I am an early riser and truly enjoy the quiet start to my days that allows me to journal and write before a multitude of tasks fill up my day. I don’t suffer from SAD but the dark mornings do seem to sap my energy at times.

Thankfully there are a number of holiday traditions that buoy me up – a walk through the neighborhood to admire the festive displays, a trip to view holiday lights, a drive to the mountains to play in the snow (or at least admire it from the warm car). When my boys were younger, there were ski trips and visits to the holiday ice skating rink, followed by hot cocoa and an occasional band-aid or two.

And of course, December isn’t complete unless we watch Christmas movies, with hot buttered popcorn for munching. My favorites span decades – classics like Holiday Inn, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, Christmas in Connecticut, Meet Me In St. Louis; the 1960s animated A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reinder; some of the fun Christmas films of the 80s and 90s (A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause, Home Alone); and the more recent additions to my watch list such as The Christmas Chronicles, the Polar Express and the Man Who Invented Christmas.

Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights and religious freedom

I put a menorah in the window, symbolizing a commitment to faith and family.

Of course, no holiday is complete without food. Our youngest son has started a new tradition of making latkes and will bring them again this year.

While baking cakes to celebrate the Solstice, and later Christmas, has been around since Medieval times, the French Buche de Noel has been a delicious tradition since the 19th century. A rolled cake filled with cream and decorated to look like a Yule Log, my mother baked one for years. Like any cake roll, it’s a bit complicated, but worth the effort, even if the results aren’t always a beautiful as you might wish. After all, regardless of looks, cake is delicious!

While not exactly the same as my mother’s recipe, this King Arthur Baking recipe for a Buche de Noel is very close.  I’ve made several of their recipes, and never had them steer me wrong.

As is no surprise, I love reading, and encouraged it in my sons. I gave them books for Christmas, as well as taking them to the library to pick up books.

A new favorite of mine is The Christmas Letters, a heartwarming, feel-good holiday romance by Jenny Hale.

Elizabeth Holloway’s sparkling world comes crashing down around her when her boyfriend of seven years drops the bomb that he’s leaving her—at Christmas. In an attempt to piece her life back together, she suddenly finds herself  back at her childhood farm in the Great Smoky Mountains.

And she isn’t expecting to meet visitor Paul Dawson, chipping away at her resolve to focus on figuring out who she is and what she really wants in life.

Just when she starts to think things are moving in the right direction, a stack of letters from Elizabeth’s grandmother will change everything she thought she knew about her family and cause a divide between her and Paul that she never saw coming.

Will the Christmas letters strip her of everything she holds dear? Or will they be the biggest gift of the season?

Enter Kate's giveaway by April 25

Wishing you all my best with a Giveaway! Enter for a chance to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card plus a copy of my latest novel, A Lancaster Family Secret or another of my books if you’ve already purchased a copy. US and Canada only. Winner will be announced Tuesday, December 20 and has three days to respond to my email. Only by responding to my email can you win.