Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations Rewind – The Eighth Day of Christmas with guests Illustrator Donata Zawakzka and author Robbie Cheadle, #Food Carol Taylor, nut roast with salsa

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..

Not long now until the big day and my guests in this party are Donata Zawakzka who is a talented artist and illustrator, and who is responsible for the artwork in my fantasy short story collection Tales from the Irish Garden… My other guest is poet and author Robbie Cheadle, who also creates art in the form of fondant figures that illustrate the children’s books she writes with her son Michael. Robbie will be sharing her most favourite Christmas gift ever.

Sally’s Christmas Past

My memory of Christmas past is of my father and the 12.45 rule that was strictly adhered to throughout my childhood and teenage years.

My father cooked the Christmas lunch for as long as I could remember which would be from about age four or five. We lived on Hoad’s Hill which was on the main road into the village of Wickham from Portsmouth and Fareham. My mother had been brought up in the village from the age of seven. Her father had been killed in the last week of the First World War when she was just 18 months old and my grandmother had worked as a seamstress and eked out the small war pension that she was awarded. Eventually she returned to Hampshire where her mother’s family farmed and to be close to her father and sisters in Gosport.

My grandmother married the master butcher Norman Welch whose shop was at the top of the square when my mother was about seven years old and eventually he had built the house on Hoad’s Hill. Each day he would telephone from the shop and ask what the boy should bring up for lunch. The boy on his bike would duly arrive with the joint of the day. With wonderful farms in the area for other fresh produce and a large orchard at the rear of the house, food was plentiful and varied. Norman was quite a bit older but adored my grandmother who was quite the lady and apparently there was much tension around the Sunday dinner table when he would soak his poor shop weary feet in a mustard bath…..

My parents married in 1940 but my father was at sea for almost all of the next six years only returning from the Far East in 1946. Norman or ‘Pop’ as we knew him deeded the house to my mother and went to live in a small cottage closer to Fareham. Sinclair was our family home where my two elder sisters and myself grew up, joined by my brother when I was four years old. Wickham Village was a wonderful community where we knew most of the families amongst the villagers and the local farmers. At the end of the square is a tea house that is still in business today and has been renamed in honour of Lily Langtry. In our day however it was run by my mother’s best friend Margaret with the help of her elderly mother and aunt.

Wonderful cakes and other delights were always paraded before us in the back kitchen where we as almost family would gather and on Christmas morning it was a tradition for all of us to go down to Aunty Margaret’s for presents, and for my parents to enjoy a bit of the stronger stuff. We always came away with a large tin of Quality Street and our gifts, and after the short car ride home we would tuck into the turkey and trimmings… Legend has it that after one or two Christmas dinners that were on the dry and rather crispy side, my father decided to take over the preparation and cooking as my mother was adamant that our traditional social gathering in the square should continue. He would drop off my mother, two sisters and myself and baby brother, and then return home to finish the preparation and cooking. While the turkey rested and the potatoes roasted he would drop down and pick us up with the absolute rule that the dinner had to be on the table at 12.45 precisely.

As time went on, and whenever he was not at sea, my father would cook the weekend lunches and the 12.45 rule was adhered to. There were awful ructions if we were not prompt and I can tell you that as we became of drinking age, there were some sprint records broken from the local pub in the High Street, Old Portsmouth where we had moved to in 1958.

When he finally retired from the Navy, he took over all the cooking and right up to the day he died at age 80, lunch was always on the table on the dot of 12.45. He became a wonderful cook and in his 70s discovered the wonders of a Wok and would make the most sensational Chinese meals. He was however, first and foremost a ‘pudding’ man and his steamed treacle suet puddings were legendary – I am sure that a couple of inches I have never been able to shift of my hips are down to his steamed puddings both savoury and sweet…..particularly at Christmas.

Time for some music and another timeless classic.. Little Drummer Boy, this time from the Pipes and Drummer of the Irish Defence Forces… Óglaigh na hÉireann / Irish Defence Forces

Now time to meet Donata Zawadzka who I wanted to thank in this series of posts for her wonderful illustrations that she created for my book Tales from the Irish Garden. Not only did she work very closely to the visions that I had in my mind for the characters, but she included me at every step of the process and undercharged in my opinion for the amount of work involved. If you are looking to illustrate a children’s book or need a book cover, Donata also works in colour.

Here are two of the illustrations from Tales from the Irish Garden that demonstrate how talented Donata is.

About Donata

My name is Donata Ewa Zawadzka. I’m Polish born artist living in Gravesend, Kent. After completing a Diploma in Interior Design in Poland I moved into United Kingdom and here I obtained a Diploma in Illustrating Children’s Books in London Art College in 2010. Since then I finished 2 ebook for children in collaboration with British and American writers. I took part in 2 exhibitions in Dartford and London. I’m continuing to work as freelance artist available for commission.

Connect to Donata Zawadzka – website : Donata’s Art – Facebook: Donata Zawadzka – Twitter: @DonataEZawadzka

In Dona’s interview in 2017 she mentioned that although she loved living in England, she missed the wonderful forests of the Tatra Mountains that were her home… they are certainly majestic. I hope she will enjoy this short video.

Thanks to all things festive Why Christmas here is something about Christmas crackers.

They were first made in about 1845-1850 by a London sweet maker called Tom Smith. He had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper). He came back to London and tried selling sweets like that in England and also included a small motto or riddle in with the sweet. But they didn’t sell very well.

Legend says that, one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half.

Crackers were originally called ‘cosaques’ and were thought to be named after the ‘Cossack’ soldiers who had a reputation for riding on their horses and firing guns into the air!

When Tom died, his expanding cracker business was taken over by his three sons, Tom, Walter and Henry. Walter introduced the hats into crackers and he also traveled around the world looking for new ideas for gifts to put in the crackers.

Traditionally apart from a plastic toy… there is a paper hat and a silly joke… something along the lines of the following courtesy of Funny Jokes

What did Father Christmas do when he went speed dating?
He pulled a cracker!

What do you get if Santa comes down your chimney when the fire is ablaze?
Crisp Kringle.

Why does rain drop, but snow fall?
(Nobody can answer this conundrum)

What do you get if you team Santa with a detective?
Santa Clues!

What do you get when you cross a vampire and a snowman?

What is the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet?
The Christmas alphabet has No L (Noel).

Six years ago a young girl took the world by storm and Amira Willighagen joins André Rieu with a stunning rendition of O Mio Babbino Caro courtesty of André Rieu

This extraordinary young teenager now lives in South Africa and is still singing. She live streamed a concert during lockdown and is planing a live concert when possible, hopefully this Christmas.. You can find out more about her:Amira Online

Day 8 (1st January) is a celebration of Mary the Mother of Jesus and obviously Mary was extremely important within the whole story of the Nativity from the Virgin conception through Jesus’s lifetime. Mary has been revered in her own right especially with women in a number of religions including Eastern Orthadox and as Maryam in the Muslim faith.

The Eighth Day of Christmas and we appear to have moved away from the bird theme and to be honest since we had reached the largest bird known to us the next step would have been ostrich and it would have ruined the song. We move onto the eight maids a milking.

One of the more intricate recipes that has run parallel to the song itself was the roasting of a swan but inside that de-boned swan would be a goose, a colly bird, a French Hen a turtle dove and then a partridge.. It took many hours to prepare but was considered a dish fit to put before a king…Thankfully even our present day royalty seem to content to have the humble turkey for their dinner which is just as well since that is the subject of the food today.

Time to meet my next guest who is not likely to be a stranger to you. Children’s author, YA author and Poet Robbie Cheadle who has become a powerhouse in our blogging community with her support for all of us with guest spots and her book reviews.

About Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle is a children’s author and poet. She also writes books for adults under the name of Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

The Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie writes a monthly series for Writing to be Read called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, Robbie’s Inspiration where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Robbie shares her most favourite Christmas Gift.

When I was a small girl of five years old, my mother didn’t work. As a result money was tight but my parents always managed to give my sister and me a special gift for Christmas. I was an avid doll lover and I remember receiving a First Love doll that year. She was beautiful and I could feed her water with a bottle. The water would come out into the small nappies that came with the doll. My mother hand sewed and knitted that doll a large wardrobe of clothes from scraps of material and bits of leftover wool.

Aaahh… well here is one of the adverts for First Love Dolls and I hope it brings back happy memories for Robbie….

A selection of books for adults and children by Roberta Eaton Cheadle.


Read the reviews and Buy the books :Amazon US And:Amazon UK – Follow Robbie : Goodreads – blog: Robbie’s Inspiration- Twitter: @bakeandwrite

Time for another dish from Carol Taylor’s Vegetarian Christmas Menu and it is an alternative to the turkey and as you can see from the menu… a wonderful feast for everyone in the family.

Image The brown paper bag.

Nut Roast with salsa

• 40 g unsalted butter , plus extra for greasing
• 100 g quinoa
• 150 g onion squash or cooking pumpkin
• 1 onion
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 2 sticks of celery
• olive oil
• 200 g tinned or vac-packed chestnuts
• 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 pinch of sweet smoked paprika
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 2 large field mushrooms
• 1 lemon
• 60 g fresh breadcrumbs
• 80 g dried cranberries
• 100 g dried apricots
• 100 g mixed nuts , such as walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and brazil nuts
• 4 large free-range eggs
• 40 g mature Cheddar cheese


• 2 fresh red chillies
• 1 stick of cinnamon
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1 small onion
• ½ bunch of fresh thyme , (15g)
• 2 x 400 g tins of quality plum tomatoes or the equivalent in fresh tomatoes.
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Let’s Cook

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease a 1 litre loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cook the quinola according to the instructions on the packet and set to one side.
  3. Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, then chop the flesh into rough 1cm chunks (you don’t need to peel the skin) unless you are using cooking pumpkin. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Peel and finely slice the garlic, then trim and roughly chop the celery.
  4. Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil into a large pan over a medium heat, add the chopped vegetables and crumble in the chestnuts. Add the picked rosemary leaves, discard the stalks.
  5. Add the cayenne, paprika and oregano and season with salt and pepper stir well and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 15 mins or until slightly softened add the chopped mushrooms to the pan for the last 5 mins of cooking.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and grate in half of the lemon zest.
  7. Put mixture into a bowl and stir in the cooled quinola, breadcrumbs, dried fruit and nuts if you prefer your nuts les chunky then chop into smaller pieces.
  8. Crack the eggs into the mixture and stir well to combine then put the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Put into the pre-heated oven and cook for 45-50 minutes until cooked through and set.
  9. When there is about 30 minutes to go make the salsa… Over a low –medium heat put a pan with a glug of olive oil and add the pricked chillies and the cinnamon. Add the finely sliced garlic and the onions cut into 8 wedges. Pick some of the time leaves reserving a few sprigs for garnish. Add the tomatoes plus 2 cups of water stir well breaking up the tomatoes.
  10. Season and stir in the balsamic vinegar then bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for around 20 minutes or until the mixture is thickened and reduced.
  11. Once the tomato mix is ready remove 1 chilli, carefully halve and deseed and roughly chop and return to the mix. If required loosen the salsa with a little water remove the whole chilli and cinnamon stick and put to one side.
  12. Remove the nut roast from the oven and carefully remove from the tin. Put the nut roast into the tin containing the salsa and grate the cheese over the top. Put the cinnamon stick and reserved chilli back into the mix and put the reserved thyme sprigs over the top.
  13. Return to the oven for 10-15m minutes or until bubbling and golden.

You can find some great recipes for Christmas starters, mains and desserts with vegetarian options over at Carol’s Blog: Carol Cooks 2

Another popular carol but this time everyone can join in as it is a flash mob of O Come All You Faithful…The Five Strings

Thank you for dropping in today and please leave your special Christmas memories in the comments.. Merry Christmas. Sally


54 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations Rewind – The Eighth Day of Christmas with guests Illustrator Donata Zawakzka and author Robbie Cheadle, #Food Carol Taylor, nut roast with salsa

  1. Wonderful post, Sally. I remember some of your stories about your childhood and your Dad’s cooking but didn’t recall his rule. (Living in Spain, with our outrageous mealtimes would have driven him crazy). Donata’s illustrations are wonderful (you know I love her donkey in particular, although all are gorgeous), I hadn’t heard the story about the crackers, and it was great to read about Robbie’s favourite gift (I was never lucky with any dolls who were supposed to do anything, to tell you the truth, much as I liked them), and thanks to Carol. I don’t eat meat, so her vegetarian Christmas dinner has given me plenty of ideas. Merry Christmas all!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One of my many memories of Christmas was when I was about 4 years old.
    My dad came to collect me from my bedroom on Christmas morning and carried me down the stairs.

    To my surprise, there on the table was the most beautiful hand made dolls house.
    It was a bungalow with a lift up roof so you could play inside.
    There was a colourful covered patio made with tile samples.
    My mum had cut out pictures to go on the wall.
    The bedrooms were small but the living area was a large L shape with a kitchen and serving hatch.
    It was beautiful and my aunt Vera gave me the doll while my aunt Rose gave me the flower garden to make.
    For a few years at Christmas or birthday I was given something to add to the house.
    It really was so well made.
    My dad had been going to woodwork classes and must have been very busy.
    I don’t know what my older sister were given or even my baby sister but this was perfect for me.

    The large dolls house sat perfectly on the bulkhead over the staircase in my bedroom.

    I played with it so much.
    I could even sit in the living room area.
    Which I did until unfortunately I became too big and broke it.

    I can remember it so well and the Christmas it was given.
    Thank you for reminding me.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. What a wonderfully poignant post, Sally. I loved reading about the 12:45 rule. 🙂 Traditions are to be honored and treasured and this post does just that. Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas to all these wonderful contributors and you!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What another wonderful piece of your life, Sally! Your mother couldn’t complain about marrying a soldier. I hope that your father made no other military demands. 😉 The drawings are so wonderful, and make your story with the fairies so much wonderful. Thanks also to Robbie for the great recipe. Beeing honest i never had eaten meat with nuts. This will be a great surprise. xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Sally, thank you for sharing this post that includes my favourite Christmas gift. I see you updated the author bio to my latest, you really do go the extra mile. My dad also had rules about meal times and his were for all three meals of the day. Wishing you and David a very Merry Christmas. I am going off-line for a few weeks have exhausted myself with work, writing and looking after sick people this year. I feel a break will do me good.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s the 12.45 rule and the cooking that made your memories of your dad the most precious, Sally. It warms your heart whenever you think about him. Donata’s illustrations are beautiful. I heard of Robbie’s doll collection and it’s lovely to hear about her first doll. My daughter and her husband are vegetarians. We’ll spend Christmas with them. Carol’s Christmas vegetarian menu comes in handy. I listened to Amira Willighagen’s O Mio Babbino Caro with André Rieu many many times. I also listened to her Holland’s Got Talent when she was 8 years old.
    Thank you for all the wonderful Christmas updates, Sally. Merry Christmas to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Loved this post – a bit of everything and all wonderful. Love the bagpipes and the Tatra mountains video. We climbed them but from the Slovakia side. Camped out in mountain huts.
    Merry Christmas, dear Sally!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for sharing my Xmas menu, Sally it is much appreciated…My father was like yours a stickler for meal times and the one time I changed it at Christmas there he sat all on his own at the dining room table with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other…Waiting!…We still laugh about it now… I just sent the grandchildren in one at a time to chat to him while he waited…bless him Hugs xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Another post cramed full of treats! I’m a great fan of steamed puddings. The Little Drummer Boy was lovely – as a Scot, the pipes call to me even if they’re Irish ones. Amira simply astonished me and, like many in the audience, I found myself wiping away a stray tear or two. Robbie’s First Love Doll sounds a bit like my beloved Rosebud doll only I had to squeeze the poor thing hard with two hands to get the water to come out again! I hope Robbie has a really satisfying break and I wish her the happiest of Christmases. Sue’s dolls house sounds incredible in its construction and the love that went behind it. As for Carol’s nut roast, as a vegetarian I’ve already printed it out. I’ve never seen one that actually looks good, too! So may thanks, Sally. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a beautiful post, Sally. I particularly loved the story of your father. My dad only cooked when Mom was having babies (nine of them). Otherwise, mom managed the kitchen. Thank you for the shares and the music. I hope you have a magical Christmas. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Celebrations 19th – 26th December 2021 – Music, Book Fair, Parties Shortstories and Funnies | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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