Christmas Day ~ in northeast coastal Florida

IMG_2863After my daughter Vicky made a 117 course Christmas breakfast oozing with cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar, as well as homemade sweetbread and fresh blueberries, we had to walk some of it off before dinner. Yes, we had seriously over indulged, thus we we had to intentionally burn some calories off. My body is the temple of the Living God, and I have to treat it as if it is.

We headed for the public boat slip on a cove of the St. John’s River located at our local city park. Duval County is gorgeous in December. Here I’m with Sophie the Wonder Dog.

IMG_2872We sat on the dock and watched the sailboats, deep sea fishing boats, kayaks, paddle-boats, and jet skiers go by. Those jet skiers are hearty folk. Even though it’s Florida, the water is cold. I want to encourage those over 50, as well as “seasoned citizens” to get out and do. Go for it. Live life.

IMG_2869A nearby boat-slip…just beyond the dock.

Merry Christmas to all. The Savior was born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and He dwells with us. Emanuel, God with us.

May you all be blessed in the new year.

 

 

Christmas Eve 2018 ~ a merry time after loss

Vicky is doing a “sleeping beauty” this Christmas morning and I’ve been watching the Nashville Christmas Parade, followed by Kathy Lee and Hoda. It’s been a gentle and quiet Christmas morning which will end when Vic wakes up…the quiet part.IMG_2851

We had a sweet and fun Christmas Eve dinner last night at Miller’s Ale House on San Jose Boulevard, JAX. I was surprised at the number of families having their Christmas Eve meal in the restaurant. Many parents came from work, so it makes sense.  They were short staffed and the hostess was rushed but she insisted on taking this photo of us. A transplant from NYC, I’ve come to love and appreciate southern hospitality and warmth. It makes life so much easier.

Last night, the atmosphere hit the right note for us. We laughed and recalled Christmases past, but this time without pain and loss. We lost Joseph Dennis Chillemi, my husband and Vicky’s dad, in December three years ago. The last two Christmases have been bitter sweet for us.

This year, we’re having a merry little Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas since Joseph passed that Vic and I have felt real happiness and delight at Christmas. I’ve had joy in the Lord and peace at Christmas since my husband passed on December 8th three years ago. This year is the first one that I’ve experienced merriment. Yes, it’s turning out to be a truly merry Christmas for me.

For those who have lost a loved one, I know it will be a different Christmas, but I pray that even in that loss, those who mourn can allow the peace of Christmas to comfort.  There is a “spirit of Christmas.” For Christians, this is a deep and profound thing. NonChristians also feel what Christmas cards and media personalities often call ‘the Christmas spirit’. We don’t understand it, but this spirit seems to bring light and cut through the gloom, depression, and darkness globally.

So, even in your loss, I pray you let the true gentle spirit of Christmas wrap you in warmth.  God is with us, even in the deepest darkest valleys. “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]

In our loss, especially at Christmas, the ‘shadow of death’ seems to envelop those who mourn. I had to tell myself for nearly three years, “It’s a shadow.” It’s not as powerful as it seems. It’s not forever. And this is a valley. It’s also not forever.” When I look at that Bible verse in times of sorrow, I think of God’s rod as His power…His power over death. Jesus conquered death. And His staff is like the staff of a shepherd. The Shepherd leads us onward in our sorrow on a journey out of the valley. It is a valley and it is a journey.

I often think, to honor the importance of the life of the loved one we lost, it should take time. It should be a journey. But God wants us to see that the valley has an end. We do come out and away from the shadow of death. And that also honors the life of the one/s we mourn. It also honors God, who wants us to reenter life fully.

And so, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and blessings and a healthy and happy new year.

Nativity

 

Alaska Logs ~ my Mom’s Christmas cookies

Alaska Logs plate
Alaska Logs, Helen N. Navor’s recipe

My mom made these cookies every Christmas Eve while my dad whipped up homemade eggnog. We also decorated a freshly cut Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The entire family would go out a few days before to get the tree from a Christmas tree stand. The interesting thing was, my mom was diabetic and could not eat these cookies. She made them for us to eat. Such a nice thing to do.

I also make Alaska Logs every year. I bring them to parties, serve them to my guests and they are always, always the first to go…not an exaggeration. So, I don’t want the recipe to vanish. I don’t know where my mom got the recipe, but they hail to the late 1950s or early 1960s

ALASKA LOGS

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C flour
  • 1C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C chopped pitted dates*
  • 1 C chopped walnuts*
  • 3 well beaten large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

1. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. Stir in chopped pitted dates, chopped walnuts, well beaten eggs, oil.

3. Pour into a well-sprayed square pan spayed with canola oil pan spray. Gently spread mixture so that it slides into the corners. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

3. While it’s still hot cut into small bars. Quickly scoop out without breaking, squeeze into logs and roll in a more sugar. The bars resemble small logs, the sugar resembles snow on the logs. Cool before eating.

Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans

 

**Instead of dates, I often substitute 2 packages of Walmart brand Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans (A salad topper, usually found near produce. There are many similar brands.)

 

 

Alaska Logs container
Storing Alaska Logs. I make big batches because they go fast.

Dream a Little Christmas Dream ~ celebrate

Xmas Orn 2013 (2)
My late husband Joseph and I picked this up in Key Largo and It’s hung on the tree since.

I start to dream just a tad more during the Christmas holiday season. For me it starts the day after Thanksgiving. To me, that day has never been Black Friday. It’s always been more of a Christmas Fantasy Friday. Although I love all the lights and tinsel (especially the lights), I don’t want to get caught up in it. I have to always remember the One who is the divine dream giver. He has a purpose and a plan for me and for you.

 

V Xmas Cookies 2 Go
My daughter Vicky’s Christmas cookie to go.

So, while I’m firmly aware of Who is the author of my dreams, I find myself leafing through pages of ladies magazines, looking for holiday food and Christmas decorating ideas. Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Journal is terrific for gathering ideas. I also surf the web for delish Christmas recipes. I started on my own low cal/carb style of eating (not a diet) and lost a substantial amount of weight over the last five years. And I’ve kept it off. So, I will indulge (somewhat) in holiday desserts and other high cal treats, but won’t overdo it. It takes some intentionality, but that’s my new buzz word: intentionality! That’s why I’m so thrilled at how easy it is to find truly healthy Christmas recipes that look and taste marvelous.

I also love Christmas decorating shows on the various cable networks. I love to watch instructions on how to make Christmas crafts. Love the old classical and the new innovative ways to deck the halls. I’m afraid I’ve become an HGTV and a DIY Network addict. I’ll have to go to 12-Step meetings in January. “Hello, my name is Nike, and I’m addicted to home improvement cable channels.”

It seems this year there is much less of a war against Christmas. Oh, there are still Scrooges and Grinches out there, and they take great pleasure at bringing all Christmas celebrants down a notch or two. Don’t let them. Pity them and pray for them. And then get on with Christmas cheer. Celebrate ground retaken.

I’m happy to revel in the Christmas spirit, you see because over two thousand years ago in the city of Bethlehem an angel burst forth with great joy announcing the Good News, “Peace on earth. Good will toward men.” [Luke 2:14] Jesus was born. He has decked the halls of my heart ever since the day I first invited Him in.

 

Christmas is Coming ~ and I feel like a little child

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My bins are Christmas green.

Thanksgiving Day is gone, though thanksgiving continues as a way of life for me. So, now I’m thankful that Christmas is coming. For me the day after Thanksgiving is the “official start of the Christmas season” which doesn’t end on December 26th. No, I also celebrate the 12-Days of Christmas and end the season on December 6th with Epiphany.

In my house, the day after Thanksgiving is the day for taking out my large plastic “Christmas bins.”

This year I did some research and I found out surveys show that people who celebrate Christmas early tend to be happy people. All I know on a personal level is that I feel great when I jump into the Christmas season with both feet.

Isaiah 9:6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~ New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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My baker’s rack in happy disarray as I put away “year round” object ‘d art and start putting up the Christmas stuff.

My feeling is that “Christmasy people” enjoy the “Light” the season brings. Even the non religious feel the light piercing the darkness and they like it. I don’t decry the  overabundance of lights on houses as commercialism. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph don’t upset me. I know Santa Claus isn’t the baby Jesus. I also know the real St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who gave gifts to the poor. I don’t mistake my Santa figurines as “the reason for the season.” Not for one second. But Santa does make me smile. Still, I know if there had never been a Jesus, there would not have been a Santa Claus.

I love to see smiles breaking out on the faces of children when they sit on Santa’s lap. Too often our children are fretful, feeling the anxiety and weight of the world in this angry time. Laughing when they see Frosty or Rudolph is a welcome break. It’s the Light breaking through the darkness. It’s children being allowed to be children, even for a short time. It’s the joy of the season breaking out. It can’t be contained. Darkness can’t hold it back.

IMG_2796
Turkey chili sustains me as I decorate.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t decorate on an empty stomach.

It is up to the church to tell the story of the baby Jesus. If we tell the age-old glorious story, they will listen. We must tell them.

The Birth of Jesus ~ ~ Luke 2 ~ New Living Translation [NLT]

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

Announcing the Release of: BLOOD SPEAKS ~ The Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes Trilogy, Book 3

blood-speaks-sharon-lavy-2

BLOOD SPEAKS:Taut and compelling detective story, with a clandestine twist. Dry humor. Sweet, romance, warm intimacy, sophisticated themes presented tastefully.  

…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. ~ Hebrews 12:24 [NASB]

 

BLOOD SPEAKS in a nut shell

Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, Brooklyn gal PI, waited a long time for the solitaire on her finger. When her sometimes boss, a shadowy figure and director of a secret government organization, offers a one-week bridal shopping vacay in Virginia, she jumps at it.

Joined by bridesmaids, Sandra Daube and Bertha Dagney, Ronnie sets off for the village of Heritage Cove on Arrowhead Lake, Virginia. Their joyous stay at the rustic yet luxury Heritage Cove Inn is shattered by a murder with tendrils and a clandestine motive stretching back to the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It doesn’t take long for Ronnie and her gal-pals to become targets of the killer. It goes without saying, Taylor County Deputy Sheriff, Lieutenant Dawson Hughes leaves Texas to protect his bride-to-be. He’s joined by Sandra’s employer, conservative political activist Ben Cohen. Neither hell-nor-high-water can keep Gabby Hayes look-alike Hoot Dagney from the side of Bertha, his new bride.

 

Excerpt:

I walked over to the front bay window to gaze out at the beauty of the snow in a neighborhood filled with houses dating back seventy-five years, or more. Maybe I’d get a handle on my squirrely feelings. I scooped up a forkful of pie, but never got it to my mouth. “What the…”

At the edge of the Rosier property, Craig Munro had climbed into a leafless tree with low branches. Using a telephoto lens, he was trying to take shots through the large, bow-shaped window.

“Now he’s gone too far,” I hissed under my breath. I stepped to the side hopefully quickly enough to avoid his camera’s view finder. As I scanned the room for LeBlanc or Peterson, I spied Detective Ross on the sofa patting Cecile’s hand.

Even better.

Mrs. Blanchard took the pastor’s hand. “Your sermon was fitting to Melanie’s life. You captured her quirky innocence.”

I quickly moved away from them. I’m not good at funerals unless I’m functioning in an official capacity. By joining the family at the house, I’d slipped out of professional mode and began experiencing some of the emotions I’d felt when my murdered husband had been laid to rest. Sadness was always something I could cope with. After mom and I were abandoned by my dad, that was something I lived with for quite a few years.

It was that I couldn’t deliver justice where evil had devastated lives that tore at me. Since I’d started trusting the Lord, I’d gotten better at handing distressful situations over to Him. Still sometimes my inadequacy taunted and played terrible head-games.

The old, avenging Ronnie was back in a flash. I strode over to him. “Detective, I need to have a word with you, now.”

The urgency of my voice must’ve surprised him. He immediately stood and followed me.

I didn’t take him to the bay window, but to another, smaller window that had a direct view of the reporter’s deviousness. “There’s a newspaperman up in that tree trying to get photos of what’s going on inside the house.”

Ross took off across the room. “Knepp, come with me.”

The two men hurried outside with Officer Murray and the rookie following them.

I walked over to the bay window and took a bite of spinach pie as Ross hauled the reporter out of the tree and slapped handcuffs on him.

Munro dropped his camera… and, well, Ross must’ve had a clumsy moment because he stepped directly on it, crushing it into the snow.

My emotions were feeling much better now. I took another bite of spinach pie.

 

Praise for BLOOD SPEAKS:

If you enjoyed the first two Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes books, it’s a cinch you’re going to love this one. The scene is set–and captured my attention–with the wintry, getting-ready-for-a-wedding first chapter. Ronnie and her two bridesmaids, Sandra and Bertha, set off for the luxurious Heritage Cove at Arrowhead Lake, Virginia for a one week vacation gifted to her from her shadowy “boss.” As usual, Ronnie–and this time, her close friends–light straight-way into a murder investigation, and the clues are hinting at long ago motives clear back to Kennedy‘s assassination. Of course, Ronnie and her friends become targets of the killer. Fast paced and delightfully written with wit and suspense that keeps you burning the midnight oil, this novel is filled with colorful characters, dialogue that is spot-on, and scenes that will make you drool with envy. And with a truly satisfactory ending, what more could you want? Except your own personal copy. ~ Carole Brown, author of KNIGHT IN SHINING APRON

In this one you’ll find a handsome hero and a smart heroine. If you think romance and dead bodies can’t mix, wait until you read Dawson and Ronnie’s story. Don’t pass this one up, if you’re into a good detective/crime novel. What makes this one even more special is the fact that it’s a Christmas story. Curl up and enjoy. Keep warm and snuggle with a book that might keep you awake through the night since you’ll want to know who the killer is and see what happens to soon-to-be favorite characters. Will a wedding and honeymoon ever take place for Ronnie and Dawson? It’s been a pleasure to know another good one was on the way as the series continued. ~ B. J. Robinson, Author of CHRISTMAS IN THE SMOKIES, WHEN THE SNOW COMES, SIEGE OF AZALEA PLANTATION, AZALEA PLANTATION, amongst over twenty novels

Grab a cup of joe or hot chocolate and immerse yourself for an enjoyable read. Nike Chillemi has a knack for cozy mystery, a mixture of mystery and subtle humor that brings you into the settings and the characters of BLOOD SPEAKS. After this read, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to go back and read the rest of the series. Ronnie is a detective with heart and soul, a character you can easily fall in love with.” ~ Linda Wood Rondeau, author of MIRACLE ON MAPLE STREET

Deputy Sheriff Lt. Dawson Hughes and PI Ronnie Ingels return in BLOOD SPEAKS… a fine Christmas caper that brings murder a bit too close for comfort. As per previous books in the series, BLOOD SPEAKS features first-rate detection and secondary characters that you won’t soon forget. Chillemi’s tight plotting and well-paced action keep the story moving, but her rich descriptions of time and place, along with culinary tidbits to entice foodie and mystery fans alike, make BLOOD SPEAKS a holiday mystery confection you’ll want to savor long after the last carol has been sung. ~ Jenna Victoria, author of    WAR OF THE HEART

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Have a blessed holiday season!!!

Nike N. Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista Blog

Purchase BLOOD SPEAKS on Amazon

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Blood Speaks ~ cover reveal

 

Blood Speaks, Cover

Book #3 in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes Trilogy, an Authorized Operations Novel…

…is a fast paced detective story set right before Christmas.

This novel will release within the next two weeks.

 

Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, Brooklyn gal PI, waited a long time for the solitaire on her finger. When her sometimes boss, a shadowy figure and director of a secret government organization, offers a one-week bridal shopping vacay in Virginia, she jumps at it.

 Joined by bridesmaids, Sandra Daube and Bertha Dagney, Ronnie sets off for the village of Heritage Cove on Arrowhead Lake in Virginia. Their joyous stay at the rustic, yet luxurious Heritage Cove Inn is shattered by a murder with a clandestine motive and tendrils stretching back to the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

 It doesn’t take long for Ronnie and her gal-pals to become targets of the killer. It goes without saying, Taylor County Deputy Sheriff, Lieutenant Dawson Hughes leaves Texas to protect his bride-to-be. He’s joined by Sandra’s employer, conservative political activist Ben Cohen. Neither hell-nor-high-water can keep Gabby Hayes look-alike Hoot Dagney from the side of Bertha, his new bride.