A Dozen Novels with Recipes Inside

 
This is the time of year that I start looking for books to curl up with on cold nights. Do you love reading cozy, home-focused, small town novels? I do! It’s even better when I find a recipe in the novel I’m reading.

More and more authors are including recipes in their books. This is especially the case in women’s fiction, Christian fiction and cozy mysteries.

It’s an easy way to give depth to the characters and setting. It allows authors to share something special with their readers. If the recipe is made again and again, the authors name might come up a lot in conversation, year after year. Often the decision to keep a book on my shelf or pass it on is decided by the recipes.

Do I judge a book by it’s recipes? You bet I do! Here are a dozen novels with recipes for you to consider for your next evening of reading.
 

Contemporary Fiction

 

Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly

Angelina, recently widowed, does the only thing she can think of to soften her pain. She cooks. When she starts delivering all the extra food to other lonely people in her neighborhood she finds herself on the road to healing. This novel is riddled with recipes for hearty, wholesome home-cooked meals. It has questions in the back for your next book study, too. Why not make it a dinner party? Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

The Quilter’s Kitchen by Jennifer Chiaverini

Anna’s passion for cooking and quilting inspire her to take a position as chef at Elm Creek Quilts, a popular quilter’s retreat. We follow Anna as she works to win hearts with food and enthusiasm. This is a short and simple story. What really stands out are the flawlessly coordinated menus. Each chapter is a festive event, complete with recipes for a variety of meal alternatives. You will find ideas for dinners, potlucks, picnics, breakfasts and holidays. Use these recipes for your next gathering. It will be hard to choose! Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

Ruth is committed to caring for her family through all their ups and downs. She loves baking cakes. She doesn’t need an occasion. But…as the problems pile up the cakes do too, and eventually she’ll need to stop baking. The recipes in this book are for, you guessed it! Cakes! You’ll find Coconut Pineapple Cake, Sweet Potato Bundt Cake and Lemon Layer Cake. My favourite is Oatmeal Stout Cake. I’m making that one for my husband’s birthday in a few weeks. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Friendship Cake by Lynne Hinton

Four mismatched women come together, out of the chaos of the local Christian Women’s Guild, to create a cookbook. The reader follows the women through the ordinary tragedies and victories of the community as the women become closer in friendship. The novel is punctuated with the sort of recipes you would see in a community cookbook; vintage and practical with a splash of individuality. You’ll find recipes like No Meat Balls, Roxie’s Angel Food Cake and Charlotte’s Banana Pudding, among others. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Christian Fiction

 

An Amish Country Christmas by Charlotte Hubbard and Naomi King

This book contains two sweet Christmas romances in one volume by the authors of the Angels of Mercy and Seasons of the Heart series. Visit your favourite characters for a holiday treat or meet them for the first time. There is a whole “sugar and spice” section with recipes for rolled cookies with chocolate chips, orange date bars, cream cheese macaroons and others. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Naomi’s Christmas by Marta Perry

‘Tis the season for holiday reading! This sweet Christian romance will warm your heart. It’s Book 7 in Marta Perry‘s Pleasant Valley series, but it stands well on its own. Naomi, a young Amish woman, finds herself in a new home and job at Christmas time. Will her budding relationship bloom into romance? I got my copy from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. My Mom loved this one, too! You’ll find traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipes as well as instructions for a paper star garland at the back of this book. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Cozy Mysteries

 

Crime Brûlée by Nancy Fairbanks

Carolyn is a food writer. While travelling with her husband and researching Cajun dining Carolyn’s friend goes missing. While you’re following Carolyn’s detective worth don’t forget to sample the food, especially Banana Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce and Catfish Pecan. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson

Goldy is a caterer with a lot of stuff on her plate. She is still sorting out her relationship with her ex-husband when she finds herself the prime suspect in the investigation of a deadly poisoning. Afraid, Goldy sets out to solve the murder herself. It’s a suspenseful story with a lot of frank dialogue and raw emotion. Pick up this novel, make a batch of the Honey-I’m-Home Gingersnaps in Chapter 23, and follow Goldy as she digs up all the skeletons. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Allergic to Death by Peg Cochran

So many of these novels with recipes feature protagists who cook for a living. Have you ever dreamed of getting paid to make delicious food? I have! I would love to run a B&B someday. This book is about Gigi, who caters diet dishes for people who are trying to lose weight. Whoops, did she kill her best client by letting peanuts slip into the meal, or was it foul play? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Also read it for the cute detective and the Chicken Tortilla Soup. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz

Erin Murphy is determined to turn her tired family business into a posh Italian food boutique. When the shop’s former manager turns up dead behind the building, Erin needs to find out why. Who actually came up with Mama’s famous recipes? Erin digs deep into the lives of her mother’s friends and neighbors to find the true killer. At the end of the book you will find everything you need to host an elegant Italian dinner. Stuffed mushrooms, spinach salad with raspberry walnut vinaigrette, fettucine with vegetarian minted tomato sauce and grilled peaches is just one combination that you might try. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

A Catered Murder by Isis Crawford

A high school reunion with vampires? Libby and Bernie knew they would have their hands full catering this event. What they didn’t know was that someone would die and Libby would become the cheif suspect in a murder investigation. Grab this book for your next Halloween dinner party. It recipe that would make a spooky table beautiful, like tomato aspic,salad with blood oranges, black pepper encrusted beef tenderloin and finger bone cookies. Shop Amazon US | CAN.
 

The Classics:

 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

It’s a classic. If you haven’t read Fried Green Tomatoes yet you should. This is one of my favourite novels. It’s not only because of the surprising mystery that unfolds or because of the diversity and desperation of the characters. It not just that I love the Southern country setting, which is described so well that I can almost smell it. It’s special because there are recipes in the back! They’re old-fashioned, homestyle recipes like buttermilk biscuits, pecan pie, and yes, fried green tomatoes with gravy. Shop Amazon US | CAN.

{JEI} What’s the deal with Thanksgiving? (in five minutes or less) #thezeliegroup

 


The United States is celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend and I’m a bit jealous since Canadian Thanksgiving was last month. It’s a good thing – we had our first snow yesterday! The leaves mostly fell. The sky has the washed tones of winter now, even on sunny days.

 
Some of our European friends asked me, “What’s the deal with Thanksgiving?” So, this is Kerry’s quick explanation for my curious non-American readers, including the history, traditions and the gritty truth.
 

Thanksgiving is the North American version of a harvest festival when we traditionally celebrate a good growing season and the end of winter preparations, like storing up food.

Harvest festivals are celebrated all over the world. At our house we celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival, Canadian Thanksgiving and then American Thanksgiving vicariously through our geographical neighbors. By the time American Thanksgiving rolls around I’m stuffed like turkey.

“Thanksgivings” were days of prayer widely practiced among the Christians who settled America. Religious leaders organized their communities to give thanks to God when the community received blessings like a victory in battle, a good growing season, or recovery from an illness.

United States President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863. Since then, Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated. It’s on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. Canada followed in 1879 and celebrates on the second Monday in October. In both countries leaders dedicated the day as a holy day of thanksgiving to God. Today, though churches emphasize thanks during services on that day, it’s mostly a secular holiday.

In Canada, since we’re such close neighbors with the United States, we’re used to seeing Thanksgiving motifs like turkeys, pilgrims, pumpkins and corn in November. This is especially true for homeschoolers because a lot of curriculum products are from the United States. The traditional Story of the First Thanksgiving, that was taught to kids in the United States, is the one I learned in school in Canada. It’s the source of most of the decorations so I’ll share it with you.
 

The traditional grade school version, spoiled by prejudice and inaccuracy, goes something like this.

 

Pilgrims, illustrated as Puritans in the big black hats and bonnets, came to settle with their families in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Life was harsh. They had trouble building houses and planting crops because the land, materials and crops were different from what they knew back home. The winter was unforgiving and they didn’t have access to doctors or medicines. They lived in fear of the indigenous people, illustrated as half naked, wild savages.

Throughout that first year the settlers made peace with their neighbors. They learned how to live from the indigenous people, who had mercy on the settlers and helped them hunt, gather seeds, plant crops and treat the sick. By the time the harvest of 1621 came they had plenty and celebrated together, at a giant feast. At Thanksgiving we remember that feast and celebrate cooperation, love and charity.
 

Of course, we now know that the first such feast likely happened between the Spanish and French settlers in a different time and place. Also, the relationship between European colonists and the indigenous tribes across North America was mostly exploitative. History is rife with the atrocities committed by colonists. For this reason, many people are abandoning the traditional Thanksgiving fairy tale, though the motifs are still popular. Many modern Thanksgiving stories for children avoid history and multiculturalism completely and shine the spotlight on ideas like family bonds, generosity and inclusiveness.

 
That’s why the choice of decorations seems so strange.
 

With that, it’s time for another JEI! The JEI (Just Enough Info) link up happens every Thursday. If you want the questions ahead of time like The Zelie Group on Facebook.
 

JEI Linkup Thanksgiving

image source PublicDomainPictures at pixabay.com

 
This week’s questions are about Thanksgiving.

 

1. Do you have to cook for Thanksgiving? If yes, what’s on the menu? If no, high five!

Yes, I cook for Thanksgiving. I cook turkey every opportunity I get because it’s actually pretty frugal by time I use all the leftovers and make stock in the slow cooker. This year we had roast asparagus and baked sweet potatoes with our turkey. Growing up my mother never made sweet potatoes and she certainly would never have followed the popular recipe with melted marshmallows. This year in an attempt to get my six year old to eat the potatoes I tried it. I liked it, but not enough to do it again. As usual, my daughter would only eat the turkey. We had pumpkin pie, though, one of the huge ones from Costco. Everybody loves pumpkin pie.
 

2. What famous person would you like to invite to your family Thanksgiving?

I always find these questions hard. I’m not a people person. Given the opportunity I’d eat alone! If I had to choose one famous person, though, it would be Julia Child. I think that she was so cool – being a spy and liking butter. We could drink wine and swap recipes.
 

3. Excluding family, health and basic needs met – what are 3 things that you are thankful for?

I’m thankful for The Zelie Group! It’s so great to have friends to help me navigate the blogging world. It’s so nice to put ideas out there and have people join in. Blogging isn’t lonely any more.

I’m thankful for my church. It’s nearby so it’s easy to get there. They have lots of things going on when I need a boost. Our church is accepting and welcoming. When I returned this year I’m sure I would have been scared away by some other church.

I’m thankful that my husband still loves computer games after all these years because he understands my obsession with The Sims. He looks for sales on expansions for me. When he gets them for me he knows that he needs to hand over the computer and find something else to do!

 
Please join us! Answer these three questions on you blog, on Facebook, even on Instagram and link up below.

 

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The Zelie Group’s Christmas Gift Guide #thezeliegroup

 
The Catholic Mommy bloggers at The Zelie Group want to help you with your holiday shopping. We teamed up to share our favourite items in this Gift Guide Blog Hop. Just use the links at the end of this post to visit each of us. We love your comments! Don’t forget to tell us that you visited.
 
1. We love getting Lego advent calendars at our house. Each day from December 1st to Christmas your child can open a new door to find a tiny holiday themed Lego kit inside. They are so small and easy to build that my five year old was able to do it. It’s a nice alternative to the typical chocolate filled advent calendars. Buy it now from Amazon Canada or Amazon US.


2 & 3: We get excited about devotionals at our house. Would you like to do a year long devotional alongside your child? They make great Christmas gifts because you start using them in the brand new year. I love both of these.

Devotions for Girls Ages 6-9: God and Me by Diane Cory (Buy Amazon US | CAN) promotes God as our special friend and is laid out just like a grown up devotional with short writing activities throughout. There aren’t enough devotions for each day of the year, but there are about 100 and they’re several pages long.

Veggietales’ God is with Me 365 Daily Devos is a great choice for younger kids because the devotions are shorter, the pages are more colourful, and it features some of the most lovable characters in Christian kids television (Buy Amazon US | CAN).


 

4. If I had to pick one favourite Christmas gift for myself it would be gloves. I love getting gloves! I like leather or elegant fitted fabric gloves in dark colours and classic styles.


5. Are you looking for something educational for your kids this Christmas? This kit lets your kids read about the human body, it’s bones and organs. Then they can build their own skeleton from the durable cardboard pieces. The box is a nice size and shape for gift wrapping, too. There are other themes to choose from like dinosaurs and sharks. Find it at Amazon Canada or Amazon US.


6. April Cornell is my all-time favourite designer. Her recognisable style is inspired by watercolor painting, the countryside and the time that she spent in India. You can add her delicate and whimsical prints to your home with these lovely tablecloths and placemats.


7.Do you have fussy eaters in your house? Maybe if they cooked it themselves they would eat it! Buy this slow cooker book as your kid’s first cookbook and enjoy teaching them about making food the easy way. Just about every recipe has a giant, full color photo. We made beef alphabet stew from this book and it was awesome (Amazon US | CAN).

Make sure you check out the other Zelie Group Gift Guides below.



 
I’m linking up at 7QT – Seven Quick Takes. Go and check out all the great posts weekly.
 
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{JEI} things in my closet with #thezeliegroup

 

The Zelie Group, a few Catholic mothers who enjoy blogging collaboratively, are hosting another blog hop this week and the topic is clothing. Join us every Thursday and get the questions in advance by liking The Zelie Group on Facebook.

 

Fishbowl Fortune JEI Clothing

image source Republica at pixabay.com

 

1. If you had to wear the clothes from another time period, when would it be?

I don’t have to think about this one very long. The 60’s. I would love to be able to dress the way they do in Mad Men all the time. Did you watch any episodes of Mad Men?
 
Here are some of my 60’s inspired picks:
 


 

2. What are you embarrassed that you wore but used to think was cool?

I dressed really conservatively so I don’t have a lot of regrets. I can’t believe that overalls with bibs were ever in style and I can’t believe that they keep coming back! I had a few sets of overalls in my early teens. The one I remember most had Kelly green stripes and gigantic green buttons.
 

3. What’s your favorite article of clothing in your closet right now?

My favourite thing in my closet right now is a thin velour, dressy tank top that I got for June’s baptism. It matches the floral velvet skirt by April Cornell that I wore when I got married. I’ll be wearing it again when we get married in the church on Boxing Day.
 
Baptism
 
Sadly, the April Cornell shop near me closed many years ago. I used to stop in just about daily after my morning walk and catch all the sales. She designs housewares, too.
 


 


What is Advent and Why Should I Keep It?

When I think about the Christmas season I think of the tale of Befana the Housewife. Befana was a hard working woman. Her neighbors, on their way to greet baby Jesus, kept knocking on her door and inviting her to come along, but she always had to do one more thing. She was distracted. Eventually, she makes her trip, but she missed her chance and never got to see Jesus.

Have you ever put a lot of care into the gifts, the decorations and the food only to feel empty by Christmas evening? Every year people talk about how we can take back Christmas – and our sanity. A lot of these tips focus on lessening the impact of Christmas on our health and pocket book through moderation. For some Christians these efforts still miss the mark. I can stay away from the sweets table, eat my veggies, drink my water, respect my budget and still find myself empty on Christmas Eve. The Boxing Day mommy meltdown isn’t about what I did, but what I didn’t do. I never really understood Befana until I was a mother.
 
Distracted by the bounty of the holiday and the wish for perfection, it’s easy for even the most faithful Christian to miss the joyful announcement that Jesus is born!
 
During Advent we prepare and anticipate Christ’s arrival in the past and in the future. Advent is our opportunity to make sure that we don’t miss out on Christmas Day. We’re so distracted that we need four whole weeks of reminders to slow down and look for God in our lives.
 

Keeping Advent, Advent

image source silviarita at pixabay.com

 
We’ve been discovering the mystery of Christmas slowly over the last few years.

I used to covet the Christmas holiday as a private family time, but after a few years I realized that Christmas isn’t really a time to rest. It’s a time to celebrate the love of family and friends. So, my parents come to visit for Christmas dinner every year.

I used to spend weeks planning the holiday meals. I would spend a fortune at the grocery store stocking up for the holiday. Then I would spend a lot of time cooking fancy and unfamiliar food that nobody really liked. Now, I keep the sides and desserts simple. I buy a cook-from-frozen-turkey, and I’m never going back. I’ll use the extra time for some quiet reflection and prayer.

I’ve got a big tree that I don’t always set up. We’re using it this year! We’ll decorate it with simple, homemade ornaments over Advent.

I saw a lot of beautiful Advent centerpieces and I really wanted one. I did all the justifying. I’ve never had an Advent wreath. I should buy a nice one. It’s our first Christmas as a Christian family we need something nice for our daughter to light. Nope. It wasn’t in the budget. Our church is having an Advent wreath workshop and we’ll be there with bells on. I’m sure it will be a more meaningful experience anyway. It’s times like these that I’m thankful for our humble apartment that doesn’t really suit an expensive pewter ornament anyway.

I’m also excited that Advent is the beginning of a new year of scripture readings. I’m going to study them at home and keep up this year.

Thanks for reading. I’m linking up with The Sienna Sisters Blog Hop and the Family Joy Linky Party.
 

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Keeping Advent, Advent

Sad But True Stories of a Struggling Blogger

 


 

At the risk of sounding jaded, I’ll start by saying that I was blogging back around 2000 when the diarists ruled the blogosphere. I think that back then it was easier to see that bloggers are real authors telling a story for their readers. Sometimes I’m writing an autobiography and sometimes it’s journalism, but my intent is to reach my readers and communicate my truth. It’s ironic that more bloggers are being paid to write, while the notion that blogging is literature has become uncommon. Just as your favourite magazine got thinner over the years, the number of blogs producing content of literary value dwindled. Paid or not, are we writing autobiographies, articles, fiction…or just elaborate ad copy?

I’ve paid my dues as a writer in terms of time in the field. I’ve had three failed blogs before this one. The first was moderately successful. It was anonymous, very candid and deeply personal. I was an undergrad at time. It read like a soap opera. It relied heavily on being controversial and salacious. When I bought this domain I was hoping to copy the success of that first blog, but I’m fifteen years older and a Mom. I was, and still am, a little afraid that Mommy-blogging will never have such reach. That brings me to my point which is that bloggers, like all authors, struggle with integrity. In fact, bloggers and other self-published authors grapple with integrity more intensely than traditional authors. The temptation to trade values for money is greater and the decision rests solely on their shoulders.
 

Sad But True Stories of a Struggling Blogger

image source ponce_photography at pixabay.com

 
How can a Mommy blogger produce creative content? Some might think that the drudgery of motherhood might dampen our creativity, but it’s just the opposite. First, we need an outlet. After the twentieth rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star most of us would give our right arm to write, paint, dance, or even have an adult conversation. Second, we are the captive audience of the most glorious and most terrible creative force on Earth. Bored children. If their antics weren’t enough material for our creative work we would still be powerhouses of ideas. Homemaking is creative. Entertaining, teaching and nurturing a family requires our creativity. Finding ourselves in the mess takes a lot of imagination, too.

There are so many Mommy bloggers. Whether or not you identity as a homemaker, taking care of kids does something to a person. I think that raising kids makes us feels like we need to band together and the internet is one of the big ways that people reach out. Being a mother feels lonely and we need a community of other mothers, not just for companionship, but to make our voices louder in the world. The world needs to hear our stories because they are about suffering, sacrifice, unconditional love, and hope – all things that the world must hear right now.

I founded The Zelie Group, a collaboration between a handful of Catholic Mommy bloggers, because blogging is lonely. The bloggers in support groups swapped likes and shares, but they always seemed detached and irritable. The groups were milling with activity, but I couldn’t imagine finding a friend, someone who cared about my life and my blog. One of the first tips that authors will give is that you should find a writer friend or a group of friends that you can trust and support each other. As bloggers we need to do that better. If you are a Catholic Mommy blogger and you would like to join us in blogging and friendship inquire by messaging us on the Facebook page.

 

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Tropical Carrot Smoothie

Tropical Carrot Smoothie
If you love lemonade, you’ll love this smoothie. It’s thick and frosty with a summery flavour. It’s also a great way to use up extra carrots.

juice of a small lemon
1/2 tsp coconut extract
knuckle of ginger root, peeled
1/2 cup water
2 tsp chia seeds
2 tsp rolled oats
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 cups strawberries
1 1/2 cup mango
1 tbsp honey
 
Blend the first 7 ingredients until smooth.
Add the last four ingredients and blend again.
 
Serves 4.

{JEI} The Year of Mercy with #thezeliegroup

This week’s JEI Linkup with The Zelie Group is about The Year of Mercy. If you enjoy these posts please take a few minutes to join us by commenting or answering the questions on your blog. You can help us spread the word by linking up. If you would like to use a button grab one here.

Pope Francis declared this year to be a Jubilee Year of Mercy celebrating acts of mercy concerning the bodies and souls of our fellow human beings. It ends this month, so we wanted to take the opportunity to look back on the year.
 

JEI, The Year of Mercy

image source 1192864 at pixabay.com

 

1. What did you do (or can in these last few weeks!) to mark the year?

If you aren’t familiar (as I was not prior to this year) the acts of mercy are:

  • giving food and drink
  • clothing the naked
  • sheltering the homeless
  • caring for the sick and imprisoned
  • burying the dead
  • teaching the ignorant
  • admonishing sinners
  • being patient and forgiving
  • being comforting
  • praying for the living and the dead
  •  
    When we started attending church this year we began donating financially and some of that money goes to charities like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that provides support to the poor.

    We began searching for a ministry that is right for us, and I’m sure we will find something in the future. I started my blog this year to provide information for people who don’t know a lot about Catholicism and to guide the doubtful (as I was) in the direction of Jesus.

    I read A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve by St. Mother Teresa. You can read my review. I read books about Mother Teresa to my six year old and we enjoyed using these printables by Tara at This Sweet Life of Mine.

    I had an interesting experience on All Souls Day this year. I went to the church for Adoration only to find that it was cancelled. Generally, I would shrug and go home. I heard people in the church and I was curious, so I went upstairs and saw that they were getting ready for mass. Then it occurred to me that this was the All Souls Day mass in honour of those who had died, especially this year. I felt compelled to stay. People were well-dressed for this mass. Probably because they received invitations if members of their family had died that year, so most of the people there were not regular church-goers, but were there for their families. I, on the other hand, was not well-dressed, even by my own low standards. I felt out of place and wondered at my decision to stay, but I did. I felt humbled and honoured to be there so coincidentally to pray for the dead and to shake hands with the grieving families that surrounded me.
     

    2. What Work of Mercy is easiest or most challenging for you?

    Teaching is easiest for me. All I have to do is tell people about my own experience. Doing it well is a matter of practice.

    The most difficult Act of Mercy for me is being comforting to people.

    I’m a practical person, I have fairly low expectations of the world, and I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life. It can be very difficult for me to accept that one’s perception of suffering is relative to life experience. I have a hard time seeing the person through the whining.

    It’s difficult for me to find something comforting to say. Even if it’s true, most people who are in pain don’t want to hear it. A lot of suffering has no words, and you can’t just go around hugging people.
     

    3. Do you have a story of mercy in your own life to share? Or do you have a favourite saint/quote/resource about mercy to pass along?

    Even if we have never been devastated or destitute we receive mercy from others all the time.

    The person who ignores my saucy child, or better yet prays for us.
     
    The weekly Buddhist potluck where they accepted my insignificant contribution and let me eat when I was a starving student.
     
    The priests at our parish who seem to know just where we need to be led.

    We are all invited to ask and receive the mercy of God. Someday, I’ll write a whole post about my experience with God’s mercy and how He and The Virgin Mary gave me everything I needed even when I was too blind to ask.

     

     

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    JEI, Year of Mercy

    8 Simple and Easy Ways to Find Good Hashtags

    Hashtag Tips

    image source Foundry at pixabay.com

     

    Hashtags. You know, those words on Twitter and Instagram with the “#” in front of them. The right ones look so trendy. They’re kind of catchy. Sometimes they make me want to run out and make a #hashtagmoment. They help people find your content on social media.

    Even if you aren’t a blogger, if you use social media, you probably use hashtags. Have you ever wondered how to pick the best hashtags? It isn’t hard.
     

    1. First, be polite.
       
      Do a search for the hashtags and see how they are being used. If it’s being used by only one person or company don’t flood their hashtag with your content.

      Also, don’t use #jordanwedding. Instead use #knbjordanwedding2016. There’s room for everyone.

    2.  

    3. Frequently used tags get more searches, but posts get pushed down on the search page faster.
       
      At least some of your hashtags should have between 50K and 100K posts. That way you know that people are using that hashtag, but your post won’t be so far down on the page that no one will ever get to see it.
    4.  

    5. Keep an organised list of hashtags to draw from in the future.
       
      If your posts fall into certain categories make a group of hashtags for each category.
    6.  

    7. What words are your target audience typing into the search box?
       
      Hashtags are similar to keywords on a blog or in a database, but they aren’t exactly the same. Keywords are a good place to start, but consider whether someone is likely to actually search for the word. If they aren’t, then that word is a waste of space.

      Are you looking for people like yourself? People like your friends? Other Christians? Clients to buy your product? Define who you want to meet on social media and use their search words as your hashtags.

    8.  

    9. What additional hashtags appear as suggested searches?
       
      Take some of the hashtags that you came up with and type them into the search. Can you use any of the additional hashtags that are automatically suggested?
    10.  

    11. Use the trendy phrases in your area of interest.
       
      People who identify with a particular trend will be searching for that slogan on social media. You can attract a very specific audience by using slogans as hashtags. For example, #choiceineducation is popular in Canada right now because of upheaval in the homeschooling community in Alberta. Using this hashtag will make your content accessible to a niche audience.

      Don’t forget to make the most of popular sayings like #tgif, #sundayfunday and #seizetheday.

    12.  

    13. What hashtags are the popular people using?
       
      Can you use any of those? Branch out and look at their favourites and followers. What hashtags are they using?
    14.  

    15. Are you still looking for more hashtag ideas?
       
      Go to GetHashtags to see the overall most popular hashtags and to search for more hashtags on your topics.

     
    If you do these things you’re well on your way to helping interested readers find you on social media.
     

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    What We Did At Alpha Weekend

    Day 1

    Since midsummer my husband and I have been looking forward to taking Alpha this fall. Alpha is an ecumenical faith formation program. This was a rare opportunity for us; an Alpha with children’s ministry, so that we didn’t have to worry about childcare for our six year old. She’s been able to spend some quality time with her favourite friends and she’s met some new kids, some younger and some older. As homeschoolers, that’s the kind of situation we prefer. Seeing her own behavior reflected back at her by younger kids, while she has the attention of older peer role models has been eye opening for her. An environment where she needs to manage the situation without running back to my arms is an excellent learning experience, too.

    What We Did On Our Alpha Weekend

    This weekend she is staying with Grandma and Grandpa while my husband and I go to the Alpha Weekend. We’re doing Alpha because my husband will be continuing, afterward, to do that Rite of Catholic Initiation, catching up on the sacraments and becoming Catholic. Though I was kindly invited to tag along for that as well, I won’t be able to go with him. I’ve already done my sacraments and I don’t want to hire a sitter. So, this opportunity to follow along with Bob as he makes this huge life change is precious. To be called to the church, when I was a lapsed Catholic turned Wiccan and Bob was an atheist less than a year ago, is an amazing journey.

    Alpha starts off slow with two hours a week of song, prayer and lectures. The atmosphere is apologetic, for the benefit of the curious non-Christians and cultural Christians in attendance. I can tell that some care has been taken in planning the dinner seating, because everybody at our table is more or less in agreement in terms of belief and our level of understanding. Take all the faith discussion away and it’s still a fun evening for me. We don’t do babysitter’s, so having someone watch June, while my husband and I enjoy dinner that someone else cooked, in the company of other adults is a welcome break. It’s almost extravagant, week after week. I feel so pampered! Now, here we are, on the road to the weekend retreat that contains most of the content and marks the halfway point.

    The buzz says that Alpha weekend is notable in that people often have their first encounter with the Holy Spirit. People from the parish who are active and involved, part of supportive groups of friends, made their connections at Alpha. I hope that we have a great time and I hope that it lives up to the hype and fulfills Bob’s expectations.
     

    Day 2

    I wrote yesterday about my experience with Alpha, so far, and about my expectations for our Alpha weekend. I didn’t have a fantastic, life changing experience, but it was an emotional rollercoaster for me.

    Driving to the venue was a treat for us. We got to retrace part of the route to New Brunswick where Bob and I spent some of our most memorable days in our early relationship when he was a graduate student and I was a research assistant.

    That high was short lived because when we arrived at the retreat centre our room was small, cluttered and cold with a shared bathroom. We had hoped for a comfortable Saturday night to talk and rehash the day, but that wasn’t to be. The food turned out to be kind of heavy, too, nothing like the lovingly cooked and almost healthy food at the weekly Alpha nights.

    Unlike the Alpha evenings, the daytime lectures seemed less heartfelt and a bit rushed. We ended up in a discussion group with strangers and the vibe of that group wasn’t as accepting as our usual group. I couldn’t get immersed and I wasn’t physically comfortable.
     
    I spent a good part of the day in my own thoughts.

  • Why can’t I be chosen do something great for God?
  • Am I meant to expand my family and how will it come about?
  • Why can’t I be understood and cared for spiritually?
  • Why must I feel so angry when people base their religious views on fantasy and pride?
  • How can I sift through all the information in my life to actually move forward?
  •  

    I guess that’s some pretty heavy self-examination, but to be honest, I was hoping for a more uplifting sort of gift. It was an eye opening experience, but not in the way I had hoped. This weekend Alpha felt like an argument, both inside and out, but what I need from the church at this time is love and nurturing. My husband seemed to find that connection during the opportunity for prayer ministry, but I felt kind of alone.

    The friendships that I had made meant more to me than I realised. Simple familiarity brings a lot of support. After the weekend, I’ve gained a new perspective on my group, as part of the larger picture of the community.

    After being away from my six year old daughter for more than a day, I came back with a new appreciation for her, too. I hope we can hold onto that.

    If you’re curious about Alpha and would like to talk to an average person who did it I’d love to share my experience with you. Ask away in the comments.

    I’m linking up at the Christian Bloggers Linkup. Go check out the other posts.

     

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