Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Yule Time Feast of Witches

A very warm welcome to Joyce and Jim Lavene!Cozy covers are usually wonderful. But I have to admit that this cover grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it. I can't believe the wonderful detail. And I think the theme is such fun – retired witches! What a great idea! The first in the Retired Witches Mystery series, SPELL BOOKED, was released this month. Here's Joyce Lavene to tell us more about it.

The Yule was celebrated before the birth of Christ, usually between the 20th and 23rd of December, as part of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is said to be the time when the dark part of the year gives way to the light. On Solstice Night, the longest night of the year, witches, pagans and Wiccans celebrate the birth of the Oak or Sun King with merriment and feasting.
Bonfires are lit, and toasts of spiced cider are passed. Apples and oranges spiked with cloves are laid in baskets of evergreen and wheat to symbolize sun, light, and life. Holly and ivy decorate the inside and outside of the house as an invitation for bright blessings to come.
From these traditions comes the Yule log which may never be bought – only given or harvested from your land. Once dragged into the house, it is decorated in greenery and dusted with flour, doused with cider before being lit by a piece of the last year’s Yule log. The log should burn through the night and the embers should smolder for the next 12 days.
Herbs for the Yule celebrations include bayberry, evergreen, holly, laurel, mistletoe, pine, oak, sage and cedar.
Some foods for the Yule celebration include pork, turkey, fruits, nuts, cookies and caraway cakes. Eggnog, cider, wassail, and ginger tea are the drinks that wash down the feast.
Sound familiar?
Christmas isn’t so very different. Good food. Good friends. Family, gathered around us as we celebrate the season. Many witches find the Christmas season too commercial, but so do many Christians!
Today, I’m making caraway cakes for my Yule celebration, just as the three witches in our new Retired Witches Mystery, would be. Caraway has a sharp aroma which is frequently confused with fennel. The seeds are commonly used in rye bread. Raw caraway seed aids in digestion and has been used as a healing herb for thousands of years. Caraway cakes are tender and slightly sweet.


Caraway Cakes

1½ cups flour (plain or self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder (leave out if you use self-rising flour)
1 cup granulated sugar (or sweetener) PLUS 2 tablespoons for the top
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
¼ cup cold butter
¾ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. This cake is good made in a loaf pan or Bundt pan for easy slicing. 
Be sure to grease it well.
--> Mix dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add caraway seeds. 
Mix in cold butter with a fork or pastry blender
In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vanilla and egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Mix until the ingredients are moistened and add to the baking pan.
Sprinkle the two tablespoons of granulated sugar (or sweetener) over the top and bake about 30 minutes. Cool and enjoy!
My Yule log is ready, and the house is scented with the aromas of pine and herbs. I imagine our witches – Molly, Elsie, and Dorothy – are getting ready for the celebration too. Happy Yule!

Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction. Their current mystery is Spell Booked, where the ‘Golden Girls’ of mystery meet ‘Bewitched’ as three witches of a certain age search for their friend’s killer, and their stolen spell book.

Joyce and Jim are giving away a copy of SPELL BOOKED to one lucky winner today. To enter, leave a comment, preferably with your e-address so they can contact you. Good luck! 


  1. Hi Joyce and Jim--welcome to MLK and thanks for bringing us your post! Such interesting traditions--did you know all about this before you began writing the series? Have a wonderful holiday! xo

    1. Hi Lucy! Yes. We knew a lot about pagans and witches before we started. It's been fun writing about them and their traditions. Thanks!

  2. Joyce and Jim's "Spell Booked" is a breath of fresh air, not stereotypical witches. The take, on witches nearing retirement, is wonderful and I don't think anyone will see the ending coming. I learned things, in the book, and just learned more, reading this blog. Thank you, Joyce and Jim!

    1. Thanks Patricia! We hoped it would be a fun series for readers. Have a great Yule!

  3. Thank you for this wonderful giveaway! Happy Holidays!

  4. This books sounds really good would love to win a copy but if I don't win I will be buying this to read!!! Thank you for the information about Yule. I learned something new today!! Have a great weekend :)

    1. Thank you Darlene! We should all learn something new every day. Glad you could stop by.

  5. Looks fun! We are going to a light festival at a local garden for solstice this year. Often we've gone to a solstice celebration at our local museum of natural history. Looking forward to reading the book! I'm at jenniferbyerschambers at yahoo dot com.

  6. Love this kind of history. Thank you!

  7. Spell Booked looks like a great and fun read (and the cover is fantastic)! I can't wait to read it. Your post on the Yule Log was interesting and informative (which I didn't know). The Caraway Cake sounds yummy. :)

    Thank you for the contest, and please enter me.


    Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Jen! I hope you enjoy the cake, and the read!

  8. The series sounds great. I really appreciate the retired part. :)

  9. Spell Booked would be a treasure to enjoy. Thanks for this giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  10. I want to try this recipe. Never have used caraway seed in a sweet baked goods. Sounds interesting but Spell Booked sounds like a great read too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to every one!

  11. A new series which sounds delightful and intriguing. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  12. I am so anxious to start reading this new series. Maybe I should make the caraway cake to much on while reading.

  13. This book is at the top of my TBR, just love the retired theme and the cover is so eye-catching. We attended California Revels a few years ago and it was a lot of fun!

  14. Love the retired witches concept! On my TBR list.

  15. I don't know that I have ever had caraway seeds before. I'm going to have to try this. Thanks for the recipe. I think the idea of witches retiring is a fun one. I never thought about that...AARP, social security?, probably don't need medicare. I'd love to read your book.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  16. Sounds like it's going to be a great book - all I read are the cozy mysteries - I am So addicted to them - they are all good. Anxious to read yours.

  17. It's good o remind people how many "modern" traditions are actually quite ancient.
    I'm waiting to hear what celebrating my son and his lady friend are plannig for the Solstice.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net