December 2006

Dear friends of Desert Rose Books,

Life is lived moment to moment. For this reason, it’s a good idea not to get ahead of ourselves by focusing on tomorrow because we can lose sight of what is right in front of us. We can also be blinded to the potential of the present moment by dwelling on the past. Easier said than done, but worth the effort. Try as I might to experience Christmastime in a peaceful, appreciative manner, I usually get distracted by placing expectations on myself. I find myself falling into that stressful holiday pace and instantly lose sight of what is right in front of me. I’ve completely checked out of the present moment because I’m too busy sweating the small stuff. I wouldn’t exactly refer to those unenlightened moments as merry.

It is truly a wonderful time of the year. People really are more generous of spirit. I love to hear from old friends and see photos of their children. Christmas cards tucked between the bills and the junk mail are fun to receive. Every year, I try to simplify my own expectations even more, so that I can enjoy the spiritual offerings of the season. Imagine if we practiced good will among men all year long. Although there have been complaints about the commercialization of Christmas since the 1920’s, it just keeps getting worse. Then again, there’s that segment of the population that claim to be offended by the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’. I can only step out of the way of that runaway train by getting my own house in order.

I love Christmas songs and Christmas cookies. My favorite movie of all time is: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with Jimmy Stewart. I never fail to cry whenever I watch it. It reminds me of what is most important in my life. That scene in the movie when Stewart picks up the loose knob from the stairwell column and kisses it, illustrates my philosophy on life. When it all boils down, it’s the things in life that you can’t find under the Christmas tree that matter to me. Let’s all spread some good will during this season of hope and try to keep this spirit of Christmas in our hearts all year long.

Please enjoy this month’s article and recipe.

Merry Christmas!


The Perfect Gift

by Bridget Geegan Blanton

I have a friend from my high school days, who has consistently volunteered her time to work with various charities, for more than a decade. One of her current projects benefit people newly released from jail. She cleans, mends and irons donated clothing for these folks. The other day, she sent me an e-mail to share her surprise at the quality of the donated clothes she's been receiving as of late. Everything is in good condition and is not hopelessly out of style. That's a progress report on the rest of us. We're no longer tossing expired creamed corn and threadbare jeans into the donation bin. By increasing the value of our donations, we're honoring the dignity of the person in need.

My old friend may be tiny in stature, but she's energetic, tenacious and has handled every curve ball life has thrown at her. She's had more than her fair share of suffering, but has never backed down from a challenge. I tend to think that her Scottish heritage is partly responsible for the woman she is and always has been. Her name is Heather and she is not unlike the tough, pink flowering evergreen that thrives in the Scottish Highlands. My friend credits her strength and ability to her faith in God above all else. Her faith is solid, unwavering and shared with others. It is obvious to me, that Heather's selfless contributions doing the Lord's work brings her much joy and fulfillment.

At this time of year, we are all called to help out the less fortunate among us. Meanwhile our attention, our energy and our dollars are being pulled in several directions. It seems that stress and depression are as much a part of the season as are wrapping gifts and writing greeting cards; and with good reason. We place more expectations on ourselves during the holidays. As I engage in a fraction of the volunteer work that my friend undertakes, I realize that I benefit personally in ways that I couldn't have possibly imagined. Being in the service of others has an amazing ability to lift me out of my perceived problems and melancholic mood. Having a bad day? Lend a helping hand and watch your perspective on life improve.

Volunteerism is the gift that keeps on giving. On the receiving end of a donation, is a human life. Imagine for a moment, that your contribution restored dignity or hope in the heart of this person. It's a powerful thought that empowers volunteers all over this nation. Donating our time or resources is the perfect gift because as one gives, they also receive.


Apple Pie Bars

Base and Streusel:

2 c all purpose flour

¾ c brown sugar

¾ t cinnamon

½ t salt

6 T cold butter

3 T milk

Only for the reserved Streusel:

3 T melted butter

Apple Filling:

3 ½ c Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and diced

1/3 c sugar

¼ c heavy cream

1 T all purpose flour

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t cinnamon

pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray with Pam, a 10” springform pan with removable bottom.

Combine 2 c flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt for the base and streusel. Transfer ¾ c of the mixture to a second bowl and set aside for streusel. To the first bowl (the base), cut in 6 T cold butter and milk using a pastry blender or your hands until clumps form. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden at the edges.

Stir the melted butter into the reserved streusel mix in the second bowl and set aside.

Toss all the apple filling ingredients together. Arrange over the hot base, pushing apple pieces to the edges of the pan to completely cover the crust. Sprinkle streusel topping over all and bake until apples are soft and streusel is golden, about 30 – 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes before removing the side of the pan and cutting into wedges. Can be chilled or stored at room temperature.

And now a parting thought...

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

-Charles Dickens

Desert Rose Books hopes you've enjoyed our brief publication. As always, your comments are welcome.

Please visit us at www.desertrosebooks.com Home of the historical fiction novel, 'Whispers on the Wind' Pick up a signed copy at our online bookstore for just $14.95. Experience the writing style of Bridget Geegan Blanton. Visit the sample chapter page that portrays a portion of the new historical fiction novel, 'Whispers on the Wind'

Enjoy your day. As always, thanks for spending a little time with us. Desert Rose Books