About Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

My name is Sally Cronin and I am doing what I love.. Writing. Books, short stories, Haiku and blog posts. My previous jobs are only relevant in as much as they have gifted me with a wonderful filing cabinet of memories and experiences which are very useful when putting pen to paper. I move between non-fiction health books and posts and fairy stories, romance and humour. I love variety which is why I called my blog Smorgasbord Invitation and you will find a wide range of subjects. You can find the whole story here. Find out more at https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-me/

Straightlaced Saturday — Cornelis Drebbel 22.1


As I close down for the night. I will leave you with the next episode of Copper, the Alchemist and the Woman in Trousers (Felicity) at Teagan Geneviene. There are all kinds of green pointers to the possible location of Copper’s father.. did he jump or was he pushed? you will get the meaning of that if you head over to read..and Cornelis might just have enough aura for you to fit into the road locomotive but you better hurry or you will be left behind. #recommended

Teagan's Books

Saturday, December 15 , 2018 

Cover Copper Alchemist Woman n TrousersIt’s Straightlaced Saturday!  Welcome aboard the #SteamPunk train.  Our destination is the northern Pacific coast of the USA, during the Victorian Era.  We’re headed for another episode of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.

Back in 2015, the random “three things” for this chapter were provided by John W. Howell at Fiction Favorites.  As some of you might remember, this serial was originally a culinary mystery.  John sent some delicious things to drive the episode.  Consider yourselves warned that reading may give you the munchies. 

Since I know you have a lot of other things to do on the weekend, I’ve divided this rather long chapter.  The third thing will play out on Hidebound Hump Day.

Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

Chapter 21The alchemist had been using his harmonic tuner on a map, trying to…

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Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a book for Christmas – #DogLovers, #Romance #Fantasy #Poetry – Patty Fletcher, Miriam Hurdle, Sandra J. Jackson and Deborah Jay.


Welcome to more Christmas gift ideas from the Cafe and Bookstore and the first writer is Patty Fletcher who despite being sight impaired has not let this stand in the way of becoming a published author. Patty’s companion and Seeing Eye Dog, King Campbell comes into his own with Bubba Tales that would delight any dog owner.

About Bubba’s Tails

In this magical and love filled tail, King Campbell AKA Bubba travels to the puppy nursery at The Seeing Eye to help ready a group of puppies who are just about to embark on the fabulous journey of learning to become Seeing Eye dogs. Just as he is about to finish his tail, a wee pup becomes very frightened of all that lies ahead, and one frightfully stormy night she runs away! Will King Campbell hear the urgent call from the puppy nursery in time? Will they find her and save her so she can fulfill her destiny?

The use of Tail instead of Tale for story and Magik instead of Magic is intended for these short stories. A great play on words from King Campbell

One of the reviews for Bubba’s Tails

Wow! I loved reading this! What an amazing story about an incredible journey. This is about a journey from The Seeing Eye, Inc. in New Jersey to Kingsport Tennessee, but is also about the journey of a loving owner, and her special canine companion. I loved reading the story through King Campbell’s point of view, and how he is talking to the next litter of pups about to train as Seeing Eye Dogs. This is something the has always fascinated me and was the first time I was really allowed a look at some of what goes into training these special dogs. The book is made all the more exciting because the author and her dog Campbell went through this journey years ago. Such a creative way to share their story, and I can’t wait to read more of King Campbell’s Bubba Tails!

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Bubba-Tails-Nursery-Seeing-Campbell-ebook/dp/B0765BWDJF

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bubba-Tails-Nursery-Seeing-Campbell-ebook/dp/B0765BWDJF/

Also by Patty Fletcher

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00Q9I7RWG/

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Patty-L.-Fletcher/e/B00Q9I7RWG/

Patty has also contribute to two anthologies

December Awethology Light  https://www.books2read.com/u/3yPZvB

A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales  https://www.books2read.com/u/bzaAML

Connect to Patty via her blog: http://www.campbellsworld.wordpress.com

A recent edition to the Cafe and Bookstore is Miriam Hurdle with Songs of the Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude. A gift to keep close to hand to dip into for inspiration.

About  Songs of Heartstrings

Human being has the willpower to travel through an exhausting journey, win a tough battle, and heal a deep wound. Strength from hope keeps us going until the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight and striving until the storm is over.

This poetic memoir comprises themes ranging from the suffering through an undesirable relationship, surviving an aggressive cancer, to the happiness in true love, the joy of parenthood, and gratefulness toward the Maker. Hurdle reveals the honest self-talk and reflects a heart filled with optimism, faith and trust. She illustrates the poems with her beautiful photos and paintings.

A recent review for the collection

Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude,” is a journey into the mind of a woman who has found her voice in this world through her poetry. Hurdle splits the book into poetic songs categorized by Nature, Dissonance, Physical Healing, Marriage, Parenthood, Tribute, Reflection, Challenge, and Inspiration. These categories lead the reader on a path to understanding her life through times of joy and sorrow. Her photos and artwork are stunning and compliment her poetry. For me, reading poetry is like walking beside the poet and stepping into their footsteps, connecting with their experiences in a deeper realm of being. Reading poetry is subjective, so I judge most poetry by how it invokes emotions within me and how it makes me reflect on my own human condition. The poem, “Healing,” touched a deep chord within me. Yet, there were so many more connections I experienced. I received this book as a gift from a dear friend. That’s the kind of book this is, one to be shared with others, and to be reread many times. MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5 Reader Engagement: 5 Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars 

The collection is available in Ebook and print: https://www.amazon.com/Songs-Heartstrings-Poems-Gratitude-Beatitude-ebook/dp/B07K1S47W9

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Songs-Heartstrings-Poems-Gratitude-Beatitude-ebook/dp/B07K1S47W9

Read reviews and follow Miriam on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17252131.Miriam_Hurdle

Connect to Miriam via her website: https://theshowersofblessings.com/

Time for a metaphysical romantic fiction from Sandra J. Jackson and her book Promised Soul. Especially for those who experience déjà vu on a regular basis.

About Promised Soul

Just as Krista’s summer plans are almost ready, she is suddenly plagued by strange dreams and intense feelings of déjà vu.

Feeling like she’s losing her mind, Krista visits a psychic, only to feel more confused. When she arrives in England, her dreams persist, and she finds herself at the doorstep of another psychic. She needs clarity.

Finally, the words Krista was afraid to say out loud are spoken. Now, she has to figure out what it all means.

Promised Soul is a story of the past, present and future of two souls, bound together by eternal and transcending love.

One of the recent reviews for Promised Soul

Romance ficton on October 23, 2018

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.

Read the other reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Promised-Soul-Sandra-J-Jackson-ebook/dp/B07BZDK2SR/

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Promised-Soul-Sandra-J-Jackson-ebook/dp/B07BZDK2SR/

Also by Sandra J. Jackson

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-J.-Jackson/e/B00UZJO5DY

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sandra-J.-Jackson/e/B00UZJO5DY

Read other reviews and follow Sandra on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13681910.Sandra_J_Jackson

Connect to Sandra via her website: www.sandrajjackson.com

And the last author today but certainly not least  Deborah Jay with The Prince’s Man which is Book One in The Five Kingdoms Series.

About The Prince’s Man

Think ‘James Bond meets Lord of the Rings’

Rustam Chalice, dance tutor, gigolo and spy, loves his life just the way it is. So when the kingdom he serves is threatened from within, he leaps into action. Only trouble is, the spy master, Prince Hal, teams him up with an untouchable aristocratic assassin who despises him.

And to make matters worse, she’s the most beautiful woman in the Five Kingdoms.

Plunged into a desperate journey over the mountains, the mismatched pair struggle to survive deadly wildlife, the machinations of a spiteful god – and each other.

They must also keep alive a sickly elf they need as a political pawn. But when the elf reveals that Rustam has magic of his own, he is forced to question his identity, his sanity and worst, his loyalty to his prince.

For in Tyr-en, all magic users are put to death.

Award winning novel, THE PRINCE’S MAN is a sweeping tale of spies and deadly politics, inter-species mistrust and magic phobia, with an underlying thread of romance.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Oct 05, 2018 Erth rated it really liked it  · 

Erth rated it really liked it · review of another edition now I am hooked. This was such a great, easy and creative book. I was hooked after the first page.

The characters were easy to fall in love with and follow, along with the story. the author made the mental visions so easy and vivid of the surroundings and the characters actions felt so real.  I would highly recommend this author and this book.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Princes-Man-Five-Kingdoms-Book-ebook/dp/B00I9N2Q20

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Princes-Man-Five-Kingdoms-Book-ebook/dp/B00I9N2Q20

Other books in the Five Kingdoms series and other books by Deborah Jay

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Jay/e/B00E4X3UHY

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deborah-Jay/e/B00E4X3UHY

Read more reviews and follow Deborah on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7172608.Deborah_Jay

Connect with Deborah via her website: http://deborahjayauthor.com/

Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope that you will leave with a book or two.. thanks Sally.

#PoetryReadathon – Meet poetry blogger Brad Volz


Another excellent post from Robbie Cheadle as part of her Poetry Readathon.. and her guest today is Brad Volz… sharing his poetry and other poets that inspire him..#recommended

Robbie's inspiration

Poetry readathonmusebrad's profile picture

Michael and I are delighted to welcome blogger and writer, Brad Volz, to robbiesinspiration today

Brad Volz has a most interesting blog called Writing to Freedom. He writes a variety of lovely poems, including haikus, and he also has a series entitled Awesome Stories where he shares all sorts of amazing accomplishments by various people in the area of saving Earth from negative human interventions.

Brad has recently started a series called Soulful Sunday the purpose of which is to share poems, musing and thoughts that feed our souls.

I am sharing the following poem by Brad today:

A season of love

lush petals dripping

awakening hungry senses

a convoy of enticing aromas

wafting through my body

the goddess of romance beckons

with trepidation, I heed the siren call

venturing forth in a season of love

Brad’s beautiful poems are always accompanied by the most outstanding floral photographs.

Tell…

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – Christmas Traditions Le Pard Family Style by Geoff Le Pard


Welcome to the second Christmas guest post from Geoff Le Pard and this week Geoff shares some of the traditions that were observed at Christmas in his family.

My Christmases as a child were what we called traditional but everyone’s Christmas traditions have their own quirks, imposed by the characteristics of the participants. These are mine.

1. My father enjoyed a pint. Or several. He was an active member of the local rugby club and Christmas eve would often involve a social element. Mum wasn’t any less inclined to join in and since my grandmother (mum’s mum) would be staying there was baby sitting… The inevitable aftermath, however meant my mother had to get Dad to bed without waking us; my grandmother had plenty of fuel for folded-arm-tutting the next day; and woe betide we two boys if we woke the original bear with a sore bonce too early or the Christmas spirit would rapidly drain away down the plughole marked ‘hangover’;

2. Consequently there was never any sherry left for Santa – Gran didn’t think it prudent to intoxicate a man in charge of a sleigh, nor it later emerged, add to my father’s already considerable quantity of ingested Christmas spirit;

3. Christmas mornings were quiet affairs; after we emptied our stockings – dad’s rugby socks which had the unfortunate habit when stretched of covering our beds in the embedded grit that mum’s careful washing didn’t remove – we would repair to the living room to open our presents that had been carefully positioned under the tree. At this point the Archaeologist came into his didactic own – he would organize the presents into piles each gift having already undergone a fairly severe forensic analysis; back then no one x-rayed parcels or hand luggage but had they thought about doing so they might have first investigated my brother’s uncanny ability to ascertain the nature and cost of the wrapped present merely from judicious poking, prodding and shaking. As he handed the gift to the recipient he would tell them what they were getting which amused the adults and pissed me off no end;

4. For reasons I thought odd, but later realised were down to the alcoholic content of my father’s blood, we had breakfast after we had opened the presents; Christmas breakfast usually comprised a soft boiled egg and soldiers which again was portrayed to this gullible child as a simple fayre prior to the monstrosity that would later be served, but was also, and this was an incidental by product naturally, effectively hospital food;

5. Mum would now be tied to the kitchen with gran in tow while my brother and I would be dispatched to either play with our new presents, set up the model railway (there would often be a new train or coach or something) or start watching the marathon amount of Christmas TV. In the sixties the only days of the year, pretty much, when you could see programmes that might interest a pre teen were Christmas Day, Boxing Day (before the sport kicked in) and New Year’s Day. And unusually, given my father’s fixation with ‘no day time TV’ we were allowed to watch some of these shows. Later, as I developed a taste for pop music and culture I wanted the Top of The Pops Christmas special. The Archaeologist did not. Ever. And the duplicitous cad that he was, he would play a winning card with my parents: the educational card. Since the Beeb only had two channels they would try and alternate something fluffy and young on one with something drear and uplifting on the other and, if put to the Judgement of Solomon my parents would come down on the side of the improving. Grrrr

6. Sometimes people would come round. Usually that included my other grandmother – my nana. To a naïve and shallow and eternally optimistic (save when it came to TV programme selection, of course) child, that meant everyone in the family must love everyone else as I did. And to be fair they maintained that charade pretty well… until the two women had had enough sherry, port and lemon and gin and tonic to found a distillery and the dentured smiles slipped (often with the dentures) into barbed asides. My mother would play eternal peace keeper, my father would find ‘something’ to do somewhere else and my grandmothers would use my brother and I as surrogate battle grounds, one supporting one again the other until my brother lost and went and found Mum. If the guests included either or both my uncles my father saw it as his bounden duty to get them out of my mother’s hair, and away from their mother, by dint of a trip to the pub (pubs back then opened on Christmas lunch time but not in the evening). These hairs of a not so much the dog as of whole slavering pack of hounds would have the desired emollient effect on the male branch so that, by the time they returned for lunch, they would be unhung, mellow and ready for some serious grease and carbs to be delivered via an enormous roast turkey, heaps of roast potatoes and all the usual trimmings.

7. The aftermath was both narcotic and fissile: narcotic in the speed with which the grandmothers and the men folk were rendered insensible – British Christmas afternoon TV which generally involved a rerun of some well trodden film (What a Wonderful Life, The Sound of Music or The Great Escape, discern a theme if you can) aided this process; and fissile in the quantity of global warming components being released into the contained atmosphere of our living room: given we had an open fire back then you have to wonder that there was never an explosion.

8. At some point in the early evening, people would stir and hunger pangs, brought on I guess as much by the amount of alcohol that needed to be processed as by lack of food, meant the introduction of one of the best bits of Christmas: the turkey and stuffing sandwich. Why were these so great? Maybe it was the setting. By then my father, uncles, grandmas and mother were beyond moving very far. They were happy to watch any TV put in front of them and my brother and I were by now in agreement over the latest comedy special, be it Morecombe and Wise, It Ain’t ‘Alf ‘Ot Mum, The Good :Life or whatever; or they were up for some Christmas games like monopoly or charades. Or sometimes they might stir enough to rebuild the trainset, this time on a board on the dining room table and we would play with this for hours, imagining scenarios that could sway from the mundane commute to some war time escape. The men would do the washing up, to much hilarity and we boys were banned from joining in, possibly due to the ribald nature of the story telling that went on.

9. And so, too early for our liking but because we were deemed ‘tired’ by omniscient parents we were dispatched to bed leaving the adults to their interminable games of cards and snifters of scotch and assertions that this had to be the best Christmas ever.

PS I should perhaps add that the Archaeologist sussed the implausible non-Newtonian nature of Santa at about three but entered a pact with my parents that he would still benefit from the gifts if he didn’t break the spell for me. It was a treaty that involved a domestic balance of terror, uneasily kept each year: on the one hand he so wanted to be the one to break the bad news to me; yet on the other he saw little merit in risking sanctions. I have no idea why he didn’t end up in politics.

©Geoff Le Pard

About Geoff Le Pard

I have been writing creatively since 2006 when at a summer school with my family I wrote a short radio play. That led to a novel, some more courses, more novels, each better than the last until I took an MA at Sheffield Hallam. I published my first novel in 2014 – Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. In 2015 a second followed – My Father and Other Liars. In 2016 I have an anthology of short stories out, Life, in a Grain of Sand. I have now added ‘memoir’ to my list of genres with the launch of Apprenticed To My Mother. Other novels can be found here. I write in a range of genres so there is something for everyone..

Before writing, I was a lawyer, ending up at the London Olympics. Now I mix writing with a range of activities, often walking to find inspiration or taking in a variety of sports events.

Good news for Geoff Le Pard Fans…..Coming in the New Year.

About Life In A Conversation

Over the last few years, I have written a lot of flash fiction, often in response to a prompt. These pieces are mostly 500 words or less (with a few longer pieces thrown in) and cover pretty much every major genre apart from YA, MA or children’s fiction. A lot are purely dialogue, or contain a lot of dialogue – hence the conversation.

Now a look at Geoff’s other books

Apprenticed to My Mother: A Memoir Of Barbara Le Pard 2005 to 2010  is a memoir about an extraordinary woman.

When my father died in 2005, I assumed my mother would need more support and someone to help with decisions she previously shared with her husband. What I didn’t realise was the role she had in mind for me: a sort of Desmond 2.0. Over the five years until her death, I played the role of apprentice, learning more about her and her relationship with my father than I had gleaned in my previous 50 years. We laughed, we cried and, occasionally we disagreed, and throughout she manipulated me as, I learnt, she had my father. Neither of us minded much; we were both her so willing fools, for she was an extraordinary woman and we both knew we were in the presence of someone very special.

One of the reviews for the book

Jul 27, 2018 Darlene Foster rated it Five Stars

A wonderful heartwarming book that will leave you laughing and crying, sometimes on the same page. Mr. Le Pard has a great way with words and gives us a delightful glimpse into the lives of his parents. Sprinkled in between amusing episodes of his life as the youngest of two sons, are poems brilliantly composed by his father, most written for his wife, the love of his life. The stories paint a picture of past times in a lovely part of England, where issues are resolved with a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake. Barbara Le Pard is a delightful character, strong-willed, tough and with a huge heart. This book is well written, entertaining and most important, it is written with love.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Apprenticed-My-Mother-Memoir-Barbara-ebook/dp/B07DGZZYBW/

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Apprenticed-My-Mother-Memoir-Barbara-ebook/dp/B07DGZZYBW/

Other Books by Geoff Le Pard

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Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Le-Pard/e/B00OSI7XA0

And Amazon US:https://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Le-Pard/e/B00OSI7XA0

Read more reviews and follow Geoff on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9791177.Geoff_Le_Pard

My thanks to Geoff for his lovely tribute to Christmas and also to his family who sound like a wonderful clan…

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Third Day of Christmas with guests Jennie Fitzkee and Lisa Thomson


On the Christmas before we left for Cape Town and aged eight I was in a bit of a quandary. I had searched the house top to bottom looking for my Christmas presents including the in the basement which was officially out of bounds, unless I was with my sister listening to her record player which had been banished from my father’s earshot.

I had found my five year old brother’s present which I have to say being a tomboy I was more than envious of. It was a red cowboy hat, waistcoat and holster with a silver six shooter… I knew who the weakest link in the family was and I applied pressure daily to find out what my gift was… Eventually the week before the big day he partially cracked and announced heatedly that it had ‘four wheels and you pushed it’.

You will probably gather that a dolly pram was not exactly what I had in mind. But I was a properly brought up child, and whilst I was more excited by the books that I received, I showed appropriate gratitude for said pram, which held a blonde haired replica of what my mother considered to be the perfect child……

It took me 24 hours, but I was was wearing the holster, gun and cowboy hat which I borrowed from the end of my brother’s bed while he slept. Sadly…. when we left a few months later for South Africa the pram had to be left behind and of course by the time we got back two years later I was a teenager and it was gifted to another.

Time for a little music and here is Bing Crosby with the classic I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Time to look at how Christmas is celebrated around the world and you can read more via Why Christmas.

Today a look at Egypt where around 15% of the population are christian and celebrate Christmas. They are far more serious about advent than we are here, with a 43 day period of abstinence from all animal products. It is 43 days because they don’t celebrate Christmas until January 7th as in Russia, Ethiopia and Serbia.

There is a special service on Christmas Eve that sometimes go on until the early morning. Having been so good before Christmas, families go to town for their Christmas dinner with a favourite being ‘Fata’ a lamb stew containing bread, rice and garlic.

A great many other Egyptians also celebrate Christmas, but in the commercial sense with most supermarkets selling traditional foods and hotels and restaurants hosting special festivities.

We are now on Day three and in the traditional 12 days this would be 27th December and celebrates the life of St John the Apostle. John and his brother James were disciples of Jesus and John is probably the only one of the apostles who did not suffer a martyr’s death. He lived a relatively long life and is attributed as the author of several books in the New Testament.

The origins of the Twelve Days of Christmas will probably never really be clarified as several people lay claim to it. France is the likely suspect but it has been sung in various formats since about 1780 in England. I suspect that modern day pop stars would be delighted to have their songs still being chanted 240 years later.

As far as the song is concerned according to folklore the Three French Hens probably refer to a variety of chicken from France. There are a number breeds of chicken associated with France particular around the time of the origins of the song. These were the Crevecoeur, Houdans and the La Fleche. I also suspect that the elite of the day thought that using the term French Hen sounded more upmarket that chicken!

Time for my first guest…..

Time for my first guest who is the lovely pre-school teacher and Wedding dancer and singer Jennie Fitzkee. If you have not visited Jennie’s wonderful blog, please do and rediscover the joy of reading along with the children in her classroom. Here is the link to part one of a three part series on Language, Literacy and Storytelling

And if you are wondering about the Wedding dancer and singer bit.. then find out more and meet the Mermatrons

Here is what Jennie had to share about her most favourite Christmas gift ever

1989 was a year of very little money. It was also the year our son desperately wanted the GI Joe Aircraft Carrier for Christmas. Yes, desperately. Ninety nine dollars was the price tag, and that might as well have been nine million dollars. We couldn’t get him his dream. He understood, sort of. He never complained, yet we talked about that dream occasionally over the years.

When he became engaged to be married, we spent Christmas with her family. He unwrapped a huge package from her parents. And there it was, the GI Joe Aircraft Carrier. I don’t know who cried first, but there were many tears shed. Everyone watched in delight as this now grown man played with his beloved toy. Sometimes dreams do come true.

How lovely and what a moment.. I did manage to find a picture of a GI Joe Aircraft Carrier

I had a few ideas of what I could get Jennie as a gift for Christmas and eventually decided on a virtual invitation to join in with the next Mama Mia flashmob… location to be determined…courtesy of Youtube

 

Time for another recipe from Carol Taylor from one of our cook from scratch posts in recent weeks. Cranberries have long been associated with Christmas and usually in cranberry sauce to go with the turkey, however you might like to create a starter from these delicious ingredients. You can find other cranberry recipes Here

Camembert Puffs:

These little puffs don’t take long to make so if I need a quick snack if visitors pop in around sundowner time then these don’t take long. I always keep a little box of already cut puff pastry squares which I can just pop in the oven and I always have a container of cranberry as we like it in a sandwich if we have cold chicken or pork and it is lovely with hot meat or pork schnitzels which I just top with some cream cheese and a spoonful of cranberry sauce.

Ingredients:

• I pack of frozen Puff Pastry, thawed.
• 125 gm(4 oz) of Camembert Cheese.
• 100gm Cranberry Sauce.
• 1 sprig of thyme…leaves picked.
• 1 large egg, beaten.

To Make:

  1. Line 2 baking tins with baking parchment.
  2. Roll out puff pastry and cut into bite-sized squares ( 3cm)
  3. Put onto baking trays making sure you space well apart. Brush top with beaten egg. Chill in the fridge for 20-30 mins.
  4. Put into pre-heated oven 180 or gas mark 6. Cook for approx 10 minutes or until golden brown. Slice Camembert into equal sized pieces and put one in the centre of each pastry square. Top with a tsp of cranberry sauce. Put back into the oven until cheese has melted.
  5. Garnish with Thyme.

My next guest is Lisa Thomson whose passion for writing began during her divorce and has blossomed into more creative pursuit without losing that drive to help others. Her two self-help books, “The great Escape; A Girl’s Guide To Leaving a Marriage” and “A divorce Companion”, help economically-dependent women going through divorce. You can also find helpful posts on the subject on her blog 10 Reasons to watch the War of the Roses again…

“Hearts Unbroken-short stories”, is her first published fiction. Lisa resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Lisa shares her most favourite Christmas present ever….

It was 1976 and I was in seventh grade. My best Christmas present ever was a brand new pair of skis, a ski jacket and proper ski pants!

The year before I had been enrolled in ski lessons along with my two brothers. It was exciting. It was thrilling to fly down the snow covered slopes! The only problem was, I hadn’t the proper jacket or pants to wear. We rented the equipment which was fine by me! But my warmest pants happened to be a pair of corduroy slacks. Unfortunately, they tore during one of my lessons. How embarrassing! For the next lesson I fixed them up by sewing them myself. I was 11 years old and not exactly proficient in my sewing skills, LOL. I was proud of myself though and wore them again. When another skier looked at my pants in the tow rope line up, and pointed at the stitching, she asked “Did you sew those yourself?” I must have blushed 50 shades of pink. “Yes,” I answered hesitantly. I’ve never been more mortified. Why on earth did I think I could sew and no one would notice?

Well, getting that brand new ski suit and skis was dreamy and the best Christmas present of my childhood, hands down! I did NOT say pants down…

Oh my, I do feel for Lisa, and one does hope that the skier in question got stuck on the ice on the ski lift for a very long time by her tongue……

So I headed off to ‘Youtube’ and I have secured an invitation to the next Freelance Nutcases Ski Expo – you will however have to provide your own health insurance.

A review for Hearts Unbroken.

Hearts Unbroken’ by Lisa Thomson is an anthology of short stories that tug at reader’s heart, as they talk about human emotions and relationships, some of them so fragile that they need a solo long drive to figure them out. Sarah’s marriage is a façade and she discovers it the day she decides to attend her family reunion without her husband who has no respect for her emotions and desires. He shrugs her off with an insensitive remark. No less poignant are the questions of Samantha who is too little to understand why her mommy is not coming home to tuck her in her bed.

Lisa excels in bringing out raw emotions without letting them melt into a melodrama. Her characters move on with their life despite heavy baggage of betrayal and internal strife. If Kora felt imprisoned within her own home, she had the courage to break free from the dazzling world of Jack, if Ava had rebuffed men to avoid an affair, she also knew how to calm her carnal desires. Grief stricken Rachel could rise to the occasion to save Alex. All these persons seem to be so familiar. They could be one of our friends, struggling with an unhappy marriage or a neighbor who doesn’t know how to deal with domestic abuse.

Lisa’s stories deal with these realistic problems in the most authentic manner, holding the reader’s interest till the end. If you wonder what good relationships are and how they can be nurtured, read this book. If men fail to appreciate the role of a woman in their homes and how much work is required to keep it blossoming, they would surely learn from Mack. I devoured this book within hours!

Time for a carol and one of the favourites of mine as a child….and sung by another great artist – Nat King Cole

You cannot leave the party without enjoying a festive drink… or two

Mulled wine is not the invention of early Christmas revellers as the Romans were heating red wine a long time before and no doubt other pagan cultures too. After all it is a delightful drink. They even spiced it up and it was the invading Roman soldiers who took it through Europe and into Britain and like their long straight roads that still exist today, they left behind their recipes for us to enjoy.

It has various levels of sobriety from non-alcoholic through to lethal. Concoctions abound with port and spirits being added liberally. Apart from Christmas it is also drunk extensively in ski resorts and there is usually a mobile aid station at the bottom of the slopes at the end of the day. I do not trust two short planks down a mountainside at 60 miles an hour but would of course force myself to await my husband after his black runs for an hour or so fortified with a couple of mugs of warmed wine.

In the Scandinavian countries and the Alps it is usually referred to as Glögg, or Gløgg the accent differing from place to place and dependent on inebriation.

Here is a lovely recipe that should be delightful on cold nights leading up to Christmas: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/235298/hot-mulled-wine/

Thank you for dropping in today and please let us know about your most memorable Christmas gift  in the comments… and if you could share that would be amazing.. thanks Sally.

My guests tomorrow are Olga Nunez Miret, Norah Colvin, and Amy Reade.. I hope you will join us.

 

Conversations With Colleen: Meet Author, MJ Mallon

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A lovely conversation between Colleen Chesebro and fantasy author MJ Mallon. Find out more about crystals, spirit animals and inspirations..

Conversations with ColleenThe December Edition

Hello everyone! This week I’m happy to share with you another of my dearest friends, British author, Marjorie (Marje, or MJ) Mallon. Over the years, Marje and I bonded over our love of all things magical, and especially our love for crystals.

Bloodstone or Heliotrope

So, when I asked Marje to pick three or four questions from my huge list HERE she said she was happy to. We all aspire to be successful authors and the best way to learn some of the tricks of the trade is to ask questions from those who are traveling that path.

Marje is also a member of the Sisters of the Fey blog, a group of eight authors who came together to share their love of all things magical. As I mentioned, Marje loves crystals. All this research on the Sisters of the Fey blog goes to good use. Much of this information finds its way into Marje’s books. Check out this post HERE, about the Bloodstone crystal which is also the featured gem in “The Curse of Time.”

Everybody, please meet Marjorie Mallon.

Head over and read the full interview. thanks Sally

via Conversations With Colleen: Meet Author, MJ Mallon

Smorgasbord Health Column – Heading under the Mistletoe? Indigestion? Reach for the Peppermint


It is the season for Christmas parties and family gatherings and at this time of year there is the additional pleasure of getting kissed under the mistletoe – of course it all depends on who is doing the kissing, but having fresh breath before embarking on this lovely activity is essential.  And also having something to ward of the unwanted attentions of any germs that might be lurking in the vicinity!  We will also be eating richer food than normal and that can cause digestive upsets and is one of the reasons we become so prone to infections during the holiday season.

You may have noticed that almost all non-prescription preparations that claim to help indigestion are mint flavoured. And this is not just because mint has a nice taste. Mint is one of the oldest known treatments for indigestion and its inclusion in medicines is due to the plant’s ability to settle the stomach. However, do be aware that there are other components in these over the counter products and overuse can undermine your own ability to maintain an acid and alkaline balance in the body. Using a natural digestive aid over a period of time should stimulate your own system to do its job efficiently rather than rely increasingly on synthetic assistance. Do remember that if you are on prescribed medication that you should not stop taking without the knowledge of your doctor.

Originally native to the Mediterranean region, peppermint, which is a cross between water mint and spearmint, is one of the oldest cultivated herbs and was used for culinary as well as healing purposes by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It would seem that poor eating habits have been a problem throughout all of human history!

The ancient Romans carried it with them wherever they colonized; (presumably the relief it offered was much needed at the end of an orgy!) To this day, the Arabs brew it into tea and chop it into salads, the Asian Indians include it in chutney recipes, the British make its juice into jellies to be served with heavy meat dishes, and the Germans, concoct it into schnapps as an after-dinner drink. In all these cases, the motive for including mint in the diet is to improve digestion and avoid indigestion.

Nutrients in Peppermint tea

As with any dark green leafy plant the peppermint offers a wide range of nutrients that make it an excellent food source. Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, manganese, folate, iron, magnesium and calcium. Unfortunately you do not normally consume a sufficient quantity to be able to classify this as a superfood, but if you add the nutrients in the leaves to an already balanced diet it will certainly add to the pot of essential and varied nutrients you need each day.

Peppermint improves digestion in general but is great for stomach and colon cramps as the menthol in the herb has a muscle relaxing action and IBS sufferers often find it reduces symptoms. A cup of peppermint tea after a meal is much better for your digestion than a cup of coffee.

The oil mixed with a lotion or light skin oil, rubbed on the forehead can relieve headaches and is cooling when massaged into sore muscles.

As a forerunner of our modern gum, the leaves were chewed to prevent bad breath which was essential before toothpaste and flossing. Even 100 years ago dental hygiene was not common practice for nearly everyone…Does not bear thinking about as we come into the mistletoe season…..

Peppermint oil usually comes in small capsules or in a liquid tincture. The tea also comes with some variations, one of my favourites being Green Tea and Peppermint.

Other health benefits

Animal studies have indicated that the oil produced from the leaves could provide protection from cancer and also inhibit the growth of certain tumours in the breasts, pancreas and liver.

Peppermint oil is highly antibacterial and it also inhibits the growth of other potentially dangerous bacteria such as H.Pylori (Helicobacter pylori), the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers; Salmonella, E.Coli 0157:H7 and MRSA.

If you have a cold or flu there is nothing better than a little peppermint oil sprinkled on a tissue, or rubbed on your chest, to help you breathe better.

For asthmatics the rosmarinic acid in the oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and also encourages cells to produce substances called prostacyclins, which keep the airways open.

Apart from its medicinal uses and nutritional properties, mint is wonderful with lamb. Make a home-made sauce or jelly and enjoy two or three times a week along with a cup of peppermint tea after your dinner.

I use diluted peppermint oil to soak my toothbrush in – will put a tiny drop on the toothbrush to clean my teeth and I also use in the kitchen and add a drop to my normal strength peppermint tea once a day.

A definite all year round herb to use but at this time of year one to keep close to hand.

Have fun under the mistletoe……

For all other posts in the Health Column please check out this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

 If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to ask in the comments.. or if you prefer send in an email to sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas – #relationships #Italy #Scotland #mystery with Leslie Tate, Patricia Salamone, John Quinn and Jessica Norrie


Time for more authors from the Cafe and Bookstore who have amazing books that would make amazing Christmas gifts. Many authors write in series and the first author today does so in shades of Lavender Blue.  As with most of the featured series, I am starting with book one… Purple (Lavender Blues: Three Shades of Love) by Leslie Tate

About Purple

Lavender Blues: Three Shades of Love takes us deep into the lives of the Lavender family. The three books – ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’ – explore free love, traditional courtship, open marriage and late-life romance.

Matthew Lavender, starting college in 1969, has embraced a student underworld of drugs, image and cooler than thou. But behind his wild and witty persona lies a shy, sensitive romantic – a ‘feeling type’ bullied at school and restricted by his parents – who knows absolutely nothing about sex.

As Matthew gets involved with fellow-student Sally, the scene shifts to the early 20th century and his grandmother Mary Lavender begins her story.

Brought up by an over-controlling father nicknamed ‘Jack the Hammer’, Mary witnesses her parents’ fierce, monosyllabic rows and the long-running battles between Jack and his children. After the defiant exit of Mary’s brother and sister, Mary meets Stuart Lavender and a traditional courtship begins, leading to the birth of Matthew’s father, Alan.

History repeats itself as Alan and Matthew clash and Matthew leaves home. He takes up residence at a commune where he witnesses some supremely laughable examples of 60s free self-expression. From here on he grows and matures through contact with children and a number of deeply-felt and unpredictable love affairs.

In the end Matthew returns to the beach where he played as a child with Mary. As the two stories come together, Matthew learns a whole new outlook on youth, relationships and the man he has become.

One of the reviews for the book

Purple’ is a delicate, detailed watercolour of a novel. It starts out with the shy and awkward student, Matthew, who is trying his hardest to look cool, clever and with-it. I really disliked Matthew at first but came to like him better as the novel progresses and he has his rough edges rubbed off by his relationships with different female characters, two of whom let him down very badly. He also meets adult role models and eventually comes to realise that his anxious, micro-managing parents were once young and extremely cool – and still can be.

The novel has fabulous descriptive passages, some of which are very poetic. Leslie has given Matthew a number of well-written sex scenes showing his journey from the first awkward encounters to a full and passionate relationship. I enjoyed the scenes at the commune where Matthew discovers a muddy and chaotic world of dreadful poetry and worse art, controlled by a dictatorial leader who forces decisions on everyone and makes them believe it is the group’s will. He progresses from this world to the Colony, which is a family living an ordered and creative existence. The Colony leads him to his godmother and aunt, who in turn shows him who his parents really are.

The story of Matthew’s grandmother Mary is interwoven with Matthew’s, and is a progress from tyrannical father to cold and unloving husband, before eventually finding fulfilment in her children and grandchildren. I’m looking forward to the next two novels in the series.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Purple-Courtship-Generation-Lavender-Shades-ebook/dp/B0163F2ESQ

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Purple-Courtship-Generation-Lavender-Shades-ebook/dp/B0163F2ESQ

Also by Leslie Tate.

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leslie-Tate/e/B07BL5L23B

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Leslie-Tate/e/B07BL5L23B

You can find all the books with reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6043204.Leslie_Tate

Signed copies of all the books can be bought at Leslie Tate’s own bookshop: https://leslietate.com/shop/violet/

Connect to Leslie via his website: https://leslietate.com/

Another author who has written a book that would be perfect for those who are of Italian extraction who might be visiting relatives in Italy at some point.. Patricia Salamone is the author of The Italian Thing an entertaining account of a family reunion in Italy with all its unexpected and glorious memories.

About The Italian Thing

Join me in my hilarious recount of how I explored my heritage during a more-than-memorable trip to Sicily. I detail our adventures and misadventures as my husband and I visited our relatives in Naro. I share how we got to know the locals, their customs and lifestyle, and how everyone seemed to think that “everything will be fine” no matter what troubles they were in. During those weeks, we went through culture shock despite the fact that we are both Italian. In the end, it was “the Italian thing” in all of us that made ours an unforgettable trip!

One of the reviews for the book

I have always wanted to visit Italy, such a timeless and beautiful country with so many interesting places to visit. Reading “The Italian Thing” will be like going there and seeing the country through someone else’s eyes, I thought, expecting to find a country I was already familiar with. I was looking forward to the trip of a lifetime and the book did not disappoint. It was well written, full of all the wonderful scenery and architecture I have come to expect of the country. However “The Italian Thing” isn’t about the country, not really, it is about the people and family. About the lives they live and the glorious food they eat. “Everything will be fine” is the Italians hilarious answer to everything, and is the key to understanding their very different way of life. I loved the touches of humour, the very descriptive narrative, and the loving but feisty relationship between Pat and Mike. Who were out of their depth, and up to their eyes in food of every delicious description. How they came home weighing less than before is remarkable!

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Salamone/e/B00E6ZLPY0

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Italian-Thing-Patricia-Salamone-ebook/dp/B00EL0AGIG/

Read other reviews and follow Patricia on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7515864.Patricia_Salamone

Connect to Patricia via her Blog:  https://the-italian-thing.com/

And now for a book set in the 1970s in Scotland.. a time of unrest in most of the UK with miners’ strikes and the influences of the Northern Ireland troubles.. John Quinn and his debut novel, The Eyes of Grace O’Malley.

About The Eyes of Grace O’Malley

State … Security … Secrets …

Scotland 1972. A turbulent place – miners’ strikes, blackouts, Clyde shipyard workers defying the British Government, oil discovered in the North Sea and the long and deadly arms of conflict in Ireland reaching across the Irish Sea.

Farrell Golden is a bright working class kid from Dundee with an Irish heritage. But he hasn’t always paid it much attention. Thanks to his family he’s made it to the University of Edinburgh against the odds. But does he want to stay there?

There’s beer and there’s women – in particular a beautiful ethereal English girl called Maggie. She’s out of the London stockbroker belt but she’s not all that she seems. Then there’s an Irish girl who is somehow familiar …

Roisin O’Malley’s not like any trainee teacher Farrell’s ever seen. What is she getting away from in Edinburgh? What are her family’s links to the Troubles? What of her ex-boyfriend?

At a Bloody Sunday protest march Farrell sees Roisin in trouble and goes to help. He’s knocked unconscious. When he wakens up he finds he’s stepped down a rabbit hole of Irish history, family ties and state security. Is there a way back? Should he have paid more attention to the family heritage? Who is Roisin O’Malley really?

One of the recent reviews for the book

A great read on 3 November 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel. It reminded me of a distant past but one I remember well. The story is very well developed but to me it is the setting that really evokes those memories. All senses are involved in remembering Edinburgh and indeed Scotland in those days. The characters of Farrell, Roisin and Maggie are particularly well developed – I felt I actually knew them. Their back stories are interesting and realistic. Their adventures, while simple in the beginning, develop into something deeper and more complex and reflect perfectly the world of young people at that time. I look forward to reading more from this talented author.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eyes-Grace-OMalley-John-Quinn-ebook/dp/B07G65CLY8/

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G65CLY8/

Connect to John Quinn via his blog: https://johndquinn.wordpress.com/books-by-john-quinn/

And the final author today is also a popular contributor here on the blog with her Literary Column.. Jessica Norrie is busy with her next book but in the meantime, here is The Infinity Pool to enjoy or give as a gift.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Nice holiday read  on 29 September 2018

I enjoyed reading this book during my summer holidays. It gets you thinking about the way we interact with local communities and the environment during our few weeks away in the sun. The book is a nice mix of crime, romance, philosophy, and social constructs.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

Connect to Jessica via her blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/

Thank you very much for stopping by and I hope you leave with a book or two.. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Second Day of Christmas with guests Darlene Foster and Miriam Hurdle


Welcome to the Second Day of Christmas with some guests, music, and not to forget food… My guests today are children’s author and travel writer Darlene Foster, and poet Miriam Hurdle…sharing their most favourite Christmas gift ever…

Before we find out more about the second day of Christmas and meet the guests I would like to get you in the mood with music, and one of my favourite groups has always been Status Quo -‘It’s Christmas Time’ was recorded in 2008. You can buy Status Quo Music Amazon

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how other countries celebrate their Christmas festivities. In China for example, only about 1% of the population is Christian and Christmas is really only celebrated in the big cities for its commercial value. But there are grottos set up in the shops and Santa Claus is called ‘Shen Dan Lao Ren’. According to Why Christmas the younger generation give gifts to each other but more in line with St. Valentines’ Day.

Very few people have a tree and if so it is plastic and hung with paper ornaments. The irony is that the majority of Christmas tree ornaments we use are made in China!

The Second Day of Christmas is also called Boxing Day in the UK and St. Stephen’s Day. St. Stephen was the first martyr who died for his faith.

Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian Church appointed by the apostles when they found that there was simply not enough of them to cope with many poor, widows and orphans that were so numerous in those times. They ordained seven assistants or deacons of which Stephen was one. He was very devout and well liked. He spoke eloquently and converted many to Christianity. Of course this did not sit very well with those outside the religion and they did their best to discredit him. He did not help his cause by giving his enemies some home truths about their behaviour I am afraid that they reacted by having him put to death. He is therefore the first martyr of the Christian faith and was awarded sainthood.

The carol most sung on St. Stephen’s Day is ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and here is an amazing version from Michala Petri, recorder and Danish National Vocal Ensemble conducted by Michael Bojesen from their own Recordings

Time to meet my first guest who is children’s author and travel writer Darlene Foster. Darlene moved to Spain from Canada in the last few years and shares her new found love of the Spanish culture with her photographic posts, and also the new addition to the family of a little rescue dog called Dot. Here is one of her recent travel posts Notre Dame

This is Darlene’s very best Christmas present ever….

My best Christmas gift, believe it or not, was a stamp album. I wanted one so badly and was disappointed that there wasn’t one under the tree. Dad looked under the couch and found a flat gift had slid under, addressed to me from my grandmother. To my delight, it was a stamp album and some stamps to get me started. I loved putting stamps from all over the world in that book, dreaming of eventually visiting those places. I recall the stamps for Espanola at the time, had General Franco on them.

I did not have to think too long for the perfect gift for Darlene and I have decided that perhaps a series of Flamenco Dance lessons might be just the ticket and I am sure with a little practice this is what we might see next Christmas..courtesy of ‘Youtube’

Discover all the books by Darlene Foster: http://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA
Find out more about Darlene via her blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

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One of the recent reviews for Amanda in New Mexico

Even though I am way beyond the age bracket market this series is intended to, the child in me truly enjoyed Amanda and her class mates’ adventures on their school trip to New Mexico, discovering enchanting villages and people along the way and getting into all kinds of scraps that may or may not involve spirits and otherworldly phenomena. I especially enjoyed learning about a part of the world I have never been to, in particular the town of Taos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its History, as well as the Day of the Dead celebrations and Doña Sebastiana, the female saint of death. Darlene Foster takes the young reader into a whole new world, which might just make them travel and explore for themselves. A lot of fun!

We have been so lucky this year to have Carol Taylor writing the Food Column.. she will of course be a guest later in this party series, but she has shared several wonderful festive dishes in the last few weeks and I am going to select some that immediately bring back Christmas memories for me. Although you would usually cook the Christmas pudding in advance, there is still time to make this home-made recipe and enjoy on the day.

Ingredients:

• 300gm fresh white breadcrumbs (I use brown)
• 100gm self-raising flour
• 1 tsp mixed spice
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• ½ whole nutmeg, very finely grated
• 350gm raisins
• 100g mixed peel
• 50 gm flaked almonds
• 250 gm suet
• 225 gm Demerara sugar
• 225 gm sultanas
• 225 gm currants
• 2 carrots, peeled and very finely grated
• 2 cooking apples, peeled and very finely grated
• (shhhh)Wet ingredients
• Zest and juice of 1 orange
• Zest and juice of 1 lemon
• 1 small wine glass of brandy shhhhh and a tad more..ha ha
• 2 tbsp black treacle
• 4 eggs, lightly beaten

Let’s Cook!

  1. Put the breadcrumbs in the biggest mixing bowl you can find.
  2. Sieve the flour into the bowl with the mixed spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. Then add the remaining dry ingredients, up to and including the grated apples.
  4. Combine all the wet ingredients in a jug.
  5. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and mix together, with a big wooden spoon.
  6. Take it in turns to give it a stir, closing your eyes and making a wish.
  7. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp cloth and leave overnight.
  8. Butter 2 x 1.2-litre pudding basins and spoon the mix into them. Place a disc of baking paper on top of the puddings, then seal with a big sheet of baking paper with a central pleat, to allow expansion. Cover with a cotton or muslin cloth and tie with string or foil.
  9. Steam for 6 hours in steamers, or in pans with simmering water that reaches two-thirds up the sides of the basins – be sure to keep the water topped up. Remove and allow to cool.
  10. When cool, re-cover the basins and store in a cool, dry place. On Christmas day, or the day you’re going to eat the puddings, steam for another 1-2 hours. Turn the pudding onto a plate, then pour 75ml of brandy into a ladle and carefully warm over a low heat for 1 minute or so. Light the match and voila a flaming pud

You can find all of Carol’s recipes, including her full Vegetarian and Traditional Christmas menus in the directory: Carol Taylor Food Column

Time now for my second guest today who is poet Miriam Hurdle, who has recently published her debut collection of poetry. Miriam Hurdle is a multi-genre writer. She writes poetry, flash fiction, and short stories. Her poems are included in Letters to Gaia, Whispers and Echoes Issue 2, Whispers and Echoes Issue 3, and Outcast and More Words.

Miriam shares her most favourite Christmas gift ever.

The favorite Christmas gift I received ten years ago from my husband was a GPS. Using Google map in a cellphone was not my regular practice then.

I have no sense of direction in any given new location. When visiting a friend for the first time, I somehow turned to an opposite direction to go home. Before receiving the GPS, I got lost many times and found myself in a parking lot, calling my husband to direct me home. He gave me a GPS for a Christmas gift in 2009.

My daughter got married in May 2010 in Portland, Oregon. My brother-in-law did videotape using my camcorder. He recorded the wedding ceremony in the afternoon and the wedding reception in the evening. In the middle of the wedding reception, he told me the battery was running low. My panicky antenna went up. It would disappoint my daughter and the family not to record entirely such an important event in life.

I left the battery charger in my daughter’s house. My only option was to go get it and come back to charge the camcorder without missing too much of the memorable moments. The reception was in Columbia Edgewater Country Club. With no street lighting, I had no clue how to get out of the golf course to find my way to my daughter’s house. After I turned on the GPS, it kept saying in a robotic voice, “Calculating, calculating…” Finally, the little gadget figured out my position, directed my way to get the battery charger and come back to the reception. The GPS served me well for many years.

My virtual Christmas present for Miriam ….

Clearly Miriam already has a SatNav.. but I searched around and found this that she might find this next generation Car upgrade an interesting ride… the Tesla autopilot test drive..you can mute the Rolling Stones if you wish.. personally I quite like it…even more scary!!!

You can buy Miriam’s debut poetry collection from https://www.amazon.com/Miriam-Hurdle/e/B07K2MCSVW
Find out more about Miriam via her website and blog: https://theshowersofblessings.com/ 

A recent review for the collection

Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude,” is a journey into the mind of a woman who has found her voice in this world through her poetry. Hurdle splits the book into poetic songs categorized by Nature, Dissonance, Physical Healing, Marriage, Parenthood, Tribute, Reflection, Challenge, and Inspiration. These categories lead the reader on a path to understanding her life through times of joy and sorrow. Her photos and artwork are stunning and compliment her poetry. For me, reading poetry is like walking beside the poet and stepping into their footsteps, connecting with their experiences in a deeper realm of being.

Reading poetry is subjective, so I judge most poetry by how it invokes emotions within me and how it makes me reflect on my own human condition. The poem, “Healing,” touched a deep chord within me. Yet, there were so many more connections I experienced. I received this book as a gift from a dear friend. That’s the kind of book this is, one to be shared with others, and to be reread many times. MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5 Reader Engagement: 5 Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars 

And I cannot let you go without offering you a drink for the road (provided you are the passenger)..

Now whilst this is not a traditional Christmas drink… it is a cocktail that goes down well at any time of the year and I have a fail save recipe for you for the simple but highly effecting Margarita.

I suggest making in a large jug and I will give you the proportions per person and then I will give you the overall health benefits.

As many of you will know this is made with tequila and it is my advice that you use the top of the range Cuervo Gold as tastes much better, certainly for the first one and then you don’t really taste anything anyway. Tequila like most of my favourite food pharmacy subjects has been used for thousands of years by the Native American Indians for both medicinal and recreational purposes. It was used as a hallucinogenic and apparently improves all aspects of stamina and enabled the imbiber to achieve the Dream State. You can see this effect for your self after your guests have sampled two or three of your concoction.

Add 1oz per person.

You will also need some Cointreau or Cuarenta y tres or triple sec, which are all orange liqueurs. I have covered the benefits of oranges in several of my healthy eating posts, but obviously in alcoholic form its antioxidant properties are a little subdued. Of course there is still the antiseptic nature of alcohol to compensate.

You will need 1oz per person.

Finally you will need 1oz of fresh squeezed lime juice per person. Now as everyone knows limes are full of Vitamin C and limes in particular have some special properties. They prevent scurvy, if taken every day they can prevent cholera and the vitamin C in the fruit is anti-ageing as it forms collagen that fills in wrinkles and frown lines.

I have looked on a worldwide basis for the health benefits of margaritas and this is a summary of the best I could find.

  1. Apart from the obvious antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-ageing effects of the cocktail there are some other side effects that can be life changing.
  2. If you have feelings of inadequacy or suffer from shyness and lack of assertiveness then drinking just one margarita may be the answer.
  3. It makes you feel more confidant about yourself and your actions and encourages you to tell the world that you are willing and able to do just about anything. You will notice the effects of the margarita almost immediately. You will find that you are able to dance at a higher intensity (particularly on a table), you will be able to sing and give renditions of everyone’s favourite hits from the forties and fifties. You will also find that the dress code does not apply to you because you are not wearing one.
  4. Drinking margaritas may not be right for everyone as there are some side effects including dizziness, nausea, incarceration, lustfulness, loss of motor control, loss of clothing and money, delusions of grandeur, lap dancing, headache, dehydration and an increase in appetite for snakes and lizards. 

My guests tomorrow are Jennie Fitzkee and Lisa Thomson and I hope you will join us.

Thank you very much for visiting today.. Please tell us about your most memorable Christmas gift in the comments section.  I hope you have enjoyed yourself and please be careful if you have tried one of the above Margaritas… Thanks Sally.