Monday, November 5, 2018

Around the Kitchen Table: What Lifts Your Holiday Spirit? + #Giveaway

Every month we gather “Around the Kitchen Table” to chat about a topic. Join our discussion, and you’ll be entered to win some wonderful books. Learn more below… 

CLEO COYLE: A week before Halloween our local Home Depot put up their annual aisle of Christmas decorations, and now that it’s November, the countdown is really kicking in. Some are cynical about these days—sure, it’s a chance for the retail world to ring up sales. But Marc and I never forget the reasons for the seasons of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah. What we appreciate most of all (okay, besides the eating) is the giving. 
     In the best and worst of times, that holiday spirit of generosity and love goes a long way to healing the wounds of the year, bridging the divides between people, and uplifting the saddest of hearts. From the bottom of our own hearts, Marc and I hope this holiday season brings you joy.

To help get you into the holiday spirit, we’re asking you to name a few of your favorite holiday films or stories or even songs. 
Here are few that Marc and I always enjoy… 

Miracle on 34th Street (the original film version from 1947)A Christmas Carol by Charles DickensA Charlie Brown Christmas  * Die Hard (yes, the Bruce Willis action flick from 1988)Elf (the sweet comedy with Will Ferrell and Bob Newhart) How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Thank you, Dr. Seuss!) * and… “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry 


SHEILA CONNOLLY: I enjoy It's a Wonderful Life after I can't count how many viewings. I tend to sing along (loudly) to Handel's Messiah. Interesting story there: I have a favorite hotel in Dublin, and I discovered that right around the corner is the theater where The Messiah was first performed. And when we lived in the Bay Area, I had a chance to go caroling with a group of friends, one of whom was a singer with the San Francisco opera. It's hard to compete with that, but as a group I hope we sounded wonderful.

And I have one very special Christmas record. Sometime in the late 1950s my grandmother recorded A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas (I think because she was a volunteer for The Lighthouse for the Blind in Manhattan). It's a vinyl record, and the vinyl itself is translucent red. I'm almost afraid to play it because it will probably make me cry to hear her voice


DARYL WOOD GERBER: Cleo, I'm with you re: the giving spirit. 'Tis the season.
People do open their pocketbooks and often their hearts. I hope that will still hold true this year. As for movies, Sheila, I love It's A Wonderful Life. I also love White Christmas. For years, my sister and I would sing "Sisters" just as campily as we could. Cleo, I adore Die Hard. I've watched it numerous times. Yippee, kay, ay!... The Christmas music throughout is a perfect backdrop for the tension. Love Actually is one of my favorite movies. A real tearjerker in so many ways, but so sweet, too.  I loved Colin Firth trying to speak Italian. Home Alone. Kid you not! Such fun. My son was that age when it came out. Scary that a kid can be so clever! The Santa Clause. Again, I've watched this too many times to count with my son and now my grandkids. So funny. Tim Allen at his best. Did you notice the elves ears throughout? And then, of course, Miracle on 34th Street. There's nothing like truly believing in Santa Claus.


PEG COCHRAN: Christmas and Thanksgiving are about giving whether you're giving presents, food or providing company for someone who might have been alone.  We've had our share of "strays" for holiday dinners--single parents whose children were celebrating with in-laws, singles whose families lived far away and once a young man who my daughter felt sorry for--he was ostracized from his family--who rather shocked my mother with his piercings and tattoos!  

As for music and movies--I LOVE Christmas in Connecticut.  So funny and so charming and romantic.  I have to see A Christmas Carol (and read the book) every year, too.  Charlie Brown's Christmas still makes me feel sentimental and I love watching the Grinch with my granddaughter.  I love all Christmas songs but "O Holy Night" has a special place in my heart.


LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Cleo, I laughed when I saw Die Hard on your list -- it's Mr. Right's favorite Christmas movie, though when the subject comes up, he often has to defend it as a holiday flick. ("Oh, the weather outside is frightful...") And some dispute whether Love Actually qualifies as a Christmas movie, but how can you deny a movie built around an office Christmas party and a school pageant? The answer is clear the moment the PM's bodyguard opens his mouth to sing "Good King Wenceslas" when the PM and his crew are mistaken for carolers! Just thinking about White Christmas and It's A Wonderful Life makes me happy, one for the songs and silliness, the other for the message that we have a chance to touch people in ways we may never know. And I highly recommend last year's The Man Who Invented Christmas, with Dan Stevens (Matthew from Downton Abbey) as Charles Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrooge, who talks to Dickens in a dream. It's also a great portrayal of the creative process and how we writers grab bits and pieces from our daily lives, our dreams, and who knows where and meld them together. If you're feeling "bah humbug," I promise it will lift your spirits! 


DENISE SWANSON: I admit that I'm a bit of a humbug about the holidays. I love the giving, but some of the forced festivity annoys me. Having said that, I never miss my favorite movie White Christmas. And I love the songs like "Little Drummer Boy", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", and "Away in a Manager".


LUCY BURDETTE: I love Christmas--the decorations are wonderful in Key West and the Key West Hometown holiday parade, not to be missed. I love baking cookies, and eating them without guilt:). As for music and movies, The Messiah is at the very top of my list. And there's a lovely radio program every Christmas morning on NPR with British music. And Christmas carols (not the goofy music in stores that I shall not name lest it become lodged in your heads...). And Leslie, Love Actually is definitely a Christmas movie!

KRISTA DAVIS: How is it possible that none of you have mentioned one of my
favorite holiday movies? I must be a goofball at heart because I love National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. From the tree that's too tall, to the dried out turkey (who doesn't fear that every time they cook the Christmas turkey?), to the difficulty with the Christmas lights on the house, it's just fun. Poor old Clark only wants to have the best Christmas ever! I admit that I'm also a fan of Home Alone. And speaking of goofy Christmas carols, Lucy, I have to laugh every time I hear Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. Okay, it's totally silly and I love the Messiah, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting by an open fire), and Jingle Bells (what could be cheerier?), but the one about poor Grandma makes me laugh every time I hear it. I'm also a big fan of Jingle Bell Rock and Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree. Okay, I like all the Christmas songs, every single one of them!


LINDA WIKEN: I love Christmas, too! Especially the lights on outdoor trees. They such sparkle and joy to a cold winter's night, and our nights do get cold! I also love the anticipation but wish I was better organized so that all presents would be bought, wrapped and sent on time...and then I could relax and enjoy the countdown to Christmas. My traditions include watching White Christmas every  year -- my all time best movie; listening to Christmas music in general, especially The Nutcracker ballet and a CD of Swedish Christmas songs by celebrated soprano Anne-Sophie Mutter. I always try to take in some live concerts and this year I'm so looking forward to Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas, with the Jerry Granelli Trio put on by the Jazz Festival. What a treat it will be! As for books, I enjoy rereading The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis, the author of Auntie Mame, so you know how witty it is! But the best part of Christmas is coming home after the midnight service, turning on the fireplace and the Christmas tree, and listening to carols. 

🎄 Giveaway! 🎄


* Cleo Coyle's new Haunted Bookshop Mystery,

* Daryl Wood Gerber's new Cookbook Nook Mystery,

* Denise Swanson's 2nd Welcome Back to Scumble River Mystery,

* Leslie Budewitz's 5th Food Lovers' Village Mystery,

* Lucy Burdette's 5th Key West Food Critic Mystery,

* Krista Davis's new Pen and Ink Mystery 
THE COLORING CROOK (advanced reading copy)


Join our Kitchen Table chat: 

Tell us about a favorite
holiday film, story, or song. 

By random number draw, the
winning comment for our
giveaway was made by...

Rosemary Pfeiffer!

Congratulations, Rosemary!
Enjoy your prizes and...



  1. Babes in Toyland with Annette a Disney musical.

  2. I have loved Miracle on 34th Street since I was a little girl. I watch it every year without fail.

    1. The best movie Santa ever! And I enjoyed the remake, too!

  3. My favorite holiday movie is While You Were Sleeping. It's just so cute and sweet. mbradeen [at] yahoo [dot] com

  4. What a great giveaway! My family always watches The Christmas Story each year.
    Wendy Clark
    clarksrfun at gmail dot com

  5. I love everything about Christmas! Movies: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas and many more! I still watch every children's Christmas special: A Charlie Brown Christmas, which I have seen every year since it started, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. I still sob every time he melts! As for music, let's just say Pandora is full of Christmas music and ready to play on Thanksgiving day!
    I also find every Christmas mystery/cosy I can and tuck up with a book and tea.
    Thank you for the great giveaway.

  6. The movie A CHRISTMAS STORY (I think is the title) with Ralph and the BB gun is based on a book by Jean Shephard: IN GOD WE TRUST, ALL OTHERS PAY CASH. I must find another copy; mine went walk-about and it's one of the few book that can still, upon re-reading for the umpteenth time, make me laugh out loud. My favorite Christmas carol, be still my polytheistic wavering agnostic heart, is O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL - and Handel's Messiah. Ye, I'm confused. pjcoldren[at]

  7. I always like to watch the original The Grinch who Stole Christmas
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  8. It doesn't feel like Christmas without watching Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas both cartoon and other version, A Christmas Vacation, and Santa Clause. I enjoy rocking out so some fun Christmas songs like the classic Jingle Bells. We also read The Crippled Lamb and The Night Before Christmas every Christmas eve.ashleylianeb@yahoodotcom

  9. It's not Christmas without A Christmas Story :-)
    Donah42 at aol dot com

  10. I am a White Christmas fan. I watch it all year long.

  11. I love Babes in Toyland and The Santa Clause as well as Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas. We enjoy all the songs, traditional as well as more current such as Manheim Steamroller. The lights, decorations, and especially the giving spirit make the time special.

    1. Oh, the Santa Clause -- saw it in the theater with my mother ages ago -- what fun! Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Really love and enjoy the Christmas season! The decorations and festivities are a delight to the senses. However, my heart is full, especially at this time of year, because of the reason for the season!

    When it comes to holiday movies, I love them all – old and new. My favorites are any version of the Scrooge movie and the Charlie Brown one about the poor Charlie Brown tree.

    When the TV isn’t on watching the old movies or tuned to the Hallmark channel seeing the new ones, I love to listen to Christmas music. They can run the gambit from soothing to upbeat tunes, I love them all. “I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus” always makes me smile and remember my childhood.

    I will have to say that nothing gets me in the Christmas frame of mind more than reading a great Christmas story. It never ceases to amaze me how the printed word can touch all the sense, but it does. You can read a well written book and smell those cookies coming out of the oven, you can hear the fireplace crackling, you can feel that warm mug of cocoa in your hands, you can see the excitement in a child’s eye when they spot Santa, and your can almost taste that Christmas day feast. You can visit with old friends and meet new ones. You can travel to new places and have great adventures. Anyone that says they haven’t gotten lost in a book, just hasn’t unplugged, relaxed and really read a book.

    Thank you for the marvelous opportunity to win such a fabulous and generous prize as the HOLIDAY SPIRIT prize package! Amazing authors whose books I would love to have to read and proud to share.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. The Hallmark Christmas Channel is such a delight for so many. I've only recently started reading Christmas books -- what joy they bring!

  13. My favorite movies are Miracle on 34th Street which I love and adore and look forward to every single year. It makes me feel uplifted and gives me a warm feeling. Thanks for this wonderful giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. I love Miracle on 34th Street--especially since I used to live in NYC and we would go see the parade.

  14. Holiday Inn and the old Frosty and Rudolph movies. Love to hear Burl Ives.

  15. My favorite Christmas song is The Holly and the Ivy. I first heard it a few years ago when my granddaughter sang it and played it on the violin for us
    My favorite Christmas movie is A Muppet Christmas Carol.

  16. The holidays for me, mean thankfulness, love and families. Having faith, believing in the magic of Christmas! Just look at a small child's face as the see the wonder of the Christmas lights and ornaments.
    I have a couple Christmas movies I watch every year. The first at Thanksgiving, A Miracle on 34th Street, the original version, I love it dearly, since I was a young girl. The Muppets Christmas Carol, can't help but sing along, the music is great! The Santa Clause with Tim Allan. Of course all the traditional cartoons as well. May you all have Happy and Blessed Holiday Season!!!

  17. The Christmas Carol, the old version is very meaningful and special for me and Miracle on 34th Street which is the original as well. I pine for those times which are dearly missed. I love Ave Maria. emotional songs and movies whichr esonate with me. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  18. One of my favorite Christmas movies is a fairly recent one, but it is soooo good. It is called "Heaven Sent" and it has Christian Kane (he's sooo dreamy) in it. It makes me cry, and my hubby even cried. I am one to easily cry at holiday movies.. . This one is on top! You all have to see it.

  19. Lori M
    My favorite Holiday movies are Its a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas Vacation, Elf, A Christmas Story and Christmas Carol. Charlie Brown Christmas even though it’s not really a movie. I love Ava Maria, Rockin around the Christmas Tree, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, The Christmas Song. I love the feeling of the Christmas Spirit all around you sometimes it hard to come by these days sometimes you just have it in yourself and try and share it with others friends, strangers whoever. Kindness can change a persons day

  20. I love the Christmas movies mentioned so far as well. Another favorite of mine is Prancer. Can't go wrong with Sam Elliott!
    nschwenkner (at) gmail (dot) com

  21. My mom my mom and I have a ritual of watching the Hallmark Christmas movies. It doesn’t matter if we don’t watch at the same time, we love seeing what is new, and which of the rotating actors are in a particular movie. Some are based on books, giving me new authors to read.
    It also wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t watch Charlie Brown. No matter how old I get, it takes me back to a simple childhood free of adult worries.
    Thank you for this chance, and my email is

  22. Love Actually is my favorite Christmas movie but White Christmas is right up there. I love the outdoor lights, though we don't do many, but it's fun to see what others do. We alternate Christmas with the grandkids with the other side of the family, and when we are with them Christmas is always more special. My favorite memory of Christmas is one year when I was about 8, my brothers and I went to bed at the late hour of 10pm. My parents had a babysitter for us and they went to a party down the street. My older brother came into my room ( I found out afterwards it was about 12 midnight) and said it was Christmas morning, so we woke my younger brother and started down the stairs to check things out just as my parents came in the front door! We weren't far down enough to see anything but my parents sent us back to bed in a hurry!

    1. That was a close call! I remember creeping downstairs in the middle of the night to see if Santa had come (he had). Knowing there were all those presents waiting under the tree made it even harder to get back to sleep!