Photo Challenge #52 / By Candlelight

20201224ma_2192“Time for Bed” / Theme: By Candlelight

A little about this photo…

I’ve been saving this “By Candlelight” prompt for the end of the year. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I came up with this on Christmas Eve… I’m really happy with how it turned out. Even better than I expected!

P.S. Curious as to the book in my hand? Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. I just grabbed it from the shelf as I wanted something green to contrast with the red shawl. (Not sure you can tell it’s a green cover, but it is.) Happy Christmas! See you next year…


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2020picoftheweek

Published! / My Christmas Bunny Story

20201215ma_2128

It’s always fun to get real mail. But to get this piece of mail…

Very exciting!

For those of you who think magazine stories get published just like thatin a *snap*well, have I got a story for you. I originally submitted this manuscript to Clubhouse Jr. magazine for their consideration back in January 2019. In May, I got an email, asking for what’s called an R&R (revise and resubmit). They liked the story, but could I tweak it a bit? They wanted more of a focus on Annie and stage fright.

Of course, I’d do the R&R! I worked on the piece, showed it to my amazing critique partners, and sent it off once more. It was July when I got the word. They wanted to publish my Christmas Bunny story. Except not in 2019… No, I had to wait until December 2020!

Fast forward to a year and a half later…

December 1st. I happened to be at the Clubhouse Jr. website and I saw the cover for their December issue. It took me a moment to realize that I “recognized” the characters in the cover art. Up to this point, I had not yet seen the illustrations, but I realized that the art was MY story! Christmas Bunny and all.

December 15th. My complimentary copies arrived in the mail, and I got to hold the magazine in my own hands. It was the first time I really got to see the illustrations. (Thank you, Lauren Gallegos. I don’t know you, but you did a beautiful job!) I even filmed me opening the envelope with my complimentary copies (which I then turned into the GIF below.)

christmas-bunny-gif

The story behind the story…

It’s actually based on a true event. A niece of mine (Annie in the story) had a very special stuffed bear that she carried everywhere with her. (Note: I turned the stuffed bear into a stuffed bunny.) Little Niece was one of the tiny angels in the Christmas pageant. During one of the songs, she saw poor Baby Jesus, lying all alone in the manger, and her little heart just went out to Him. And well, I won’t say what happens because that’s part of the plot of my magazine story…

On another note, I do find it interesting to see what changes the editors made. First of all, they chose a different title from mine. I think Away in a Manger does go well with the story. (My original title was The Non-Historical Christmas Bunny, which then got shortened to The Christmas Bunny after my R&R.) They did change my bunny’s name (from simply Bunny to Brown Bunny). And they turned one of my adult characters (Ms. Garcia) into a male, now Mr. Garcia. (Again, I’m happy with the change since I realize that there are no other male characters in the story. Annie and Zoey are girls, and even Brown Bunny is a girl!)

And that is the story behind my Christmas Bunny story!

Happy Christmas!

Photo Challenge #51 / All Is Calm

20201218xs_0921“Stille Nacht” / Theme: All Is Calm

A little about this photo…

I’m posting this for Christmas… which is less than a week away! For me, Silent Night (Stille Nacht) is probably the song that feels the most like Christmas. And I’ve always loved the story of how the song came to be. If you don’t already know the story, here’s the quick version. It was Christmas Eve in Austria in 1818. Pastor Joseph Mohr went to see the choir master/organist, Franz Gruber with a poem he had written and asked Gruber to set it to music. In just a few hours, Gruber composed the melody for Stille Nacht. And he did it for guitar music! Why? Because the church organ had been damaged due to flooding. (Check out this link for the full story.)

P.S. The organ featured above is very much a working organ. No flood damage, thank you very much. I love how all the pipes are part of the whole presentation.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2020picoftheweek

Photo Challenge #52 / Bokeh

20191219ma_3058“Christmas Lights” / Theme: Bokeh

A little about this photo…

The final photo of the year! I had a few choices but ultimately decided on this prompt. Basically, I wanted to force myself photographically to create that beautiful bokeh background. And what better bokeh-subject than the Christmas tree! Of course, since the photo is all about lights, I decided to put a candle in the foreground…

See you next year!

{Edited to add: For those of you who might be wondering what the word “bokeh” means… It’s actually a Japanese word that means “blur”. But it’s an intentional blur. Beautiful blur!}


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Book: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1972)
Author: Barbara Robinson
Genre: MG, Classic
Rating: 5 stars

best-christmas-pageant-everBasic plot: Every year, the Christmas pageant is pretty much the same… that is, until the Herdmans decide they’re going to be a part of it. And once the Herdman kids decide on something, well… there’s no other way. (At least, not if you value your life.)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This book is short and sweet, but it’s just right! All the characters are fleshed out. It’s wonderfully written. In some ways, it reminds me of Beverly Cleary’s books (which makes sense since she was writing at the same time.)

2) I love how the bullies of the story (i.e. the Herdmans) have a nice little arc. They don’t become fully angelic or anything, but the Christmas pageant does have an effect on them. Especially how the Christmas story (one they were unfamiliar with) makes them more human to the other children.

3) The humour in this book is great! I like how the narrator is able to capture all the little quirks of all the characters, like Alice who makes snide little comments throughout the performance all because she really wanted to Mary instead of Imogene Herdman. One of my favourite lines is when Mother (the director) says: “We’ve never once gone through the whole thing… I don’t know what’s going to happen. It may be the first Christmas pageant in history where Joseph and the Wise Men get ina fights, and Mary runs away with the baby.” That perfect encapsulates the whole book!

4) The ham… If you’ve read the book, you know what a mean. But the ham (for me) shows that those Herdman kids have potential after all.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Nothing. (Although, some might find the book a bit dated. It was published in 1972, but that never bothers me.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – I’ve seen this book around for ages, but I’ve never read it until this year! What was I waiting for? It’s funny and sweet. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a fun Christmas book.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Scenes from a Book #3

Another of my favourite Christmas scenes in a book…

3 – Little Women // by Louisa May Alcott

Little WomenI love the Christmas sequence that opens Alcott’s masterpiece. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbles Jo. And then on Christmas morning, as they’re about to enjoy their Christmas breakfast, Marmee comes and spoils it all. She suggests they give their breakfast to a poor hungry family!

The girls know their duty, and they agree to the charity. And they end up doing it cheerfully. Later in the day, they go on to giving a performance. And after the performance, there’s a surprise waiting for them them…

The Scene:

It was like Marmee to get up a little treat for them, but anything so fine as this was unheard of since the departed days of plenty. There was ice cream, actually two dishes of it, pink and white, and cake and fruit and distracting French bonbons and, in the middle of the table, four great bouquets of hot house flowers.

It quite took their breath away, and they stared first at the table and then at their mother, who looked as if she enjoyed it immensely.

“Is it fairies?” asked Amy.

“Santa Claus,” said Beth.

“Mother did it.” And Meg smiled her sweetest, in spite of her gray beard and white eyebrows.

“Aunt March had a good fit and sent the supper,” cried Jo, with a sudden inspiration.

“All wrong. Old Mr. Laurence sent it,” replied Mrs. March.

“The Laurence boy’s grandfather! What in the world put such a thing into his head? We don’t know him!” exclaimed Meg.

“Hannah told one of his servants about your breakfast party. He is an odd old gentleman, but that pleased him. He knew my father years ago, and he sent me a polite note this afternoon, saying he hoped I would allow him to express his friendly feeling toward my children by sending them a few trifles in honor of the day. I could not refuse, and so you have a little feast at night to make up for the bread-and-milk breakfast.”

Little Women, Chapter 2


What I Love About this Scene

I just love the March sisters. I like how each of their personalities come out in the above passage as they’re trying to figure out WHO gave them the breakfast party.

I also love how they do a really hard thing at the beginning of the book. They give up something they want. This leads to an even better surprise!

And I love how this is an excellent introduction to Laurie!

Photo Challenge #51 / It’s Pretty

20181117ma_6277“Tree Lights” / Theme: It’s Pretty

A little about this photo…

Magical Christmas trees made out of lights. The only thing that would make this photo prettier would be for there to be snow on the ground! (By the way, these are part of the Festival of Lights display in Niagara Falls.)


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Quick Pick Reviews #12

The Christmas Doll // by Elvira Woodruff

Genre: Lower MG, Historical (2000)

christmas-dollMy Thoughts: This story seems to me to be a hybrid of a Charles Dickens/George MacDonald tale… It’s about two little orphans who run away from the workhouse and end up on the streets of London. I did like the relationship the two sisters had, and the boy they meet is a fun addition. I love the element of the doll-maker, so that was definitely a bonus for me.

In many ways, the story isn’t terribly realistic. It almost has a fairy tale quality to it. However, if you know that going in, you can enjoy it for what it is. A very nice Christmas story with a sweet and happy ending. [3 Stars]


The True Gift // by Patricia MacLachlan

Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2009)

true-giftMy Thoughts: A sweet story about a brother and sister who are staying with their grandparents over Christmas. Liam feels like White Cow could use a friend, and so he goes out to find her one.

I really liked how the siblings worked together on Liam’s project. While I don’t think this book quite match the magic of MacLauchlan’s Sarah Plain and Tall books, it does stand as a nice and enjoyable Christmas story.  [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Scenes from a Book #2

Here’s another of my favourite Christmas scenes from a book… this one comes from the prairies.

Little House on the Prairie // Laura Ingalls Wilder

little-houseIn this Christmas story, Laura and Mary are worried that with all the rain, Santa Claus won’t be able to get to the little house. But then, on Christmas Eve, who should show up but Mr. Edwards! And he’s brought them Santa’s gifts…

The Scene:

Mr. Edwards came and sat on the floor by their bed, and he answered every question they asked him. They honestly tried not to look at Ma, and they didn’t quite see what she was doing. …

Well, the first thing Santa Claus said was, “Hello, Edwards!” (“Did he know you?” Mary asked, and Laura asked, “How did you know he was really Santa Claus?” Mr. Edwards said that Santa Claus knew everybody. And he had recognized Santa at once by his whiskers. Santa had the longest, thickest, whitest set of whiskers west of the Mississippi.) …

Then Santa Claus said: “I understand you’re living now down along the Verdigris River. Have you ever met up, down yonder, with two little young girls named Mary and Laura?”

“I surely am acquainted with them,” Mr. Edwards replied.

“It rests heavy on my mind,” said Santa Claus. “They are both of them sweet, pretty, good little young things, and I know they are expecting me. I surely do hate to disappoint two good little girls like them. Yet with the water up the way it is, I can’t ever make it across that creek. I can figure no way whatsoever to get to their cabin this year. Edwards,” Santa Claus said, “Would you do me the favor to fetch them their gifts this one time?”

“I’ll do that, and with pleasure,” Mr. Edwards told him. …

And Santa Claus uncinched the pack and looked through it, and he took out the presents for Mary and Laura.

“Oh, what are they?” Laura cried; but Mary asked, “Then what did he do?”

Then he shook hands with Mr. Edwards, and he swung up on his fine bay horse. Santa Claus rode well for a man of his weight and build. And he tucked his long, white whiskers under his bandana. “So long, Edwards,” he said, and he rode away on the Fort Dodge trail, leading his pack-mule and whistling.

Laura and Mary were silent an instant, thinking of that.

Then Ma said, “You may look now, girls.”

Something was shining bright in the top of Laura’s stocking. She squealed and jumped out of bed. So did Mary, but Laura beat her to the fireplace. And the shining thing was a glittering new tin cup.

Mary had one exactly like it.

These new tin cups were their very own. Now they each had a cup to drink out of. Laura jumped up and down and shouted and laughed, but Mary stood still and looked with shining eyes at her own tin cup. …

There never had been such a Christmas.

Little House on the Prairie, Chapter 19

What I Love About this Scene

I love the friendship Mr. Edwards displays for this family. He knows how dangerous it is to cross the river, but he does it anyway… for Laura and Mary. (While “Santa” couldn’t make it across the raging river, Mr. Edward could and did!) And it’s amazing how he makes it into an experience for the girls. A whole story! (I also love how Wilder includes the little questions the girls have when they see a potential plot hole in his story. But Mr. Edwards never missed a beat.)

I also love how Laura and Mary are thrilled with the simple gifts they receive: their tin cups, candy, a little cake made with white sugar, and a penny each! What bounty!

Scenes from a Book #1

This is a new feature at my blog that I’m calling Scenes from a Book. It’s where I get to discuss some of my favourite scenes in books… And since it’s December, I’m going with a Christmas theme.

In honour of this inaugural post, I’m picking a scene from one of my favourite books of all time. 🙂

Anne of Green Gables // by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green GablesThis is scene where Matthew insists on puffed sleeves

So, in this part of the book, Miss Stacy has decided to get up a concert to take place on Christmas night. Of course, Anne is to take part and she’s extremely excited. Matthew decides it’s high time to give Anne what’s she’s always dreamed about: puffed sleeves. Except, being so shy, he has a little trouble making this dream come true. (Pretty much because Marilla thinks puffed sleeves are not necessary.)

The setting is Lawson’s store. Normally, Matthew patronizes Blair’s… but he chooses Lawson’s because he’s afraid that Mr. Blair’s two daughters will be there to wait on him. How was he to know that Lawson had hired a lady clerk?!

The Scene:

“What can I do for you this evening, Mr. Cuthbert?” Miss Lucilla Harris inquired, briskly and ingratiatingly, tapping the counter with both hands.

“Have you any—any—any—well now, say any garden rakes?” stammered Matthew.

Miss Harris looked somewhat surprised, as well she might, to hear a man inquiring for garden rakes in the middle of December.

“I believe we have one or two left over,” she said, “but they’re upstairs in the lumber room. I’ll go and see.”

During her absence Matthew collected his scattered senses for another effort.

When Miss Harris returned with the rake and and cheerfully inquired: “Anything else tonight, Mr. Cuthbert?” Matthew took his courage in both hands and replied: “Well now, since you suggest it, I might as well—take—that is—look at—buy some—some hayseed.” …

“We only keep hayseed in the spring,” she explained loftily. “We’ve none on hand just now.”

“Oh, certainly—certainly—just as you say,” stammered unhappy Matthew … “Well now—if it isn’t too much trouble—I might as well—that is—I’d like to look at—at—some sugar.”

“White or brown?” queried Miss Harris patiently.

“Oh—well now—brown,” said Matthew feebly.

Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 25

What I Love About this Scene

I love how Matthew comes up with this ingenious plan and then it backfires on him. Poor shy Matthew’s attempts at telling this woman that he wants to buy a dress. And he can’t quite bring himself to do it. He buys a rake, tries to buy seed, purchases some brown sugar. But NO DRESS! And I like that Miss Harris is clueless about the whole thing. Poor Matthew.

**Spoiler for those who haven’t read the book. He doesn’t get the dress from Lawson’s. But he does get the dress. Matthew ends up going to Mrs. Lynde, and that wonderful lady makes sure that Anne gets the dress of her dreams for Christmas!