December 16, 2011

Stuff Your Stockings Blog Hop

To say that I came from humble beginnings would be a horrible understatement. Times were hard, money was scarce, and knowing there would be food on the table wasn’t always a given. For all the things we lacked, love wasn’t one of them.

My favorite Christmas memory was probably the year just before I turned five. Seems strange that I would remember something from when I was four and half, but I do. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate it more with each passing year, and it still warms me whenever I think of it.

Both of my parents worked long hours and still barely made ends meet. We lived in a camper in northern Arkansas. I don’t mean a mobile home, a luxury RV, or anything like that. This was a tiny camper with just enough room for a bathroom, a table that folded into a bed, a microwave, and a small refrigerator. No stove. No air conditioner. And we used space heaters to stay warm.

With barely enough money to buy food, Santa wasn’t making a visit this year. Even that young, I understood. We couldn’t afford a tree. Wouldn’t have had room for it if we did. Still, we made the best of it. My dad went out into this small field behind our “home” and used his pocket knife to cut down a tiny little tree that somewhat resembled an evergreen, though it was barely more than eighteen inches tall.

We placed it in the middle of our table, decorated it with balls of aluminum foil, and strung popcorn and jelly beans to wrap around it. Christmas dinner that year consisted of turkey sandwiches—made from the cheapest luncheon meat available. I had an orange soda and got to stay up late. Which, to me, meant I was the luckiest kid on earth.

There was no Christmas miracle where presents magically appeared under that little tree, but it did snow, and I spent most of the day building snowmen and forts. So, why is this my favorite memory? Because as I look back on it now, I realize that with as little as we had, my parents could have chosen to ignore the entire holiday, but instead, did their best to make it as special as possible. I will always cherish that memory.

Now that I’m all grown up with a family of my own, we add our own sparkle and festive rituals. Every year, we go out as a family and each select our own personal ornament for the tree, as well as a family ornament. Then we write our names on the backs, along with the year, before hanging them. After ten years of marriage and two children, we no longer have the need for “regular” bulbs. Our Christmas tree is a unique and eclectic assortment of our personalities.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, tell me your favorite holiday memory or tradition, or simply leave a comment to say hello. Four winners will be chosen at random on December 19th. Winners will be announced on my blog, so be sure to check back or leave your contact info so I can email you.

Grand Prize: Gift basket filled with swag, one signed paperback book from my backlist, and Fun in the Frosty Air bath and body set by Philosophy.

2nd Prize: One signed paperback book from my backlist.

3rd Prize: 2 winners will receive a free ebook from my backlist.

And because I think it's just so damn gorgeous, the new cover for When the Sun Goes Down, coming December 31st from Siren Publishing.

Once you comment, be sure to click the button below to bounce to the next blog. Good luck and happy blog hopping!


  1. Oh what a wonderful memory Gabrielle. I remember christmas eve hearing my mom and mamaw putting apples and oranges in our stocking. And we usually got some kind of candy along with that but never anything else. That christmas all my sisters and me (4 total) got somekind of a ring. It was a cheap ring but to us it was like getting diamonds for christmas. My two brothers got a hot wheel apiece but that christmas I remember because we never got anything in our stocking put a piece of fruit or a small candy bar or hard candy. I just have that memory. Thank you for sharing yours. Your fan, Tammy

  2. I have wonderful memories of Christmas as a child. I also loved getting the most delicious fruit,huge sweet oranges and red apples in my stocking. But I guess my most precious memory is seeing the wonder and awe on my children's faces when they were younger. They were children who unequivocally believed in Santa Claus. It was a joy to watch them get so excited on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa, barely able to sleep. Good memories.

  3. Anonymous12/16/2011

    I remember the first couple of Christmas when my siblings and I were younger. My parents being Asian didn't help matters much, but they always tried their best to understand. Having 7 kids didn't deter them in the matter. Being barely able to afford for 7 kids and not even really knowing what the holiday meant, they would still always drive to our nearest Salvation Army and come home laden with big bags of gifts for us. My parents raised us to be humble little buggers, so, even with whatever was in the bag, my siblings and I were just so grateful to have received -something-. I remember the first time I pulled out a barbie doll from one of those bags. I was so awed, never having owned one before. LOL I guess that became a tradition of ours until we grew older and really understood the meaning of Christmas. We outgrew the gifts, but not the memory and it's become one of my fondest memories of Christmas.


  4. That is such a sweet memory! One tends to forget that, even for the kids, it's not all about the presents. Yes, they're lovely, but there's this special magic in the air - a togetherness - that they love.

    Erica Pike

    eripike at gmail dot com

  5. I think my favourite Xmas memory is when my mum & I went back to the UK for Xmas to see my grandad & uncles when I was five. That was my first ever time to see snow, and what 5 yr old doesn't love snow. It's usually hot in Australia for Xmas, so seeing snow really stuck in my memory. I can remember making a snowman with my uncles. I can also remember my grandad chasing me around his house with a shaving brush with shaving cream on it and pretending he was going to put icing on me, so I was the Xmas cake. I can also remember getting a doll for Xmas, can't remember what it was exactly, but my uncle used to take the head off of it and I would chase him around the house after it. It's amazing what you can remember. That always stuck in my memory because I didn't get to see them again for another 10 yrs after that. My grandad's gone now, but that is how I like to remember him and the fun we had together.

  6. My favorite Christmas memory was the Christmas that my partner asked me to marry him. He passed away 8 years ago, but I will forever hold that memory in my heart, and even though I miss him every day, this memory helps keep everything we were to each other alive.

    Love your books, Gabrielle!

  7. My favorite Christmas memory was the Christmas that my partner asked me to marry him. He passed away 8 years ago, but I will forever hold that memory in my heart, and even though I miss him every day, this memory helps keep everything we were to each other alive.

    Love your books, Gabrielle!

  8. Growing up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, I spent a lot of Christmases running around in shorts. I remember a couple times my parents would turn the AC way down and open the windows so they could make it cold enough to light a fire for us, make it seem more like Christmas weather.

    I love your books, Gabrielle, keep them coming!

  9. While not a warm and toasty memory, it stands out from all the rest. It was the year after my brother and I caught on that our mom was really Santa and she hid all our gifts under sheets at the top of her closet. We decided not to wait for Christmas. Using his skills with a razor we carefully cut open the end of every gift to see what we were getting. The thrill Christmas morning was gone and I didn't like it. I will never again try to figure out what my gifts are. I am happy to wait until Christmas morning.

    I love Your books. Great Job!

  10. My favorite tradition of Christmas, is that we go to my grandmothers house and eat dinner, that is what I love the most about Christmas Day.

  11. I love your Christmas story, and I hope you don't mind but I'm a mother of 2 small boys and I think we are going to steal your ornament tradition :/....its a great idea!! Besides the big family get together the only other Christmas tradition I have is every year me and my younger brother get each other gag gifts. But 2 years ago my brother started dating a new girl and brought her to our Christmas get together this also happened to be the year I got him a Doll and matching clothes handbags ect. for his new dolly. The girl thought this was hysterical! Him and his girlfriend are still together and now since then for any occasion Christmas, birthday, she gets his dolly something, his dolly has more clothing then me at this point!! and she also joined in on getting him a gag gift for Christmas!

    Thanks for the great giveaway merry Christmas

  12. Stacey Siferd12/16/2011

    Gabrielle, you made me cry. ANd I really think I love your parents to pieces. Been there. I think my best Christmas memory will be this year--why? Because my fiancee (of 12 yrs/hubs) will be home for Christmas instead of on the road. What i was thinking of as a horrible thing to happen to us--has changed. It was meant to be and I thank you for helping me to see that. We have each other and that is the best gift of all <3
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

  13. My favorite holiday memories are just of getting together with my whole family. Christmas eve or day is the one day of the year that I get to see everyone at the same time.

    Love that book cover ;)


  14. My favorite holiday wish. Watching my children open their presents. One year they got more excited about the box than the present inside. The joy and happiness on their faces makes Christmas for me

  15. That is really touching to read your Christmas memory. Thank you for sharing that.

    When I was growing up, my family used to always sing Christmas carols together on Christmas eve. None of us can sing well at all, so I'm sure we sounded horrible. But we always laughed at ourselves and had fun. So those are happy memories.

    Thank you and Merry Christmas!!
    birdmad9 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  16. PChia Lor12/16/2011

    One of my fondest memory of Christmas would be the earlier years of my life. Our old house had this big fireplace, where every winter my Dad would start it. My siblings and I would sit huddled near it, just watching t.v. while my Dad roasts sweet potatoes wrap in foil in the ashes, waiting anxiously for it to cook. We never had presents while we were younger, but that never bothered us. As I grow older, I'm thankful now for those moments my parents gave us, not the presents or material items, but the memories and love.


  17. My favorite memory was when I was 4 and I received a shiny blue pedal car. I was so excited I screamed.

  18. Aww how nice! Every year, my husband and I pick out a "love" ornament. Since we got married 3 days after Christmas, we always get an ornament depicting a couple or a heart or some sort of love :-)

  19. My favorite memory was of my oldest daughter's first Christmas. She was just four months old and I laid her on the floor and surrounded her with all her gifts (toys, clothes, shoes, etc). It was just the cutest the picture and always makes me smile now, since she is now 11 and a major brat!

  20. I love my work party, I know it sounds ridiculous, but for the past 6 years it has been the most fun/hilarious/embarrassing event of my year. Thanks for the giveaway!

  21. I loved baking cookies with my mom and sisters:)
    christinbanda at yahoo dot com

  22. Wow, I love your story! How touching is that? And how humbling. We have a tradition of watching Christmas themed movies all day on Christmas Eve day. We snack all day, sip on egg nog, and hot chocolate and just enjoy each other's company. I cherish it every year. This will be our 22nd year, and I have a brand new daughter-in-law that will be joining us this year. She is so excited!
    Thank you so much for the generous giveaway!
    Happy Holidays!
    Gena Robertson

  23. Let's see the most traditional and memorable thing about Christmas was my mom woke us up a 4am banging pots and pand singing Christmas carols we would then eat biscuit and gravy and followed by present soon after because mom always had to work Christmas

    Merry Christmas mrs. Evans I wish the best of holidays and thank you for writing such wonderful stories

    Season greetings
    Joanie mills.

  24. Such a beautiful memory..

    My favorite Christmas Memory .... hmm, That's hard to say, None of them really stand out, what does stand out though, are the songs/music my mom used to play on xmas eve. I don't quite remember the names of them anymore, It was such a long time ago, and with all the moves, i'm sure they've gotten lost along the way (they were old cassettes) but one I do remember playing in the old Cassette player was the song Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano. I don't know what It is about that song. Perhaps just the memories it brings up... but I always tear up and feel.. warm, peaceful inside when I hear it.
    I'm sure I could remember or recognize the others if I just heard them again, but that one is one of the main ones that makes me remember the happiness I had as a kid on Christmas.

    Ah! Love that new cover. Ooh~ New series! Such fun!!
    Thank you so much for the contest!!

    Judi P

  25. I wish I had good memories of Christmas...I hope that my husband and I will be able to build some when we are finally together.

  26. That was a very touching story and just shows that it is the people who make Christmas special not "stuff". My favorite memories are of my grandfather reading the story of the first Christmas from his bible each Christmas Eve, with the family all gathered. My grandparents had 11 children, their spouses, the grandkids, some great-grandkids, a few extra family/friends would all sit and listen. Everyone, from the youngest to oldest, was always so quiet. Now that my grandfather is gone, I would give anything to have this again. I have DVD's of it, but it is not the same.

    Hope you have a safe & Merry Christmas!
    June M.
    manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

  27. *sniff* What a great memory Gabrielle! I LOVE that you knew even then that it wasn't about what you GOT but what you HAD. My boy is 9, and every year since he was born, we go pick a childs name on a giving tree, and pick out a gift (he started picking them when he turned 3). We also donate to our local food bank. We struggle sometimes, but we always have each other, and we share what we can when we can and I hope that my son grows up knowing that sometimes the gift is the giving.

    Thanks for the chance to win, this blog hop (my first) is fun *grins*

    And by the way, you are right, the cover for When the Sun Goes Down is absolutely gorgeous, it might be my favorite of your so far (though Race the Sun makes me tingle every time I look at it, for real!)


  28. ~*Merry Christmas All*~
    Please put my name in the sack :)

  29. Anonymous12/17/2011

    reading this made me sad for you and happy at the same time.How wonderful to have those who love us whatever the circumstances and give memories to cherish

  30. I love your memory it brought tears to my eyes. My hubby made me a DVD the first Christmas after our son was born. IT had pics of him and songs that I sang to him. It was the best gift I've ever gotten. :)


    kittykelly28 @

  31. One of my only holiday traditions is going to the drive thru Christmas lights with my family on Christmas Eve, then everyone gets to open one small present. Thanks for the giveaway.


  32. I remember when I was young, until maybe 10 years old, all of my cousins, aunts and uncles would come over on christmas eve and we would actually go caroling. It's too bad that when I hit 10, that pivotal year, I thought my family was too dorky to be seen and heard with. Now that I'm an adult, I look back and realize that those are some of the best memories, holiday or not, of my childhood. We were all still close then... and today? Not so much. Maybe I need to make some phone calls...

  33. Hope everyone has a happy holiday season.


  34. Hopping right along! My favorite memories are making fruitcake cookies with my Mom and sisters and driving around looking at the Christmas lights on houses. Happy Holidays!

  35. My favorite tradition would prolly have to be that my family gets together every year around Christmas and will make toffee. It's always fun and it makes a great gift.

  36. Thanks for sharing that cherished memory with us Gabrielle. One of mine is the only year that Santa actually arrived at our house during Christmas Eve. All four of us kids were under 10, and was the year I received my first Easy Bake Oven. That memory still brings a smile to my face.

    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

  37. our christmas tradition was that someone of our big family donned a santa costume for the kids and brought them their presents. it was really a lot of fun, because not only the kids got presents and had to do something to recieve them (like singing, poem reciting etc.) but also the grown-ups. for us kids that was really funny, because we didn't see our parents so playful very often.
    if i have kids of my own i'll play for them santa for sure ^^

    witchvela at web dot de

  38. Anonymous12/17/2011

    I stumbled upon your blog because we share the same name, which is a unique name so it doesn't happen often :-) One of my favorite memories growing up was just spending time with my family. We were alot alike, not alot of money, so memories were priceless. I have two brothers and one sister and we would spend Christmas Eve together making home made christmas cookies to leave out for Santa. I am 30 now with a family of my own, but those memories seem like yesterday.

  39. Anonymous12/17/2011

    My comment above came up as anonymous, but I'm

  40. Love your story and your books, a lot. My fav tradition is goofy pajamas on Christmas Eve. One year my daughter got everyone footie pjs with trap doors. Lots of laughs.

  41. That is a wonderful memory. I am a new mommy so traditions havent started yet :) But my favorite Christmas would have to be her first Christmas. She has been the most wonderful gift I have ever recieved!!

  42. My favorite holiday memories are from the times when our parents still hid the presents from us kids and we visited our grandparents' house to help them decorate for Christmas. Not that "grown up" Christmas is bad, but there was something special about childhood Christmasses. The feeling of excitement was a lot stronger. :)

  43. Thank you for the excellent giveaway. I hope you have a joyous and safe holiday season. I don't have a lot of good memories of Christmas as a child. My dad died on Christmas morning in a house fire when I was 8. As I grew up, got married and had children I worked hard to make Christmas more enjoyable, to put the past aside. I started a tradition of buying my daughters ornaments every year and when the grandchildren came along, they got one too. Unfortunately my hometown was hit by an EF5 tornado back in May and I lost everything and so did my oldest daughter. So all the decorations and ornaments I had given her and the ones they made growing up are now gone. We are still in the recovery process here and to add to it, my granddaughter had to have major surgery about 7 weeks ago, she's 2. She will have a trach and stomach tube for months. She is doing well though so we are very grateful. I don't tell you this to bring you down, I tell you this to show my gratitude for all our blessings. We all made it out of the tornado, and my granddaughter is on the road to recovery. We are truly blessed and grateful. So this holiday season, we are grateful for family and friends.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  44. Gorgeous cover!

    Going to a classical cocert is one of our traditions for the Christmas Day.


  45. Hi!

    That's a great tradition, by the way :)

  46. My favorite childhood memory is my Dad thinking we were sleeping as we watched him stumble down the steps to bring the stack of boxes down for under the tree. Now, as I have my own family, every year we get a real tree and decorate together while drinking my family's homemade eggnog recipe....great memories :-)

  47. What a great post! Thanks for sharing your memory with us. My favorite memory is when my little cousin was about three, he snuck under the christmas tree and opened everyones presents. It was so cute! Thanks for the great giveaway! Happy holidays!

  48. My fondest memory of Christmas has to be some of my earlier childhood years. Every winter, my Dad would light the big fireplace while my siblings and I sit huddle close, watching t.v. We would wait anxiously for my Dad to roast sweet potatoes wrapped in foil in the ashes, listening to our Mom puttering in the kitchen and my Grandmother telling stories of times before they immigrated over and knew what Christmas even was.


  49. D&#39;Nae12/18/2011

    Thanks for thisopportunity to become a deann ofyour works. Have a wonderful holiday

  50. Thanks for sharing, Gabrielle! How lovely! We loved decorating our small tree every year to our parents' well-worn LPs of the Andrews sisters and the Williams brothers :) I still remember how those sound...

    f dot chen at comcast dot net

  51. One of my vaguest memories of Christmas is when I was about 6 or 7, living in 2 brothers and I woke up to find gifts under our tree. My parents did not have a lot of money, but they made sure my brothers got their cars they wanted and I got the dolly I wanted. I wish I could remember what happened to that doll, would be a great memory to have it now! Happy Holidays to you :)


  52. One of my favorite memories is waking up my parents super early to see what Santa brought. I got a pink Holly Hobby desk, I was just thrilled.
    Now, I love watching my son lite up with spirit of Christmas. It is so much fun!

    Thanks for the great giveaway!
    areeths at new dot rr dot com

  53. M favourite holiday memory is sneaking away with my grandad to watch James bond leaving my nan and mum to do the pots

    Sarah S


  54. My favorite is the rite of passage--every year, when the younger kids are finally old enough, they get put in charge of passing out gifts. It turns into a thing of envy after a while.

    Happy holidays, from my hearth to yours,
    Voss sted1354 @ gmail . com

  55. My favorite memory id when my brother tried roasting chestnuts and they became little bombs in the oven and splattered everywhere (including the ceiling). Sophisticated, we are not!

    hhollyhal at gmail dot com

  56. It truly is the people you love that make Christmas so special. Gifts are great but the best Christmas memories usually come from unselfish gestures by your loved ones.

  57. Happy Holidays & thanks for the giveaway!

  58. Hello Gabrielle,

    Thank you for participating in the Blog Hop & for sharing such a wonderful memory with Us. It is also very generous of you to offer such a nice giveaway....Oh & you're right the new cover for your upcoming Siren release, "When the Sun Goes Down" is damn GORGEOUS!! ;)

    My Most Wonderful Christmas Memory is actually a funny one, it brought me back to the most hilarious memory of my Mom & I “trying” to make a Gingerbread House when I was very young. It still makes me laugh & smile so big when I think about it. My Mom is not what you would call a “creative” cook. lol But she wanted to surprise my Dad with this Gingerbread House. OMG It was a disaster. The entire kitchen was a mess! Nothing she did would make it turn out right, the sides would collapse, there was sugar, flour all over the place, it looked like a GAINT Betty Crocker sneezed all over our Kitchen. lol After trying & trying, she finally gave up, being so young, I couldn't understand at the time what the big deal was & why she was so upset she couldn't do this for my Dad. It took us sooooo long to clean up, but she left the baking supplies out where my Dad could see them. LOL We went to the Bakery & she bought a Gingerbread House, came home & she set it in the center of the table & hide the Bakery Box in the trash outside. LOL When my Dad came home from work he told my Mom how Great it looked, that it must have taken her all day to make, that was so nice of her to do for him & it is the Best Gift she could have given him. Again, being a kid, I didn't see the big deal in a Cookie House. LOL Later that evening, I remember my Dad talking to me, he said “Don’t tell your Mother, but I know she didn’t make the Gingerbread House. I through something away in the trash before I came into the house & saw the Bakery Box, but I didn’t want to hurt your Mom's feelings, I know she had to work so hard to make one for me & her trying so hard means more to me than anything else I receive this year”. He also told me when I grow up I'll understand better. That still makes me smile today & always brings me heart-warming Christmas memory. To me, that is the meaning of Christmas & what True Love really is supposed to be!

    Take Care & Have a Very Merry Holiday Season,
    Renee' S.

  59. my family almost always goes to see a movie together on christmas day, which I love doing. It's fun and different.


    lauren51990 at aol dot com

  60. I think it is a blessing when we realize how fortunate we are, no matter the circumstances. I know that my family has been what has kept me going no matter what else is going on. My favorite memory is the first Christmas that my family spent in Germany. It was the first we had seen snow! Thanks for the giveaway!

  61. Hi Gabrielle!
    Hope I'm not to late to enter.
    One of my families traditions is my husband and I take our four kids to see the Christmas lights display at the lake. We usually have to wait in a huge line about an hour wait. The kids always end up fighting in the backseat and my hubby gets frustrated. But when we pull up to the lights everyone shuts up. Even though they see the same lights every year they still get mesmerized by the lights. I love it.

    Thanks for the give away!

  62. Marissa12/19/2011

    I remember setting up the Christmas tree with my family. I loved putting out all the little decorations too and then turning off the lights. It was magical. I would love to be added to this giveaway. Thanks for the opportunity and happy holidays!

  63. tammy ramey12/19/2011

    thank you so much for the chance at such a great giveaway. i hope you and your family have a very
    Happy Holiday Season.

  64. The first thing I should say is that my mother raised me with the help of my grandparents. All 5 of us lived in a 4 room home and we did not have much. But the most wonderful memories I had were of birthdays and Christmas. Somehow my mother was able to gather enough money from working 2 jobs to get us presents. You know what, looking back now it didn't matter the number of presents we got just that we got them was so much fun and special. The one Christmas I remember the most is when my mother bought me and my sister a stuffed dog that had a radio inside. I thought that was the most wonderful present I had ever received and I took such good care of it because to me it felt like it was so expensive. Have a wonderful Christmas Gabrielle you bring me so much joy and I take such good care of my iPad knowing your wonderful works are inside and I would never want to lose them. <3 U. :-)


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