Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sharing A Story I Wrote, I hope you don't mind.

Something different today. One of the things I promised myself this year was that I would write at least one story, beginning, middle and end. This is a struggle for me, finishing a story that is. I hope you will humor me, put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and sit and read my short fiction story.


Always Use The Guest Towels
a story by Karen M. Owen

Shopping in the stores at Christmas is not always a pleasurable experience. While I love the holidays it's the holiday guilt of getting the perfect items to give that I never much cared for. Sitting in the coffee shop, enjoying my yearly peppermint hot chocolate, taking a break from finding just the right gift for all the people in my life, I looked out across the hall.  I found myself staring across at the linen store window, I caught sight of their "Christmas Towel" display and it got me remembering and that remembering caught in my throat, a single silent tear falling down my cheek and I began to remember. That last perfect gift was mere feet away.

Looking back over my life at Christmas as one does, the moments in your life that you don't realize are pivotal until much later, it is often these memories that sting the most, burn the brightest and catch us off guard when we least expect it for years to come.

As a younger woman, visiting my fiance's parents at the holidays I was overwhelmed by my now mother in laws enthusiasm for decorating, each room of their house top to bottom and each level of their three story house, looked as if it could be in the latest Southern Living Magazine Holiday Style Edition.

For me it was the 5 bathrooms in the house, all sporting different holiday decor and all of so it tastefully done. What caught my attention the most was the attention to detail. Each room having a different theme and amazing arrays of holiday soaps, scents and luxurious towels. These were all so beautiful and so perfect that I hesitated to use the soap or even dry my hands on, in this magazine worthy room.

My own family was much simpler and putting out the good towels meant putting out towels that had been freshly laundered and matching, not the ones from the floors of our rooms or the hockey/swim towels. So for me as a young bride to be this display was simply amazing.


I must have spent too much time admiring the towels as my soon to be husband came to find me worried I was ill or had gotten lost.
To him there was nothing spectacular about the state of the bathrooms, this was simply how he grew up.

Returning to the family room for our pre dinner appetizers and snacks beautifully wrapped gifts lay under the tree, (some even addressed to me). I had felt anxious about this first holiday dinner and spending part of the Christmas Day with someone other than my own family, but  my soon to be husband's family went out of their way to include me in their traditions, inside jokes and quickly put me at ease.

On Christmas morning after spending the morning with my own family, my fiance picked me up and we went to his parents for a Christmas Brunch, followed by a gift opening.

The brunch was elaborate and everything was immaculate as it was the day before. My mind began to wander back to my own parents living room which was right now in a state of utter chaos, ripped paper, packages and my three nephews and the dog having a wrestling match as we left. I began again to feel uneasy at the sophistication of my fiance's Christmas morning. The order, the calmness, the beauty and the pageantry of it all made me excited and intimidated for what post married life may be like in a home of my own. I knew I wanted to have a cozy home that felt lived in but I would love to bring these elements of holiday calm and glamor into our own home.

We were young and not quite penniless but not far off and I had knit my mother in law to be a scarf as a gift, and made my father in law to be a tin of cookies, and in that moment I began to worry that perhaps I had underestimated how underwhelming my gifts to them would be.  Slight panic overtook me as it was announced it was now time for the gift exchange. To my surprise, I was delighted and touched to find that Santa had left for me a stocking full of things a new bride to be might like and need for her own home at the holidays. I smiled at the thoughtfulness of the holiday themed napkins, napkin rings, candles and soaps included in my stocking. I began to relax in the surprise of it all and felt like a young child on Christmas morning as I got to the bottom of the stocking and found a holiday orange. Smiling I peeled it and ate it while we chatted and coffee was poured.

I held my breath as my mother in law to be opened her scarf, and let out a citrus infused breath of relief as she gushed over the fine work I had put into the scarf, noting the care and attention to detail as well as commenting on how perfectly the scarf would coordinate with her winter coat. My father in law was equally excited for the tin of cookies I had baked for him . My Fiance caught my eye and gave me a nod of encouragement as I was passed the gift from his parents. It was a large-ish box, like one a coat or sweater might be wrapped in. However when I lifted the lid inside I found not a coat or a sweater but a holiday set of towels, shower curtain, soaps, face cloths and hand towels much like the sets I had admired in my soon to be in-laws bathrooms.


 The towels were embroidered with tiny silver snowflakes, the soaps matched too. Everything was perfect. But it was not the contents of the box that caused the tear to run down my cheek today after all those years it was the note inside the box.  It was in my mother in laws hand writing and it read "Please use the guest towels. Many years ago when Phil and I were first married, we had very little money but big ideas, hopes and dreams. We found ourselves setting up our own home that first Christmas and had very little, but my own mother in law, put together a gift very similar to the one I am giving you now with a letter similar to the one you are now reading. In her letter she said "Life is short, use the guest towels" So I give you that same piece of advice and your first set of Guest Towels. You are just as important as the guests who you invite into your home, learn to treat others as you would yourself only works when you take that advice. May you and Brian live a long and happy life and may you one day pass this advice and a gift box like this to your own future daughter in law. Merry Christmas.

This was a very nice gift at the time but its meaning was more or less lost on my young mind.  Finishing the last sip of my hot chocolate I stood up, gathered my belongings and discarded my cup. I walked trance like into the linen store and I purchased a set of guest towels, hand towels, face cloth, shower curtain and matching soaps. I asked for a big box. Leaving that store with all my purchases my once heavy heart felt light again and I headed home to wrap and write my own letter.

On Christmas morning when my son's fiancee sat nervously on my couch , and began to unwrap her gift, seeing the letter on top of the towels she read it out loud. It was not her I looked at though as she read, it was my mother in law now in her 80's seated comfortably in a chair by the fire and I caught her eye, and we both smiled as Sheryl read the words " Always use the guest towels"
The End

Thank you for humoring me here today, I hope you enjoyed my story and that you enjoy your day. I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Paige Shelton's Comic Sans Murder.

I finished Comic Sans Murder last night at nine and boy did I enjoy it. Like in life a good book should be measured by the times it takes your breath away. This one did and I loved it. I did not want to rush a single word and this was a great slightly more suspenseful cozy and written beautifully by Paige Shelton. 
This is a great read and a wonderful series. I cannot believe this is book 3, this reads like as series that should run for a long time! 

This book is out now and you can find it on Amazon by clicking here. 
Thank you for joining me here today for a cup of tea and a cozy review I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blessedly Stressed and Surviving ...



Blessedly Stressed and therefore I have not had a chance to finish my book. But as I write this it is 10:39 pm and while I have only a few chapters left to go, I have just gotten home from a very long but Blessedly Stressed day, and do not want to rush the ending.

Somehow this day started far earlier than I had anticipated, was filled with plot twists and unexpected delights as well. In the end I got to spend the evening with my family and my hockey family, helping to build a community and send our team to a tournament in the Spring.


I also am running a 24/7 event on The Beyond The Bookmarks Page that I am finding to be the most wonderful experience. Meeting and sharing crafts, recipes, books, and more, giving me something wonderful to do this holiday season. 
A huge thank you to any and all who have joined us so far. 


If you ever need something done ask a busy person, if you need the impossible done ask a mom. I have the pleasure of working with some amazing people in my life both online and in real life. I am grateful for each and everyone of them.


I promise to be back with a review tomorrow and to live in the moment today.
Thank you for joining me here for a cup of tea and a day in reflection. I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Season of Miracles For One Reluctant Reader...

Today I am sharing a personal victory story during this season of miracles, you see miracles do happen on the most ordinary of days and while many have witnessed miracles of different magnitudes, what may seem small to some is huge to others.  I can pinpoint the moment in time my youngest son, previously known as The Reluctant Reader, found a love of reading.

It was a week ago Saturday at 7:20 am, when my son said, "Mom, can I bring my book in the car to hockey." Few things have left me speechless and in this moment I found myself catching my breath.  I agreed yes he could bring his book.


That moment was a catalyst to a week of adventure and delight, mayhem and discovery I had not imagined in my wildest dreams.
I thought this was a one off moment but it actually was the launching ground for a turnaround I never thought possible. You see my son, all my boys come by their reading reluctancy quite honestly. maybe you are new to my blog or maybe you noticed all the mistakes I make. I have spent the better part of 20 years now trying to correct my profound dyslexia and overcome my inability to read and write.  So when all my boys struggled with reading I was not shocked but sad, hopeful that they would one day figure it out, with my youngest, I did not think it could be so soon.

Fast forward to last Monday at pick up from school, imagine my surprise when the Principal, and the teacher in charge of Special Needs (my kids have Autism) both separately met me  in the hall to tell me that my son had a really off day. Which is really not like him and when I got him in the car and asked him why his day was so off  and finally he admitted he was "so cranky because, (he) just could not sleep and had to know how my book ended so I stayed up all night with my flashlight reading and the flashlight batteries died on the last page..." Hard to keep a straight face I had to let him know that he could not have his book in bed and that he would have to go to bed early and apologize to his teachers the next day.  I was secretly proud and horrified.  Over the week he read all three of his books and outloud to two different visitors to our house, then Saturday morning true to his word he had book in hand while we made our way to hockey.
Saturday morning, my son, the goalie, the reformed reluctant reader sustained his first ever hockey injury. A PAPER CUT.
Few things can prepare you in life for the moment you have to rip a book out of a child's hand only to protect them from getting hurt on the ice. It is. I will tell you nearly impossible to put a chest protector on a child who has both hands on a book.
He was a good sport though, pink bandage on his finger and book in hand, it may have actually been the fastest I ever got him into his goalie gear...
While I finished helping his brother get dressed, he went to read by the side of the rink. When I got to him, the adult team that plays before us was standing their, two goalies, commenting and wishing him a good game and they tried but could not get him to look up from the book. Laughing they left saying yes books are better than hockey...

This may not seem like a miracle to you, but for this once reluctant reader herself, it is just that and a dream come true.
 Thank you for joining me for a cup of tea and a holiday story. I look forward to sharing more with you again tomorrow.
I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Honey-Baked Homicide by Gayle Lesson

I finished Honey-Baked Homicide by Gayle Lesson just before 10 last night. This is the third in the series and more complex than the previous two. While my favorite character Homer is an important side character, I would have loved to have had more time with Aunty Bess. Honestly that is the only fault I could find in this mystery. It is a very good one, I enjoyed the characters and the story. I did not have it figured out when the twist was revealed. It was sad and cozy all at the same time. This one is out now and has some great recipes at the end too!
The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . . It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning. As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation...

This one is out now and you can find it on Amazon by clicking here. 
Thank you for joining me for a cup of tea and a cozy mystery review I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Saturday, December 9, 2017

On My Table and In My Cup December 2nd -9th


I am late in posting this morning, and I hope I did not cause a worry. Truth is I went to bed so exhausted I forgot one of my most favorite things to do and that is write my daily post.
This week has been a busy one though not for reading, I have felt as though I am on a speeding train and not managed to yet finish Honey-Baked Homicide, working on it though every chance I get!
On my table this week was Dressed To Kill a wonderful book from Vicki Vass and I hope you can see part of my excitement is that top left corner is my quote and name!!! I had an advanced copy of it so it was a delight to see this in print!
I throughly enjoyed Another One Bites The Crust by Ellie Alexander, this one had me on eggshells and I loved it! Out soon and such a fun series!
Exciting as a tea lover to have had this to read before it comes out. This is out December 26th and one I can not wait to have in my hand as a print book!
I had the delight and pleasure of reading Hark The Herald Angels Slay earlier in the week,this is a great series and I am thrilled to have had it to read, a little summer Christmas escape is very welcoming in the cold damp December mornings.
I have had 9 different teas already this month and what a fun advent calendar this is. Today is  a green cranberry tea.
I look forward to sharing more with you tomorrow and will do my best to have it on time!
Thank you for joining me for a look back at what has been on my table and this week in review. I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Friday, December 8, 2017

Fancy Friday Finds- Harry Potter Themed Tea...

I accidently stumbled into a brilliant tea shop on Etsy offering Harry Potter Themed Teas! I am so excited to see these! Caught my eye right off the bat was the Christmas at Hogwarts Tea!  Offered in two sizes this one is at the top of my list.
Click here to see the listing in the Beccas Little Boutique. 
Butter Beer Tea! I am in! This black tea with butterscotch and caramel. Check it out here! 
Not a Harry Potter Fan? How about this blend called Currently Reading...
Click here for this listing
Might these make great stocking stuffers for the people in your life?

Thank you for joining me here for a cup of tea and a few fancy Friday finds. I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The first week of tea from my 24 Steeps Advent Calendar


Well it is a week into December and I swear I just blinked and the entire week went by. In addition to trying to read as much as I can, I am working and hosting a 24/7 event on Beyond The Bookmarks this month. One of the things I am taking time to enjoy this month is the tea in my cup each morning from my Steeped Tea Advent Calendar. December first and my tea was their Christmas Chai, a spicy and very sweet black tea.

Day two was my favorite of the week, it is called Maraschino Cherry and it was spectacular. I would not have bought this tea had I not tried it but now it is high on my list to buy next order!

This was day 3 and on December third I had White Chocolate Souffle Rooibos tea, this was a light and tasty treat first thing in the morning!
 
Day 4 was Creamy Milk Oolong, normally I like a fruity Oolong but this was light and refreshing. 

This was day 5 and Peppy Peppermint in my cup! Love this tea, it's one I regularly order from them so I was very pleased.
Day 6 was Earl Grey de La Creme and this is one I know well too so I was pleased to have it on my morning table.

Day 7 is Winter Sangria, which is a fruit tea. I will give it a try and post the photo when I get up in the morning and share it here.

Thank you for joining me here for a cup of tea and a cozy mystery tea advent week in review. I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Ellie Alexanders Another One Bites The Crust...

The new year is going to be off to an amazing start for cozy lovers with Another One Bites The Crust by Ellie Alexander! I finished reading this last night and I was on egg shells the entire book. I was so worried the whole time that something terrible was going to happen to one of my most favorite characters in the series and I found myself holding my breath through much of the book. Ellie does a great job with character building and makes you care so much about fictional characters that you come to think of them as real. While the place is real it is so hard to not think that I could just get in my car and drive 10 hours and be sitting in Torte while visiting Ashland. Having driven through and reading about it throughout this series I can tell you first hand that the setting feels as realistic as it looks, with a few exceptions that is. I loved this one. It was suspenseful, it was nail biting and it was fun. I loved it and I think you will too. This one is out January 2, 2018 and you can pre order it now.


You can pre order on Amazon by clicking here ( I am not an affiliate and I do not get anything if you click over)
I want to thank you for joining me for a cup of tea and a cozy mystery review I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Healing Powers of Tea by Cal Orey

I am so pleased to have gotten to preview The Healing Powers of Tea by Cal Orey. This book comes out December 26th and it is a tea lover's delight. I enjoyed this book so much I have ordered it for myself. I am so looking forward to having this book to hold in my hands! Recipes, health advice, sap treatments, oh and there are recipes too! A great gift idea, pre order this one and it will be delivered after Christmas but the Tea Lover in your life will thank you! 

Wellness in a Cup—Discover the Benefits of Tea for Your Body and Mind! It picks you up and calms you down, warms you and refreshes you. With black, white, red, green, and herbal varieties, there’s a tea for every taste, and now this time-honored superfood is trending as the drink of choice for health-conscious people of all ages and cultures.  This fascinating book boils down the rich history of tea—as well as the ever-expanding list of health and weight loss benefits found in its leaves.  *Discover how black and white teas are heating up the beverage world with antioxidants and nutrients that lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and fight off inflammation, viruses, and bacteria. *Learn how age-defying spa treatments made from tea can soothe your skin, soften your hair, and give you an all-over glow and peace of mind. *Get the latest knowledge from top medical researchers and tea experts on how the superfood can tackle digestive problems, depression and anxiety, aches and pains, and add years to your life.  *Stir up over 50 home cures to give yourself more energy, less stress, treat the common cold, insomnia, and more! *Enjoy comforting and tea-licious recipes like Warm Scones with Jam and Devonshire Cream, Assorted Finger Sandwiches, Scrumptious White Tea Scallops, and Russian Tea Cookies paired with the perfect brew – hot or iced. Better health is just a sip away. With The Healing Powers of Tea (sweetened with lively stories) you’ll learn the hottest tips to improve your health, boost your brain power, and even clean your house!

You can pre order this book from Kensington on Amazon by clicking here. 
Thank you for joining me here for a cup of tea and a tea book review. I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com

Monday, December 4, 2017

Wreath Making Party Recap...


If you saw my post Saturday you have already seen the wreath I made from drift wood at my friend Jen's annual Christmas party. It was a labor of love for sure and today I wanted to share some of the photos from behind the scenes at the party and the three other wreaths I made that night.
Each year my friend Jen and her mom cut the most amazing evergreens and herbs from their gardens and put them out for us all to use. Over the years we have all collected ribbons, adornments, wires, now lights and items we all share to create our annual wreaths. I use the same forms most years, however this year the first Christmas in our new rental home so I wanted something very special and something along the same lines of the cedar stars I usually make. The drift wood is from the beach I went to in the mornings in August with my husband. While he walked I would sit on the beach and drink my tea. I started to collect some of the drift wood sticks and gradually my form became the star you see in the first photo. 


This is my wreath as I was laying out my greens....
This is the wreath I made for my mother in law. Here I laid the greens out first, then wired them on with a set of lights...
This is what it looked like when I was finished. My mother in law said she loved it!

My friend Jen had this really cool wreath form and she had so much burlap, so I set to work alternating the burlap in red and tan. When i was done I laid out the greens, wired them on and added read berries and bow. This one I loved and I left it for our hostess and her family.
I also made one of the more traditional cedar stars for one of her neighbors. Jen put out a wonderful dinner and we had a lovely time. Her aunt ties the world's best bows, and the company the family keeps cannot be beat.  This is one of my favorite events of the year.
Thank you for joining me today for a cup of tea and a look at the Wreath Making Party.
I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com