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A holiday entertaining & gift guide

great wintry reads holiday recipes gift ideas

and more

From our House to yours, Happy Holidays!


here is nothing like the challenge of nding the perfect gift for the holidays. We get how nerve-wracking holiday shopping and entertaining can be, so thats why weve put together Spark!

What youll nd inside is a compilation of some of the hottest articles from Retreat and Crave, recipes for holiday entertaining, and gift ideas for the hardest-to-shop-for person on your list. Be sure to click on everything for more tips and recipes, and keep an eye out for the Golden Star. Find it by December 15, and youll have a chance to win 15 books to gift this year!

Cass, Jess, Ainsley & Lindsey

If you need warm drink suggestions, we have plenty here.

Cozy Mysteries
for cold nights

or many of us, theres nothing better than grabbing a great mystery novel, a warm drink and a blanket and curling up to read (if theres a replace nearby, all the better). And, if the book is great, it can be a little bit like candy: its hard to stop with just one. So, if you need some suggestions about what to read during your winter holidays, here are the rst books in some great mystery series that youll love cozying up with.

The Buckshaw Chronicles, Volume 1, brings together the rst three bestselling Flavia de Luce novels. Follow our enchanting precocious amateur detective with a passion for poison as she investigates the death of a man in her very own back yard, goes behind the scenes of a puppet show to nd out who wanted the puppet master dead, and as she looks into the crystal ball to nd out why corpse after corpse is being found in Bishops Lacey.

The Reverend Tom Father Christmas came to pictur esque Thornford Regis with his young daughter to escape the city where his wife was murdered. He came to the bucolic and charming town, where violent crime isnt supposed to happen and the greatest sin is supposed to be nothing a member of the clergy cant handle. When a woman is found murdered at the town fair, Tom soon learns that everyone in Thornford Regis has a secret to hide.

This rst novel in the widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enor mously engaging Precious Ramotswe, owner of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Immediately upon setting up shop, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a way ward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

LIKE us on Facebook to discover the books well bundle up with this season.

Slow Cooker Oatmeal

with coconut, banana and almonds
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 8 hours Total Time: 8 hours, 10 minutes Yield: 4 servings Ingredients 2 bananas 1 1/4 cups (310 ml) steel-cut oats 1 can (15 oz/443 ml) light coconut milk 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) almond milk 3/4 cup (185 ml) water 2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut sugar or brown sugar 1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground white chia seeds (optional) 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract 1 tsp (5 ml) ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground ginger Salt 1/4 cup (60 ml) whole almonds shredded unsweetened coconut for garnish

For more great recipes, follow us on Pinterest

Instructions 1. Slice one of the bananas. 2. Combine the banana slices, oats, coconut and almond milks, water, sugar, chia seeds, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a slow cooker. Give it all a stir. 3. Cook on low for 8 hours. 4. Serve topped with freshly sliced banana, almonds and shredded coconut.
Excerpted from How to Feed a Family. Copyright 2013 by Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh. All rights reserved.

they will open again & again

Give the Gift


Book Buying

Use #givebooks on Twitter to tell us what youre gifting this season.

for the person on your list


Loves Instagram
The Circle

Cries at Rom-Coms
bought wrapped sent bought wrapped sent

bought wrapped sent

Never Misses The Walking Dead

The Snacking Dead

Knows ALL Your Secrets

S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared

Knows all the Words to Adeles Someone Like You

Mad About the Boy

bought wrapped sent bought wrapped sent wrapped sent

Loves a Quiet Night In

Bellman & Black

Always Gets Their Hand Caught in the Cookie Jar

Butter Baked Goods

Says You Dont Have to Get Me Anything

An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth
bought bought wrapped bought wrapped sent sent

Can Quote Family Guy

Worst. Person. Ever.

wrapped sent

Creating the perfect

guest bedroom

We have suggestions for great wintry reads!

he holidays are the time of year that so many of us have visitors in our homes. Since its a hectic time of year for everyone, its nice to make them feel extra welcome. Here are a few tips from Charles MacPherson, author of The Butler Speaks, to help you get your guest space in tip top shape! The comfort and style of the guest bedroom is part of your visitors overall experience and should reect that of the rest of the house. You want your guest to be able to relax there and get a good nights sleep.

A word of advice: I learned from a former employer that sleeping in a guest bedroom yourself for one or two
nights is the best way to notice the little details that can be improved. You cant imagine the things I have noticed by doing this.

Provide the following to create the perfect guest bedroom:

An alarm clock A good reading light beside the bed

Extra blankets and pillows

Internet access A phone Light reading material handy (magazines or favourite books) and/or playing cards

Notepaper, a pen and sharp pencils beside the phone or in another convenient spot in the room

A radio and/or television

At least one electrical outlet for cell phones and computer chargers



equations to find the perfect gift




ts often challenging to select a book for someone else, but we nd the easiest way to make a recommendation is to discover a few other books they have previously enjoyed. Its a great way to give people the sense of a book without giving away the whole plot; we like to call that book math.

the serva

This year there have been some that are excellent examples of book math!

fantastic novels

URN takes en classic, LONGBO st Au ne Ja e th on d Base unfold it and lets the events a downstairs spin on nts.

through the eyes of

British vibe and
A wonderful young protagonis

t, a

If you question what role the internet and social media play in our lives, this incredible well paced thriller will show you

a series of gut-wrenching revelations that you dont see coming.


Love, lust and greed are the backdrop

to this sweeping drama set in New Zealand.

The complexities

of John Irvings novel matched with the challenges faced by August in WONDER.


a shockingly possible future.

l v

Every Adult Should Read

he young adult genre clearly signies that those books are meant for teenagers. However sometimes its nice to take a trip down memory lane and relive our younger days. Here is a collection of eight young adult novels that adults should read. Each book is a fantastic piece of literature that has broad appeal.

8 young adult novels

A breath-taking story about a family living in Paris who experience tragedy when one of their own goes missing. Yet the path to nding their brother is more dangerous than Ingrid could ever imagine.

In the world of fteen-year-old Raim, you tie a knot for every promise you make. Break that promise and the knot will burst into ames!

This is the rst book in a new series from the talented Lauren Kate. An epic saga of heartstopping romance, devastating secrets, and dark magic...

A story of grief mixed with nightmares. Things take an interesting turn when Gabys dreams start becoming a reality. The truth lies in the shadows of her nightmares.

The rst book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams... and your worst nightmares.

This fabulous YA novel won this years Childrens Literature 2013 Governor Generals Literary Award!

The war is over, but for thirteenyear-old Rachel, the battle has just begun. Dealing with very adult situations, Rachels forced to grow!

Suberbly crafted writing that burns with intensity from award-winning author Markus Zusak. This movie will be in theaters during the holiday season.

Discover more YA reads at Crushing on Books

this Holiday Season

new holiday trend we have noticed is incorporating books into an advent calendar. Individually wrapped books can be unwrapped one day at a time as a countdown to the big holiday. Its a great way to get children excited about the holiday and interested in reading.

great picture books for

The Chrismtas Wish

In the tradition of The Snowman, The Polar Express, and the many books of Jan Brett this cozy Nordic tale lled with extraordinary photographs will have readers of all ages believing in the magic of Christmas. This is one to pull out every year and savor.

Legends, Icons & Rebels

Exclusive insights from a celebrated musician and passionate industry insiders, two accompanying CDs of legendary tracks and beautiful packaging make for a book with broad appealone that will captivate fans of Robbie Robertson and music lovers of all ages.

Mos Mustache
Mo is a monster who just got a mustache. A big, black, beautiful mustache. Everybody likes Mos mustache. Now Knot, Dot, Nib, Tutu, Bob, Bill, and Ben all have mustaches too. In fact, soon EVERYBODY has a mustache! Why is everyone copying Mo? And how will he (and his mustache) ever stand out?

If you have a little one in your life and are looking to give them a new book for the holidays we have a few suggestions.

How to Train a Train

In this spectacularly illustrated picture book, kids who love locomotives (and what kid doesnt?) will discover where trains live, what they like to eat, and the best train tricks aroundeverything it takes to lay the tracks for a long and happy friendship. All aboard!

Wheres Waldo?
The Magnicent Mini Boxed Set
A small, enticing, portable boxed set makes a gift-ready introduction to Waldos adventures for the younger crowd.

Old Bear
Old Bear has been up in the attic for a very long time, but he hasnt been forgotten. Bramwell Brown and his friends Little Bear, Duck, and Rabbit attempt to rescue Old Bear from the attic and bring him safely back home.

Snowakes Fall
LIKE our Childrens Books Facebook page for more inspiring (little) reads.

In Snowakes Fall, Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and award-winning artist Steven Kellogg portray lifes natural cycle: its beauty, its joy, and its sorrow. Together, the words and pictures oer the promise of renewal that can be found in our livessnowakes fall, and return again as raindrops so that owers can grow.

Simple Show Stopping


This holiday season, like every holiday season, will be full of opportunities to make fabulous desserts. Impress all your guests by making these amazing sweets. Click through for the recipe for the Canadian Living Chocolate Cherry Cups (pictured), Ottolenghis Champagne Chocolates, Lidias Almond and Coee Cream Mini Tarts and more!

Get the recipes!

Ingredients for
the perfect gift

air a cookbook with a homemade treat from your kitchen, a bottle of wine, or a beautiful basket of gadgets.

Sport Lovers
or people on your list who never miss a game, match or inning, these books cover a variety of sports and are sure to entertain any sports fan. Your recipient will be your #1 fan after devouring these great reads!

great books for

If you love sports, dont forget to LIKE our sports Facebook page!

Martha Stewarts
Hot Spinach Dip
Serve this rich, velvety dip with crostini, breadsticks, or crackers. Or try it as a delectable accompaniment for roast chicken or pork.
Makes 3 cups Prep time: 30 minutes Total time: 1 hour 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for baking dish 1 onion, nely chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 pounds spinach, washed well and coarsely chopped 1/2 cup milk 6 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces, softened 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce 3 dashes hot- pepper sauce, such as Tabasco 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (3 ounces) Coarse salt and freshly ground Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Heat oil in a Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. 2. Add spinach in two additions, letting the rst batch wilt before adding the next; cook until completely wilted, tossing frequently, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a colander; drain, pressing to release all excess liquid. 3. In the same pot, warm milk over high heat. Whisk in cream cheese until melted, about 3 minutes. Add spinach, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 1/4 cup mozzarella; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a lightly oiled 1 1/2 quart shallow baking dish; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella. 4. Bake until bubbly and cheese is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot. Making Ahead You can prepare the recipe through step 2 a day or two ahead; let spinach mixture cool, then refrigerate it in an airtight container before proceeding.
Copyright 2010 Martha Stewart Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast: 250 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Any Time of Day by Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Published: Feb 23, 2010 by Clarkson Potter

Great Books for


big thinkers

or the people on your gift giving list who like to stay informed, these books cover a wide range of important topics that will keep your recipients in the know.

Friend us on Goodreads!

Wine and cheese pairing swatchbook


Cookbook markers

Big Ideas in Brief


Charles Dickens action gure


Geeks Guide to Dating


Sibley birding postcards


100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys iPhone cases
$32 each, $10.95,

Mindy Kaling topic cards


Wine bottle gift tags

$11.95 ,

Coaster set

Stocking Stuffers
Star Trek Book of Opposites


Holmes & Watson cufinks


Old books scented soy candle


Books we are


to: Da d from: A


Cass: My friend Trisha is going to love this. Road Ends by Mary Lawson is really the quintessential CanLit kind of book that will please any avid reader. Its an enveloping dive into the anguish of family life, and Lawson writes small town characters awlessly. If you know someone who loved the bestseller Crow Lake, then this is the gift to give.

 risha to: T from: Cass

Ainsley: This year Im going to gift Red Greens Beginners Guide to Women and Im going to be gifting it to my dad. It seems like the perfect book for a certain kind of dad. The kind who always has several roles of duct tape, tells moderately successful jokes but laughs really hard at them, and who loves to share passages out of the book theyre reading to anyone in the vicinity. If my dad sounds a little bit like your dad, perhaps hell also love Red Greens truly unique wit.

Lindsey: If theres one thing I know for sure, its that my Aunt Natalie is going to love receiving a copy of John DeMonts A Good Days Work this holiday season. An exploration of Canada through jobs that used to be prominent, this book is like going for a walk down memory lane. Youll experience people who make their living the old way, in an attempt to distill the essence of our shared past. If you have a friend or a family member who loves Canadian history, then this book will be a huge hit!

to: Mom fro m:



to: Aunt N atalie from: Linds


Jessica: I managed to get my Mom hooked on narrative non-ction with The Devil in the White City so I know shell love Bill Brysons new book, One Summer. It focuses on the summer of 1927 and all the amazing events and achievements that occurred in America. From Charles Lindbergh to Al Capone to Babe Ruth this book has all the most memorable characters and people from the time. Any fan of history or nonction would love One Summer too!

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Happy Holidays
from our house to yours!

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