Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas Celebrations the Ninth Day of Christmas with guests Linda Bethea and Sandra J. Jackson

So pleased that the Twelve Days of Christmas are bringing some pre-festive enjoyment and thank you to all of those who have reblogged and commented. My special guest today is Linda Bethea who recently joined the blog as a regular guest, with her entertaining family dramas. She is joined by author #Fantasy Sandra J. Jackson who will be sharing her most favourite Christmas gift.

Sally’s Christmas Past.

On this ninth day of my own memories of Christmas I have moved on from 1977 when I was not sure what the future would hold for me to the Christmas of 1979.

I had left the school in Sussex where I had been Housekeeper/cook for 18 months and moved in the April 1979 to Wales to be Assistant Manager at a hotel between Dolgellau and Barmouth on the Mawddach Estuary in the stunning Snowdonia National Park.

I was by this time in a really good place personally and had regained by physical and emotional health. I loved my time at the hotel and when it closed in the October until Easter 1980 I stayed on in my flat in the nearby Chapel House and took on inbetween season decorating and essential repairs. I was on half pay but I had a snug roof over my head and although I did not drive at that time I would catch the bus to either Dolgellau or Barmouth once a week to buy my food and catch up with the rest of the world.

I did however go home to Portsmouth for Christmas and as I was going to be there for about six weeks I decided to earn some extra cash by signing up for a temp agency and utilising my rusty secretarial skills. I spent a couple of weeks in a large insurance office typing cheques for claimants and that was pretty mind-numbing. In those days of course it was not automated and you were given a roll of blank cheques and then you typed in the recipient and the amount in words and the figures.. They were carbon backed so there was a second sheet which served as the record. If you made a mistake you had to call the supervisor over who would void that cheque and out of a roll of 100 if you had more than 5 voided you were returned to the temp agency as defective.

There was a rush on at the time to get cheques out to claimants so that they could bank before Christmas and to that end there were 10 of us temps working in the typing pool. You arrived to start work dead on the dot of 9.00am and there was one hour for lunch, a quick nip to the loo watched like a hawk by the supervisor sat at her desk at the front of the room, and you did not leave until the clock struck 5pm.

You took your completed roll of cheques up to the supervisor who would then check again before submitting to another typing pool where an accompanying letter and envelope would be prepared and then sent over to the post room to be franked.

After a couple of days I got into the swing of things and was typing the whole roll of 100 cheques and presenting them for inspection at 5p.m. To be honest I just kept my head down and apart from exchanging pleasantries with some of the other temps I just wanted to get the job down and out of there. On the fourth day I was taking a bathroom break in the afternoon when three other temps came in and stood with arms crossed behind me.

Their spokesperson then informed me that I had committed a cardinal sin. I was producing twice the amount of completed cheques as the rest of them who were only typing 50 per day. The supervisor had told them that they were not being productive enough and expected to see an increase in this number immediately. This was not a welcome adjustment to the daily quota as you can imagine.

Apparently the temps had arranged the go slow so that the job would extend out to Christmas Eve therefore preventing any need to move onto another assignment before taking that week off. I had come in and upset the apple cart and if they all typed 100 cheques a day as well we would all be out of there with two weeks left before the holidays.

I am not very good about being coerced especially when I am being paid to do a job and suffice to say that we were all done and dusted by December 12th and moving onto other projects.

There was one assignment that nobody else would take in that run up to Christmas and the agency asked if I would consider taking it on. It was a receptionist/secretary in a large local funeral directors and I will tell you about my adventures there tomorrow.

One of the hits of 1979 was Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney Amazon

I went to school in Malta when my father was posted there for two years and I have been back since to enjoy the crystal blue waters and fabulous welcome from the residents of this small island. Right now as a chill wind sweeps across the house, I would not mind being on a balcony in a t-shirt and shorts….

Being mainly Catholic, Christmas is a very important festival on Malta and the Island of Gozo and most will attend Midnight Mass. As customary there are nativity scenes outside the churches and in Malta and apart from the traditional figures some of the cribs are mechanical and the figures move. On Christmas Eve a figure representing the baby Jesus is put on the altar and on the 13th day after Christmas Eve (Epiphany)  the Wise Men are added to the scene.

The cribs have a long history including one that goes back to the 17th century and resides with Benetictine nuns. Many houses also have cribs on display and also a plaster statue of the baby Jesus in their windows.

Maltese people have a wide range of food at Christmas. Traditionally, the Maltese house-wife kept the fattest capon/rooster, ‘hasi’, especially for Christmas Lunch, which was roasted at the local bakery in a casserole full of potatoes and vegetables. The traditional desert served at Christmas was the Treacle Ring, ‘Qaghqa tal-Ghasel’, and to finish it off, a hot Chestnut and Cocoa Soup, ‘Imbuljuta tal-Qastan’, which was and is served as a cosy night cap during the cold December days in Malta. Thanks as always to Why Christmas where you can find out more about Christmas traditions around the world.

My first guest is author Linda Bethea, who has been a constant visitor to the blog over the last four years, has contributed several of her amusing family anecdotes and has been entertaining us for the last few months with a regular Guest Spot

Her recent post Flease don’t come home for Christmas Willie Tharpe certainly gave me some interesting options for a Christmas gift for her. Her mother Kathleen is a gem who illustrates Linda’s posts and books whilst sharing her childhood in the depression years.

I am delighted to have her as a friend and contributor..

Here is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

I ferreted around on Youtube to find a Christmas gift for Linda…..

As you will read if you head over to the link above featuring Willie Tharpe…Linda’s family came up close and personal with fleas… but perhaps they were missing an opportunity!!! Courtesy of UKTV

You can read the reviews and buy Linda Bethea’s books:

Linda bethea two51qb8fm4dqL._AC_US240_QL65_

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

Entertaining  on November 5, 2018

Linda Bethea is a truly gifted story teller! I genuinely enjoyed reading the stories of her mother, Kathleen, growing up. My grandparents never told me stories of the Great Depression, so these stories provided me with much needed insight. The stories are told in a colorful, humorous tone that was a joy to read.

The Ninth Day of Christmas (2nd of January) is a celebration of the life and times of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen who with Gregory of Nyssa are referred to as the Cappadocian Fathers. Also known as Basil of Caesarea he was a Greek bishop in around 330AD in what is now modern day Turkey.

As well as being a leading theologian of his time bringing together different factions within the Christian Church he is also revered for his work with the poor and underprivileged. He also set the guidelines for those entering the monastic life including community, work and prayer requirements. He is regarded as a saint in both Eastern and Western Christian philosophies.

The Cappadocian Fathers as a group advanced the development of early Christian theology, for example the doctrine of the Trinity and are highly respected as saints in both Western and Eastern churches.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Nine Ladies Dancing allegedly is part of the covert message contained in the original song that allowed Catholics to celebrate their faith in the face of the appalling persecution all done in the name of Christianity. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit-Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

However, since between the Catholic and Anglican faiths millions have been persecuted and put to death for their faiths I do not believe they have any place in a song associated with Christmas and the love and unity that it is supposed to represent – so for the purposes of our celebration – it is nine love ladies dancing and enjoying the festive season!

Today’s carol is Adeste Fideles sung at the annual concert from Vienna. clipandspotfan

My next guest is #Romance #Fantasy author Sandra J. Jackson who I was delighted to be the guest of in November. 

Sandra J. Jackson was born in Montreal, Quebec but has lived in Ontario for close to 34 years. The last 31 in a rural setting in Eastern Ontario with her husband and children.

An avid reader of many genres, Sandra’s writing does not fall into any specific category. However, her goal is to create stories that pull readers into the book and make them feel as though they are a part of the story.

Sandra shares her most treasured Christmas gift.

I have had a lot of great Christmas presents over the years; downhill ski equipment and a guitar stand out from when I was younger. As an adult there are two others that come to mind. One was a family ring with my husband’s, children’s and my birthstone. The other I received just last Christmas and it made me cry. A beautiful silver necklace with a peridot pendant was the reason for the tears. Why? Because peridot was the birthstone of the infant daughter my husband and I lost in December 1995. I’d always wanted something with just her birthstone and that gift was a complete and beautiful surprise.

White doves are a symbol of peace and also babies who have left us too early…for all parents and their families who hold them in their hearts.

You can read the reviews and buy Sandra J. Jackson’s books:

A recent review for Promised Soul

The book for review is “Promised Soul” by Sandra J. Jackson. This novel falls in the genre of romance fantasy and fiction.

Meet our main character Krista who has decided to take a chance and made summer plans to go away on a vacation on her own. Something her mother most definitely doesn’t approve of.

While she is entertaining her friends prior to leaving she starts getting strange dreams that feel so very real to her. Not knowing what to make out of them she visits someone a friend knows to help dive into the mystery of what is going on.

It however does not stop her from traveling or interrupting her summer plans to England. There the travel agent Aaron, who has arranged every detail, Krista is ready to embark on her adventure.

Between Aaron and his friend who has been very helpful Krista learns and loves the surrounding area as the landscape and people make her feel so welcomed.

But the dreams won’t stop. In fact they are getting stronger as the days go by. The couple in her dreams are vivid and won’t stop until Krista figures out what they mean and how it will impact her immediate future.

Will she figure it out before she loses her mind?

I enjoyed this book. The pace and characters were really nice. It’s a good romance novel that doesn’t get all gooey eye which is how I like it. A good pickup and a quick read. 

I expect many of you fellow chocoholics were beginning to wonder when I was going to get around to the good stuff!

Well here we are on day nine and I think I have shown considerable restraint…For the odd one or two of you who have not been initiated into the wonders of this health bringing delight here is a master class.

The origins of the word chocolate hark back to the Aztecs and “Xocoatl” which was a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans – and the latin name for the cacao tree is very apt – Theobroma cacao which means ‘food of the gods.’ Recent research has revealed that cacao may well have been drunk as long ago as 1400BC. Anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania discovered cacao residue on pottery in Honduras. It was fermented rendering it alcoholic and therefore may well have been the first ‘Baileys’ so beloved by most of us at all times of the year….

The cacao beans in the intervening 3,000 years or so have always had an important role to play as a currency with one cacao bean valued at a tamale (food wrap) or 100 beans which would have bought you a Christmas Turkey. At 16th century prices that was quite expensive.

The Mayans and the Aztecs, like most of us, believed that the bean had magical and divine qualities and used in the most sacred of rituals. Since many of these involved human sacrifice it is not surprising that to calm the nerves of those about to jump into the fiery volcanic depths or face the chop would be offered a cup of cocao sweetened with the blood of previous victims!

In fact there is a good reason why this ‘nourishment of the gods’ cheers us all up even if we are not facing certain doom.. The chemicals in chocolate stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain that produce a feel good effect. It also stimulates the production of theobromine, which is related to caffeine and apparently produces its renowned aphrodisiac qualities.

The original drink was very bitter like most things that do you good. The Aztecs mistakenly welcomed Spanish invaders into their cultures on the assumption that they were the gods they had been sacrificing victims to for the last millenium.. They offered their most prized possessions in the form of gold and of course their cocao drink which was apparently met with less than glowing reviews. Allegedly one food critic of the time described it as ‘a bitter drink for pigs’. However, like many natural flavoured drinks such as tea and coffee a spoonful of sugar or honey changed the history of cocao for ever.

By the 17th century chocolate was drunk throughout Europe and was given nutritional, medicinal and aphrodisiac star ratings. In around 1828 a Dutch chemist managed to convert the popular drink into its now more familiar form of solid chocolate. By 1850 Fry’s chocolate was on the shelves swiftly followed by Cadburys in England.

It is highly unlikely that an Aztec high priest would recognise any of the many types and flavours of chocolate that are now available but I am sure that he would appreciate that it still maintains its mythical status as ‘nectar of the gods’.

One of the traditional drinks at Christmas and New Year is a punch, usually served in a silver or glass punch bowl.

Punch can refer to both alcoholic or non-alcoholic concoctions that include fruit juice and the concept was brought to England in the 17th century from India. The word ‘punch’ derives from the Sanskrit for ‘Five’ and was traditionally made with 5 ingredients. After plantation owners in the West Indies discovered the delights of rum in a punch, this spirit began to replace the more traditional brandy.

It is very useful to have two bowls of punch on the go if you are having a larger gathering as guests can serve themselves. I make one for those who enjoy spirits and ones who are teetotal. You can use the same main ingredients and I have used red grape juice as a substitute for red wine and the spirits.

Here is a wonderfully cheerful punch concocter… an expert with rum..

Thank you very much for joining us today and I hope you have enjoyed. Thanks Sally



22 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas Celebrations the Ninth Day of Christmas with guests Linda Bethea and Sandra J. Jackson

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas Celebrations – The Weekly Round Up – More parties, books, stories and music.. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  2. As you can see, Sally, I am behind on these posts (along with everything else) but playing catch-up today. I loved your story about being too efficient on the job, and glad you didn’t bend to the coercion. 🙂 These are all great stories and Chocolate…what’s not to love? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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