Smorgasbord Christmas celebrations – The Fourth Day of Christmas with guests Norah Colvin and Amy Reade

So here we are all again and it is now day four of the party and I am delighted to have been joined by two more special guests, Norah Colvin and Amy Reade… more about them and their most favourite Christmas gifts later.

My Christmas Past..

I have been looking back over photographs of Christmas past and I came across a gathering we hosted in Tring in 1984 just before David and I left for Houston for two years. It had all happened very quickly. We had moved into our little house in the April when David moved from Liverpool with his job to a new cable television division that had been set up. Unfortunately we had only been there six months when the powers that be shut down the division and made David redundant. A bit of a shock to say the least. While we were in the process of making plans for the future his previous boss rang and offered David a very different prospect. Two years in Houston, Texas responsible for sales in the United States. It was really a no brainer, there was only two of us, the money was great and all we had to do was sell our house which we did quickly thank goodness.

We were leaving early January and wanted to see as much of the family as possible. Despite heavy snow falls our visitors arrived on the 24th of December. David’s parents came from Ireland, my parents and brother from Portsmouth, David’s uncle from London – with only three bedrooms it meant that David and I camped out on mattresses in the dining room and my brother had the conservatory. Money was a bit tight but David brewed up a keg of beer – twice – because the first one was sampled a couple of weeks before by friends who came over to play darts!!

Nine of us crammed around the dining room table and we had a wonderful day with charades in the afternoon which disintegrated into a hilarious debacle. Everybody stayed on until the 27th and we put all our belongings except for two suitcases of clothes and flew off knowing we would probably not see them again for at least two years.

A great Christmas and when I look at the photos, I realise how easy it is to let those memories fade, when actually being together and the laughter was more important than fancy food and presents.

To get you in the Christmas mood.. and because I know there are many thousands of families who will not be with their father’s, husbands, brothers, sisters and other loved ones who are serving in the military over the holidays… here is White Christmas from the United States Navy Band

Time to meet my first guest who is a fantastic member of our blogging community, Norah Colvin and shares a little bit about herself, and also her very best Christmas gift of all time.

I am an experienced and passionate educator. I teach. I write. I create. I have spent almost all my life thinking and learning about thinking and learning. I have been involved in many educational roles, both in and out of formal schooling situations, always combining my love of teaching and writing by creating original materials to support children’s learning.

Now as I step away from the classroom again, I embark upon my latest iteration: sharing my thoughts about education by challenging what exists while asking what could be; and inviting early childhood educators to support children’s learning through use of my original teaching materials which are now available on my website

Here is Norah’s  Very Best Christmas Gift

One of my strongest memories is of waking before sunrise one Christmas morning, checking to see if Santa had been, and discovering a book at the end of my bed. While there was not enough light at first to see the illustrations or read the words, I delighted in the smoothness of the cover and the smell of the pages. Slowly, as the sun rose, the title revealed itself: Heidi by Johanna Spyri, and I started to read. I loved that story and read it many times. After more than fifty years I still have the book in my possession, rather tattered and worn, not unlike its owner, but still loved.

I loved that book too and the sequel and I was a bit pushed at first as to what I might give to Norah as a Christmas present… then it came to me..

Peter in the story of Heidi is a goatherd… voila..front row seats at a performance of The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music…

Countries around the world have their own way of celebrating Christmas and for example if you were in Greenland, you would have to buy an imported tree, as trees don’t grow that far north. As an alternative a large piece of driftwood is decorated usually on the 23rd of December. Since the sun does not rise in the winter in Greenland, an illuminated star is put in the window to bring some light to the darkness.

People visit each other for coffee and cakes and a delicacy is ‘Mattak’ which is a strip of whale skin with piece of blubber inside… unfortunately tough to chew so is usually swallowed. B-B-Q caribou or reindeer might also be on the menu.

You might want to use this snippet about the whale skin and blubber to your advantage as a threat to any child at the table declining the Brussel Sprouts! Or for guests who have outstayed their welcome!

There are so many carols that are popular that it tough to narrow it down to twelve but since this is my party….. I get to choose. Kings College, Cambridge is renowned for its choir and here they are with Hark the Herald Angels Sing...

Day four and it is officially 28th December: The Feast of the Holy Innocents – when prayers are said for the innocent baby boys that Herod allegedly had killed in his efforts to overturn the prophesy passed on by the Magi that the King of the Jews, the baby Jesus would take his throne. There has been much research into this massacre and theologians and historians are fairly sure that it did not take place. It may well be that around that time there could have been an epidemic that took the lives of many infants and someone put two and two together and got five. Anyway perhaps it is a time to remember all young innocents who are taken before their time.

There is much debate about the origins of ‘Four Calling Birds’ but in fact the original was ‘Four Colly Birds‘ and this meant that they were grimy and sooty and actually referred to Blackbirds.. Even more confusing was that they were not really Blackbirds but Thrushes…I suggest that you go directly to the drink section and partake of a very pleasant glass of champagne and forget the four birds of whatever origin all together….

Time for my second guest and delighted to welcome author Amy Reade to the party.  Apart from her own books on her website, Amy features recommended reads from other authors and some delicious recipes.

USA Today Bestselling author Amy M. Reade writes Gothic, traditional, and cozy mysteries. Her books have been compared to those by authors such as Daphne du Maurier, Phyllis Whitney, and Victoria Holt. Amy’s standalone novels feature vivid descriptions of exotic and fascinating locations, such as the Thousand Islands region of New York State, Charleston, South Carolina, and the Big Island of Hawaii. Her Malice series explores a family’s secrets and mysteries set against the breathtaking backdrops of Scotland and Wales. Her newest mystery, The Worst Noel, is the first in her Juniper Junction Holiday cozies. A former attorney, Amy found that writing was her true calling. She loves cooking, reading, and travel.

Here is Amy’s most treasured Christmas gift ever

I wish I could say that my favorite Christmas gift was a sentimental one, one that would prompt sappy tears, but I can’t. My favorite Christmas gift ever was a Barbie Dream House.
Tall, plastic, yellow, filled with stories yet to be imagined, it was a complete surprise. We lived in frigid northern New York in a house with a screened-in front porch. When we finished opening the gifts under the tree, there was one last item—a note addressed to me telling me to look on the porch. Brrr.  There is was, in all its frozen glory.

I think that we might be able to upgrade that first Barbie Dream House for you Amy with this brand new interactive build that certainly beats anything I have ever lived in… enjoy.

Read the reviews and buy Amy Reade’s books
Connect to Amy via her blog:

51dikCmd-RL._UY250_House of the Hanging Jade cover with USA Today

One of the recent reviews for The Worst Noel

Lilly’s Very Bad, No Good, Terrible, “Worst” Day! A very entertaining first-in-the-series penned by Amy M. Reade (Ok, what an apropos name, right?). A clever mystery with wonderful characters and a satisfying conclusion make me a fan and eager to join in as a regular for her Juniper Junction Holiday Mysteries. The mystery gives “karma” a good name…bad character meets bad end, but perp is handed justice, too. Readers are led through a variety of entertaining suspects all with motive, but the final “you’re it” is one that challenged my inner Sherlock. And along with an enjoyable cozy mystery, she provides a engaging look into Lilly’s family dramas, interactions with her BFF, and efforts to have a Black Friday do-over. Amy is not a new author, penning standalone books and the Malice series, so the well-developed characters in a first-in-the-series book are a given. I admire Lilly, the teens are an enjoyable support duo, and she paints with realism her mother’s possible early-onset dementia and ex-husband’s antics. Stories and characters that all made for a great read!

The story has a whopping sixty-two chapters. Whoa! I thought I’d be reading for days. However, I was so pleasantly surprised, and really like the manner in which Amy organized her story. Each chapter is a scene or part of the day easily enjoyed…a real page-turner. In Amy’s story readers are put on the periphery with an enjoyable third-person narrative. However, I prefer a first-person narrative that allows me to feel I’m part of the story with the “I” perspective. She does include intriguing descriptions, engaging banter, and illustrations of tone and personality which kept me totally engaged. I highly recommend this book, and am a big fan!

My two favorite words…No, not “It’s Murder!,” but Recipes Included! Amy Reade has added three delicious easy-to-follow recipes as a bonus. Enjoy what BFF Noley brought for breakfast whose job as a recipe developer for a national cooking magazine has made being her “taste tester” a delicious position: Christmas Jam (Cranberries, and raspberries, and pears…oh, my!), Orange-Kissed Biscuits (Topped with Christmas Jam, of course!), and Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing (A tropical delight!).

The humble carrot is a vegetable most of us take for granted. Carrots have an ancient history originating in Afghanistan. The Greeks and the Romans ate carrots and in fact, the Greeks called the carrot ‘Philtron’ and used it as an aphrodisiac. Don’t all rush to the supermarket! In Asia, the carrot was an established root crop and was then introduced to Europe in the 13th century. It was the Middle Ages before the carrot became better known and doctors of the time prescribed carrots for numerous ills including snakebite! In those days, the carrot was available in far more radiant colours including red, purple, black, yellow and white. They were cultivated together and over time, it resulted in the orange vegetable we know today.

Carrots eaten as a fresh, raw and unprocessed food is full of nutrients including Vitamin A (retinol), beta-carotene (turned into Vitamin A in the body), other carotenoids, B Vitamins, Vitamin C and minerals calcium and potassium. Of all of the nutrients, Beta-Carotene and latterly Alpha Carotene are seen as the most important properties of the carrot. As far as the eyes are concerned it is the Vitamin A and the Beta-carotene which are the most important nutrients. Vitamin A, helps your eyes adjust to light changes when you come in from outside and helps keep your eyes, skin and mucous membranes moist.

Apart from garnish for your Christmas dinner, you can make this delicious soup for a starter or perhaps with a turkey sandwich on Christmas night… Courtesy of Carol Taylor from the Cook from Scratch series

Carrot Soup Ingredients: Serves 2

  • 2 carrots washed and sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Half onion chopped
  • 1/2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger finely chopped or grated
  • The zest and juice of half an orange 500ml of fresh vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper to season.
  • Crème fresh and coriander, to garnish. I use Coconut milk and a sprinkle of chilli flakes…but that’s me I love my chilli.

To prepare…

  • Gently cook the onion in a saucepan with the olive oil until it has softened but not coloured, add the garlic, ginger and orange zest and cook for a minute or 2.
  • Then add the carrots and pour in the stock.
  • Simmer until the carrots are very tender and using a hand blender blend until smooth.
  • Serve and garnish as above with crème fresh and coriander or coconut milk and some chilli flakes as I do

We all love some sparkling wine at Christmas and New Year and if really pushing the boat out then buying the finest Champagne can not only add some luxury sparkle to your celebrations but also add quite a bit to the housekeeping bill….

Some supermarkets now bottle their own Champagne and the budget stores of Aldi and Lidl have had some really good press in recent years. When we lived in the USA, we enjoyed Korbel California Champagnes and in Spain you could buy the finest Cava Reserva for amazing prices… and it is still our preferred sparkling wine. This is despite their being the highest tax on alcohol in Europe here in Ireland where you will pay 50% more for a bottle.

Prosecco is popular all year around and also tends to be cheaper than champagne, and follow this link if you would like to find out more about the differences between prosecco and champagne

To be honest I am very partial to a drop of alcoholic ginger beer at Christmas and always look for somewhere that is stocking my favourite brand….

Thank you for dropping in to the party and it would be lovely to hear about your most memorable Christmas gift.

Tomorrow we are at the Five Gold Rings stage of the party with guests Debby Gies, Lizzie Chantree and Joy Lennick… I hope to see you there.. thanks Sally

53 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Christmas celebrations – The Fourth Day of Christmas with guests Norah Colvin and Amy Reade

  1. Enjoyed these wonderful Christmas memories! I also fondly remember a Barbie Dreamhouse, in fact I think that it was the first style made (which really dates me, I know:) It folded up kind of like a suitcase and was patterned with green and white on the outside. Not very fancy compared to that interactive version, but I couldn’t have loved it more:)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Two great stories, Sally. My dad gave me an illustrated version of Heidi for Christmas two years ago. It is in my book treasures cupboard. I just love The Sound of Music. I didn’t have Barbie as a girl. It was all about Sindy dolls for me when I was a girl.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. The story of Heidi was also one of my favourites, dolls were not…Unless I was cutting their hair off which of course got me into trouble…My sister was a…But I liked getting sent to bed early as I could read so it wasn’t really a punishment…A great choice of guests, Sally Hugs xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thanks so much for inviting me to your party, Sally. I’m so excited about your gift for me. It’s perfect. As well as enjoying Heidi so much as a child, I also love The Sound of Music. Watching this excerpt brought back memories. I’m not sure that I connected the two before, so thank you for doing that. I also enjoyed your choice in music for this post, especially I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. What a lovely version! And of course, your introductory story with its important message of people, fun and laughter is also wonderful.
    I enjoyed sharing with Amy. I was born too soon for Barbies but, like Carol, liked to see what my baby dolls would look like with straight hair, short hair – whatever they didn’t come with. I’m not sure of the value of the Interactive Barbie Dreamhouse, though I guess it is reflecting houses of our technological future (it’s already here). Seems the little girl doesn’t get to do anything except tell the house what to do. If only. 🙂
    I’ll join you in a ginger beer to accompany our carrot soup.
    Once again, thank you for welcoming me to your blog. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Hugs. xx

    Liked by 5 people

      • I think you’re right about the looking and not doing, Sally. Maybe it gives them time for their imaginations to work. She says, hopefully. Best wishes for the season. xx


  5. I bet Amy had more fun with her old-fashioned Dream House than that little girl has with the interactive version. Heidi was one of my favourite books, too. I bet if all your blogging friends put together their childhood reading list many of the same books would be on each list. Another lovely post, Sally.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I had much more fun than the girl with the interactive house! I loved dressing up my Barbies–my aunt had Madge dolls when she was small, and a great-aunt of mine hand-stitched some absolutely beautiful clothes for the Madge dolls. One year for Christmas my aunt gave me all the clothes she had played with as a child, and that gift is way up there on the list of favorite Christmas gifts, too.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – Weekly Update – Christmas parties, guest posts, books, Traditional Christmas menu and music. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  7. I never got a Barbie, but I loved dolls so I would have been over the moon. I remember watching a Japanese cartoon version of Heidi when I was a child and loved the story. Fantastic suggestions and recipes, as well. Thanks, Sally and to Amy and Norah, and good luck!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Oh, I loved this post!! I can picture Norah finding “Heidi” at the foot of her bed before the sun rose, and Amy finding Barbie’s Dream House on the cold, wintry porch. Amy, I had the first dream house – it was cardboard with different cardboard furniture and accessories, including a record player. I want to join Norah at the Sound of Music! Fabulous, music, Sally. And I so loved the story of your Christmas just before your move to Texas. 😀🎄😍

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Hi Sally, I’m finally able to access the post! I so enjoyed reading about your Christmas before leaving for Texas. When everyone is on top of each other in a house, it can either spell great memories or terrible ones–I’m glad yours were great!

    As for Norah’s gift, I have to say that Heidi was one of my very favorite books as a child and even as an adult. I was even going to name my first child Heidi, but decided on Carolyn instead. My favorite movie version is the Shirley Temple performance. When I hear the sound of wind in the trees near my home, to this day I almost always think of the wind in the trees in the Alps, as described by Johanna Spyri.

    The rest of your party is fabulous. I enjoyed watching the video of the interactive doll house, and being thankful that I never had one of those. I also think carrot soup might make an appearance at my house sometime during the holiday. And as for champagne, I prefer both Cava and Prosecco because Champagne gives me a headache. 🙂

    So, many thanks for the honor and the pleasure of being on your blog again. I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and all the best in 2019. Enjoy your ginger beer, and stay away from the calling birds! And be thankful you’re not in the dark in Greenland right now.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I enjoyed this post thoroughly, Sally. Good to know Norah’s favorite Christmas gift. My daughter and I love Heidi. We read the book and watched the animated movie. I watched The Sound of Music many times. When we went to Vienna, we went by the Von Trapp family home. I could see Amy’s excitement when finding Barbie’s Dreaming House.
    Good choices of music, Sally. I like this version of White Christmas and Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Kings College.
    All the food and drink bring so much fun and enjoyment for the Christmas season. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    I’m absolutely delighted to be included in Sally Cronin’s Christmas celebrations. I shared the story of my most memorable Christmas present and Sally gave me a beautiful gift in return. Pop over to Sally’s to check it out. While you’re there, check out Sally’s books and all her other wonderful guests too. Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Sally. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. All good wishes for a Merry Christmas Sally and a wonderful 2019! Thank you for this post, much enjoyed it! I MAY make the carrot soup, looks simple enough and ‘sounds’ delicious –

    I enjoyed yours, Norah’s and Amy’s reflections on Christmas past. If my family are with me, I’m the happiest woman!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. My gosh, this is just full of so much fun! Funny how the memories of Christmas past begin to fade until we write about them, and then it all comes back, doesn’t it Sally. I enjoyed your beer-filled reminisces. :–) I’m a delighted reader of Norah’s blog, and she’s been a wonderful supporter of my children’s book. Norah, you are not tattered and worn, and you certainly bring out the best of the books you highlight, new and old.
    Amy is another wonderful blogging friend. I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Worst Noel, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a page-turning holiday read.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sally, thank you once again for including me in your wonderful Smorgasbord of writers. You are amazing in all you achieve and always incredibly generous.
    I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas and all you wish for in 2019. Hugs. Norah xx

    Liked by 1 person

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