12 Christmas Books that Inspired Me

I love snuggling up in a blanket on cold winter evenings and reading my favorite Christmas novels! Each year I read some old books as well as add new ones so my list of top 12 books changes each year.

Here is this year’s list of my top twelve Christmas books and novels. The hardest part about making a list like this is ranking them. I’ve written book reviews for a few of these. I’ve included the links if you’d like to read them.

If you don’t see your favorites here, leave a comment with the book title and author—I’m always looking for great stories!

12)    Object Talks for Christmas by Verna Kokmeyer

11)    Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs at Christmas by Ace Collins

10)    Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins

9)      Crashing into Love by Yvonne Lehman

8)     The Christmas Baby by Lisa Carter

7)     Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin

6)     Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

5)     A Miser. A Manger. A Miracle. by Marianne Jordan

4)    The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

3)    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

2)   The Christmas Child by Max Lucado

1)    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

 What is your favorite holiday book?

-Sandra Merville Hart



The Christmas Baby by Lisa Carter

This contemporary romance novel is the first book I’ve read by this author.

I love reading books set during the Christmas holidays as soon as the weather gets cold in the fall. These novels get me in the mood for Christmas.

Anna Reyes, a widow, returns to her home town to begin a new life and have her baby near family and friends.

Ryan Savage has been Anna’s best friend since childhood. Old feelings, long-buried, stir to life when Anna moves into a trailer near the school where they both work.

Anna’s timing couldn’t be worse. Ryan plans to move away in the new year. He’s been offered a dream job.

The old friends are drawn together by students in need. Ryan has to decide if he should accept the new job.

Under Carter’s skillful hands, this novel filled me with Christmas spirit.

Recommend! Will look for more by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Calico Potato Salad Recipe

I thought I’d share a few family recipes around the Christmas holidays. This is a potato salad that I made often as a teenager and recently rediscovered.

Because of its festive colors and unique flavor, this potato salad makes a fun and tasty addition to holiday meals.


6 cups diced, peeled, cooked potatoes

½ cup diced cucumbers

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped green pepper

3 tablespoons canned pimentos

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon celery seed

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 eggs, hard-boiled

½ cup whipping cream, whipped

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

My aunt gave me a tip about making potato salad when I was a child. Boil unpeeled potatoes to keep your potatoes from turning to mush in the pot. When done, pour out the hot water and run cold water into the saucepan. Then drain and set aside to dry and cool. This is the way I still cook potatoes for potato salad.

While the potatoes cook, chop onion, green pepper, cucumber. Then peel and dice the potatoes when they cool.

Combine first 8 ingredients. Chop eggs and stir into the potato mixture. Chill until about ½ hour before serving.

Whip the cream with a mixer in a separate bowl. Then add mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard to the whipped cream. The mixture becomes very creamy.

Stir creamy mixture gently into potato salad about ½ hour before serving.

Delicious! This is not your typical potato salad. It has a light, refreshing flavor that works well for festive potlucks around the holidays.

I’d love to hear if you try this. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart



12 Christmas Traditions You can Begin this Year

Like so many others, I love the Christmas season! Children look forward to doing the activities they enjoyed last year. Adults also like the nostalgia of specific traditions and activities.

Here are a few things that are fun to do every year. Maybe there is a new idea tucked inside this list for you!

12)  Send out Christmas cards. It’s still nice to be remembered around the holidays—especially if your loved ones live far away. Some folks decorate their homes and apartments with Christmas cards.

11)  Buy or make a new ornament or Christmas decoration. My husband and I began this annual tradition as a newly married couple. Children love this one!

10)  Decorate your home for Christmas. I love the fresh smell of a real tree every year, but my husband is not a fan. Whether you put up a tree or not, a few decorations add to the festive mood of the holiday.

9)    Decorate a Gingerbread house. Perhaps you are about as artistic as me. Thankfully there are gingerbread kits you can buy. The children in your life will love decorating a house with candy that they can eat afterward!

8)    Listen to Christmas music as you drive around looking at Christmas lights. My family had very little money growing up, but we did this every year—a special memory.

7)    Donate a gift to a charity or needy family. If this gift involves shopping, include your child if feasible. They will feel part of the giving.

6)    Looking for gift ideas for your children? Take them to a toy store. Observe the items where they linger longest. Then write down ideas when they aren’t looking.

5)    Treat yourself to a meal out after a long day of shopping. Even if it’s fast food, you won’t have to cook!

4)    Plan an evening to watch Christmas movies/shows with family or friends. Serve holiday desserts or popcorn. This can be an easy holiday gathering. Just have fun.

3)    Bake and decorate Christmas cookies. Include your children. Praise their efforts and creativity. Invite grandparents if you like. The whole house will smell wonderful.

2)    Visit a Nativity.

1)    Attend Christmas Eve services.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

-Sandra Merville Hart


Object Talks for Christmas by Verna Kokmeyer

I love this book for children!

The author has taken many of the common items associated with Christmas and created an easy, fun lesson for preschool children through elementary.

The author uses items such as ornaments, candles, candy canes, cranberries, cookie cutters, holly, pine cones, and many more as interesting object lessons.

With each object is a scripture reference, discussion, prayer, and activity. The discussions are appropriate and useful for parents and teachers.

Included are Christmas crafts or activities that children can do with parents. Some crafts will be easy for an elementary-aged child to create without much adult assistance.

I definitely recommend buying this book for your children and grandchildren. Packed with great ideas!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas    – Use coupon code SandraMHart for a 20% discount on Lighthouse Publishing books!

Holiday Peas & Rice Recipe

I thought I’d share a few family recipes around the Christmas holidays. This is a dish that my grandmother on my dad’s side used to make.


½ cup long grain rice—not minute rice (I used organic brown rice)

1/8 teaspoon sage

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 can chicken broth

1 cup frozen peas

2 tablespoons diced pimentos

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in sage. Add rice and sauté in the melted butter for about a minute or until it begins to brown.

Stir chicken broth into the rice mixture and bring to a boil. Then reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer.

After simmering for 15 minutes, add peas and cook about 10 minutes longer or until done, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let it set, covered, for five minutes to allow the rice to soak up any remaining broth.

Stir in pimentos. This recipe makes 6 ½ cup servings. Double it to serve a larger crowd.

This dish has just a hint of sage that I found to be a refreshing change. If you like a bit more, increase this seasoning to a ¼ teaspoon when adding to the melted butter in the beginning, but remember that sage has a strong flavor. A little goes a long way.

This vegetable dish has festive green and red colors that will complement holiday meals. Thanks for the recipe, Grandma!

I’d love to hear if you try this. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart



Meet Dr. Margaret Craighill – Trailblazer

Today’s post was written by fellow author, Linda Shenton Matchett. She provides readers with historical background for her novella in a Christmas collection. Welcome, Linda! I am looking forward to reading this story.

Throughout U.S. history, with the exception of the Army Nurse Corps, women had never been used in any uniformed capacity in the armed forces. As WWII dragged on, men continued to enlist or be drafted into combat, leaving vacancies in every corner of the country and overseas. By mid-1943, personnel shortages were at a crisis level. On April 16th, President Roosevelt signed the Sparkman-Johnson bill allowing women to enter the Army and Navy Medical Corps.

Before the ink was dry on the ruling, Dr. Margaret D. Craighill, Dean of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, requested a leave of absence and became the first female commissioned officer in the Army Medical Corps. A graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Dr. Craighill previously held positions at Johns Hopkins, Bellevue, and Greenwich, and Philadelphia Hospitals.

Her assignment was a perfect fit for her education and experience. Named Women’s Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army, she commanded the Women’s Health and Welfare Unit and was liaison officer to the Woman’s Army Corps (WAC). She inspected field conditions for all women in the U.S. Army and established the standards for screening WAC applicants and for WACs medical care, including the institution of regular physical exams.

Traveling over 55,000 miles around the globe, Dr. Craighill reported on the condition of 160,000 Army nurses and WAC personnel, squelching the notion that women were unsuited to a military role. She stated that “they were performing remarkably well in extreme climates and challenging work conditions.” As a result of her exemplary service, she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Legion of Merit.

Not bad for a girl from the tiny village of Southport, NC.

-Linda Shenton Matchett


A Doctor in the House (Part of The Hope of Christmas collection): Dr. Emma O’Sullivan is assigned to a British convalescent hospital, and she leaves behind everything that is familiar. When the handsome widower of the requisitioned property claims she’s incompetent and tries to get her transferred, she must prove to her superiors she’s more than capable. But she’s soon drawn to the good-looking, grieving owner. Will she have to choose between her job and her heart?


Buy Link:  Amazon


Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, blogger, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library.


Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin

Violet Madison has a secret. After everyone is tucked inside their cozy beds for the night, Violet delivers food to the needy during the Christmas season. She is dubbed the Yuletide Angel.

No one knows the identity of the Yuletide Angel—except her neighbor, Hugh Barnes. The confirmed bachelor worries for Violet’s safety and follows her to protect her.

Raised to believe herself plain, Violet has little confidence in herself though people do praise her baking. She dreams of owning a bakery yet women don’t own businesses in Meadowmead, despite it being the 1890s.

She also dreams of changing Hugh’s mind about remaining a bachelor.

This book captured my attention from the first page. It’s a gentle story set during the Christmas season. It transported me back in time. I loved it.

This is exactly the kind of story I love to read during the Christmas holidays. I will look for more novels by this author!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas – Use coupon code SandraMHart for a 20% discount on Lighthouse Publishing books!

Fudge Brownies Recipe

I thought I’d share a few family recipes around the Christmas holidays. My sister shared this yummy recipe with me when we were teenagers. I’ve made these brownies for my family many times.


½ cup butter or margarine

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted, remove from heat and let it cool at least two minutes.

Stir in sugar.

Beat eggs in separate bowl and then add to chocolate mixture. Stir well. Add vanilla and stir. (Pure vanilla extract, what I use, tastes much better than imitation vanilla.) Add flour and walnuts, if desired, and mix well.

Prepare 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a fork inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow brownies to cool and the cut into 16 squares.

Since the entire recipe is made in one pan, it is almost as quick to prepare as a boxed mix. My sister is a talented cook. So happy that she shared this recipe with me!

I’d love to hear if you try this. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart



President Washington Declares a Day of Thanksgiving

The Revolutionary War was behind them. The young nation established a new government. Leaders wrote a new United States Constitution. The nation elected its first president. Peace reigned again.

New Jersey Representative Elias Boudinot asked Congress to pass a resolution requesting that President George Washington declare a thanksgiving observance.

Congress passed the resolution. President Washington agreed.

On October 3, 1789, Washington issued a proclamation. Thursday, November 26, 1789 was to be a national day of thanks to God. He reminded Americans that the Almighty’s care and provision had led them through the Revolution and helped them establish a new government and Constitution.

Washington sent the proclamation to state governors, requesting they announce the observance to their citizens. Newspapers printed the announcement.

Public celebrations and church services marked that Thanksgiving day.  Washington attended a church in New York city, St. Paul’s Chapel. He remembered those who were imprisoned for debts in the city by giving them food and beer.

The proclamation did not establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Though Washington and other presidents declared days of Thanksgiving from time to time, Lincoln was the one to set aside an annual observance of the day.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Byron, T.K. Ph.D. “Thanksgiving,” Mount Vernon, 2017/10/30 http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/thanksgiving/.