Welcome to the rewind of the series from 2018 which features not only the food and traditions of Christmas but also some special guests who it would be lovely to share Christmas dinner with in person. In the series my guests shared their best Christmas gift ever…and there will be food including from our resident foodie Carol Taylor, my favourite drinks for the holidays, and of course music to get you into the spirit of the season..
Welcome to the Seventh Day of Christmas and today I am taking the opportunity to thank another of the contributors to the blog in 2017 and 2018 who brought some wonderful book recommendations via her Literary Column. Jessica Norrie author of one of my favourite books.. The Magic Carpet.
My other guest is fantasy/paranormal YA author Marjorie Mallon and I am looking forward to sharing her special Christmas gift memories.
First to get you in the mood…. one of the iconic Christmas songs is given the Mel Torme touch...Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas..
Time to meet my special guest Jessica Norrie who broadened our knowledge of books in the Literary Column. I for one have added some amazing books to my TBR based on her recommendations. I was delighted to meet her in person at the 2017 Bloggers Bash.
Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching creatively in multicultural schools, was published in July 2019, and she is working on a third. She divides her time between London and Malvern, blogging, singing soprano, and walking in the forest and hills.
As a thank you to Jessica for her wonderful contributions to the blog I have found what I hope will be an acceptable gift, and for our enjoyment too.
Jessica is a soprano and sings with an amazing choir called the Hackney Singers and here is a snippet from one of their Christmas concerts. Jessica had written about music and the choir on her blog
Here is the choir’s performance of Hallelujah from their 2009 Christmas concert uploaded by Lynne Troughton
Books by Jessica Norrie
Two more iconic performers now put on a display that would make any Christmas Party go with a swing..James Cagney and Bob Hope dance off.
Day 7 (31st December): New Years Eve (known as Hogmanay in Scotland). One of the earliest Popes Sylvester I is celebrated on this day. He is still remembered across central and eastern Europe and you will often find New Year’s Eve referred to as ‘Silvester’ New Year’s Eve in the UK was celebrated from medieval times but with sport particularly archery which was mandatory for all men between the ages of 17-60 – the territorial army of its day with men trained to fight.
Over the years many interesting traditions have developed for celebrating the turn of the old year to the new and of course the making of resolutions….
It is rumoured that all the gifts of Christmas originally were code references to various Catholic beliefs that had to be kept secret during the various persecutions that occurred over the centuries from around 1530. There is little evidence this is the case but the Seven Swans Swimming were said to represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The first time the carol was sung in Britain was in the 18th Century and was a game where if you forgot a verse you paid the price in the form of sweets or a kiss…I think I played that game once.
I can beat the Seven Swans – feeding time at Bray Harbour in Southern Ireland…
Christmas Carols – Deck the Halls
The popular “Deck the Halls” song is a Christmas carol that dates back to the sixteenth century. It wasn’t always associated with Christmas, however; the melody comes from a Welsh winter song called “Nos Galan,” which is actually about New Year’s Eve.
The first time “Deck the Halls” was published with English lyrics was in 1862, in Welsh Melodies, Vol. 2, featuring Welsh lyrics by John Jones and English lyrics written by Thomas Oliphant. Pentatonix
My next guest is author and blogger M.J. Mallon (Marjorie)
My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros!
M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.
Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black hearted shadows.
Favourite genres to write: Fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic!
Coming soon…Golden Healer – The Curse of Time Book 2
Marjorie shares her best Christmas gift ever
It’s coming up to a very special day. I married age twenty-three and nearly twenty-five Christmases ago we were so looking forward to sharing Christmas at our neighbours.
On Christmas morning my husband began to build the cot. He started yelling that the darn thing wasn’t fitting and with all the excitement my waters broke.
Surely this couldn’t be happening – my due date was 9th January?
Guess who was the best Christmas present ever?
And here is Natasha… all grown up and working in South Korea until 2018.
I know from Marjorie’s bio that she enjoy’s Tai Chi and I have arranged for her to virtually join Jojo Hua performing Chen style Tai chi on Whatipu beach , Auckland , New Zealand. A little bit of a change in weather to the UK and Irish gales and cold at the moment.
Books by M.J. Mallon
Time for another succulent recipe from one of Carol Taylor’s festive menus.. this time for a more traditional roast turkey dinner where the stuffing is as important as the bird…..
Bacon, Chestnut and Cranberry Christmas Stuffing.
• 450g sausage meat
• 2 rashers unsmoked back bacon, cut into strips
• 100g dried cranberries
• 50ml ruby port
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 50g butter
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 140g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs
• 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
• ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
• 140g peeled, cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
• 1 medium egg, beaten
- Soak the cranberries in the port for an hour.
- Fry the onion and bacon gently in the butter, until the onion is tender and the bacon is cooked.
- Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so.
Cool slightly, and then mix with all the remaining ingredients, including the cranberries and port, adding enough egg to bind I find it easiest to use my hands so get those hands in and mix thoroughly.
- Next, I do a little tester; in fact, I generally do that with all my stuffing as it is the only way to tell if the seasoning is correct. Fry a knob of stuffing in a little butter, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- This stuffing can be baked in a dish or rolled into balls that will be crisp on the outside and moist inside.
- Bake in a greased dish at 190C/gas 5/fan 170C for about 40 minutes, until browned and, in the case of sausage meat stuffing, cooked right through.
- Alternatively, roll into balls that are about 4cm in diameter. Roast the stuffing balls in hot fat (they can be tucked around the turkey or done in a roasting tin of their own) for 30-40 minutes, until crisp and nicely browned on the outside.
You can find some great recipes for Christmas starters, mains and desserts with vegetarian options over at Carol’s Blog: Carol Cooks 2
I do enjoy a good sherry before a meal and of course living in Spain there was a plentiful selection of excellent varieties. We did travel through the country in the 17 years that we lived in Madrid, and a visit to Jerez is intoxicating…..and you can also find some of the most beautiful Andulsian horses combined with Flamenco.. I have seen this live as part of the Andulsian version of Carmen.Afzal Plus
There are three main types of sherry – dry, medium and sweet. You would probably enjoy a chilled dry sherry before a heavier fatty meal, a medium with a lighter fish meal perhaps and the sweet goes well with dessert.
The supermarkets are producing some great dry sherry and you might try an Oloroso or Fino and chill in the fridge first… For a medium – Amontillado Sherry and a richer Cream Sherry both available from Jerez and in supermarkets.
For more information on top of the range sherries and their origins: Liquorista best Sherry
Thank you for joining us today and I hope you have enjoyed the stories, music, food and gifts. Tomorrow my guests are Donata Zawadzka who illustrated Tales from the Irish Garden, and author and poet Robbie Cheadle.. I hope you will join us.. Thanks Sally