making these delicious cookies, Jenny Can Cook has a really good recipe that produces authentic Chrusciki. Just don’t wear anything that has to be dry cleaned when you nom them.
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog, and I hope you had a good (and safe) holiday this year! Before you go, I’d like to remind you of the Rafflecopter giveaway being held by N.N. Light’s Book Heaven. Everyone who enters has a chance at winning one of the following:
- $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Direct Link: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92db775087
The giveaway is open internationally and runs December 1 – 31, and a drawing will be held on January 4, 2021. Click the link above to enter, and good luck!
New Year, New Goals, New Habits
No, I’m not going to pass along any tips for making your life better in 2019. You’re perfect the way you are, and besides, those tend to be somewhat condescending. Nope, I am just kinda croggled at the way I’m starting off 2019.
For one thing, there’s a reason why I went dark in December. I was frigging exhausted from finishing Iron Cross and getting it out to Romancelandia, and after taking a crack at a holiday romance (which I will finish for next year) I decided, “Screw it. I’m tired, my brain hurts, and I need a break. I’m taking the rest of the year off.” So I did, and man, that was a good choice. Not only did I recharge my creative side by diving into various non-writing projects that have been hanging around for years waiting for me to get to them, but I also drank the Kool-aid and joined the Great British Baking Show cult. I absently stumbled across S2E1 on Netflix, and by the end of it I was frantically scoping out the rest of them and launching into a bingewatch of epic proportions.
By the time I watched all five seasons, the Beginnings eps, the holiday shows and all the masterclass eps, I had made jam tarts, mince pies, fruitcakes, Italian Christmas cookies (at right), spinach puffs, Cherry Blossom Kisses, Winter Kisses, Paul Hollywood’s Christmas Leftover Chelsea buns (upper left), and had bought a dizzying array of bakeware. I now own pie weights, I’ll have you know. Plus I have my eye on a rolling pin with attachments that lets you control the height of the dough you’re rolling out, and I’m probably going to make runzas/bierocks this weekend by special request of Ramón, who has pointed out that having little savory things that he can grab between meals would be a very nice change from having to grab chocolate or cookies.
Other shows I binged were The Expanse (holy God, that was good), Altered Carbon, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Forever, and various comedy shows that had been recommended to me over 2018, and while I watched them I worked on this absolutely gorgeous hue shift knitted afghan. It’s extremely cool, using mitered corner squares with alternating stripes, and seeing as I bought the kit two years ago it’s nice that I’m finally putting it together. When I wasn’t baking, watching Netflix, or working on the afghan, I read, caught up on bills, played with the kitties (Jessie and Jeremy are losing some much-needed weight thanks to the new food regime the vet suggested at their checkup in early December and Jessie’s back to being able to jump up on counters and tables), cleaned (I actually cleaned my oven and my freezer fold-out bins. Somewhere, my mother is astounded), and decorated the house for Christmas.
But what was most notable was that I pretty much stayed off social media because I wasn’t on the laptop for hours at a time. I’d check FB and Twitter a few times a day, but I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I usually did on it. And that was a good thing because I soon realized I felt much more relaxed and centered without constantly being thrown into rage cycles by the endless political idiocy making the rounds on SM. So one thing I’m going to do in 2019 is continue that habit — I’ll check in on Twitter and Instagram for business purposes, but I’m seriously going to curtail my FB time. Not only do I not like their business practices of scraping every piece of data they can get about me and selling it to companies, but I’m just happier when I’m not on FB.
One final and very major change in 2018 was me starting on CBD oil. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and PCOS, which not only screw with my metabolism and make it hard to lose weight but also encourage inflammation. At this point in my life I inflame at a harsh word, and for the last couple of years it’s been affecting my ability to walk because both of my Achilles bursae swelled up to painful proportions, making it difficult to flex my feet and balance. The tipping point was December 20 — my good knee had gotten strained while I was in bed, of all places, and hurt like hell, my bad knee was, well, my bad knee, and I was literally hobbling around like an arthritic 90-year-old. Worse, NSAIDs weren’t really working anymore and I was getting very little sleep because I was hurting all the time.
I’ve had CBD oil recommended to me by friends with similar issues who had incredibly good results with it, so I did some research and found the Cherry Apothecary in Oak Cliff. I hobbled in, had a consult with a very nice young man who listened to my pain issues and suggested that I try sublingual tinctures. After some more discussion I settled on a bottle of 250 mg CBD oil with orange flavor, headed home, took the recommended half dose (he said to start low and slow — apparently the endocannabinoid system in our bodies that is affected by CBD needs time to load the chemical to a level where it will help. You can take more, the man said, but you’ll just pee it out, which is a waste of money and oil), and prayed.
Twenty minutes later, I was able to walk without hobbling. My ankles were flexing, and the pain in both knees was reduced — still there, mind you, but manageable with an NSAID. It felt like a frigging miracle. I now take a half dose of CBD oil in the morning and a half dose at night, and not only do my legs feel better but I also feel calmer, more focused, and I’m sleeping like a top. Best of all, I can see the swelling in both Achilles bursae going down — my left heel is almost back to normal and my right heel (which was horrible) now looks like my left heel at its worst, which is a significant improvement. With walking so much easier, I’ve been able to clean, shop, and move around a lot more than I have been in the last couple of years, and man, that is fantastic. I’m now getting on the treadmill every day, and once I’m over the mild cold I caught from Ramón I’m going back to the gym and starting weightlifting again.
So, yeah, that was a decent personal end to 2018. Right now my goals in 2019 are more walking and weightlifting, completing four novels (King of Blades, Uncertainty Principle, and two romcoms) and three novellas, doing smart promo for myself, continuing to cook and bake more stuff from scratch, working on meditation techniques and yoga, reducing our debt as much as possible, and generally trying to help more people out and enjoy life. Oh, and play with the kitties, because that’s an important part of Casa Cameron.
So, yeah, let’s get started!