Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top Ten Christmas Gifts as a Child

I made my debut into this world during the mid-1950s. Needless to say, no adapter or USB cable ever found its way under our Christmas tree. But regardless of the fact that we had no electronic gadgets, I did receive several gifts that left lingering traces of some unforgettable memories. I would love to revisit some of them with you, if you care to come along.

Although I've seen all the old snapshots, I don't really have a concrete memory of any Christmas before I reached the age of five. That year, my parents loaded us up into the car to visit the grandparents and numerous other relatives back in Tennessee, which was several states away. I don't remember the trip, but I do remember worrying that Santa would never find us there! I needn't have worried about Santa. It was my cousin Virgil who turned out to be the problem.

I should first explain that my parents always made Christmas a joy-filled occasion. They didn't spoil us with all the toys we begged for, but taught us to entertain ourselves through playing and interacting with one another. I don't remember ever being disappointed with their philosophy and the resulting lack of playthings, but it did make the toys I received more memorable.

The year we went to the grandparents was not a disappointment, either. Santa, for some reason I cannot fathom to this day, decided to leave me a rather large drum. A very cheaply made, but awesome to my young eyes, drum. The prospect of pounding that drum throughout the house brought me no small amount of joy because I was very enthusiastic about any kind of music long before the age of five. Unfortunately, I never managed a single resounding bang on that drum, because before I had time to pick it up, cousin Virgil decided to sit upon it. Virgil is my age, but even at the age of five he was a stocky young man, and his bottom went right through my fascinating new toy.

I fared much better the following year. My parents spent countless hours making the most wonderful doll accessories. In our house, the girls always received a doll for Christmas, whether we wanted one or not. I no longer have the clothes my mother sewed for my doll, nor the wardrobe, complete with copper hangers, that my dad constructed out of cardboard boxes and wood-grained, stick-on shelf liner. He even put real hardware handles and hinges on the doors. But I do still have the doll bed he made for me down in the basement. How I managed not to destroy it is beyond my comprehension.

It was probably the year after the doll furniture, about the age of seven, that I received a fantastic gift from Santa. Please understand that at that time, it didn't matter who constructed the gift, or whether it was home-made or store-bought, we attributed all of them to Santa. Or at least I did. I've always been a staunch supporter of the jolly elf in red. But that year he outdid himself. My siblings and I each received a large cushion. Yep, that's right. A cushion. Mine was the middle-sized one, of course, being the middle child, and I remember that it was covered in corduroy, although I can't remember the color for sure. I think it was a dull gold. My mother had purchased some heavy foam pads, and my dad cut them to size, and she then stitched a sturdy cover for each of them. I used that cushion all the time, and had a blast doing so. It's a wonder I didn't kill myself, or at least break a few bones, with the stunts I dared with the assurance that the cushion would keep me safe. I dropped, upside down, out of trees, where I hung by my knees until swinging free and falling to the cushion, which waited below. I shot down steep staircases atop that cushion, hanging on tight until I came to a stop on the concrete floor below. I found the courage to perform handsprings and flips as long as the cushion was there to catch me. I don't remember how long the cushion actually lasted, but I loved it more than anything that could have come from a department store at that time.

You probably noticed in the photograph above, I also received Tammy and Pepper dolls, but that was several years later. My mother would not allow me to have Barbies, so this was a compromise that we both were okay with. A neighborhood friend had a mother a lot like mine, so we would get together and make clothes for our new matching dolls. If any had survived, you would all understand why I don't make doll clothes for my own 
daughters. Ugh!

I've never had a disliking for dolls, but I was a bit of a tomboy, and wanted toys that afforded me more fun than a doll. So the same year I received the fashion dolls, I also asked for and received a baseball bat and glove. I still have both of them, although the glove is buried in a box somewhere in the garage. It's a left-hander's fielder's mitt, or I think that's what it is called. I spent countless hours playing catch with my good buddy, George, after school and on Saturdays. It was much better time spent than playing with dolls, you can be sure.

By that time I was more into big kid toys, and I remember receiving my first pair of roller skates. These were the kind you screwed onto your sneakers with a strange looking key. Unfortunately, we lived on a rather steep hill, and I never found the courage to skate down it, but I spent a lot of time rolling back and forth across the basement. Fortunately, for my backside, I still had my cushion at that time.

The following year I tried something much more daring. I asked for, and received, a pocket knife. It was absolutely beautiful, with a brown and cream swirl in the handle. I loved that knife, but it didn't last long. When Christmas break was over, my mother warned me to never take the knife to school. She said if I did, it would disappear. Did you know my mother was part witch? She somehow not only knew I took off for school with that knife in my pocket, she made sure it DID disappear. I had hidden it in my pants pocket before putting on my coat, gloves and hat. We weren't actually allowed to wear pants to school in those days, but we could wear them under our dresses for the long walk to and from school, as long as we took them off upon entering our rooms. 

It was nearly a mile walk to the elementary school, and I checked my pocket several times to be sure the knife was safe. But when I got inside and went back to the cubbies to remove my boots and pants, the knife had disappeared. To this day I have no clue as to where the knife ended up, but I never got it back.

The following year I received a pogo stick, something I had wanted for a long time but my mother feared. She knew me so well! Even though I couldn't skate down our hill, I found that I could jump up and down the hill with a little practice. Soon my friend and I were having pogo stick contests and doing all kinds of tricks. I embarrassed myself greatly by jumping backwards up the neighbor's back steps, and then falling through their storm door. My dad had to pick the glass bits out of my backside, and my mother confiscated the pogo stick. Shortly after she took it to the basement, one of my brother's older friends decided to play with it and broke the spring.

The second best gift I ever received for Christmas was my record player and 45 records. There weren't forty-five of them, that was the speed they operated at. I no longer have the player, the only electronic gadget I ever received as a child, but most of the records are still with me today. Songs like Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups, and Baby Face by Bobby Vee are some of my favorites.

But my number-one-all-time-favorite Christmas gift ever was my cookie cook book I received when I was twelve. I still use it every single Christmas, and have done so every year. It's filled with wonderful recipes that I share with my own children, even though some of the pages are in very sad shape. Santa certainly out-did himself that year.

I hope you have as many fond memories of Christmases past as I have. None of the gifts I received were elaborate or costly, but perhaps that is one of the reasons I cherished them so much and remember them so well. 

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Little Christmas Poem




It was practically Christmas and throughout the city, the only one stirring was one busy kitty. She’d planned many days for a holiday treat. One special and sweet for her children to eat.

When she knew beyond doubt that her babies were sleeping, as midnight was striking, she softly went creeping. Her kitchen was waiting with spicy supplies. She got right to work on her tasty surprise.

She scanned through her recipes searching with interest. Then found what she wanted while checking her Pinterest. She gathered ingredients fresh as new snow and mixed them together into a stiff dough.

As her rolling pin spun and she hummed a low tune, she flattened the dough, and then picked up her spoon. She carved a round head, added arms and two legs. To give it a luster, she brushed it with eggs.

Soon the air came alive with the scents of her baking. The gingerbread man in the oven was waking. Bright cinnamon eyes and broad licorice smile were getting quite warm on that cooking stone tile.

The mama cat put on her new oven mittens. With visions of joyful sounds from her kittens she opened the door to remove the small man, but squeaked in alarm when he jumped from the pan.

“I’m alive!” he exclaimed as he leaped to the table. “I’m off to explore the world now that I’m able. I’ll go far and near as I take in the sights. The Great Wall of China, the rare northern lights.”

She cried, “It’s a tasty confection you are, nothing more. I’ll stop you before you’re halfway to the door.”

He laughed as he shouted, “You’ll never catch me!” Then he tripped on the rolling pin, snapping his knee.

But the cat needn’t worry, her children were ready. They stalked the small morsel with steps slow and steady. They gobbled him up from his head to his feet. Then returned to their beds and dreamed dreams wild and sweet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Ten Favorite Holiday Cookies

One of our favorite holiday family traditions is the baking, decorating, and consuming of cookies. The season simply would not be complete without the special time we spend together in the kitchen, either mixing up dough or whipping up icing. And even though I’m often tempted to do most of the work when the house is empty and relatively quiet, I force myself to leave some of it for the kids and grandchild to share.

I’ve composed a list of some of my favorite staples to get us through the holidays. Some of these are not necessarily holiday fare, but I reserve them for this time of year so that they will remain just a little bit special in the memories my children will hopefully pass down after I’m gone.

Decorated Sugar Cookies – I used to absolutely hate making sugar cookies. I just couldn’t ever make them come out right. I would either roll the dough out too thin, or else the kitchen would be too hot, or I would bake them too long. Something always interfered, and the finished product never quite measured up to my expectations.

Then I found a recipe I really like, and I became a little more skilled with my Mammy’s old rolling pin, and now I look forward to making these. I also found a recipe for a very simple filler icing, so all I have to do is pipe on the decorator icing outline, and let the kids fill with all their favorite colors and designs.

Another great find were some large cookie cutters. I have a tree, a snowman, an angel, and a candy cane that are about four to five inches long. They make huge cookies, but it also simplifies things for little hands to decorate and have fun.

French Lace Cookies – These aren’t specifically holiday, but they are so rich and so special that I only bake them on rare occasions. I especially like to roll them into a tube after they cool just the slightest, and then if you want to make them even more decadent, you can add a whipped filling of some type.

Shortbread Cookies – I like shortbread cookies because they aren’t so sweet, and are a nice break from all the other rich offerings of the holidays. Many years ago I found a cast iron mold at a garage sale – it was $2.00, so I couldn’t pass it up. It’s a beautiful mold of the alphabet, and each letter has a toy or animal incorporated into its shape. The mold makes 26 cookies at once, each about an inch square, so it’s a quick and time-saving method of baking my favorite shortbread recipe. The little ones love these, and they practice spelling ‘words’ with the letters.

Holiday Spritz – The spritz cookie dough I use is fairly similar to the shortbread recipe, so this is another very simple and quick cookie. My sister bought me a battery-powered cookie press years ago, and this works great for these colorful little jewels. I like to use greens and reds for the dough, but you can customize your colors to match your decorations.

Zucker Hutchen – little sugar hats – These are a little more time-consuming, but well worth the effort. They are simply bite-sized bliss. Sometimes I don’t add the little ribbon of decorating icing, because I’m not a huge fan of its overpowering sweetness. It does add to the festiveness, though, and the kids love it, so I guess you should experiment on your own and see what works best for you.

Butter Horn Cookies – These are one of my all-time favorite cookies. But I can’t say they’re my favorite to make, although none of these are what I would classify as difficult. Butter horns are basically petite crescent rolls, but the dough is very flaky and they are filled with a meringue and nut mixture that melts in your mouth. They are just so yummy!

Chocolate-Coconut Candies – Another of my favorites and should probably be noted as number one on my list. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with coconut in any recipe. My younger daughter calls these my coconut bon-bon cookies. They are made with mashed potatoes, and a few other ingredients, and are a colossal mess to construct, but the outcome is divine. I dip them in the dark chocolate, but they are very pretty if you choose to use the colored melts. I just don’t care for the taste of the melts or the almond bark as much as I do the melted chocolate, so I always use the real thing.

Coconut Chocolate Meringue Bites – Did I mention that I’m a huge fan of coconut? These little bar cookies will melt in your mouth. They’re full of chocolate, coconut, pecans and brown sugar. I would definitely recommend you save these for the adults in your house, so make lots of sugar cookies for the little ones to decorate and eat while you indulge in a few of these.

Cranberry Drops – My husband has many fond memories of the cookies his grandmother made for him, so I always have to add a couple of her recipes to my Christmas baking list. Besides, cranberries are an integral part of my earliest holiday memories, so I have to include them. Add that they are a healthy addition, and it makes perfect sense to bake a few dozen of these for a bedtime snack with a glass of milk.

Applesauce-Raisin Cookies – Another choice from my hubby. But I have to admit, these are always a great addition to any gathering. These simple drop cookies are filled with raisins, nuts, brown sugar and applesauce. Not too sweet, but quite substantial.

So now you know how I spend part of my days during the holidays. I know some of these probably freeze well enough to make them ahead, but part of the fun is messing up the kitchen and listening to the kids laugh and bicker while they steal cookies and ask me when the next ones will be ready.

I imagine most of these recipes would be available on-line, but if anyone has trouble finding one they’d like to try, just shoot me a note. I’ll gladly share.

Happy Reading (and Baking)!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, December 3, 2012

New Acquisition for Musa Publishing


Musa Publishing Announces Deal With Author Gary K. Wolf For Third Roger Rabbit Novel

 Musa Publishing, an independent digital-first publisher, has announced today that they will publish Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? by author Gary K. Wolf, the third book featuring Wolf's iconic character, Roger Rabbit, and the denizens of Toontown.

"When I first got a submission in the inbox from Gary K. Wolf, creator of Roger Rabbit, I must admit that I didn't take it seriously. After all, why would such a well-known author be coming to Musa?" confesses Musa Editorial Director, Celina Summers. "But after I read his submission, all my doubts were erased. No other author in the world has that distinct narrative voice. Rather quickly, we accepted two novels from Gary—The Late Great Show! and Typical Day—and Gary became part of the Musa family. But even then, I never expected he'd bring us a Roger Rabbit novel. "

Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? is the culmination of a twenty year wait for fans of the world that Wolf first created in his 1981 Hugo-winning Who Censored Roger Rabbit? The third installment in the series has been promised to fans for a long time but never released. Now, with the 25th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on the horizon in 2013 and  and confirmation of a completed Roger Rabbit 2 script by director Robert Zemeckis last week stirring up excitement among Roger Rabbit fans, the collaboration between Wolf and Musa is coming at a significant time.

"I could easily have published Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? through a major print publishing house. Instead, I choose to make this the first book of the Roger Rabbit series to be published digitally," Wolf states. "That decision evolves directly from the way I work, from the core philosophy of what I write and why I write it. I always push the boundaries in my writing. I invent worlds that nobody else ever thought about. I create unique characters and situations. I try to always be at the forefront of my craft. That includes the way my writing is presented to my readers. Digital publishing is clearly the future. It’s the way books are headed, so I’m heading that way, too."

With his first book at Musa, The Late Great Show!, released in October and his second novel, Typical Day, coming out on December 7, Wolf is no stranger to the Musa system. "I especially like the way Musa has taken digital publishing into areas that I never thought of. Using proprietary software, I’m able to interact with them electronically in real time. My editor, the publicity department, the art department, and everybody else involved with my work all have instant access to everything I submit. And vice versa."

Wolf isn't the only well-known author bringing his works to Musa. USA Today bestselling author Sharon De Vita has a multi-book deal with the publisher, and her romantic mystery The Estrogen Posse has been increasing in sales since its release in October, 2011. Science fiction up-and-comer Gini Koch's serial—The Martian Alliance—is being published by Musa, along with new and backlisted works from well-known authors like Cindi Myers, Vella Munn, Helen Hardt, and Julia Bell. In addition, Musa is responsible for the Homer Eon Flint project, where the entire body of work of this lost American science fiction author is being saved from crumbling 1920s pulp magazines and disintegrating newspaper copy and published as e-books.

"Even two or three years ago, it would have been thought impossible to lure these writers to a small, young publisher," Summers explains. "But because of our author-friendly policies and transparent business model, small publishers like Musa are able to release books like Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? digitally, with both a better product and prices far below what traditional publishers set for their e-books."

Both Summers and Wolf are optimistic about the prospects for Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? The novel reunites all the old fan favorites—Eddie Valiant, his fuzzy sidekick Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman, and Roger’s va-va-voom mate Jessica, who continue their madcap human and Toonian adventures. This time, Eddie is hired to bodyguard for Gary Cooper and Roger Rabbit, the stars of a new movie that's been receiving dire threats—shut down the film or else.

"Musa is thrilled to publish the next installment in the Roger Rabbit world," Summers says. "Toontown and e-publishing are destined to work well together. Gary has such an innovative mind. He takes risks daily with his fiction—he enjoys taking creative risks. He can do that comfortably at Musa because we encourage all our authors to reach further, to attempt things they normally wouldn't. E-publishing is all about trying things that traditional publishers might be uncertain about."

With the release of Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? set for November of 2013, Musa and Wolf are poised to gratify millions of Roger Rabbit fans across the world. The entertainment franchise is worth over $500,000,000 and the fandom is as eager as ever to follow their beloved Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant into new adventures—including e-publishing.

"Digital publishing is the wave of the future, and I’ve always been a wave of the future kind of guy," Wolf states matter-of-factly. "For me, going digital wasn’t in any way a last resort. It was a necessity."

Gary Wolf is the NYT Bestselling author of numerous book, articles, and short stories including Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?, Space Vulture, and The Late Great Show! His movie credits include Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the three Roger Rabbit cartoons Tummy Trouble, Rollercoaster Rabbit, and Trail Mix-up, and—coming in 2014—screen adaptations of his science fiction novels The Resurrectionist and Killerball. Awards for Wolf’s work include the Hugo Award, British Science Fiction Award, SF Chronicle Award, and 4 Academy Awards. Wolf is an avid Yoga enthusiast and lives in Boston where he is a full-time author, screenwriter, lecturer, entertainment consultant, and consummate “grown-up kid.” Look for his next Roger Rabbit installment to be released November, 2013 by Musa Publishing.

The Late Great Show! and Typical Day are available through Musa Publishing,, and e-tailers worldwide.

More information available from Musa Publishing at and .