Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guest Post w/ Virginia Kantra + giveaway!

Oooo we're just motoring through Authors for the Holidays! I hope yall are having a blast meeting all of these wonderful ladies.

Today we've got Virginia Kantra joining us. She's another of our lovely NC authors and has an amazing new book out, Carolina Home. It was one of those "favorite pjs" type of books that's just comfortable and makes you feel like your home and surrounded by the people you love. Gah it was excellent! And you've got a chance to win a SIGNED copy today!! *Squee* so excited for you guys! I'm handing the blog off to Virginia now so yall give her a nice big welcome and enjoy her post :)


Home to the Fletcher family for generations, Dare Island is a fishing village rocked by changing times--its traditions slipping away like sands of the North Carolina coast. Single dad and fishing boat captain Matt Fletcher deferred his own dreams to support his innkeeper parents and build a future for his sixteen-year-old son. Matt has learned to weather life's storms by steering a steady emotional course...and keeping a commitment-free approach to love.

Newcomer Allison Carter came to Dare Island to escape the emotional demands of her wealthy family. The young teacher aims to build a life here, to make a lasting place for herself. She doesn't want to be another Woman Who Once Dated Matt Fletcher. It's both tempting and dangerous to believe she can be something more.

Then Matt's brother Luke makes a sudden return home, with a child of his own--and a request that will change all their lives. With a child's welfare at stake, Matt must turn to Allison to teach him to let go of the past, open his eyes...and follow his heart.

Get Your Copy:   Amazon   B&N   Book Depository

Food is love. At Christmas, anyway. 

Somewhere in all my books, the hero feeds the heroine. Maybe because I’m married to a man who can cook, I find something sexy and satisfying about a man providing for his mate. Or maybe food really does equal way that we show love, anyway. Mothers baking cookies or cutting up meat for their children. Girlfriends consoling each other with wine and chocolate. Husbands and wives sharing bites and tastes in a restaurant.

Christmas is all about love. So it makes sense to me that it’s also all about food.

In our house, the most important meal of the year is Christmas Eve dinner. My family is from Eastern Europe. My husband’s is from Italy. I cheerfully sacrificed my Slovak mushroom-and-barley soup and sauerkraut for my husband’s traditional Seven Fishes, “simplified” to a single, rich, saffron-scented pasta sauce with shrimp, clams, calamari, mussels, salmon, monkfish, and cod.

But I set the table the way my baba, my grandmother, did.

In the middle is the Advent wreath, all four candles burning down now, symbolizing the light to come. The tablecloth is white, and there’s always a piece of straw from the Nativity scene at church to represent the manger. (Our older son was very distressed the year our church swapped out the traditional hay for pine straw.)

In the center of each plate is a dollop of honey and an oplatki wafer, thin unleavened bread similar to communion wafers, stamped with pictures of the Holy Family. There’s one pink one, which goes to my husband as head of the family. Yes, we get all traditional on Christmas Eve. I go around the table making the sign of the cross on the children’s foreheads, blessing them from youngest to oldest for the coming year, exchanging kisses. Then I bless my husband, and he blesses me, which involves more kisses and getting honey in my hair.

Even though the five of us fit comfortably around the kitchen table, this meal we eat in the dining room. A special place. Sacred space.

No surprise that the importance of the family meal, the symbolism of the family table, shows up when I’m writing about the Fletchers of Dare Island. Here’s an excerpt from Carolina Home to give you a “taste.”

~Virginia Kantra

“Thank you. I had a good time,” Allison said as Matt walked her away from the inn down the garden path. She carried her wet clothes in a plastic Piggly Wiggly bag over one arm, leftovers in another, the recipe for lasagna al forno tucked into her purse next to her blinking cell phone. A quick glance at the display revealed her mother had called.
No doubt with a full report on Johnny-the-divorced-anesthesiologist. Allison pushed the thought away.
Matt slanted a look at her. “You sound surprised.”
She collected herself to smile at him. “Sunday dinners have never been the highlight of my week,” she said lightly.
“Sundays can be tough,” he said, “without family and friends around.”
She appreciated his attempt at comfort. She didn’t need it, but it was . . . nice. He was a nice man with a really lovely family. Which made her own rather strained relationship with her parents seem even more pathetic.
“Usually I just grab a sandwich or something. I have papers to grade. Lesson plans to write. Honestly, I prefer it that way.”
“You don’t miss your mother’s cooking?”
Her mother’s staff had Sunday afternoons off. To be with their families, Allison realized now.
“My mother doesn’t cook. Sunday dinners are always at the club,” she said.
A memory slapped her of hard white rolls and smooth white tablecloths, of sitting on her best behavior next to Miles, miserable in the jacket and tie required by the dining room.
She made herself joke. “At least now my parents can’t send me to wait in the car when I screw up.”
Matt took the grocery bags from her and set them on the grass.
She frowned, confused and resisting. “What are you . . . ?”
Putting his arms around her, he pulled her against his chest. His unexpected gentleness made her want to weep.
She closed her eyes instead.
“You were supposed to have dinner with them today,” he said. “They wanted you to drive home for the weekend to meet some guy.”
She nodded against his shirt, surprised all over again by his ability to listen. To remember.
“They want parental bragging rights,” she explained. “They don’t like my job, they’re disappointed in my friends, they think I’ve wasted my opportunities. The least I can do, in their minds, is provide them with a big society wedding and a son-in-law they can talk about to their acquaintances.”
“They want the best for you,” Matt said.
“By their standards, maybe. Ever since I graduated from college, they’ve been trying to fix me up with the kind of man they think I should want.” She raised her head from her chest, shaking herself out of her funk. “As long as he’s a high status white male with an investment portfolio, a penis, and a pulse, he’s good enough for their daughter. Every time I go home, dinner turns into this bizarre ritual, a cross between an arranged marriage and a job interview.”
Matt laughed. “Most parents want to see their children married and settled.”
She smiled, relieved to return to firmer emotional footing. “Yes, but yours are more subtle.”
“I think they’ve just given up.”
Right. Because he didn’t do long-term relationships. The thought was vaguely depressing. She took a step back, finger-combing her hair.
Matt picked up the grocery bags. “Anyway, they approve of you.”
“Mm.” She shot him a sly look. “Your father thinks I’m a good catch.”
A slight flush stained his cheekbones. “You heard that?”
“I’m a teacher. I hear everything.”
Hooked, Tom Fletcher had said. The prospect left her oddly breathless.
Of course, their parents’ generation thought that way.
Allison wasn’t trolling for some trophy husband to stuff and mount over her fireplace.
“My mother always claimed to have selective hearing,” Matt said. “That way she could pretend not to hear Luke and me when we bitched about doing chores.”
“Your mother is a wise woman.”
“She likes you. She doesn’t give her family recipes to just anybody.”
Allison’s heart gave a happy little hop. “Too bad I get my cooking skills from my mother.”
“It’s not that hard.”
She tilted her head. “You cook?”
He smiled his lazy smile. “I learned to, for Josh. I can manage more than peanut butter sandwiches and scrambled eggs, anyway.”
There was no one in Allison’s life to cook for. To care for. But she didn’t have to be defined by her family. Isn’t that what she’d come to Dare Island to prove?
“I guess if I can read, I can follow a recipe. I’m up for trying new things.”
“Good.” He stopped under the blooming crepe myrtle. Took her by the shoulders and drew her in. “Try this.”
He kissed her.

New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra credits her love for strong heroes and courageous heroines to a childhood spent devouring fairy tales. 

Virginia is the author of more than twenty books of contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. Her stories have earned numerous awards including Romance Writers of America's RITA Award, eight RITA nominations, and two National Readers' Choice Awards. Her work includes the popular Children of the Sea series and, in e-book format, the Sweet Home, Carolina stories. In July 2012 look for Carolina Home, the first book in her new Dare Island novels.

Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of three kids, Virginia lives in North Carolina. She is a firm believer in the strength of family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of love.

Her favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations.

So, tell me: kitchen or dining room? Do you have any special foods/traditions connected with the holidays? What’s your favorite thing to make or eat?

Leave a comment to be entered to win a SIGNED copy of Carolina Home...just in time for holiday reading!
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  1. I celebrate traditional american Christmas with my extended family, but for myself and my immediate family we also celebrate St. Nicholas Day (Nikolaus Tag) Wich is celebrated on December 5th instead of the traditional December 25th.

    The most popular legend of St. Nick is that of a poor man and his three daughters.

    Legend says that this man's daughters would remain unmarried because he did not have enough money to pay a proper dowry. When St. Nicholas heard of this man's sorrow, he wanted to help.

    When nightfall came, St. Nick went to the poor man's home and filled the daughters drying stockings set out by the fire with gold coins. This was thought to be the origin story of why we hang our stockings by the fire with care around this time of year.

    St. Nick is known for gift-giving, but always wanted to be secretive due to his shyness and to save the pride of those he helped.

    So if you leave one of our special St. Nick Shoe Bags hanging on the bedroom door or your shoes just outside the door on Dec. 5th, you may be one of the lucky ones who wakes up on Dec. 6th with a special gift from good 'Ol St. Nick.

    We also encourge you to make a random act of kindness on this day in honor of St. Nicholas. One small kind act can make all the difference in the World.

    And let's not forget the LEGEND OF THE CHRISTMAS PICKLE

    A pickle used as decoration on the Christmas tree seems odd at first, but it is an old German tradition. When decorating the Christmas tree, it is traditional to hang the pickle last, hidden among the branches. The first child on Christmas Day to find the Christmas pickle receives a special blessing for the year and an extra gift! Great tradition to share with your family this year and for years to come!

    This tradition encourages children to appreciate all the beautiful ornaments on the tree rather than rushing to see what Santa has left for them.

    Nikolaustag - 6. Dezember
    On the night of Dec. 5 (in some places, the evening of Dec. 6), in small communities in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas, who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children. Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly scare the children. Although Krampus carries eine Rute (a switch), he only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts to the children. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in Germany). Sometimes Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht is the good guy bringing gifts, equal to or replacing St. Nicholas. As early as 1555, St. Nicholas brought gifts on Dec. 6, the only “Christmas” gift-giving time during the Middle Ages, and Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus was a more ominous figure.

    Nikolaus and Krampus don't always make a personal appearance. In some places today, children still leave their shoes by the window or the door on the night of Dec. 5. They awaken the next day (Dec. 6) to discover small gifts and goodies stuffed into the shoes, left by St. Nicholas. This is similar to the American Santa Claus custom, although the dates are different. Also similar to American custom, the children may leave a wish list for Nikolaus to pass on to the Weihnachtsmann for Christmas.

    1. I love the story of the Christmas pickle! I'd wondered when I saw those beautiful blown glass pickle ornaments what the deal was. Thanks for sharing!

    2. hehe I have heard many people asking why in the world would someone decorate their tree in piclkes? I hear it walking through the christmas isles in the store. I stop and tell them the story. It's not a whole tree just one hidden inside. Most think it's a great idea...and tend to think it's a new concept. My dad's family is german so I grew up with all of this. My mom's family is Irish so mixing the two celebrations and traditions together was fun!

    3. Ahhh Penni we do the Christmas pickle too!! It's one of my favorite ornaments :) We've found tiny little mini ones one year which are just darling :) So neat to find someone else that does that! (we're part German too)

  2. Christmas eve is also the most important for me ( being european^^) and we always have the same meal tukey with as the dessert " une bûche de noël" in ice cream ( because i prefer this as the tradtional one in cake)...the bûche de noel can only be found at this time of the year so it's really special

    and i have ST nIcolas too^^ but that on the 6december^^ and we put our tree only after st nicola s( no need to mix everything)

    i wasn't sure if the giveaway was international so if it's not sorry ( another detail: the mouse went too quiclly and it clicked on i joined the mailing list but it's a mistake ( not that i don't want too but the email isn't correct and i need to remember the pasworrd to yahoo first^^) really really sorry

    1. Miki, since I didn't say, we'll definitely make this an international giveaway. If you win, at least you'll get your prize before, um, Epiphany? :-) We put our tree up late, too...Usually the fourth Sunday of Advent.

    2. i've suscribed to your newsletter ( the email in the rafflecopter is the one to which message are redirected so i think you can check it if not it's miki_lectureaventure)

  3. We enjoy a meal on Christmas Eve too. We have a more traditional meal. However on Christmas Day we stay at home so the kids can enjoy their gifts and we can enjoy just being together playing games or watching our fave Christmas movies.
    Happy Holidays,

    1. I like staying home on Christmas Day, too. Although since we usually host our extended family for dinner, I don't get to do much relaxing!

  4. My husband is not Catholic, so Christmas Eve dinner is heavy with meat...ham and German potato salad and little meatball pellets in beef gravy. But the clincher is we have to have lime Jello served with these meat pellets so that it melts into the beef gravy. I was horrified when we first celebrated Christmas eve this way and gagged at the thought of lime Jello with beef...ick. But, believe it or not, it is an interesting, not offensive, taste.
    I try to make a meatless meal the day before this extravaganza. And we celebrate one birthday on Christmas Eve...with gooey cake! It's a wonder we manage to live to Christmas!

    1. Okay, lime jello in beef gravy is a new one for me. But we lurch from one food indulgence to another at Christmas, too. I'm trying very hard to stay away from baking for at least another couple of days!

  5. I more like dining room, but sometimes kitchen is okay too. In Christmas I have traditional food.

    1. Right now my dining room table is covered with gifts and wrapping paper. Hoping to have it cleared off in time!

  6. Kitchen! I love christmas cookies....

  7. Dining room, love having the family all around. I think one of our fav's at Christmas are Cousin Jack Pasties, little meat pies filled with pieces of steak, potatoes, onions and salt and pepper. SO GOOD! Hope you have a warm and loving holiday

    1. Thanks, you, too! We're doing mince meat pies - little ones - to go with the makovnik and orechovnik (walnut and poppyseed rolls) this year. Hope they turn out!

  8. Half and half. Use to have fun with my mother baking cookies and pies. They always went out to neighbors and stuff. She use to do that with the boys. She usually makes a pumpkin roll just for my middle boy. Step dad makes something he calls honky rolls. They are like an italian kolachi. They have a nut filling sprinkled with confection sugar. He only makes it for me and his daughter.

  9. My DH loves to cook and I love to let him. ;)

    Our family always gathers on Christmas day and we have lunch. Turkey, ham, and all the fixings. I always make a sweet potato casserole. Normally I do the turkey in a brown paper bag. Talk about juicy! Pumpkin Rolls and Pecan Pies are a regular too. There are so many of us now that we're a kitchen and dining room family.

    I've not read any of your work as you're a new to me author but they sound really good and I'm looking forward to giving them a try. I sure am loving this blog hop. It's bringing more authors into my reading world and there's nothing better than that!

    1. Thanks so much, Leah! If you want to read more, I've got a bunch of excerpts up on my website. I don't have Carolina Girl up yet, but here's the link for Carolina Home.

  10. Since my family and I lived in Paris for a number of years, we fell in love with many traditional French dishes. We try to add a few things to our meal such as escargot, a green salad with a homemade dijon vinaigrette dressing, crispy French bread, cheese course and a homemade apple tart. Along with that, we serve that year's Beaujolais Nouveau wine. We get tired of the usual turkey and ham which we can eat at any time of the year. A nice French meal brings back great memories for us.

    I love the town of Dare in NC. We spent a lot of time in the Outer Banks. My husband and I were from the Tidewater Virginia area and worked for NASA. The Outer Banks is a wonderful place of which we also have great memories.

    Congratulations on your writing successes and all the best. Merry Christmas.

    1. Yum. (Just served this year's Beaujolais Nouveau with a cassoulet for my parents' 60th anniversary dinner.)

      If you vacation in the Outer Banks, you probably recognize the lighthouse on the cover of Carolina Home. Fabulous artist Tony Mauro based it on a photo my husband took on Ocracoke Island.

      Merry Christmas to you, too!

  11. Kitchen up to four, Dining Room up to 16. I have done up to 75, but everywhere in my downstairs. Steph at

    1. When we get over 12, we have to start extending tables into the hall. Hope your holidays are merry!

  12. Dining room. We don't have any food related traditions. We just have a normal dinner on Christmas Eve, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, sometimes scallop corn, rolls. After we're stuffed from eating a delicious meal, it's off to open gifts.
    My favorite thing to make and eat is peanut butter fudge. It's probably the best fudge I've eaten. It actually tastes like peanut butter.

    1. Your "normal" dinner sounds like a feast to me. Our children exchange their gifts to each other on Christmas Eve - it started when they were little so that they'd recognize the thought each put into the gifts instead of tearing through on their way to other presents. Even thought they're all grown now, they've continued the tradition. :-)

  13. gathering with family, dinner and chatting since we have not meet for so long time :)

    1. Love having family time at the holidays!

  14. Kitchen! On Christmas Eve we have finger foods, snacks, dips, etc. This includes my mama's homemade chicken salad and fresh baked croissants, hot broccoli cheese dip, mexican dip, buffalo chicken dip, sausage balls, poppy seed ham rolls and all kinds of sweets. I make a lot of the sweets. Buckeyes are my favorite.

  15. Thanks for this wonderful guestpost, and thanks Penni for the lovely story. My kitchen is tiny, I don't have a diningroom, so dinner is served in the livingroom. But for this week only, I have a diningtable set up there, to be able to linger at the table.

  16. We've never had any particular Christmas Eve meal customs. On Christmas day, we have a big dinner (usually in the early afternoon) in traditional Southern style with turkey, cornbread dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc., and that's pretty much my favorite Christmas food!

    1. We do a turkey at Thanksgiving, but our Christmas Day menu can pretty much be anything. This year it's a rib roast. But we're totally doing gravy and mashed potatoes, too!

  17. Kitchen, I make A LOT of goodies and I find myself in TROUBLE... Two things that are BIG hits is my Cheesecakes and Baklava...
    Happy Holidays


    1. I'm putting off baking this year until we're closer to the kids coming home. Otherwise I'll eat too many goodies myself!

  18. Oh. Man. I HATE cooking and my hubby doesn't. When family comes, I order food from Cracker Barrel although this year my mom is bringing a standing rib roast and helping me cook it...ok, she will probably cook it...LOL!

    1. Sounds like a great plan! Yummy food and family time!

  19. I have an open/connected kitchen/dining area so we are all together preparing family dinners.

  20. Dinning room, don't have any food traditions. Just family gathering and dinner :)

  21. Dining room and no food traditions.

  22. My mom makes Bizcochos for Christmas and it gives us a real chance to talk to one another.

  23. I'd choose the dining room - my very favorite food during the holidays, besides all the wonderful cookie treats, is pumpkin pie with whipped cream. It wouldn't be a holiday without my pie.

  24. Our kitchen acts as also our dining room so when we're all together at the kitchen table is the occasion. Pumpkin pie and cherry pie are my fave desserts for the holidays (and mint chocolate chip cookies when I can find the premade dough at the grocery store)!

  25. Kitchen or the living room, =)

    Happy New Year!

  26. My family has always been in the kitchen. We always end up spread out because of all the noise. lol! But it is so much fun:)
    My family loves food and of course, there are several kinds of food that are tradition during Christmas. Too many to list!

  27. Dining room (kitchen has no table) and I love peanut butter kiss cookies!

    susanmplatt AT hotmail DOT com


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