We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

by Sandra Merville Hart

by Sandra Merville Hart

Sometimes Penelope doesn’t quite fit in with her classmates because there aren’t any other T. rex’s at her school.

Oh, she plays with the other kids at recess but they always want Penelope to play all the dinosaur parts in their games. Her favorite thing of all is singing and playing guitar.

Should she sign up for the talent show?

A nice story about embracing your own talents. The book is geared toward beginner readers and children 5 – 7.

Ten Christmas Songs that Mention a Manger

by Sandra Merville Hart

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 1:4-7)

The manger—a trough for horses and cattle to eat from—was the first bed for Jesus because there was no room at the inn.

Here’s a list of ten traditional Christmas songs that mention a manger:

  • “Away in a Manger”
  • “Angels We Have Heard on High” – See him in a manger laid
  • “Good Christian Men Rejoice” – And he is in the manger now  
  • “Angels and Shepherds” – Lo he is lying, born in a manger
  • “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” – Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger
  • “O Come, All Ye Faithful” – Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger
  • “While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks” – and in a manger laid
  • “Mary’s Boy Child” – and in a manger cold and dark
  • “O Holy Night” – The King of Kings lay thus lowly manger
  • “Fum, Fum, Fum” In a manger poor and lowly

Can you think of others?

Merry Christmas!



“Christmas Lyrics,” Mikeleal.com,  2021/10/04 http://www.mikeleal.com/christmas/songs.html.

An Amish Christmas Bakery

by Sandra Merville Hart

This contemporary novel collection is set during the holidays. Each novella is set at an Amish bakery. Prepare to want a delicious dessert as you read …

In Cookies and Cheer by Amy Clipston, Alyssa lends her artistic abilities to a creative window display for her employer’s bakery. She knows the best person to create the cookie cutters but Kyle, a boy she remembered from school, might feel it isn’t worth his time. When he agrees, she dares to dream of dating him. Unfortunately, finding enough time to date becomes an unexpected issue.

Katie, a talented baker, takes charge of the family’s bakery while her mother recovers from surgery in Loaves of Love by Beth Wiseman. She learns that running the bakery isn’t as easy as it seems. Henry, whom she’s known since childhood, hangs around more and she wished he would ask to date her, but she’s just started dating someone. This new boyfriend is a bit too affectionate, something she and Henry agree on.

Mattie travels to Birch Creek to help in her new aunt’s bakery. Then she realizes Peter, whom she can barely tolerate, is also here to help her uncle build an addition. Her best friend, after dating him, had plenty of harsh words about Peter. Mattie must figure out the truth in Melting Hearts by Kathleen Fuller.

In Cakes and Kisses by Kelly Irvin, Ambrose is a sweet, kind man with a learning disability that kept him from learning to read. When Martha sees him being mistreated, she steps in to help. Ambrose has cared for her for years, but is certain she will never love him. The death of Martha’s parents has placed the responsibility of her younger siblings and the bakery on her and her sister’s shoulders. Dare she dream of love with so much weighing on her?

Each story is very different, which kept my interest engaged. I liked the characters in each story and found myself pulling for them. I love reading Christmas books around the holidays and enjoyed this collection. Because each story is set in a bakery, I found myself craving delicious baked goods!  



Yule Log Cake

by Sandra Merville Hart

Burning large yule logs for the entire Twelve Days of Christmas celebrations is a centuries-old tradition. A recipe for a sweet dessert by that name was first published in The English Huswife by Gervase Markham in 1615.

The yule log (also called buche de Noel) is a traditional Christmas cake filled and rolled into the shape of a log. French bakers began to place intricate decorations on the buche de Noel cakes in the 1800s. The cakes became a popular dessert that was served after Christmas Eve midnight mass.

Yule logs are usually made of sponge cake that is baked in a shallow Swiss roll pan. A creamy filling is rolled inside the cake before it is rolled into a log shape. The outside is typically iced with buttercream or ganache.

Decorations vary for the yule logs. Christmas decorations like holly leaves or Christmas trees make a festive holiday dessert. Yule logs are often decorated with marzipan or meringue objects one finds in the forest such as mushrooms.

I decided to make a yule log cake for the first time. I found a wonderful recipe on Life, Love and Sugar that included some helpful hints.

I followed this recipe and took the yule log dessert to a family gathering. It was a big hit! Everyone loved it.

Though the chocolate cake had a delicious cocoa flavor, the cream filling was the star of the dessert for me. It wasn’t too sweet. The mascarpone cheese wasn’t too heavy for the whipped cream filling. I splurged and ate a piece for breakfast the next morning. Delicious!


Butler, Stephanie. “The Delicious Tradition of the Yule Log,” History, 2020/12/21 https://www.history.com/news/the-delicious-history-of-the-yule-log.

Collins, Ace. Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, Zondervan, 2003.

“Yule Log Cake (Buche De Noel),” Life, Love, and Sugar, 2020/12/21 https://www.lifeloveandsugar.com/yule-log-cake-buche-de-noel/.

“Yule Log Cake,” Wikipedia, 2020/12/21 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule_log_(cake).



Ten Christmas Songs that Mention Angels

by Sandra Merville Hart

Angels played an important part in the birth of Jesus.

The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to let her know she’d bear the Son of God. His name was to be Jesus. (Luke 1:26-38)

An angel appeared to shepherds the night Jesus was born, telling them the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Then many other angels joined them and sang praises to God. (Luke 2:8-14)

Here’s a list of ten traditional Christmas songs that mention angels:

  • “Angels We Have Heard on High”
  • “Angels From the Realms of Glory”
  • “Angels and Shepherds”  
  • “The First Noel” – The First Noel, the angel did say
  • “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” – Angels sang about His birth
  • “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – The angels keep their watch of wondering love
  • “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen” – “Fear not, then,” said the angel
  • “Mary’s Boy Child” – Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
  • “O Holy Night” – Oh, hear the angel voices!
  • “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”

Can you think of others?

Merry Christmas!


Christmas in Winter Hill by Melody Carlson

by Sandra Merville Hart

This contemporary novel is set during the holidays and snagged my attention right away.

Krista moves her daughter to Winter Hill to accept a position as city manager. She soon learns the town has a Christmasville celebration—and it’s part of her job description.

The trouble is, Krista doesn’t like Christmas. She grew up in various foster homes that made celebrating the holiday a challenge.

That’s not the only challenge with the job, but Conner Harris and his daughter certainly make Krista long for the move to a new state to work out.

The characters in this contemporary romance tugged at my heart. I was especially caught up in the struggles of Krista’s daughter, who had such a likeable, fun personality. As trouble escalated, I didn’t know how it was going to end. The festive names of different businesses in the city added to the holiday fun.



Reindeer Cupcakes

by Sandra Merville Hart

Are you looking for a fun treat to make with the children in your life? These reindeer cupcakes are a lot of fun to create. My two-year-old granddaughter decorated several. For her, getting the nose, eyes, antlers and mouth somewhere on the cupcake spelled success. Her older brother, after making a few with facial features in the proper spots, had a lot of fun making “silly” faces.

Making this a successful adventure required advance preparation. You can do this and have a blast yourself if you plan ahead.

  • If you have young children, make the cupcakes ahead of time. I followed my mom’s yellow cake recipe. Children in elementary school will probably want to help with all of it. Get yourself into the mindset that this will be messy. You can clean up later. Now is the time for organized fun.
  • While the baked cupcakes are cooling, prepare the reindeer “antlers” and “mouth.” Pretzels (I bought festive iced pretzels but the plain ones look more like reindeer) work great for these. Break them into pieces that resemble reindeer antlers and mouths. Older children will probably want to do this for you.
  • Candy eyes are often available at grocery stores. Red imperials cinnamon flavored candies, M&Ms, or chocolate chips make good noses.
  • Prepare icing or buy it. To keep things easy, I bought icing. White icing shows up really well but Christmas colors are also fun.
  • Once the cupcakes cool (I kept them in the fridge for about thirty minutes to make them easier to frost) gather the decorations and the children. Older children will want to frost the cupcakes while the younger ones will likely need adults to do it.
  • Frost the cupcakes one at a time and then decorate immediately. Demonstrate the first one so everyone knows what to do. After that, supervise as needed.

Learn to be flexible with the child’s own creative spirit. They’ll have more fun … and so will you.

What a fun activity for the children in your life! Maybe it will become a family tradition.

Ten Christmas Songs About Santa

by Sandra Merville Hart

Stores often play Christmas music to get shoppers in the holiday spirit. It works for me! Listening to holiday music while shopping puts me into the mood to buy gifts. 😊  

Here’s a list of ten traditional Christmas songs that mention Santa Claus or St. Nicholas:

  • “Must be Santa”
  • “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas”  
  • “Here Comes Santa Claus”   
  • “Nuttin’ for Christmas” – I won’t be seeing Santa Claus
  • “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” – I don’t think Santa Claus will mind, do you?
  • “The Night Before Christmas” – In the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there
  • “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Santa came to say
  • “Silver Bells” – This is Santa’s big scene
  • “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
  • “Up on the Housetop” Out jumps good old Santa Claus

Can you think of others?

Merry Christmas!



“Christmas Lyrics,” Mikeleal.com,  2021/10/04 http://www.mikeleal.com/christmas/songs.html.

Under the Texas Mistletoe by Karen Witemeyer

by Sandra Merville Hart

This trio of Christmas historical romance novellas put me in the mood for the holidays.

In A Texas Christmas Carol, Felicity Wiggins tackles the tough task of collecting donations for Christmas baskets—and the even tougher shell surrounding Evan Beazer’s heart that keeps him from giving. She somehow convinces Evan to join her in collecting, but he shields his heart from falling for her—until a chance meeting with three men who keep popping back into his life at the oddest times.

This creative retelling of the classic Dickens story hearkens back to the original story in many ways. One of them is using similar names, such as Evan Beazer for Ebenezer Scrooge. I enjoyed the story.

In An Archer Family Christmas: An Archer Brothers Epilogue, Jim and Cassandra Archer are mourning the loss of their son, who lived one day and died on Christmas Eve three years before. Despite this grief, they are looking forward to spending Christmas with Jim’s brothers and their families when danger comes knocking.

The story moves at a slow pace until the danger arises. Then my attention was captured. I hadn’t read the series but that didn’t hinder my love for the characters in this captivating story.

Gift of the Heart is about a widow who accepts a new job to build a home for her and her daughter in Hope Springs despite difficulties caused by Beauregard Azlin, the town’s owner. I had read this novella story before and enjoyed the gentle romance between a man who feels no one will love him for anything but his wealth and a woman who fears no one will touch her heart the way her husband had.

This story had stayed with me from the first reading and I enjoyed spending time with characters I cared about once again.

A wonderful collection filled with lovable characters! I love the small town historical settings in each story. This is a nostalgic collection of Christmas novellas set in Texas, filled with the type of stories I love reading during the holidays.



Traditional Sugar Cookies

by Sandra Merville Hart

Holiday traditions are a fun part of the season for so many of us. I had been doing different Christmas activities with my preschool and toddler grandchildren. They helped “build” our artificial Christmas tree. They decorated the house with us. We’d watched some holiday shows together and lit Christmas scented candles.

It was time to make Christmas cookies. I made the dough ahead of time from a trusted recipe in my Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.

Traditional Sugar Cookies

¾ cup shortening (I use butter, softened)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl and set aside.

Blend the butter and sugar together with a pastry blender until thoroughly combined. Add beaten eggs and vanilla until mixed. Blend in the flour mixture.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly flour the surface and roll out the dough. Cut into desired shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 6 – 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

I selected some cookie cutters that don’t have lots of nooks and crannies for the dough to get stuck in and gave them their choice from those shapes. I demonstrated cutting out the cookies. They did a great job and had lots of fun with this part.

After the cookies baked and cooled, I showed them an easy way to decorate. At 4 and 2, they did a great job. What fun for all of us! Taking turns made it easier to monitor and keep the mess to a minimum.

Of course, they sampled their handiwork and we saved their very first cookies as a treat for Mom and Dad.

Delicious, light cookies made a wonderful Christmas cookie.

What a sweet adventure and hopefully a fun memory for both children.


Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, General Mills, 1969.