In Praise of Itch-X, Christmas Pie, and a #Giveaway by Barbara Monajem

OK, so let me get the moaning over with first. I have about a dozen welts which are itching like mad. Fortunately, frequent applications of Itch-X are keeping me sane, but I think the Benadryl from last night is still making me woozy. I have no idea what bit me, but if it’s what caused the same problem last year, the @#$%& bites lasted a month!! If they’re mosquito bites, they must be caused by a particularly evil species, because the usual bites (if left unscratched) go away the next day. Anyway, if I fall asleep in the middle of this blog, you know why. If you fall asleep, my apologies.

On to the Christmas Pie. In The Right to Remain Single, my novella in the upcoming anthology Christmas Kisses, the heroine’s family feeds the whole village Christmas Pie on Christmas Eve. So, because my favorite kind of research is the foodie kind, I had to try making it myself. I used this recipe:

I made very few changes — Panko breadcrumbs and a bit of water instead of fresh breadcrumbs, and boneless chicken thighs instead of breast filets. I even spent $12 on canned chestnuts from France by way of, because there aren’t any fresh chestnuts in the stores yet. Or cranberries, so I had to use a few leftover frozen ones and some rinsed, dried ones. If anyone is interested in my version of the recipe, let me know. It was a lot like an English pork pie, which is maybe one reason my husband liked it a lot, since he lived in England for several years. We ate it with HP Sauce and wished we had chutney, too. I’m sure the villagers in the novella looked forward to it all year. 🙂

I also made jam tarts with the leftover pastry. Yum! My laziness, not to mention complete lack of manual dexterity when lining the muffin cups with pastry, is proof (as if the world needed it) that it’s a good thing I didn’t try to be a surgeon.

My pics aren’t anywhere near as pretty as the one in the recipe (partly my phone’s camera, partly my manhandling of the pastry and the springform pan, partly that chicken breasts would have provided more color contrast, and partly whatever). The recipe says to decorate with Christmas-y pastry shapes, but the only cookie cutter to hand was a teddy bear. 🙂 🙂 🙂 If you look closely at the messy crust, you can see two of them.


Here’s the blurb for The Right to Remain Single:

Faced with the ghastly suitors her father approves, Thomasina Warren decides to lose her virginity so that no respectable man will marry her. Who better to ruin her than handsome, charming James Blakely? But James is an honorable man and refuses point-blank. Humiliated, she resorts to outright refusal to wed, with the help of a ghost who scares her suitors away. But four years later, her father has arranged her marriage to a stodgy gentlemen whose only condition is that the ghost must be banished forever.

James Blakely never forgot the lovely girl who asked him to ruin her, and when he offers to get rid of the ghost, he thinks he’ll be doing a good deed. Instead, he is faced with the hostile Thomasina, her cowardly suitor, pigheaded father, lecherous cousin, an exorcist monk, and a ghost who warns of danger and deadly peril—and a few short days in which to convince Thomasina that with the right man, she might just want to marry after all.

My dh with his first piece of pie and our debris-covered deck in the background, still not cleaned up after the tail end of the hurricane.
Yes, I ate one before I thought of taking a photo.


Do you have a sure-fire cure for itchy bites? If so, let me know! Or tell me about your favorite traditional holiday dish. One commenter will win the Christmas story of her choice, any author, price up to $3.99, as long as it is an ebook from And I’ll also give her an e-copy of the Christmas Kisses anthology as soon as it’s out – which will be October sometime.




Follow Barbara Monajem:

Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

18 Responses

  1. Maggi Andersen

    They look so tasty, Barbara! I hope your bites clear up quickly.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks, Maggi. The bites are already much improved. Now I just have to get better at getting the mosquitoes before they get me!

  2. elizabethkeysian

    I was bitten by mosquitos in France. The itch, and the welts, remained with me for weeks, and it took nearly 6 months for the marks to disappear completely. I feel your pain! As for the pie, yums! I once made a Tudor recipe game pie to feed the extended family one Boxing Day. It took pretty much all day to make…I took photos too. It’s quite an achievement- you can be quite justifiably proud!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Liz. This reminds me of an experience in Germany. It was hot that night, so we opened the window in our hotel…and hordes of mosquitoes came in. We shut the window as soon as we realized, but unfortunately there was a huge, dark animal skin (bear? I don’t remember) on the wall, and the mosquitoes didn’t show up against it! So although we went around swatting what we could see, we didn’t get them all and got lots of bites. As for those French mosquitoes — yikes!

      I would like to try making one of the pies where you put a pigeon inside a chicken inside a rabbit inside a suckling pig inside a goose inside a… not sure what. But I think you have to do a lot of deboning, which doesn’t sound like fun. I think it would have to be a joint effort with a group of friends having a good time. 🙂

  3. Jennifer Johnson

    Have you tried Tea tree, lavender, lemon or lime juice, or coconut oil all have properties that can stop itching, pain, and swelling some of these even have natural antibiotic effect. Rubbing alcohol also will help as well with some bites and itching. I have also heard that rubbing a moistened tea bag on the bites can sooth and take away the itching as well. If it’s mosquitos that bit you try avoiding perfume and or strong smelling shampoos or body wash for some reason the little jerks love the stuff. They do however HATE Lavendar so if you have some lavendar essential oil put some on and they won’t bother you so I have read. 🙂 Hope the itching stops really soon that is just miserable. I’ve been there manly times myself.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Jennifer. I don’t wear perfume, but I do have lavender hand cream!! So I’ll try using it more often. Thank you for all the advice. I have heard that vinegar works well too. A friend used it on a wasp sting, and it was amazing how quickly it went away. 🙂

  4. barbarabettis1

    Yum!! Admiration coming your way 🙂 As for bites–I wish I had a good answer! Good luck.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Barb. I don’t know about admiration but I did have a good time making the pie. There’s one teeny piece left which I intend to have for lunch. 🙂

  5. beppie2014

    What a fun blog! Wish I lived at your house–the food looks delicious. I think I am suffering from 30-year overload (counting college visits home, etc.) of feeding four children, now all adult and well-nourished. Well, they should be! I occasionally get stirred to try something new. More often it’s old faithfuls and why-don’t-we-eat-out-tonight? But I’d love to have been able to share the Christmas pie.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Beppie. I can relate to overload! I do a lot of old faithfuls too, although there are fewer to choose from now that I don’t do much in the way of carbs. (I miss mac and cheese!) But I do like trying old-fashioned recipes from time to time.

  6. Catherine Castle

    Vinegar is what I use for bites. But not if you’ve broken the skin scratching. To make yourself less attractive to mosquitoes start taking 100mcg of B1 and a zinc tablet in late spring. Also rubbing a BOUNCE fabric softener sheet on your exposed skin and clothes helps repel them. I put one in my pocket when I garden. The book sounds interesting. Good luck with it.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Catherine. B1 and Zinc! Hmm… I remember using brewer’s yeast for the same purpose, years and years ago. It has B vitamins in it. Bounce sounds like a great idea. Thanks!

  7. Karen Markuson

    Unfortunately, the mosquitoes love me. They don’t bother my husband. We could be standing side by side and I will be covered in bites and he won’t have any. I used to moisten the site of the bite with water and rub salt on it.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Karen. I have the same problem, as do most of the females in my family. I guess girl blood tastes better to the obnoxious little critters!

  8. eileendandashi

    Your novella sounds wonderful. You always manage a little of the paranormal in your books. Such a plus! Hope you’re feeling better by now. 🙂

  9. Barbara Monajem

    Thanks for all the advice, everyone. As it happens, the bites went away more quickly than I expected, but immediately afterward I got the stomach flu. It’s been a weird week!!

    And now for the winner: Beppie Harrison! Beppie, I will contact you via email about how to get your prize.

  10. dholcomb1

    Oh, how awful to go from bites to gastroenteritis. Sometimes, toothpaste works. I usually just go with cortizone cream. I’m already on allegra for allergies, but it’s okay to add some benedryl. I just do the 4-hour pink pills at night so there’s less hangover.

    I know I’m too late for the giveaway, and that’s okay. Just catching up on email.