On Barb’s Bookshelf: Best of All Gifts

I’m all about the Christmas novel (and novella). Follow me on Goodreads in the fall and winter and you’ll see that a big chunk of my fiction reading falls straight into the holiday-read category. There’s no shame in that; these are light reads, with sweet stories that pair perfectly with a white-chocolate mocha, fuzzy socks and a warm blanket.

Two Thanksgivings ago, I read Sheila Cronin’s The Gift Counselor, a perfect Christmastime read. In that story, we meet Jonquil, a young widowed mom who has carved out a unique job as a department-store gift counselor. She helps customers examine their motivation for the gifts they give, while advising them on good gift choices. Jonquil uses data gathered at work for her thesis so she can complete an advanced degree.

best of all gifts

Jonquil’s story continues in Best of All Gifts, which is just the right novel to enjoy now — at Thanksgiving time. Jonquil’s work nemesis is assigned to be her assistant, her new thesis advisor seems to have it in for her (and she’s inexplicably attracted to him), and the father who disappeared when she was eight years old resurfaces. And there’s more: Jonquil’s son has a very scary health crisis and she just isn’t sure that Claude, the contractor she began dating in the first book, really wants to marry her. And Thanksgiving is coming.

My favorite character from The Gift Counselor, Rita, doesn’t get very much face time in this story, but we do get to meet Jonquil’s grandmother, who is lovable and wise.

Grab a cup of tea and a slice of pumpkin pie and savor this well-told story. You’ll love Best of All Gifts.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: My Favorite Nonfood Thanksgiving Tradition


Thanksgiving is all about the food in so many ways. But really, it’s all about tradition.

I was one of many who responded to a tweet by @CatholicFoodie, in which an innovative pepper-stuffed turkey recipe was shared, with this: “Thanksgiving, for me, is about Nostalgia Food. New recipes will be saved for another day.”

Nostalgia Food and tradition. That’s Thanksgiving in a nutshell. And here’s a tradition my sister and I have. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. From 2007:

My sister cooks Thanksgiving dinner at her home every year. My family attends every other year, and in the off years we spend the holiday with TheDad’s side of the family. Usually I cook, and they all come here–though there have been exceptions, like the time Pop was in the hospital. That year I cooked it all and brought it to my brother-in-law’s house and finished making the dinner there, since they lived closer to the hospital, and the adults visited Pop in shifts throughout the day.

When you cook Thanksgiving dinner you have to get up early. There are a lot of details to take care of, and a big turkey does take a while to stuff and cook. So my sister and I have developed our own little tradition. Whether it’s our year to visit her home, or the “bye year” as she calls it, we spend part of the early hours of the morning on the phone. Even if we’re at her house, she’s got so many guests and is so busy that we don’t get to talk much. So we enjoy our Thanksgiving phone call.

I’ve got nothing to cook this year but I’m up early anyway. The coffee is brewing, and I just got an email from my sister telling me that she’s awake, and that those participating in the annual Great Pheasant Hunt will be leaving at 5:45, so I’m welcome to call anytime after that.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Small Success Thursday: Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving, and it’s definitely better than last year’s Thanksgiving that we spent in the hospital with Little Brother. I am infinitely thankful for that.

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxIt’s also Thursday, which means we celebrate our Small Successes at CatholicMom.com! So in the spirit of the day, here goes:

  1. Middle Sister wanted to help cook Thanksgiving dinner. So far she has peeled 5 pounds of potatoes, made the stuffing, washed and stuffed the turkey and put it in to roast. I directed traffic and stayed out of the way.
  2. I’ve bitten my tongue a lot. And I’m praying I’ll be able to keep that up. I’m not talking about Middle Sister’s cooking, either.
  3. The apple pie didn’t leak juice all over the oven this year.

And now I will continue to enjoy “Alice’s Restaurant” on the radio for the second time today, and while I wait for it to come around on the git-tar, I will read what’s up with the other Catholic Moms! Because thanks to my Kitchen Apprentice, I’ve got some down time!

Saturday Miscellaneous–with a bunch of Christmas thrown in

  • I’m thankful that my kids “get” that it’s too early for Christmas decorations–and even Christmas music.  Yesterday I had Middle Sister in the car when I stopped at church to hang an announcement on the bulletin board.  She saw the “Giving Tree” in the church lobby.  “It’s too early for Christmas trees,” she told me.  Sure, I know you have to plan ahead with those Giving Trees, but it just doesn’t feel right.  Our tree will go up, as usual, on Pink Candle Sunday.
  • It’s not too early, however, to enjoy a Christmas present from Big Brother, who bought tickets for me and TheDad for today’s TransSiberian Orchestra concert.  TheDad bought 3 more tickets so the whole family can go together.  We’ll all make a collective exception to the “no Christmas music before Advent” rule and enjoy the amazingly talented TSO.
  • Sarah has Seven Advent Tips that are very good.  Listed among them:  wait to decorate!  Count me in as one who decorates gradually, throughout the season.  It works well for me and it brings Christmas gradually into the house instead of one big BANG on Black Friday.  Basically, here’s how it goes:  First Sunday of Advent I bring out the Advent wreath, Christmas storybooks and the empty manger scene.  Nothing else.  Second Sunday of Advent I hang a few pine garlands around the house and put up some other decorations.  Pink Candle Sunday is Christmas-tree day.  Fourth Sunday of Advent, anything else–and animals (only) in the manger.  Christmas Eve:  Holy Family in the manger.  Christmas Day:  shepherds in the manger.  Epiphany:  Wise men in the manger.
  • Speaking of Christmas Storybooks, this may be the first year I don’t bring those out.  They’re all picture books and no one in this house is still reading those.  I guess it’s time to put them in a nice safe container and save them for when we have grandchildren.  And unlike Denise, I’m not ready for that to happen anytime soon.
  • I’ve really got to get down to business and figure out the timing for the Thanksgiving Morning Cook-a-Thon.  I’ve done all of the “nonperishable” shopping and secured a promise from TheDad that he will get the kids off to school on Monday or Tuesday morning so I can go to ShopRite the second they open (7 AM) and avoid all the Amateur Shoppers who are in search of unusual Thanksgiving ingredients, but who have no clue how to even find the canned gravy and Red Delicious apples.  I’m banking on the hope that most of the Amateurs don’t wake up that early.
  • Too Good Not To Share:  Heidi’s prayer for the Adventure Boys in her neighborhood.  Pray this one for Adventure Boys everywhere:  Heavenly Father, watch over all the children in my community whose parents aren’t there to influence their daily choices and habits. Give these children wisdom beyond their years, to protect their hearts from the evil one and his schemes. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for blessings large and small.
Food, clothing, shelter and transportation
Good health
Good kids
The modern conveniences that make it possible for me to carry Thanksgiving dinner 75 miles from home and get it on the table

The Canticle of the Creatures is the ultimate Franciscan prayer of thanksgiving, and perfect for today. I especially like the final line.

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us
with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.

We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.

May you and yours be deeply blessed this Thanksgiving and always.

Time to rethink!

Two hours ago I got a phone call from my mother-in-law; it seems that Pop had some minor surgery today and therefore they cannot travel to my husband’s cousin’s Thanksgiving dinner.
One hour ago my husband finalized plans with his parents. I would cook dinner here, bring it there and serve it. (It’s much easier for me to cook in my own kitchen and just transport the food.)
So back I went to Shop Rite where I found two lonely little fresh turkeys sitting there. I have a turkey in my freezer, but it’s 22 pounds and frozen solid. I don’t have the kind of time it would take to get that thing thawed out. So instead we will settle for a measly 12 1/2-lb turkey, which is so small it’s practically a chicken.
Because this dinner will be prepared in two different kitchens, separated by 75 miles, I’ve got to stick to the basics. But the important part is that we will be together with family.
Tomorrow I will figure out my menu and my timetable. I guess I’ll be stuffing a turkey at the crack o’dawn after all, while I chat with my sister on the phone.