Friday, November 22, 2019

Talking Christmas with Penelope Marzec

My friend, Penelope Marzec, lives in New Jersey. I live in Texas. She has a new Christmas book available, and I thought now would be a good time to talk all things Christmas.

Hi Penny,  I'll decorate for Christmas after Thanksgiving and our family will make another Christmas memory. What’s your happiest holiday memory?

It’s hard to pick one memory that is the happiest, but the year hubby bought ping pong guns for our daughters gave me lots of laughs. The girls ran around with the ping pong guns as if they were in an action-packed movie adventure. Of course, hubby played with them. I just laughed and took pictures.

That sounds like fun. Like you, we have three daughters. One of my favorite memories is the year all three girls got bikes from Santa. They were so excited. Eating is a big thing at our house during the holidays. Do you have a favorite Christmas dessert?

A long time ago, I found a recipe for Cape Cod Cranberry Pie. It’s easy, quick, and delicious. I make it every year for Christmas. There’s so much to do at Christmastime, so it’s truly wonderful to have a dessert everyone enjoys but which isn’t much trouble to make. I'm sharing my recipe. 

Thanks for sharing the recipe.  It's at the end of this blog. A traditional dessert at my house is Lemon Ice Box Pie. Like your pie, mine is quick, and I can make it in advance. We have it twice a year. It's too fattening to have more than that! We're gonna have a quiet Christmas this year.  One daughter is in Kentucky, and one will be in Florida.  That leaves one to be with us. How will you spend your Christmas?

We have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, go to church, and then open gifts. That way we can enjoy a quiet Christmas morning. Usually, we’ll do some visiting in the evening that day, but the quiet Christmas morning is wonderful.

I've always wanted to spend Christmas in an enchanted location.  What about you?  

I enjoy being home for Christmas. However, I never got the chance to visit Ireland and that is the one place I would be interested in seeing at Christmas.

I'm looking forward to reading your newest Christmas book. By the way, how many Christmas books have you written?

Clear as Ice is the second Christmas book I’ve written. The first one was The Cowboy’s Miracle.  

Those cowboy Christmas books were fun to write. Prism Book Group, our publisher, had several of us write Christmas books with cowboys as the hero. Mine was Sarah and the Cowboy's Lady.  How many books do you have in print?

I’ve written twenty books. Some are novellas which are not in print, some are. One full-length book is still with the publisher and hasn’t been released. The rights were returned to me for some of my past books and I’ve been reissuing those independently. All of the books in print are at Amazon and easy to find.

How did you get the name for Clear as Ice?

The house where I grew up stood on a hill above a lake and in the wintertime, if the lake froze quickly, the ice would be clear without any air bubbles. Everything beneath the ice was easy to see—like turtles resting in suspended animation. So, ice can be clear, which is how I got the name for the book. Here's a picture of my three daughters on that lake behind my parent's house.

I can't imagine that. We don't have that down here in Houston. I went ice skating once at a local rink...fell down on my bum, and decided to never try it again. And I haven't. Tell us about the book.

Clear as Ice is about a former Olympic figure skater, Haylie. Her skating career left her broken, both physically and mentally since a stalker hounded her unmercifully. Healed, with a new job as a physical therapist, she finds she still longs to skate. Her family home used to be near a lake, so when it freezes, she goes there. She meets Ethan’s dog on the ice and then she meets Ethan, a man who abandoned his faith when his mother died and who has no intention of celebrating Christmas ever again.

I'm eager to read it, and I bought it today. I'll start it tonight. I love Christmas books. How many books a year do you read?

Sometimes I read twenty books a year, sometimes less. It depends on several factors. Often if I’m writing or if I have edits to do, I won’t get a chance to read. But I really enjoy reading right before I go to sleep and I always have books on my nightstand.

Do you get ideas for future stories from reading?

I rarely get ideas for future stories from fiction books. Most often ideas come to me from non-fiction books—like history books. I love well-written history books. However, I also get ideas for stories from places I’ve visited.

I love travel, and I always imagine myself living where I visit. Like you, I get ideas in new locations. How will you spend New Year’s Eve?

I’m really quite a homebody. I love to sit on the couch and watch the ball drop on television in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. However, for several years the next town east of us hosted a First Night celebration. It was a wonderful way to spend New Year’s Eve. Many different types of entertainment were offered in various locations all within walking distance about town. Our daughters were younger at that time and enjoyed the celebration, too. Unfortunately, the entire event closed after several years. So now we enjoy a simple New Year’s Eve. But I make a nice dinner for the family on New Year’s Day.

I love this prayer shawl you posted on FaceBook. It's abosultely beautiful. You have a way with a knitting needle, paint brush, and pen.

 Image may contain: people sitting

All the pictures you post on FaceBook of your painting and knitting or amazing. You are a talented lady. You knit, paint, write, and sing with your musical hubby. If you had to give up painting or writing, which one would it be?

That is a very tough question. There have been times when I stopped writing during stressful periods of my life. There have also been times when I quit painting. But I always come back to them when life levels out and I have the time. As long as I can, I’ll continue to paint and write. I won’t give up. I get such a great boost of emotional satisfaction from working on my stories and painting pictures. My father used to say, “It’s cheaper than therapy.” I believe he was right on that score.

Your dad was a reporter and your mom served in the military. Your mom was a talented painter, and your dad was a talented writer. You inherited the same abilities. Tell us about your daughters. Also tell us about your musical jaunts with your hubby.

Our daughters all took piano lessons until they went to college and they listened to all types of music—everything from classical to country to folk songs. We took them to many musical events, including organ concerts. Once, one of our daughters told us that was the worst thing we ever did to them, which made me laugh.

Our kids sound very much alike when it comes to music. We gave our daughters piano lessons. We bought both an organ and a piano and they sat side-by-side in our living room. I had hopes that our girls and I would play and sing together. Not. Nope. No way. It didn't happen.

Hubby had a career in engineering, but music was always important to him. He started playing the accordion at a young age, but then learned the piano, guitar, and organ as well. He played the organ at church for several years and I feared we would wind up with a pipe organ in our house. However, he joined a string band and went back to playing the accordion. String band music is happy music and very uplifting. Plus, hubby often plays at nursing homes on his own or with some of his accordion friends and with me as the vocalist. It’s heartwarming to bring smiles to the folks in the nursing home. The best part is when they sing along.

I love these pictures of you two bringing smiles to others. Here's the blurb for your new book, Clear as Ice.

When Ethan's prayers for his mother's life go unanswered, he abandons his faith, tossing it out with his mother's Christmas ornaments. The loss of his hope leaves him empty and he begins to shy away from relationships, but when his dog Rufus, a rescue from a shelter, develops a fondness for a woman skating on the frozen lake behind his house, he's annoyed. Not only does he resent her using his pond, he doesn't understand her fear of dogs.

Haylie, once an Olympic figure skater, is afraid of more than just Ethan's dog. She lives in constant fear due to threats from a stalker, but one day Ethan's dog chases the danger away, so Haylie decides to try to lose her fear of dogs...But then the stalker's plans expand to include revenge toward Ethan as well. If they are to remain safe and live to see a happily-ever-after, Haylie and Ethan must put aside differences and learn to trust each other. This Christmas season promises to be the most challenging and the most meaningful of their lives.

The Amazon link:


Penny shares her pie recipe. She says it's on the Internet, but here it is for you. She says make two. They go fast.

Penny's Cranberry Pie

2 cups cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 325F. 
2. Spread the cranberries in the bottom of a well-greased ten inch pie plate. 
3. Sprinkle with one half cup of the sugar and the nuts. 
4. Add the remaining sugar to the eggs, beating well. Beat in the flour, butter, and shortening. Pour over the cranberries. 
5. Bake about 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown.

Thanks for bringing your Christmas to us!  From down here in Texas, we wish you a Merry one up there in New Jersey!



  1. I loved "The Cowboy's Miracle" and "Clear as Ice" sounds just as wonderful. The cranberry pie sounds yummy, too. Just this morning I noticed I hubby bought extra cranberries. Problem solved! Does it make its own crust, or does your recipe go into a prepared crust?

    1. I like the idea of baking it early. Makes life easier.

  2. Hi Carlene,
    I have a photo of what the pie looks like at my blog:

  3. Hi Gay,
    Thanks so much for the interview. The questions were fun!

  4. I too loved the "Cowboy's Miracle," and have just ordered "Clear as Ice." Going to take my Kindle with me this weekend. Oldest granddaughter is getting married and I'll have some down time...just to read. And I can't wait to try this cranberry pie, Penelope. Hope you two gals have a lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    1. Thanks DiAne. I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving, too.

  5. Love the story! I just bought cranberries to try your recipe.

    1. I'm always looking for something different. Cranberry pie sounds like a winner.


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