Family, friends, food & fun: Favorite holiday traditions (Jen Gilroy)
Thank you for inviting me to share my favorite holiday traditions with you and your readers, Mandi. I’m happy to guest at Smexy Books to celebrate my new release, Back Home at Firefly Lake. It’s a winter book, and since the story starts between Christmas and New Year, I was inspired by some of my own festive memories.
Throughout the holiday season, my husband, daughter and I follow traditions from our families of origin, as well as making new ones of our own.
From reading my husband’s childhood copy of The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, and Christmas lunch followed by a walk and watching the Queen’s speech as we did when we lived in England, Christmas is when we celebrate our little family of three.
I hang up the stocking my mom made me for my first Christmas, and it’s joined by the one my teen daughter received on her first Christmas. This year, the rescue dog who joined our family at Easter will have a stocking too, although stockings (and other decorations) are placed higher than usual away from her curious, hound nose!
Our Christmas tree is a mini snapshot of our family’s life—as well as those who came before. Vintage ornaments from my parents’ and grandparents’ generations hang beside ones my daughter made in early childhood, and those I’ve collected on holiday or received as gifts.
For me, the holidays are about family memories old and new.
I live in a small town much like the fictional Firefly Lake, Vermont. It’s a close-knit and inter-connected community where we’ve been welcomed warmly, and no more so than during the holiday season.
From late November, our calendar fills up with dates for gathering with friends—open houses, craft shows, choir concerts and other festive events.
It’s also the time of year for exchanging news and greetings with far away friends. Although social media is wonderful, there’s still something special about writing and mailing Christmas cards—and seeing those red, white and green envelopes pop up in the mailbox in return.
The holidays are about celebrating the friends in my life.
Each December, I get out the wooden pastry board used by my mother, and her mother before her (that I also included in Back Home at Firefly Lake) and spend several happy hours sorting through my holiday cookie recipes.
As soon as she was old enough to stand beside me on a chair by the kitchen counter, my daughter and I have baked together. While we sift, stir, taste test and ice, we talk about everything from the mundane to the important. Particularly now she’s entered the turbulent teenage years, those mother-daughter times are extra special—and meaningful.
My husband, the foodie in our family, overseas much of the holiday meal preparation, and his stone-baked pizza, crab and avocado appetizer, and cheesy broccoli and cauliflower casserole are yummy treats we look forward to all year.
The holidays are about food—and the love and nurturing that come with it.
Whether it’s skating on an outdoor ice rink, watching a hockey game, or waving at friends in our small-town Santa Claus parade, the cold winter months bring fun activities unique to this time of year.
It’s also the season for uplifting movies and television specials. In November and December, I’m tuned to the Hallmark channel because those feel-good films get me in the festive spirit.
Not least, the holidays are about singing. Music has been part of my life since childhood, and I’m part of a mixed voice choir in my community. As well as services throughout advent, I sing in a service of lessons and carols and join with friends and neighbors to go caroling at the local hospital and senior’s home.
The holidays are about fun and sharing the joy of the season with others.
A time to give thanks
For me, the holidays are also a time to be grateful —for the blessings of family, friends and everything else that enriches my life, but also and this year, my first as a published author, for the readers who make it possible for authors like me to do what we do.
Wishing you and your readers happy holidays with your own special people and favorite traditions, and may 2018 bring happy times, new adventures and fabulous books!
Rafflecopter for Back Home at Firefly Lake Blog Tour Giveaway:
Jen is offering one (1) lucky Grand Prize winner a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a paperback copy of Back Home at Firefly Lake. Five (5) runner-up winners will receive a paperback copy of their choice from the Firefly Lake series! This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:
Author: Jen Gilroy
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women’s Fiction
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Publisher: Forever – Grand Central Publishing
Series: Firefly Lake
Print ISBN: 9781455569618
Digital ISBN: 9781455566938
She has a million reasons to leave. Can he give her the one she needs to stay?
Cat McGuire’s return to Firefly Lake is turning into much more than she bargained for. Sure, she missed the crisp pine-scented air and the comfort of having her family around her. But being home makes her feel less like the successful single mom she is–and more like the awkward teen who never fit in. It doesn’t help that hockey-pro Luc Simard is back in town, too. Luc was her childhood crush, the hometown hero who never noticed her, and yet somehow he still makes her heart skip a beat.
Luc’s homecoming has been bittersweet. He’s lost his wife and his career, but there’s no better place to start over than Firefly Lake. Coaching the local kids’ hockey team makes him feel alive again, and he thinks his life is complete–until Cat arrives. The shy girl he always wanted to protect is now the gorgeous woman who’s stealing his heart and making him believe in second chances. But how can he convince Cat that Firefly Lake is where she truly belongs?
Add to your “Want to Read” shelf: Goodreads
Luc’s heart squeezed. [Cat] was embarrassed to ask her family for help, like he’d have been embarrassed asking his. Except, that would never be an issue because he had more money than he could spend in one lifetime. Money to finance the creamery expansion his dad had talked about for years, and to send his folks on that cruise they’d hankered after but could never afford because of the cost of raising four kids and putting most of them through college. Money for everything except what mattered most—taking care of his wife and their child like he’d planned.
“Pay for the hockey registration when your grant comes through.” He tried to smile. “I know you’re good for it.”
“Thanks.” Cat’s voice cracked and she took one hand away from her bag to rub it across her face. “Hockey means everything to Amy. I want her to be able to play, but she’s growing so fast right now.”
“Hockey’s an expensive sport.” He slid an arm around her shoulders and gave her a little squeeze. The same kind of friendly squeeze he’d given her all those times back in high school when she’d saved his butt in chemistry. Before today, however, his fingers had never tingled when he’d touched Cat. His body had never heated, either.
Cat started and pulled away at the same instant he did. “Hockey can be a dangerous sport too, and now Amy will be playing with boys. She hasn’t played with boys since she was seven. She could get hurt.
Like he had, hurt so bad it had ended his career. “Amy’s playing minor hockey. At her age, there is a rule about no body checking.” He tried to make his tone reassuring. “I promise I’ll keep a close eye on her.” It was his job as her coach, and he’d do the same for any kid. It had nothing to do with the strange and unexpected attraction he all of a sudden had for this woman he’d known his whole life, who he’d never really looked at until today.
A woman who wasn’t Maggie. Luc’s stomach clenched in a tangled lump of guilt and grief, tied tight with a slippery ribbon of disloyalty. Maggie was never coming back, but that didn’t mean Luc could forget her. Or that he wanted to.
Copyright © Back Home at Firefly Lake 2017 by Jen Gilroy
Jen Gilroy lives in a small town in eastern Ontario, Canada where her Irish ancestors settled in the nineteenth century. She’s worked in higher education and international marketing but, after spending too much time in airports and away from her family, traded the 9-5 to write romantic women’s fiction to bring readers’ hearts home.
Jen likes ice cream, diners, vintage style and all things country. Her husband is her real-life romance hero, and her teen daughter teaches her to cherish the blessings in the everyday.
The Cottage at Firefly Lake, the first book in her Firefly Lake series, was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® award in 2015. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award 2017.