Single dad Mac Taylor is about to find out the lengths to which his mischievous twin boys, Zeke and Zach, will go to find him the Christmas gift of new love when they send a special wish for a new mom to Old Saint Nick...
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About the Author
Date of Birth:1950
Place of Birth:Silver Spring, Maryland
Read an Excerpt
A longtime tradition in my family is Christmas breakfast. My parents’ home was always crowded and noisy, and everyone lent a hand—watching the light on the waffle iron, holding their plates out for more. We were allowed to fry the bacon or flip the pancakes on the griddle. But nobody—nobody—made the pancake batter except my pop. There were two huge bowls of it to feed the horde before we got down to exchanging gifts and ripping colored paper to shreds. Because there were so many of us, we often ate in shifts, crowding around the dining room table and spilling over to the breakfast bar. Wherever I sit, the first bite takes me back to childhood.
6 eggs, beaten
1 can evaporated milk
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
1½ cups regular milk (1 cup for waffles)
3 cups flour
6 tbsp baking powder
Combine ingredients in the order listed. Mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes to rise. For pancakes, spoon batter onto hot griddle. Be patient—don’t flip until bubbles appear.
Plain or Painted Holiday Cookies
Baking helps put me in the mood for the holidays. There’s nothing like a little flour on your hands to start “Jingle Bells” ringing in your head. The tradition in my house goes this way: First put on an album of Christmas music. It isn’t possible to work over a hot oven without the proper setting. Gather your ingredients:
¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Optional: evaporated milk, food coloring, small paintbrush, colored sugar or sprinkles
If you have kids, this is the time to step back and let them do some of the work. It makes it fun, and the mess is almost worth it. Let one of them mix the shortening and sugar together. Let another one crack the eggs into the bowl. Then you can help by picking out the pieces of eggshell. Add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Blend in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Now comes the time when the kids fight over who rolls out the dough. See that it’s rolled about 1/8” thick on a floured board. If you don’t have cookie cutters in cute little Christmas shapes, you should. We generally stick to the tried-and-true angels, Santas and trees.
When you cut the cookies, make sure to dip the cutter into flour now and then or you’ll end up with a jammed-up Santa. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Now you can either sprinkle them with plain or colored sugar and be done with them, or if you’re feeling adventurous you can use that little paintbrush. Divide small amounts of evaporated milk into several cups, along with a little food coloring in each. Then go ahead and paint. Remember, it doesn’t matter if Santa’s blue or the Christmas tree is red. And just add a little water as the mixture thickens.
Bake for six or seven minutes. Break off a couple of times to sing a round of “Deck the Halls.” You’ll feel better. You should have about four dozen cookies, but then, if you have children, forget it. When your husband comes home and asks what’s for dinner, shove a cookie in his mouth!
Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding
I do a lot of complicated baking at this time of year—time-consuming treats that keep me in the kitchen for hours. I really don’t mind, but there’s something to be said for simplicity. One of my men’s favorites is an old family recipe handed down through the Scottish branch of my family, through my father to me. It’s wonderfully simple and old-fashioned, something that can literally be tossed together when you discover unexpected holiday visitors are coming to call. Best of all, since it’s made in one dish, there’s little to clean up. I should warn you, most of the measurements are estimates. Experiment. It’s that kind of dish.
6 to 8 slices bread, torn into pieces
3 to 4 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup margarine, melted
¼ to ⅓ cup sugar
3 to 3½ cups milk
About ¼ cup raisins (it’s up to you)
Cinnamon to taste (I like a lot myself, maybe 3 tbsp or so. I really don’t measure—I go by how it looks.)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix all ingredients, gently but thoroughly, in a casserole dish. Pop it into the oven for one hour. Can be eaten warm or cold.
Zeke and Zack huddled in the tree house. Important business, any plots or plans, and all punishments for infractions of the rules were discussed in the sturdy wooden hideaway tucked in the branches of the dignified old sycamore.
Today, a light rain tapped on the tin roof and dampened the dark green leaves. It was still warm enough in the first days of September that the boys wore T-shirts. Red for Zeke, blue for Zack.
They were twins, as identical as the sides of a two-headed coin. Their father had used the color code since their birth to avoid confusion.
When they switched colors—as they often did—they could fool anyone in Taylor’s Grove. Except their father.
He was on their minds at the moment. They had already discussed, at length, the anticipated delights and terrors of their first day in real school. The first day in first grade.
They would ride the bus, as they had done the year before, in kindergarten. But this time they would stay in Taylor’s Grove Elementary for a full day, just like the big kids. Their cousin Kim had told them that real school wasn’t a playground.
Zack, the more introspective of the two, had thought over, worried about and dissected this problem for weeks. There were terrible, daunting terms, like homework and class participation, that Kim tossed around. They knew that she, a sophomore in high school, was often loaded down with books. Big, thick books with no pictures.
And sometimes, when she was babysitting for them, she had her nose stuck in them for hours. For as long a time as she would have the telephone stuck to her ear, and that was long.
It was pretty scary stuff for Zack, the champion worrier.
Their father would help them, of course. This was something Zeke, the eternal optimist, had pointed out. Didn’t they both know how to read stuff like Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat because their dad helped them sound out the words? And they both knew how to write the whole alphabet, and their names and short things, because he had shown them.
The trouble was, he had to work and take care of the house and them, as well as Commander Zark, the big yellow dog they’d saved from the animal shelter two years before. Their dad had, as Zack pointed out, an awful lot to do. And now that they were going to go to school, and have assignments and projects and real report cards, he was going to need help.
“He’s got Mrs. Hollis to come in once a week and do stuff.” Zeke ran his miniature Corvette around the imaginary racetrack on the tree-house floor.
“It’s not enough.” A frown puckered Zack’s forehead and clouded his lake blue eyes. He exhaled with a long-suffering sigh, ruffling the dark hair that fell over his forehead. “He needs the companionship of a good woman, and we need a mother’s love. I heard Mrs. Hollis say so to Mr. Perkins at the post office.”
“He hangs around with Aunt Mira sometimes. She’s a good woman.”
“But she doesn’t live with us. And she doesn’t have time to help us with science projects.” Science projects were a particular terror for Zack. “We need to find a mom.” When Zeke only snorted, Zack narrowed his eyes. “We’re going to have to spell in first grade.”
Zeke caught his lower lip between his teeth. Spelling was his personal nightmare. “How’re we going to find one?”
Now Zack smiled. He had, in his slow, careful way, figured it all out. “We’re going to ask Santa Claus.”
“He doesn’t bring moms,” Zeke said with the deep disdain that can only be felt by one sibling for another. “He brings toys and stuff. And it’s forever until Christmas, anyway.”
“No, it’s not. Mrs. Hollis was bragging to Mr. Perkins how she already had half her Christmas shopping done. She said how looking ahead meant you could enjoy the holiday.”
“Everybody enjoys Christmas. It’s the best.”
“Uh-uh. Lots of people get mad. Remember how we went to the mall last year with Aunt Mira and she complained and complained about the crowds and the prices and how there weren’t any parking spaces?”
Zeke merely shrugged. He didn’t look back as often, or as clearly, as his twin, but he took Zack at his word. “I guess.”
“So, if we ask now, Santa’ll have plenty of time to find the right mom.”
“I still say he doesn’t bring moms.”
“Why not? If we really need one, and we don’t ask for too much else?”
“We were going to ask for two-wheelers,” Zeke reminded him.
“We could still ask for them,” Zack decided. “But not a bunch of other things. Just a mom and the bikes.”
It was Zeke’s turn to sigh. He didn’t care for the idea of giving up his big, long list. But the idea of a mother was beginning to appeal. They’d never had one, and the mystery of it attracted. “So what kind do we ask for?”
“We got to write it down.”
Zack took a notebook and a stubby pencil from the table pushed against the wall. They sat on the floor and, with much argument and discussion, composed.
We have been good.
Zeke wanted to put in very good, but Zack, the conscience, rejected the idea.
We feed Zark and help Dad. We want a mom for Crissmas. A nice one who smells good and is not meen. She can smile a lot and have yello hair. She has to like little boys and big dogs. She wont mind dirt and bakes cookys. We want a pretty one who is smart and helps us with homework. We will take good care of her. We want biks a red one and a bloo one. You have lots of time to find the mom and make the biks so you can enjoi the hollidays. Thank you. Love, Zeke and Zack.
Taylor’s Grove, population two thousand three hundred and forty. No, forty-one, Nell thought smugly, as she strolled into the high school auditorium. She’d only been in town for two months, but already she was feeling territorial. She loved the slow pace, the tidy yards and little shops. She loved the easy gossip of neighbors, the front-porch swings, the frost-heaved sidewalks.
If anyone had told her, even a year before, that she would be trading in Manhattan for a dot on the map in western Maryland, she would have thought them mad. But here she was, Taylor’s Grove High’s new music teacher, as snug and settled in as an old hound in front of a fire.
She’d needed the change, that was certain. In the past year she’d lost her roommate to marriage and inherited a staggering rent she simply wasn’t able to manage on her own. The replacement roommate, whom Nell had carefully interviewed, had moved out, as well. Taking everything of value out of the apartment. That nasty little adventure had led to the final, even nastier showdown with her almost-fiancé. When Bob berated her, called her stupid, naive and careless, Nell had decided it was time to cut her losses.
She’d hardly given Bob his walking papers when she received her own. The school where she had taught for three years was downsizing, as they had euphemistically put it. The position of music teacher had been eliminated, and so had Nell.
An apartment she could no longer afford, all but empty, a fiancé who had considered her optimistic nature a liability and the prospect of the unemployment line had taken the sheen off New York.
Once Nell decided to move, she’d decided to move big. The idea of teaching in a small town had sprung up fully rooted. An inspiration, she thought now, for she already felt as if she’d lived here for years.
Her rent was low enough that she could live alone and like it. Her apartment, the entire top floor of a remodeled old house, was a short, enjoyable walk from a campus that included elementary, middle and high schools.
Only two weeks after that first nervous day of school, she was feeling proprietary about her students and was looking forward to her first after-school session with her chorus.
She was determined to create a holiday program that would knock the town’s socks off.
The battered piano was center stage. She walked to it and sat. Her students would be filing in shortly, but she had a moment.
She limbered up her mind and her fingers with the blues, an old Muddy Waters tune. Old, scarred pianos were meant to play the blues, she thought, and enjoyed herself.
“Man, she’s so cool,” Holly Linstrom murmured to Kim as they slipped into the rear of the auditorium.
“Yeah.” Kim had a hand on the shoulder of each of her twin cousins, a firm grip that ordered quiet and promised reprisals. “Old Mr. Striker never played anything like that.”
“And her clothes are so, like, now.” Admiration and envy mixed as Holly scanned the pipe-stem pants, long overshirt and short striped vest Nell wore. “I don’t know why anybody from New York would come here. Did you see her earrings today? I bet she got them at some hot place on Fifth Avenue.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Of course it's a good read - aren't they all? Seriously, she has a way of bringing you into the story like none other. I have ready books from many, many authors, but only one keeps me coming back. I have read most everything she has written. In fact, had a couple of garage sales, and her books were first to go. What I wouldn't give to write like Nora.
Simple and cute Christmas story about twins who ask Santa for a mom. A lighthearted romance. I enjoyed the narrator.
You know it is going to end well, but getting there is up and down. There are some editing issues with the Nook Book but it does not distract too much from the story. Nice read.
Simple, sweet holiday romance. The ending was very predictable but thoroughly enjoyed the journey. A feel-good holiday novella. Well written and well edited. You don't have to be a Nora Roberts fan to enjoy this one. Would recommend to all who enjoy holiday stories.
Nora Roberts is one of my favorite authors. Her books are filled with suspense, intrigue, mystery, love, charm, charisma, and have a natural human behavior quality to them. This book, although not one of my favorites was charming and enjoyable.
Great heartwarming story.
I read the whole book non stop, I couldn't put it down.
loved this novella. she really can get into the spirit
It is a great Christmas romantic story
A sweet sentimental short just for Christmas.
This was great. Two kids doing their best to get what they want
This was a cute novella. I seemed to want more. Maybe Nora Roberts will expand on this story line at some time.
Read the free sample, liked it. Bought it and then it is a blank page and can't read it. Mad I wasted 2.99 on nothing!!!
Love the book. Enjoy all of Sheila Roberts book.