Christmas…’Tis the season of love and laughter…and a glass of Egg Nog…


I started the day with a Christmas post courtesy of Mike Biles… and it is also a great way to end it with another. This time from Carol Taylor with her Christmas post this week with a look back at family Christmas trees, Carol singers, Father Christmas, a reminder of her traditional Christmas dinner menu and favourite Christmas foods in Brazil..something for everyone..

Christmas…’Tis the season of love and laughter…and a glass of Egg Nog…

The magic which is Christmas...I try although it is hard when it is sunny and no one else celebrates it…But Chrismas is in my soul and I hope that I can share some of the magic I have always felt with you and of course make you remember and smile…

christmas tree and baubles-2939314_640

Image by 5598375 from Pixabay

A real tree was the start of Christmas as a child…the cards strung around the room all counted…haha…and every sender known and duly sent a card back…The paper chains we made and strung across the ceiling no fancy decorations then they were homemade with love and a little glitter…

NB...Please though if you are buying a real tree make sure it is from a sustainable source or buy one well-rooted, keep it watered and away from the central heating then plant for next year this is something my father always did.

The postman, the coalman, and the milkman were duly given their Christmas Boxes and well deserved as they were always on time with a cheery smile…You could set your watch by them…

The Carol Singers who came round at night and stood beneath the lampost and sung their hearts out…


Head over to enjoy the post in full…thanks Sally

via Christmas…’Tis the season of love and laughter…and a glass of Egg Nog…

Bite Into These “Sir Chocolate” Books! Robbie Cheadle’s Magical Books Are The Perfect Recipe For The Holidays!

John Rieber with a wonderful post about The Sir Chocolate Series of stories and cookbooks by Robbie Cheadle and her son Michael… a wonderful reminder of a fabulous series for children of all ages from 5 to 95… head over to enjoy


Author Robbie Cheadle Has A Delicious Holiday Gift!

I have shared the great books of Robbie Cheadle before, but I haven’t told you about her terrific books with recipes that she writes with her son!

These terrific books tell magical stories AND include recipes that you can make with your children!

Sir Chocolate and the Fondant Five Story and Cookbook

Number 6 in the “Sir Chocolate” series is now out, and it’s the prefect holiday gift.

Five zoo animals go missing and Sir Chocolate needs to find them. This lyrical story is told as a poem, and the book also includes five new recipes you can make.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“One day Sir Chocolate arrived, and not a sound could hear, he called long and loud, but no animals did appear. The animals had vanished, the zoo was empty and still,”

“The monkey is naughty, he likes to have…

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Reads to give and receive


Jessica Norrie never fails to find the most beautiful books to share and those in this post are no exception.. I hope you will head over to enjoy the complete post and discover all the books that she recommends.

Reads to give and receive

Last December I posted what I’d enjoyed reading in 2018 and kind people have asked for an update. I have three categories for books nowadays – those still to be read, those destined for the charity shop, and those I liked so much they earn a place on my shelves. It’s been a pleasure for this post to look along the rows and find them for you. Most are not recent – if you want to read about flavour of the month books there are always the newspapers and all the wonderful #bookbloggers. But these are what stuck in this reader’s mind.

As I was reading this, imagine my uncanny delight when I discovered in the pocket of the old cardigan I was wearing – an unidentifiable little wheel off something! Anyone who’s ever attempted to amuse sick children, schlepped them round a department store or directed household tasks from the labour suite will identify straight away with Jackson. “So unlike the home life of our own dear Queen,” as my mother would say, raising her head from her book for a moment to consider the pile of undarned socks. (At least women don’t darn husbands’ socks anymore.)


Please head over and enjoy the post and leave your comments for Jessica there.. thanks Sally.

via Reads to give and receive

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up December 1st to 7th – Christmas Music, Festive Brussel Sprouts, Italian Biscotti, Winter Sun and plenty of other Shenanigans!

Welcome to the weekly round up of posts that you might have missed. Things are definitely getting festive around here and I hope that you will enjoy the fun.

It has been a busy week at the homestead with the new fence up and awaiting staining once the weather dries out a bit… excellent job by the workmen who stuck it out through wind, hail, pouring rain, up to the knees in mud… brilliant. Now we need to put tons of stones down for drainage all along the bottom covered by more tons of topsoil and new turf.. The last major job before we put the house on the market in the spring.

And.. I launched by new book…just in the nick of time….more details later in the post in the New Books on the Shelves..

As always a huge thank you to regular guests to the blog who have pulled out all the stops to inform and entertain us…and to you for dropping in and leaving comments and sharing the posts.

First a reminder of the Christmas short story series…

Last Sunday I posted a Christmas story from my collection Flights of Fancy – Father Christmas And I also extended an invitation to you, to share a fiction short story with a Christmas theme.

I would like to invite you to share your fiction here in December with one of your stories.

  • I know how busy everyone is at this time of year, but perhaps you have a short story you have already published on your own blog and would like to share with another audience over here.
  • I will leave the word count to you but as an approximation I would be happy with stories between 500 and 1,500 words…if longer then I am sure it will not be a problem.
  • If you are an author I will also be delighted to share the link to buy your work on Amazon.
  • Some of you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore and I have all your details, so no need to include again, but if you are new to the blog then I will need some information.

If you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore then please send the following to

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story.

If you are new to smorgasbord the please send the following to

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story
  3. Your amazon author page link for your books (so I can find your bio and book covers)
  4. Links to your blog and two other main social media links.

Look forward to hearing from you…

On with the other posts from the week.

Over the next four weeks, I am so pleased that William Price King will be a sharing a selection of Christmas music to get us into the festive spirit. The Lullay Song and What Child is This…

Christmas music with William Price King The Lullay Song

For any of us in the colder and wetter climates, a respite somewhere sunny is top of of most of our wish lists. Today three wonderful destinations where you will enjoy warm weather and an even warmer welcome from your hosts. I have selected islands where you can relax and even if it is for just two weeks, boost your tan and well-being before the real winter kicks in.

The Travel Column with D.G. Kaye – Three Winter Sun Destinations – Kauai, Hawaii, Malta and Martinique

It is that time of year when we bring out the decorations and over here – The Cook from Scratch Christmas recipes... I look at the health benefits of the food.. and my friend Carol Taylor turns them into something delicious the whole family will love.  This week the wonderful Brussel Sprouts.

Sally Cronin and Carol Taylor – Healthy and delicious Brussel Sprouts

If you are looking for a different kind of Christmas cookie this year then these Cantucci Biscotti from Silvia Todesco look amazing… and if memory serves me right, dipping them in your coffee or hot chocolate adds to their deliciousness…


Italian Cantucci Biscotti by Silvia Todesco

This week Mike Biles continues with his A-Z of Christmas starting with the Turkey through to Figgy Pudding.. more next week.

Christmas, Britain, Christmas dinner

Mike Biles – A – Z of Christmas from Turkey dinner to Figgy Pudding

Delighted that Anne R. Allen accepted my invitation to be a guest during the run up to Christmas. As writers, we don’t always get the feedback we expect from family and friends, and Anne shares some of the ways it might sabotage our efforts.

How Well-Intentioned Loved Ones Can Sabotage Your Writing Career

Anne R. Allen explores how well intentioned loved ones can sabotage your writing career

Earlier in the year editor Sarah Calfee wrote a guest post on editing that I think is well worth sharing again as part of the Christmas Book Fair.

Demystifying the levels of Fiction Editing by Sarah Calfee

Being the first challenge of the month, Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 156 is left to our discretion as ‘Poet’s Choice’.  I have written a double etheree – Happy Christmas

Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 156 – Happy Christmas

My response to this weeks Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills  the prompt is ‘Key Lime Pie’.... and I hope you enjoy the ingredients in my story……

Flash Fiction – Key Lime Pie

New Releases for Christmas

Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words by Sally Cronin

Supernatural Thriller Eventide – A Hodes Hill Novel Book 3 by Mae Clair

Post Apocalyptic – Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

Thriller – At the Seaside Nobody Hears you Scream by Janet Gogerty

Author updates

#Saga Judith Barrow, #Poetry Vandan Bhasin and Smitha Vishwanath, #Crime Sue Coletta, #YARomance Angie Dokos

#Fantasy Julia Benally, #Drama Deborah A. Bowman, #Mystery Diana J. Febry, #Adventure Jacqui Murray

#Wardrama Marina Osipova, #Memoir Cynthia S. Reyes, #Thriller Gwen M Plano, #Poetry Frank Prem

#Romance Linda Bradley, #Drama Mary Crowley, #Adventure Audrey Driscoll, #Memoir Brigid Gallagher

#Thriller Anne Goodwin, #YA Donna W. Hill, #Childrens Deanie Humphrys-Dunne #Mystery Judy Penz Sheluk

#Review D.G. Kay, Olga Nunez and Interview Jane Risdon with Jennifer Ash

Robbie Cheadle with Frank Prem, #History Darlene Foster, #Chai and Chat Ritu Bhathal

#Spain Joy Lennick, USCitizen Liesbet Collaert, #Thistledown Teagan Geneviene

#Freebook James J. Cudney, #Reading Nicole Osmond, #Story Becky Ross Michael


#reading Nicholas Rossis #Afghanistan Mary Smith, #Writing Shelley Wilson and Owen Mullen

Laughter Lines with D.G. Kaye and Sally Cronin

Even more funnies from Debby Gies and Sally

Thank you so much for dropping in today and I hope you will join me again next week with more fun and games.. Sally.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair -#psychologicalthriller Anne Goodwin, #YAAdventure Donna W. Hill, #Childrens Deanie Humphrys-Dunne, #Mystery Judy Penz Sheluk

Welcome to this year’s Christmas book fair where I will be sharing the books of all the authors on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore with their most recent review in the last six months. I will be selecting authors at random so that there is something for everyone in the post.

And the first featured book today is by Anne Goodwin with a recent review for  Underneath….A perfect gift for lovers of  psychological thrillers.

About Underneath

He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?

One of the recent reviews for the book

After reading the blurb, I was immediately excited by this book, as I could see some similarities to John Fowles’ novel The Collector – a book I love.

As a result, I really liked reading Underneath. It was incredibly easy to keep reading – I was definitely hooked.

Each part of the book – I believe it’s split into 6 parts – begins with a mini prologue which is set after the imprisonment has taken place. After each of these, the book returns to the current narrative, where Steve and Liesel are still happy and in love. I thought these sections were especially good and intriguing, because I was keen to learn how Steve unravels from an ordinary man into a crazed kidnapper.

I say ‘an ordinary man’ as, for most of the book, Steve is just that. There’s nothing sinister about him at all, really. Although there are some flashbacks to Steve’s childhood, in which he is bullied by his older sisters, I was not convinced his childhood was damaging to the point of causing extreme psychological issues and violent tendencies which would bubble to the surface later in his life. Personally, I wish these flashbacks had contained stronger evidence of a troubled childhood development such as, for example, Steve regularly lashing out in anger as a child, struggling to accept being told ‘No’, or showing a fascination for murder or kidnapping stories in the news. I think these sorts of things would have provided a more solid basis for the motivation behind Steve’s future plan to imprison his girlfriend. As it is, Steve’s decision comes completely out of the blue, which is arguably less creepy than a premeditated attack.

This plan is also carried out quite late in the book; I was more than halfway through before any kidnapping began. This might be something for you to bear in mind if you prefer fast-paced thrillers, as Underneath is much more of a “slow burner”. Whilst I might have enjoyed a quicker pace, in the long run, I didn’t really mind because I thought it gave plenty of time to characterise and develop Steve and Liesel well.

Having said that, I did prefer the imprisonment scenes somewhat more than the build-up to the imprisonment. The last third or so of the book was especially engrossing. There are some great twists and, following the kidnapping, Steve gradually becomes more enraged and unhinged. The ending was also dramatic and satisfying; due to his psychological state, Steve begins to hallucinate people from both his past and present – whether dead or alive – and that was fascinating to see from his perspective.

As I have mentioned, there are a few things I wish had been done slightly differently. Nevertheless, I still really liked reading Underneath and, after reading a review e-book copy, I’d love to support Anne Goodwin by picking up a paperback copy myself as well.

Also by Anne Goodwin

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK

And on : Amazon US

Find more reviews and follow Anne on: Goodreads

Connect to Anne via her blog: Annecdotal

The next author is Donna W. Hill with her YA Adventure The Heart of AppleButter Hill.

About The Heart of Applebutter Hill

When 14-year-olds Abigail and Baggy leave home, they have little more than Baggy’s camera and Abigail’s guitar. Rounded up by the authorities, they are placed with guardians and enrolled in a progressive school. Abigail, a songwriter who knows her sight is failing, is mortified to learn that she is already legally blind. When she meets Curly Connor, her new guide dog, however, she thinks her obstacles are all behind her. Troubles begin quickly when the friends uncover a dangerous secret. Someone at school wants to steal the powerful Heartstone of Arden-Goth. Join Baggy, Abigail and Curly Connor as they explore Elfin Pond, sneak around Bar Gundoom Castle and row across an underground lake. As summer heats up, their troubled friend Christopher is viciously bullied, and an armed stranger terrorizes Abigail and Baggy. The friends disagree about the spy’s identity, but both think it’s a teacher. Educator-recommended for middle-school diversity and anti-bullying initiatives.

One of the recent over 50 reviews for the book

Robert Martinengo 4.0 out of 5 stars An imaginative romp August 20, 2019

This is a fun and feisty book. It definitely captured my imagination and left me hoping for a sequel. Give it a chance and you will be rewarded with an,imaginative journey unlike any other fantasy novel.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And : Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Donna on: Goodreads

Connect to Donna via her website

And now something for the younger generation in the family from Deanie Humphrys-Dunne.. A Tractor Named Wilbur. Illustrations by Holly Humphrys -Bajaj

About the book

WILBUR is a small, shy tractor. He loves cutting the grass for Jim. But what happens when he must find a new home? Will Jim still be his friend? Who will the new owner be? WILBUR would love for you to take him home and read about his adventure. A Tractor Named Wilbur is the first in a fun series coming your way!

A recent review for the book

A really cute story! I had to smile often at the sweetness of it. Wilbur the tractor is much loved by his owner. An easy read with an important message for children about change and seeing the possibilities of new adventures. The reader could feel what it was like for Wilbur, the owner, and Hattie, the chicken through the author’s clever style of conversing. The questions at the end were a good idea to encourage children to remember what they read, and to help them express their thoughts when answering.

A selection of books by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And : Amazon UK

Follow Deanie Humphrys- Dunne on : Goodreads

Connect to Deanie via her website: Children’s books with Life Lessons

The final author today with a book for mystery lovers, and I certainly enjoyed is Judy Penz Sheluk for Past and Present – A Marketville Mystery – At the time of posting the book was priced at 99c/99p but that may now not be the case.

About the book

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.
It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

One of the recent reviews for the book.

Kim Templeton 5.0 out of 5 stars Past Meet Present September 26, 2019

It’s been just over a year since Callie inherited the Marketville house from her father. She is ready to give up the house but decides to stay in Marketville and open up her own business with a few of her new friends. Thus Past and Present Investigations is born, and this is not your average P.I. firm. They quickly get their first client, a lady who wants to know what happened to her Grandmother. You will not believe how the past connects the present.

After finishing book one I could not wait to read this book. This book did not disappoint. It was just as good as the first one with plenty of twists and turns to take you on a wonderful mysterious ride. The characters are real with quirky personalities. I love how the group of women come together and use each person’s strength to solve the mystery. The plot is well developed and the story moves along at a quick pace. This story is full of suspense and humor. I can not wait to read the next book in the series.

I listened to the audio version of this book the narrator Claira Jordyn does a wonderful job with her voice acting. Even with the story being told from Callie’s POV Jordyn does a great job voicing each character. She helps bring the story to life.

A selection of other books by Judy Penz Sheluk

Read the reviews and buy all the books: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Judy on Goodreads: Goodreads

Connect to Judy via her blog: Judy Penz Sheluk

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you are leaving with some books under your arm… thanks Sally.




Christmas…’Tis the season of love and laughter…and a glass of Egg Nog…

Another lovely post Carol rich in memories and delicious things to eat… have pressed for later this evening… ♥

Retired? No one told me!

The magic which is Christmas...I try although it is hard when it is sunny and no one else celebrates it…But Chrismas is in my soul and I hope that I can share some of the magic I have always felt with you and of course make you remember and smile…

christmas tree and baubles-2939314_640

Image by 5598375 from Pixabay

A real tree was the start of Christmas as a child…the cards strung around the room all counted…haha…and every sender known and duly sent a card back…The paper chains we made and strung across the ceiling no fancy decorations then they were homemade with love and a little glitter…

NB...Please though if you are buying a real tree make sure it is from a sustainable source or buy one well-rooted, keep it watered and away from the central heating then plant for next year this is something my father always did.


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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Mike Biles – A Bit About Britain – The A-Z of Christmas in Britain Part Two – Christmas Dinner to Figgy Pudding

Delighted to welcome Mike Biles, author of A Bit About Britain’s History as a guest writer until the end of the year. And for the next four weeks, Mike will be sharing the background some of the Christmas traditions we enjoy in Britain in his A – Z.

BTW: I can recommend the book as a great gift to any history buffs in the family both in the UK and abroad…and you here is my Review

Last week in Part One Mike shared the traditions behind the advent calendar through to Christmas Decorations……

Christmas, Britain

The A-Z of Christmas in Britain Part Two – Christmas Dinner to Figgy Pudding

Christmas, Britain, Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

There’s a fallacy, maybe two, regarding the British Christmas dinner. Firstly, it is often not eaten at dinner time, but during some period in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. That said, the timing is fairly relaxed, in my experience; and quite right too; who am I to remind cook that it’s long past the Queen’s Speech when she’s overdone the port and lemon? Secondly, you will see reference in restaurants and such to ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner ‘with all the trimmings’; this usually means roast turkey with stuffing, ham, bacon-wrapped cocktail sausages (pigs in blankets), cranberry sauce, bread sauce (maybe), boiled vegetables (typically Brussels sprouts and carrots), roast potatoes and parsnips and gravy. It is usually followed by Christmas pudding, served with cream, custard, or brandy butter. I suppose it depends on when something starts becoming ‘traditional’ – and I’m probably being picky – but the popularity of turkey at Christmas is relatively recent; I mean, the creature isn’t even native to these islands. I’m ambivalent about turkey myself; and, anyway, who likes ugly birds?

And another thing; while the origins of Christmas pudding are medieval, brandy butter seems to be a 20th century creation, though rum butter, originating in Cumbria, was around in Victorian times. I suppose you could argue – with some justification – that potatoes aren’t traditional, either; like the turkey (and cranberries and tobacco), they were brought back from the New World.

It’s a personal thing, but I think the only way to eat Christmas pudding is with custard or ice cream. While I’m about it, I would not expect to see Yorkshire pudding served with turkey, as you see advertised on some menus; in my view, it should only be served with roast beef, or on its own with gravy.

Interestingly, there is no ‘traditional’ starter (aka ‘entrée) on the British Christmas menu. In fact, there is no hard and fast rule about a British Christmas meal at all, really – though you’ll often find an alcohol-laden trifle offered as an alternative to the Christmas pudding.

The point is, of course, that traditionally Christmas was simply a time of feasting for those that could afford it. And those that could, would dine on a variety of dishes; peacock, swan and boar were all widely popular with the idle rich in medieval Britain. Henry VIII is reputed to be the first monarch to gobble turkey, but up to the Victorian era, and before the turkey take-over, the roast of choice was goose.

Christmas is coming,
The goose is getting fat;
Please put a penny
In the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny,
A ha’penny will do;
If you haven’t got a ha’penny
God bless you.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is big news in some countries; less so in Britain, where it is simply the day before Christmas. For the healthily disorganised, it is a time for last-minute shopping and preparation – though many shops and businesses close early.

Even if the Christmas decorations have been completed long before, it is considered unlucky to bring greenery – like holly and mistletoe – into the house before Christmas Eve. My dad used to say that was because It meant that the berries stayed on longer and if I trod one into the carpet it would be very unlucky for me indeed.

Christmas Eve might be a time for carol singing for some and many, even if they are not regular church-goers, will attend midnight mass (which rarely starts at midnight). In recent years, since the 1960s, ‘Christingle’ services for children have become popular on Christmas Eve. This is an import from the Moravian church. The children make ‘Christingles’, which are decorated oranges, representing the world. A piece of red ribbon tied around the orange symbolises the blood of Jesus, four cocktail sticks stuck into the orange represent the four seasons and sweets skewered by the sticks represent the fruits of the earth. To round it all off, a small candle inserted into the top of the orange symbolises the light of Jesus. Yes, well.

Christmas Eve is also the time to put out stockings (or maybe pillow cases) just in case Father Christmas decides to drop in. He will only visit if there are good children in the house, and then he might climb down the chimney and leave a present or two. It’s a tad awkward if you don’t have a chimney. However, It helps things along no end if you leave a mince pie and a glass of whisky out for him (Father Christmas is not subject to drink-drive legislation). If you’re feeling especially kind, a carrot and a bowl of water will be appreciated by the reindeer.

Christmas fairy

The Christmas fairy is a mysterious figure, often represented by a doll on top of the Christmas tree – though some believe it’s really an angel. Most people in Britain probably don’t think about it much, but fairies are not always benevolent creatures, and are sometimes quite frightening – though we have become used to the idea of a good fairy granting wishes and being a generally helpful kind of soul. Angels, of course, are normally male figures – and also quite frightening; the Archangel Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she would give birth to the son of God. Somewhere along the way, fairies and angels have got mixed up, so you had better check yours carefully; angels don’t carry wands.

At one time, people used to put a figure representing baby Jesus on top of their tree. Maybe it’s better to put a star there, representing the light that guided the wise men.

Christmas jumpers, Christmas, BritainChristmas jumpers

To be fair, Britain has often flirted with dodgy pullovers. Think of those naff little short-sleeve things you see in photographs of the 40s and 50s, the dreadful ‘tank-tops’ of the 70s and the infiltration of Fair Isle in the 80s. A Bit About Britain is not the kind of place to come for a fashion consultation, but even we know it wouldn’t be fair to entirely blame fireside crooners, skiers and golfers for every piece of hideous knitwear you’ve ever seen.

Which brings us to the Christmas jumper. Always a favourite unwanted gift, the 21st century Christmas jumper is in a class of its own. Indeed, this woolly wonder has gone beyond discomforting geometric patterns and embraced kitsch to an extreme that only those who think it’s tasteful to festoon their houses with illuminated inflatable nativity scenes can aspire to. The difference, of course, is that the Christmas jumper is meant to be ironic. What some experts believe began in 2001 in the UK, when Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) met Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) sporting a large reindeer head on his roll-neck, has evolved to a really ridiculous degree in which garish vulgarity is the new cool at Yule. Attach a few bells and lights, and it is possible to compete with your friends for wearing the most over the top jumper at the Christmas party. With the addition of a compact power supply and a mobile application, who knows where it will end?

Christmas movies

There have been Christmas movies ever since there has been a movie industry. But, notwithstanding a few classics, it probably took the explosion of video and DVD to bring the genre into everybody’s home. Most Christmas movies are American (I was practically weaned on Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’), a reflection of Hollywood’s worldwide dominance; but we Brits have produced a few corkers – such as, ‘Scrooge’, ‘the Snowman’ and ‘Love Actually’. Personally, I’m a sucker for a good Christmas movie and I’d far rather watch a timeless classic than some of the rubbish that’s dished up on TV over the festering season. It just hasn’t been the same since they stopped doing the ‘Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show’. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here is A Bit About Britain’s top ten favourite

Christmas movies:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  2. Scrooge (1951)
  3. Love Actually (2003)
  4. White Christmas (1954)
  5. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
  6. The Snowman (1982)
  7. Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)
  8. The Holiday (2006)
  9. Home Alone (1990)
  10. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Christmas music

Music is huge part of Christmas – not just carols, but popular, festive, numbers too. These seem to drift, uninvited and unwelcome, into my consciousness sometime in October; personally, I think it should be illegal to play Christmas music before December. At one time, every major star, including Paul McCartney and Elton John, were scattering bells through their festive offerings and, even in this digital download age, there’s still tremendous competition for the Christmas No 1. Britain’s best-selling Christmas No 1 of all time (so far) is Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ (1984). A Bit about Britain dusts off its collection about a fortnight before the Big Day and the top ten is:

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland (1944)
  2. Fairytale of New York – the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl (1988)
  3. Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John & Yoko (1971)
  4. Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade (1973)
  5. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole (1961)
  6. Christmas Wrapping – the Waitresses (1981)
  7. Santa Baby – Eartha Kit (1953)
  8. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake (1975)
  9. White Christmas – Bing Crosby (1942)
  10. Run Rudolph Run – Chuck Berry (1958)

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye courtesy of andrew67ist

Christmas presents

Received wisdom is that giving and receiving presents at Christmas reminds us of the presents given to Jesus by the wise men. Working in the UAE one year, I was tickled to bring back some frankincense and myrrh from the spice souk, which I boxed up, wrapped in gold paper and gave to the memsahib. In fact, the business of exchanging gifts on Christmas Day is a relatively recent phenomenon; traditionally, gifts of produce were given at New Year – and the Christmas Box (see Boxing Day) was distributed the day after Christmas. However, the practice of buying and exchanging Christmas presents really took off in industrial and Victorian Britain, particularly in the latter part of the 19th century with the development of department stores.

Despite what you may read, there is no established custom and practice in Britain regarding when Christmas gifts should be exchanged. Certainly, younger children are generally allowed to see if Father Christmas has visited as early as mum and dad will allow; but, beyond that, it really is a matter of family tradition and personal choice.

Christmas, Britain

Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding is served on Christmas Day. Its ingredients vary slightly from recipe to recipe, but generally include suet, flour, breadcrumbs, brown sugar, eggs, dried and fresh fruit, ginger, spices, treacle and brandy. It is boiled and keeps for months and months…

Once upon a time, people used to eat a kind of porridge, or pottage, (a sort of soup or stew simmered for a long time) on Christmas Eve. It was eaten to line the stomach after fasting for the day, which was customary on Christmas Eve – ‘the Vigil’ as it was once known. This pottage was called ‘frumenty’ and was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, plums (prunes), wines and spices. Over time, more ingredients were added – eggs and breadcrumbs, which made it more pudding-like – and ale, spirits and more dried fruit was put in to increase the flavour. By the late 16th – mid-17th century, it was a boiled Christmas dessert known as plum pudding – though the republican government of Oliver Cromwell decided it was not fit for God-fearing folk and it took George I to rediscover it. Somewhere along the way, the meat was dropped.

The first reference to Christmas pudding comes in the 1840s (Dickens mentions it in ‘Christmas Carol’). By this time, it was usual to roll all the ingredients into a large ball and wrap it in a hessian cloth to keep everything together while it was boiled. Hence, many early pictures of Christmas pudding show it as a round ball. Some Victorians, though, made their Christmas puddings in elaborate moulds. These days, most of them are pudding-basin shape.”

It is customary to put a sprig of holly on top of the Christmas pudding before serving, then drizzle some brandy over the top, light it, and carry the flaming pudding into the room. Another tradition is to place silver coins in the pudding mix (wrapped in greaseproof paper), which are considered lucky and kept by whoever receives them in their serving. In pre-decimal times, silver threepenny pieces were used, then sixpences; these days, the closest equivalent is a 5p piece.

Christmas tree

The Christmas tree is descended from the Scandinavian “Yggdrasil, the Tree of Time, whose roots penetrate to heaven, Niffheim and Ginnungagap (the gap of gaps). In Ginnungagap the frost giants dwell, in Niffheim is the great serpent Nidhögg; and under this root is Helheim, the home of the dead”. [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable].

According to some, the use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolise eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Some trees were sacred to pre-Christian European peoples and survived the arrival of Christianity in the Germanic-Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens to scare away the Devil. It also reminded them of spring.

The modern Christmas tree is generally thought to have originated in western Germany – though, allegedly, the first documented Christmas tree was in 1440, in Tallinn, Estonia. Back to medieval Germany, where a popular play around Christmas was about Adam and Eve (Christmas Eve is regarded by some as Adam and Eve Day). A central prop to the performance was a fir tree hung with apples representing the Garden of Eden, and known as a ‘paradise tree’. This began appearing in people’s homes, where it would be decorated.

Most people think that the idea of the Christmas tree was brought to Britain by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert (of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). He certainly helped to popularise it, but the first tree in Britain was ordered by George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte (of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) in the 1790s.

Christmas in Britain

Father Christmas

Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, or whatever you want to call him, is the personification of Christmas for many people. He is an intriguing figure and a fusion of fact and faction.

St Nicholas, who became ‘Santa Claus’, was a real person. He was a 4th century bishop of Myra in the Byzantine Empire (now in modern Turkey), is reputed to have worn red robes and renowned for his anonymous generosity. One story has him dropping coins down chimneys, where they popped into stockings drying by the fire. In pagan times, a ‘King Winter’ figure would have had a central role in festivities; and then there was the Norman red-robed ‘Lord of Misrule’, whose job was to ensure the Christmas party went with a swing. In Reformation Britain, saints were not universally popular and the less Catholic figure of Father Christmas evolved. He, in turn, was deemed too ‘Popish’ during the years of the Republic Commonwealth (1649-1660) – though joy made a come-back after the restoration of the monarchy. Father Christmas has had a variety of robes too – sometimes green, sometimes tan. However, many believe that our 21st century perception of Santa Claus, complete with reindeer and an arrival on Christmas Eve, derives from the poem ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’ (‘T’was the night before Christmas’) published as recently as 1823 and generally attributed to the American Clement Clarke Moore.

The Yule Swain is a kind of Santa Claus in Lapland. He rides a goat, is eleven feet high, appears on St Thomas’s Day (the Winter Solstice) and disappears on Christmas Eve. No one knows where he comes from, or where he goes.

Feast of Stephen

St Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He was stoned to death in around 34 AD and his feast day is 26 December.

Figgy pudding

Figgy pudding is a Christmas pudding made with figs. Surprise, surpise. It is a discrete recipe, though, which any householder will find in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, first published in 1861.

©Mike Biles 2019

My thanks to Mike for sharing his A-Z of Christmas and next week we will continue the series with

©Mike Biles Images.2019

A Bit about Britain’s History: From a long time ago to quite recently.

About the book

Could this short, elegant, volume be the only book on British history you’ll ever need?

A Bit About Britain’s History is for anyone who wants a serious, yet light, introduction to Britain’s amazing story. If you don’t know the basics, or would like a reminder, this book is for you. It is also perfect for those that didn’t enjoy history at school, but who have suddenly realised they’d like to understand it a bit better now.

What did the Romans achieve? How did Christianity arrive? Who are the English and why did they fight the French so often? What is Henry VIII’s greatest legacy? When did democracy start and people get the vote? Why on earth did Britain get involved in WW1?

Organised clearly and chronologically, A Bit About Britain’s History covers every period from a long time ago until quite recently. It begins by briefly mentioning that the place was once inhabited by extremely large lizards, and ends up with a post-war 20th century consumer society. Brief articles explain the essential aspects of Britain’s past, including how the ancestors of its current inhabitants arrived, how they fought each other, formed nations, fell out over religion, acquired a large empire, became gradually more democratic, helped win a couple of world wars and were left wondering what to do next. At the end of the book are detailed timelines for each period, which provide useful reference and make fascinating reading in their own right.

A Bit About Britain’s History might be the only book on British history you’ll ever need; or it might be your stepping stone to more in-depth academic reading

One of the recent reviews for the book

I took my time reading this one because I loved the way the author wove the facts into a highly enjoyable narrative. What amazed me was how the author could start at pre-historic times and carry the reader forward to present day in such a brief book, yet cover the essentials and connect the complicated factors behind so much of that history.

The touches of a Bill Bryson wit was just enough to amuse me while I pondered the reality of “One Damned War After Another” It was a book I looked forward to returning to each night.

I’m keeping this one on my kindle so I can refer to the amazing Timeline included at the end of the book.

Read the reviews and buy the book in print and kindle: Amazon UK

And on Amazon US: Amazon US

Follow Mike on : Goodreads

About Mike Biles

Mike has lived in Britain all his life and generally loves the place, warts and all. He first learned history on his dad’s knee and went on to study medieval and modern British and European history at university. He was planning on teaching it, but then drifted into a career running his own business. Despite having worked with some of the UK’s most prestigious firms, he is often at his happiest with his nose in a history book, or exploring a historic site where the past is close. Several years ago, Mike began a blog – now an increasingly authoritative website – ‘A Bit About Britain’. He had to write a bit about Britain’s history for the website, and it seemed only sensible to put the material into his first book, ‘A Bit About Britain’s History’.

Connect to Mike Biles and explore his wonderful archives

Website home page
Blog page
Facebook page

Thank you for dropping in today and I know Mike would love your feedback – More Christmas A-Z next Saturday – thanks Sally.


Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Friday December 6th 2019 #Reading/Writing Nicholas Rossis, #Afghanistan Mary Smith, #Writing Tips Shelley Wilson with Owen Mullen

The first post today is from Nicholas Rossis with an important guide to encouraging young and old to read and write…

Getting people — and kids, in particular — to read and write has long been a passion of mine. You may remember my post, Reading Tricks for Kids of Any Age, originally written for Mom’s Favorite Reads.

Well, I recently came across an article by an article by Abigail Elijah of Knowledge Isle with 20 tips for developing your kid’s writing skills which inspired me to write up a new post, this one on the subject of getting your child to write. I hope you find these tips useful!

12 Ways to Develop your Kid’s Writing Skills

helping your child write better - girl writing | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksHead over to read the complete post and learn more about the twelve key steps to getting children to read and write more: Develop your child’s writing skills

Nicholas Rossis, Buy: Amazon US Blog:Nicholas Rossis Goodreads: Nicholas Rossis Goodreads

Please visit Amazon or Nicholas’s website to view all his books.

If you have been following Mary Smith’s incredible adventures in Afghanistan but missed the last episode, here is a snippet and a link.. this time a very heartbreaking incident that must have been so difficult to witness.

MarySmith’sPlace – Afghan adventures #11

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One day, Rosanna was awaiting my arrival at the field hospital with great impatience. A young woman had been brought to the hospital after a wall of her house had collapsed, burying her completely in mud and rubble. She couldn’t move her legs and Rosanna needed another woman to help her lift and examine the girl. She was afraid the girl’s mother-in-law could not understand the need for minimal movement to avoid further damage and, although any one of the Translators could have done it, the women would not allow a man to be present for the examination.

Head over to read the rest of this account of the accident and aftermath: Afghan Adventures #11

Mary Smith, Buy: Amazon US
Website: Mary SmithGoodreads: Goodreads

Please visit Amazon or Mary’s website to view all her books.

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And finally a guest post by bestselling crime author Owen Mullen on the blog of Shelley Wilson, author of motivational self-help titles and young adult fantasy fiction. Owen shares his top ten writing tips. Reinventing the wheel when it comes to any work, including writing is not just time saving, but skill improving and I am always interested to discover more.

Top 10 Writing Tips by Crime Author Owen Mullen @OwenMullen6 #WritingTips

Welcome to week 21 of our Top 10 Writing Tips by… feature. If you’ve missed any of the other top tip posts, you can find them all HERE. Please feel free to pop over and connect with the wonderful authors who have taken part.

Next up for the challenge is crime and thriller author Owen Mullen.

Owen Mullen, Top 10 Writing Tips

Bestselling author Owen Mullen is a McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist.

Owen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter,. He had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; He still loves to perform on occasion. His passion for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home in the Greek Islands where Owen writes.

You can buy books by Owen Mullen: Amazon UK

Owen Mullen, Top 10 Writing Tips, Out of the Silence, Crime Fiction

Head over to the post to discover the Top 10 Writing Tips by Owen Mullen: Shelley Wilson with Owen Mullens Top Ten Writing Tips

You can buy books by Owen Mullen: Amazon UK

Owen Mullen, Top 10 Writing Tips, Out of the Silence, Crime Fiction

You can buy books by Shelley Wilson: Amazon UK

A small selection of books by Shelley Wilson and to discover more: Shelley Wilson Author

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 Thank you for dropping in today and I hope that you will head over to read these posts in full thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – Key Lime Pie by Sally Cronin

This week for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills  the prompt is ‘Key Lime Pie’.... and I hope you enjoy the ingredients in my story……

Key Lime Pie

My mother-in-law is coming to dinner tonight with the rest of the family. I am staring at a piece of paper she gave me on her last visit, which provides a step-by-step guide to making the perfect key lime pie. Apparently hers are legendary, and have become a tradition on my husband’s birthday since he was five. Even though we have only been married a few months; I know that his mother will be looking for flaws. Which is why I have made a sherry trifle, a dessert I know my husband loves; a new tradition of our own.

©Sally Cronin

If you would like to participate in this week’s Flash Fiction then please head over to Charli’s to find out more: December 6th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

My latest release contains a section of flash fiction as well as verse and speculative short stories..

Amazon £3.50:Amazon UK

And $4.53: Amazon US

Thank you for dropping in today and as always your feedback is very welcome..Sally.