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A Bolt of Lightning December 8, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Gratitude, Happiness, Life Balance.

2014-11-30 13-50-44_0013Joan flipped through sales flyers for the mall, planning her attack for Black Friday.  The front door slammed with insistence.

“M-O-M!  Christmas is ruined!”


“The mall exploded!  It got hit by lightning and a generator blew up. It’s closed until January.”


“Yes!  Christmas is ruined!”

“Calm down . . . there’s always Cyber Monday.”

“Ugh.  I hate on-line shopping.  No pushing.  No shoving.  No lines.”

Joan smiled at her daughter.  “And worst of all . . . no food court!”

Cathy collapsed into a chair.  “I’m going to go into serious sugar withdrawal without my weekly Cinnabon!”

Tossing the flyers into recycling, Joan stood.  “Don’t worry.  We’ll think of something.”

Joan found her husband tinkering at his workbench. “Paul, the mall has closed in a puff of smoke.”

“So I heard.”

“You did?”

“Yup.  I heard Cathy’s concerns about Christmas and Cinnabons loud and clear.”


“What are we going to do?”


“Are you daft?  Shopping.  Gifts. Christmas.  Ringing any bells?”

Paul caught Joan’s gaze. “Let’s make hand-made gifts.”

“You have sawdust for brains.”

“Hear me out.  Instead of poring over flyers, hunting for parking spots, and lugging piles of stuff home, let’s create gifts from the heart.  I’ll make wooden trains, planes, and puzzles for the kids. And a pipe rack for your dad.”

“What about me?”

“Your friends would love your homemade fudge or toffee . . . or one of your famous Grand Marnier cakes. You could make your mom that wreath she’s wanted.”

Warming to the idea, Joan returned to the kitchen and grabbed her recipe file.


Soon delicious aromas circulated, mingling with carols.  As fragrant cakes baked, Joan created a starfish and sand dollar wreath for her mom, scented candles for her sister, and an afghan for Cathy.

Paul spent hours in his workshop emulating Santa’s elves.  Sawdust flying.

Cathy mastered the art of the Cinnabon.

Instead of waiting for the Big Day, Joan, Paul, and Cathy delivered treats to delighted friends throughout December.

Christmas morning, Cathy served fresh home-baked Cinnabons to her parents and grandparents.

Between bites, Joan grinned at Paul, “Hey, sawdust for brains! That was some bolt of lightning.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

Written for Susanna’s 4th Annual Holiday Contest.  Entries accepted through 12/12.  Complete rules and other Merry & Bright Submissions ~> HERE.

2014-12-01 14-10-09_0014

Joan’s famous Grand Marnier Bundt Cake:

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and mix well, about 5 minutes, with an electric mixer or whisk.  Pour into a well-greased and floured fluted Bundt pan (or 10-inch tube pan).  Bake in pre-heated 325 degree oven for about 50 minutes.  

OPTIONAL: Drizzle with Grand Marnier glaze or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.  NOTE:  Cake Freezes well before topping.


1. Silver in the Barn - December 8, 2014

I’ve been wreathing myself this past weekend and have the scratches to prove it! Infinitely preferable to a visit to the mall. Now as to that Grand Marnier cake…..

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Do you want the recipe? I haven’t made it in ages . . . but it is worth the calories.

I would love to see your wreaths. Do your plant to post them (with or without your scratched up limbs)?

Silver in the Barn - December 8, 2014

I would LOVE the recipe. I don’t like ooey-gooey cakes; booze-soaked is my definite preference. Sounds perfect for the holidays. A blogging friend of mine has issued a Wreath Challenge….all wreaths to be posted by December 13….so yes, I will. Not only am I scratched, by the way, but I managed to singe myself with the glue gun as well. Fa la la. Do you want to submit your Florida wreath? If so, I’ll send you the info.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

I didn’t make that Florida Wreath ~ I just shot it!

I’m going to add the Grand Marnier Cake recipe to the bottom of this post. It’s a WINNER! Not at all ooey-gooey.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Recipe is posted. Enjoy!

2. Pix Under the Oaks - December 8, 2014

Good luck on the contest Nancy! Cinnabons!!!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

When I thought what would happen if the mall suddenly closed, I realized that some/ many/ all mall goers would collapse from the lack of Cinnabon buns.

3. ashokbhatia - December 8, 2014

Good to have a DIY festive season!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Every year I try to make some homemade gifts. Like this WELCOME sign:

ashokbhatia - December 8, 2014


nrhatch - December 8, 2014

As soon as I saw the front door mat with those WELCOME reindeer . . . I knew I had to paint them.

4. Jill Weatherholt - December 8, 2014

“Sawdust for brains.” I love that, Nancy! Good luck with the contest…let us know how you do.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, Jill. I always have fun with Susanna’s contests . . . win or lose. And it gives me a fiction prompt / prod. :mrgreen:

5. NancyTex - December 8, 2014

Lemonade from lemons! I love it.
…although something tells me that entitled brat, Cathy, wouldn’t be happy with just a homemade afghan. 😉

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

You’re right, NT . . . but that was before Cathy mastered the art of the Cinnabon!

As you know, mastering new skills helps us to shiFt gears.

6. Hariod Brawn - December 8, 2014

That’s the spirit! Let’s get one over the corporates the Christmas.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

It’s been YEARS and YEARS and YEARS since I combed the mall looking for stuff to stuff into people’s stockings.

BFF and I exchange experiential gifts (and CHOCOLATE). We send “college fund checks” to nieces and nephews. And I enjoy making handmade gifts, like this embroidered thimble tree:

Hariod Brawn - December 8, 2014

Great stuff Nancy; keep spreading the word. One exception to the rule: CHOCOLATE. We must and will surely always be prepared to endure the trauma of shopping to secure this life-sustaining substance! 😉

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Absolutely right, Hariod. Chocolate (and other favorite consumables) is what life is all about. :mrgreen:

7. valleygrail - December 8, 2014

I love your story! And that an afghan could be completed in a month. I crocheted one for my mother, and it took the entire decade of the 80s to do it. I was busy that decade! Crocheting a row here and a row there took a long time.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Bwahaha! Some of us knit and crochet at a snail’s pace. Not sure I would finish it in time either.

Wait! I bet Joan started the afghan as a baby blanket for Cathy when she was born . . . and it’s taken a decade +/- to finish it!

8. Ariel Bernstein - December 8, 2014

Oh I love the idea of homemade cinnabons!! Such a nice, fun story with great dialogue! I loved reading this 🙂

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

My sister-in-law used to gift us enormous loaves of Cinnamon Raisin Bread each Christmas . . . so yummy!

One thing I thought of baking for folks this year . . . BAGELS:

9. cherylsec - December 8, 2014

What a delightful story! Funny and heartwarming. Great job!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, Cheryl. I had fun considering the “what ifs” of a mall explosion ~> i.e., would people enjoy the season More with Less? I expect the answer to that is a resounding YES!

A forced shiFt in perspective helps us see what we’ve been missing.

10. jannatwrites - December 8, 2014

I think she’s got herself a wise man (maybe not one of the original three, but wise nonetheless 🙂 ) Christmas is not about shopping! (Although I have bought a couple things for myself 😯 )

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Sometimes we do NO SHOPPING at all . . . except to exchange a few key items. Like CHOCOLATE.

Not responding to “The Call of the Mall” adds to our inner PEACE.

11. Tracey M. Cox - December 8, 2014

Love your encouragement of home-made gifts. Thanks for the recipe!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

You’re welcome, Tracey. That cake is:

(1) easy to make
(2) fun to decorate with boughs of holly FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA
(3) delicious.

Tracey M. Cox - December 8, 2014

That makes it even better!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Enjoy the season . . . hope it’s filled with heart.

12. Patricia Tilton - December 8, 2014

What a fun and heartwaming story. Like stories with an altruistic spin.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, Patricia. Now that Cathy broke her addiction to the mall by learning a new “skill,” maybe she’ll be inspired to “give back” in other ways ~> like taking Cinnabons to the local senior center and caroling with them. :mrgreen:

13. Christie Allred - December 8, 2014

I love that she has a weekly Cinnabon. I felt the deflated excitement as Dad suggested making gifts, and I felt the renewed excitement at his excellent ideas. Way to go. Good luck! And thanks for the recipe. 🙂

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, Christie. Susanna’s contests are so much fun. I love to see what others do with the prompts. HO~HO~HO!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

I tried to leave a comment on your story, but it didn’t take:

“Holy Fish Sticks!” Love that line. Now everyone will want a Magic Goldfish for Christmas.

14. teresarobeson - December 8, 2014

I love that you have two recipes in the post – one hidden in the story and the one after! What wonderful gifts you make too. I almost always make gifts too…it used to be baked good but with everyone on diets these days, I’ve taken to making other things (like soaps, hand creams, and ceramics).

Your story will inspire more people to give gifts of the heart!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, Teresa! Over the years, I’ve made tabletop Christmas trees; embroidered and framed trees; and paintings of reindeer, ornaments, Santas, snowmen, and trees. As a kid, I made gifts of decoupage, beads, macrame, embroidery, pottery, etc.

Making things is more fun than shopping for me.

15. Grannymar - December 8, 2014

Great story, Nancy with a thought provoking message.

I refuse to be dragged into the curse of false jollity and commercialism. Elly, George & Buffy will come this weekend and we will celebrate in our own quiet way. Then I will stay away from the shopping Malls with the crowds of stressed out people ignorantly shoving, shouting and pushing their way around. I no longer buy gifts, wrapping paper, cards or stamps. A donation in lieu goes to a small charity that really needs help. My family all understand and several have followed my lead. After all: Less is More, because happiness does not come from a store. Give me a hug or phone call any day and I am blessed.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Enjoy your celebration this weekend. Maybe you’ll be able to get back to Fiddlesticks with Elly.

I just got off the phone with my aunt (dad’s sister). She’s having a Happy Birthday today and plans to see all 3 of her kids for dinner tonight. We had a wonderful chat and I’m sure she enjoyed it more than something I might buy from a store.

Grannymar - December 8, 2014

Yes, Nancy, the call will have made the day special for your aunt!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

And for me too! She’s in Vermont (about 1500 miles away) but she winters about 90 minutes from us. So we’ll see her in a month or so.

16. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - December 8, 2014

Great entry! And I had more to say but I got distracted when I saw you post the link/picture for your homemade bagels! Those were the BEST! I think I’ll make some for my family over the Christmas break!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Yes! I need to make more bagels soon.

And some beer bread. And some jalapeno cornbread. And some [insert other delectable carb fix here].

17. lindaschueler - December 8, 2014

Great solution! More of us should look beyond the mall for Christmas gifts.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, Linda. I agree. When we look beyond giving gifts of glitter and glitz, we are able to connect at a deeper level.

18. elizabeth2560 - December 8, 2014

Great message here. Reminds of the Christmases of yesteryear.

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, Elizabeth. The best presents aren’t always the ones that cost the most money.

19. ManjuBeth - December 8, 2014

Thanks for sharing your sweet story and treats!

nrhatch - December 8, 2014

Thanks, MB! Sometimes we can say more with less.

20. tinamcho - December 9, 2014

Good story! I love the mall, too and can empathize. But making gifts is also fun.

nrhatch - December 9, 2014

Thanks, Tina. My favorite stores at the mall as a teen ~> Bookstores and Craft Stores.

21. jdewdropsofink - December 9, 2014

What a cool touch with the recipe added. Sounds like a propitious lightening bolt.

nrhatch - December 9, 2014

Thanks! When we accept the “what is” . . . anything can be a gift of gold in disguise.

22. lindaboyden - December 9, 2014

That was simply YUMMY!

nrhatch - December 9, 2014

Thank you, Linda. Gifts from the heart are great & we all know that the way to a man/woman/child’s heart is through the stomach.

23. Susanna Leonard Hill - December 10, 2014

Oh! What a lovely Christmas-from-the-heart story, Nancy! I love that they all made use of their special talents and interests to make the best Christmas ever 🙂 And how awesome that you included a recipe for me to make someone else bake! 🙂 Thanks so much for joining in the holiday fun!

nrhatch - December 10, 2014

Thanks for getting us all in the Spirit of the Season with your FUN and FABULOUS contest, Susanna.

Hope you find someone to bake you a Grand Marnier cake.

24. diannegray - December 10, 2014

Great story, Nancy. Best of luck with the contest! 😉

nrhatch - December 10, 2014

Thanks, Dianne. It’s fun writing to Susanna’s parameters no matter who ends up at the top of the pile.

25. viviankirkfield - December 10, 2014

Nancy…you win in my book with that cake recipe…YUM! I’m going to give it a try. 🙂 Love your story…we should all do a homemade Christmas…what a great idea!

nrhatch - December 11, 2014

I made this cake every year at Christmas for our Holiday Open House ~ it’s yummy, moist, and fragrant. After homemade gifts and goodies, my favorite gift to give ~> BOOKS!

26. Three Well Beings - December 11, 2014

Thank you for the cake recipe! It looks delicious. This year we have cut way, way back from former years and have opened up our home a lot more. Our thought is that we really want to spend time with friends and family, and forego all the gift giving–kids excluded from that, but even then, we are not going overboard. I think in the past few years, judging by the shopping I did, I had sawdust for brains! I really enjoyed the story, Nancy!

nrhatch - December 11, 2014

I’m even beginning to see “minimalist Christmas” messages on sitcoms ~> last night on The Middle, Frankie decided to bow out of the crazy frenetic pace so she could relax and enjoy the season. Sans pants. 😛

My MIL went cuckoo each year buying each of us PILES of presents. When we were first married, it was appreciated because we actually “needed” things. Later on it became “an embarrassment of riches” to wade through and a source of guilt because I didn’t want to reciprocate in like vein.

I don’t think we can prove how much we care by throwing gifts around.

27. Stacy S. Jensen - December 11, 2014

What a lovely story. I love homemade gifts for Christmas. I’m supposed to be making ornaments for my family but took a break to read these Holiday stories. Thanks for the reminder that I have work to do. Merry Christmas.

nrhatch - December 11, 2014

Thanks, Stacy. In the coming weeks, I plan to share some treasured heirlooms and keepsakes that we’ve received over the years from family and friends. They are heart warming.

28. Sylvia Liu - December 11, 2014

Nice story about the real spirit of the season. Thanks.

nrhatch - December 11, 2014

Thanks, Sylvia. Susanna’s contests bring out the “inner child” in each of us.

29. Lynn - December 11, 2014

This is a nice homey story. 🙂 Well written. I may have to try that recipe.

nrhatch - December 11, 2014

Thanks, Lynn. It’s delicious and refreshing with just the right touch of sweet.

30. Carrie Charley Brown - December 11, 2014

Nothing like comfort food to make it all better, and cinnamon rolls are a favorite. This story has the true spirit of giving at heart, and Paul really saved the day for his family. 🙂

nrhatch - December 12, 2014

Thanks, Carrie! Hope your season is filled with Merry & Bright!

31. Saranyan - December 12, 2014

The recipe was a nice touch. Good one!

nrhatch - December 12, 2014

Thanks, Saranyan. Once Barbara requested the recipe, I decided to share it with all. Tis the season to be eating . . .

32. Donna L. Sadd - December 12, 2014

Great job, Nancy! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

nrhatch - December 12, 2014

Thanks, Donna. Enjoyed Susanna’s parameters for the challenge.

33. Margaret Greanias - December 12, 2014

Love the theme of giving from the heart vs. giving from the mall.

nrhatch - December 12, 2014

Thanks, Margaret! Hope your holidays are full of HEART.

34. Penny Parker Klostermann - December 13, 2014

Gifts from the heart are the absolute best! Cute story, Nancy! Merry Christmas 🙂

nrhatch - December 13, 2014

Thanks, Penny! Merry Christmas to you too.

35. Lauri Meyers - December 13, 2014

Very nice, thought left me quite hungry for Cinnabon:)

nrhatch - December 13, 2014

Thank, Lauri. There’s a link to a recipe . . . just in case your mall closes at an inopportune time.

36. Rebecca Sheraton. - December 13, 2014

I like the bolt of lightening! Nice finish

nrhatch - December 13, 2014

Thanks! As always, Susanna’s thrown a fun and festive contest.

37. Cecilia Clark - December 14, 2014

I love home made gifts best of all. I still have a pasta necklace made by one of my sons 25 ish years ago and I treasure it more than diamonds. ❤ lovely story

nrhatch - December 14, 2014

I feel the same about the arts and crafts treasures created by our nieces and nephews over the years ~> many of them are displayed each Christmas along with other cherished keepsakes.

38. rsonenshine - December 15, 2014

Beautifully crafted story and very readable, with a lovely message! Well done.

nrhatch - December 15, 2014

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the aftermath of the mall explosion.

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