Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Twelfth Day of Christmas with guests Paul Andruss, Olga Nunez Miret and Carol Taylor

We have finally reached the last of the Christmas parties.. and in this one I want to do a personal thank you to the remaining regular contributors, and someone who has helped me with my books this year, who have not as yet featured in the parties. Paul Andruss, Olga Nunez Miret and Carol Taylor.

Here is Slade to kick the party off with Merry Christmas Everybody. Amazon

Over the last eleven parties I have shared my memories of Christmas past, and I have enjoyed stepping back in time. I am so pleased that so many of you have shared yours too, as it demonstrates that the best gift of all is the time spent with those we love.

I hope that you have an amazing few days, however you choose to spend it. There will be a few things posted over the next week should you be at a loose end.. and a very special treat from the 27th to 31st with a wonderful Japanese short story from Paul Andruss which will have you captivated.

There will also be some funnies and videos and I will be in from time to time to catch up on all of your festive posts.

Now time to get on with the party…..

A favourite carol of mine as a child was  “We Three Kings” original title “Three Kings of Orient”, also known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are” or “The Quest of the Magi”, is a Christmas carol that was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857. At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and he wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City.

Here is a wonderfully dramatic version with fabulous graphics by Clamavi De Profundis

Time to meet my first guest Paul Andruss, who has already saved his most favourite Christmas Gift ever in a separate post that you can find HERE.

Paul has been the Writer in Residence and Gardening Expert for the last 18 months. He stepped back from his regular posting in the autumn as he was working on his own projects. He has popped in from time to time, as with the short story later this week, and hopefully he will be back occasionally in 2019 when he has the time.

I am very grateful for the amazing posts covering such a broad spectrum of subjects, all meticulously researched and brilliantly written. The blog has definitely been enriched by their inclusion. And I can highly recommend that you read Thomas the Rhymer which is Paul’s fantasy novel especially if you love Harry Potter.

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Anyway, I was wondering what I could give Paul for his virtual gift and thought perhaps being a very keen gardener, and bearing in mind his Japanese themed story later this week…..he would enjoy this.

Day 12 (5th January also known as Epiphany Eve): It is a celebration of the life and works of St. John Neumann (1811-1860). He was born in Bohemia but emigrated to the US and became a Catholic priest and later Bishop of Philadelphia. He was the first American bishop to be canonized due to his devotion and also for founding the first Catholic diocesan school system in the United States.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Twelve drummers drumming and all the rest of the verses that have gone before with both their alleged coded and spiritual meaning and the more modern acceptance of this cumulative song probably of French origin. There are many different versions that are sung around the world with local and national gifts replacing the originals. The spirit of the song however is still maintained from the Faroe Islands to Australia as children get excited about the upcoming holiday season.

In many countries Twelfth night is a huge celebration with parties to celebrate not just the Christmas season but also the official end of winter which began on October 31st on All Hallows Eve or Halloween. This practice goes all the way back to the Romans and their celebration of Saturnalia and different cultures celebrate in various ways. This would be the day that the Christmas cake would be eaten, or roles reversed between master and servant or King and Queen of the night with licence to behave disreputably!!

Having lived in Spain for 17 years we celebrated Christmas with our friends and also their festival on the 6th of January of Dia de Los Reyes. It is almost as important as Christmas itself in Spain, especially for children who have waited twelve days before getting their presents, although I suspect there are still plenty opened on Christmas Day. However the party starts on the 5th with parades in all the towns and villages with Three Kings leading the crowd and throwing sweets to the children.

The Spanish version of the Christmas cake is a Roscón, a sweet, donut-shaped bread covered in glacier cherries and sugar. A plastic toy rather than a sixpence is buried inside the mixture, so dentists do quite well in the days following! Although for those whose teeth remain intact they will get good luck for the remainder of the year!

This leads me very nicely into my next guest Olga Nunez Miret

Olga has been a wonderful friend and support for the blog and for so many others in the last five years. She is an avid reader and writes in-depth reviews that delight their recipients some of the reviews are on behalf of the Rosie Amber Review Team.

About Olga Nunez Miret

Olga Núñez Miret is a doctor, a psychiatrist, a student (of American Literature, with a Doctorate and all to prove the point, of Criminology, and of books and people in general), she writes, translates (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and although born in Barcelona, Spain, has lived in the UK for many years. She’s always loved books and is thrilled at the prospect of helping good stories reach more readers all around the world. She publishes a bilingual blog ( ) where she shares book reviews, advice, talks about books (hers and others) and about things she discovers and enjoys.

This year Olga translated Tales from the Garden Volume 1 for me into Spanish. If you are looking to reach a new market for your books that I can highly recommend her services. She also asked if I might like to participate in an anthology in aid of victims of domestic violence and my story ‘Diana’ was included in ¡Que entre la luz!  published in the summer. Olga and I were interviewed on When Women Inspire on the anthology by Christy D. Birmingham.

¡Que entre la luz!

Read the reviews and buy Olga’s books in English and Spanish:

Please visit Amazon or Olga’s blog to view all her books.


One of the early reviews for Deadly Quotes.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this latest book in the exciting “Escaping Psychiatry” series by Olga Núñez Miret! It’s “Deadly Quotes. Escaping Psychiatry 3.” This isn’t just another “psychological thriller” — it’s written by a real-world forensic psychiatrist, and her expertise is clear in the entire series.

I see catchy quotes everywhere I look. I’m okay with that – I confess that I like quotes. So I got a kick out of the fact that the author used quotes as part of the mystery. Psychiatrist and amateur detective, Mary Miller is back – and she’s dealing with a thrilling take on quotes. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Happy reading.

I wanted to find something beautiful for Olga as her virtual Christmas gift and found this.. which I hope she enjoys…Louie Schwartzberg

On the subject of food…here is one of my most remembered Christmas puddings. The sherry trifle and even as a very young child I would finish every last morsel. I think my mother was under the impression that if sherry went into a meal it was non alcoholic….

Like most of the traditional foods featured during the last twelve days trifle has a long and illustrious history dating back to the end of the 16th century. Originally trifle referred to a thick cream flavoured with spices like ginger and sweetened with sugar and sometimes rosewater. In the middle of the 17th century eggs were added to form a rich custard. Another 100 years and the custard was poured over jelly using gelatin.

The trifle that we now consider to be the jewel in the festive dinner crown has the addition of sponge soaked in sherry or sometimes port or brandy and layered with fruit such as peaches, jelly, custard and thick whipped cream…Here is an Australian site with plenty of different variations for trifles to suit all tastes…Trifles galore

There is a phenomenan attached to the dessert. If there should be any trifle remaining in a bowl that has been placed in the fridge overnight, the next morning it has usually disappeared except for a couple of pieces of glacé cherry on the bottom of the bowl and a scrape of cream on the side of the dish. Legend has it that after all the gifts have been distributed and the work is finished for the year, Santa allows the elves a night of revelry and permission to visit any home where trifle has been on the menu and indulge….yeah that is the official version, honest!

The obvious choice of guest to follow the food selection is our own food and cookery expert Carol Taylor, who ran a very busy catering establishment in Thailand before retiring.


Carol has worked tirelessly this year to bring wonderful recipes to the Food Column including two amazing Christmas menus for a traditional dinner and a vegetarian alternative. She is taking a well earned break over Christmas, spending it with her family who live close by in Thailand. I am so delighted that we connected two years ago and I hope that if you do not already follow Carol on her blog that you do that now.. You will not only find recipes, but a wonderful array of exotic Thai ingredients and articles on avoiding waste food and the environment at CarolCooks2

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:

I asked Carol for her most special Christmas gift………

Years ago when I worked for the Halifax I had a love/hate relationship with my line manager he was a nice bloke but very straight laced at work and sometimes we clashed as to certain things I was not prepared to do come hell or high water…But had touches of being really funny in his lighter moments or at staff jollies.

One day after such one staff jolly and definitely too much to drink …When I got home I threw up…The next morning..I was missing a tooth the only tooth I had on a plate and it must have disappeared down into the system of no return…

So it was an emergency dental appointment and a call to work…
The dentist also thought it was highly funny as did Andrew at work…

Some months later at our staff Christmas Party when we pulled a name out of a hat and bought appropriate presents for the said person…I will say he must have thought about this for months…lol

He got my name …I received a 6 pack of Becks Beer and a bag of sweetie false teeth…He kept his distance as maybe he wasn’t sure whether I would see the funny side I did, and still do…as did everyone else but it was the best present and still makes me smile…

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a set of false sweet teeth, but I think that’s because the dog ate them….

And that is not as far fetched as you might think…….Merry Christmas Carol…

Thank you for dropping by today and have an amazing Christmas… thanks Sally…



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

We are almost there with the last of the Christmas book promotions and just one more Christmas party to go tomorrow. I have had so much fun over the last few weeks and I hope you have too.

We have had a family dinner this week, and apart from one or two other visits, we shall be spending Christmas quietly. There will be a few packages left for you to open including a very welcome short story over four days from Paul Andruss. Paul has been working on a number of projects that will continue into 2019, but he has kindly sent a wonderful Japanese themed story for us all to enjoy. There will also be a special post on New Year’s Eve to round this series off. Hopefully we will see Paul from time to time in the coming year.

I will be spending time offline working on the new promotional series for 2019 and also one or two of my own writing projects. I do like having something humming away in the background.

As always my thanks to contributors and guests this week who you will be meeting shortly, and if you are around tomorrow between making last minute arrangements, the Twelfth Day of Christmas will be paying a tribute to some of those not already featured.

My husband has told me he has done finished his shopping for Christmas and sent me a photo of our tree to prove it! Me thinks he is telling fibs….either that or Father Christmas is using our lounge as a sorting office!

Anyway.. on with the posts from the week and you have just 2 days left of my Free book offer as it ends at midnight on Christmas Eve wherever you live….

A short series of classical hits for Christmas shared by William Price King..

The Most Dependable Fight of the Year.

Daddy took his hunting very seriously. This was a man’s sport, an entitlement. Real men hunted and fished. A man’s outdoor gear was a reflection of his manhood. Daddy would have sooner worn lace panties than not follow the unwritten rules. His hunting gear was a necessity, not an extravagance like a dependable car, bills paid on time, and clothes for the family. Daddy always had money held out of his paycheck weekly for the Christmas Club, but Mother never could remember that deer season came around the same time as the Christmas Club checks were issued’  Read on….

Three Mince Pies

The little girl lay in bed asleep, blonde hair spread over her pillow. From her restless movements it was obvious that she was in the grip of a disturbing dream, and dark rings beneath her eyes gave her small face a pinched and unhappy look.

Downstairs, Jenny looked at the Christmas decorations and cards around the room. In the corner, the tree lights sparkled and flashed through the tinsel, and presents for Sophie were piled beneath its green spiky branches in a colourful heap. Family and friends had rallied round, determined Sophie would have everything her father would have bought her this Christmas. Read on....

You are never too old for love

He was getting on a bit in years, his eyesight was very dodgy, and his hip was definitely causing him gyp. His teeth were still okay; he still enjoyed his meat slightly chewy, instead of that pap that they gave the real oldies in this residence. And if truth be told, despite his advanced years there was still a little fizz left when it came to the ladies. In fact there was a rather saucy looking old gal in the residence four down from him, who despite the silver threads through her glorious mane of hair, still had a twinkle in her eye. Read on

As we get fully engaged with the festive season there is one particular organ in the body which deserves some consideration. When you are offered your fifth mince pie or another glass of eggnog – it is not usual for you to think…….

“OMG NO my poor liver cannot take another drop”!

I hope you have enjoyed the week’s posts and one more party to go tomorrow, a Letter from America special and another classical Christmas hit from William Price King.

From 27th of December there will be a four part story from Paul Andruss with a beautiful Japanese theme. And more treats on New Year’s Eve.  On Christmas Day and the 26th there will be some funnies and videos should you need a rest from the festivities.

Thank you for being here during the week, the blog would not be the same without you.. thanks Sally.


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Eleventh Day of Christmas with guests Colleen Chesebro and Anne Goodwin.

Just two more parties to go before the big day and for this celebration I am delighted to welcome writers Colleen Chesebro and Anne Goodwin, both of whom will be sharing their most precious Christmas memories.

I thought that we could not talk about Christmas without preparing something for the pets in the family. In the old days, and that was in fact only about 30 years ago, pets were fed on scraps as they had been for the thousands of years as our companions.  I appreciate that most of the animal foods available today may be rich in nutrients and full of vitality but I am afraid that I steer clear of dried food and prefer to go the natural route.

It is tempting to give pets the same treats that we enjoy but I am afraid that at Christmas treats like human chocolate are extremely dangerous. Chocolate is poison to dogs and can cause them to fit. Too many high fat, salty and sugary tit bits can also have a detrimental effect on a dog and cat’s digestion – and their first instinct is to vomit before producing rather evil smelling poop. It is important not to give you pets processed meats which contain a lot of salt or the turkey or chicken that you have prepared for your Christmas dinner because it too will have been spiced and seasoned.

Spread the food over a couple of days, as you can store cooked Turkey or chicken for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Give your pets a small amount on day one; say Christmas Eve, a little more on Christmas day and Boxing Day.

Sam our Collie established as soon as he came through the front door at 8 weeks old that the pellets that had been supplied by his breeder were inferior and he was now prepared for the good stuff. He never did take to dried food.  He finally settled on Basmati rice (anything that did not have that distinctive aroma was rejected) chopped cooked chicken and giblets, some carrots and green veg with a little salt free juice from the chicken.  I know some may say he was spoiled rotten but he was bright, intelligent and healthy his entire life and he always politely waited until we had started our meals before beginning his.  A perfect dinner guest.

Here are a couple of favourites that we prepared for Christmas – we fostered some cats in our time and had a small feral family in our garden in Ireland that also partook during the festivities as payment for the rats caught and left on my doorstep!  Sam loved Christmas and threw himself into the celebrations with great gusto…

Christmas Turkey or chicken Loaf for the Dog

Enough for 6 servings for a small dog and 4 servings for a large dog.

  • 2 lbs. of minced turkey.
  • 4 oz. of cooked and minced mixed vegetables (unseasoned)
  • 1 small crushed piece of garlic (anti- worms and fleas – and good for humans too)
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz. of oats
  • 3 oz. of cooked basmati rice

Let’s Cook

Mix the turkey or chicken, vegetables, garlic, egg, rice and oats together thoroughly. Put into a greased pan (use a little butter) and pat down the mixture until level. Stand in a roasting dish of water in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook for around 1 to 1½ hours and then cool. Cut into portions and serve with a little salt free gravy. You will probably be asked for second helpings and third with a small piece of cheese to finish off!

Turkey Surprise – For the Cat
(The cat is likely to be very surprised if it is not out of a tin!)

Should provide 4 servings if you can hide from the cat. If not it will probably disappear very quickly.

  • 1/2 fresh unseasoned turkey breast or one chicken breast cooked and finely chopped.
  • 3 oz. of cooked carrots finely diced.
  • 2 oz. of finely chopped cooked spinach
  • 3 oz. of finely chopped green beans
  • 6 oz. cooked basmati rice
  • Unsalted chicken broth.

Mix everything together with enough chicken broth to bind the ingredients. Serve when lukewarm and watch your fingers.

My feral cats in Ireland waiting for dinner to be served…

Here is Leona Lewis to take us into today’s festivities with Just One More Sleep Amazon and courtesy of leonalewis

Time to meet my first guest today… the lovely Colleen Chesebro is a regular visitor to most of our blogs and her Colleen Chesebro Poetry Challenge no. 114, 115, 116 which is the last of the year offers you an opportunity to share your Haiku, Tanka or Etheree over the next couple of weeks. You will also find samples of Colleen’s own poetry on her blog and she is a respected book reviewer

Colleen M. Chesebro is a writer and author of YA fantasy and magical realism, cross-genre fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. She loves all things magical which may mean that she could be experiencing her second childhood – or not. That part of her life hasn’t been fully decided yet.  Her debut novel, “The Heart Stone Chronicles: The Swamp Fairy,” won gold in the 2017 cover contest.

Colleen lives in Colorado with her husband. When she is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and friends. She also loves gardening, reading, and crocheting old-fashioned doilies into works of art.

Colleen shares her most special Christmas gift…

When I was a young child, I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my German/Russian grandparents after my mom died. I don’t remember receiving many gifts. Christmas was about baking and eating, more of a celebration of my Grandma’s culinary delights. She baked up a storm for five days before the holiday. The smell of fresh bread permeated every crevice in their tiny house. Grandma would bake Christmas Kuchen and myriads of cookies that we would decorate together. Those are my favorite memories of Christmas. I still miss my Grandma.

When my own three children came along, including two stepdaughters, that was the gift I gave them, my grandma’s gift to me. I taught them to bake and enjoy the time spent together living within the spirit of Christmas. The presents didn’t matter. The important thing was to celebrate family. ♥

Sounds like an amazing gift to be passed on to generations of family and although I have already shared a song from The Sound of Music…. I hope that Colleen will enjoy another of the songs from the movie that features the whole family together. Edelweiss one of my own favourites..

You can read the reviews and buy Colleen Chesebro’s books

One of the recent reviews for Fairies, Myths & Magic – Nov 30, 2018 Miriam Hurdle rated it Five Stars.

Colleen in her book Fairies, Myths and Magic begins each section by an introduction. In the Fairies section, she describes the origins, the forms, and appearance of fairies. In the Myths section, she explained that myth is the oldest oral or written storytelling method to explain the strange natural or supernatural phenomena. In the Magic section, she points out that magic is defined as the supernatural power over the natural force and magic happens to us every day.

The short stories and poetry seamlessly weave into a pleasant dream that one wishes to stay in. The story of “Just What the Doctor Ordered” grabbed my attention because I have tinnitus. Roger’s tinnitus was cured after the fairs’ visit while he slipped into a dream over the Mojitos.

I love “The Pond” A Haibun/Tanka Poem with the line “As I gaze into the pond, I see the reflection of the woman I’ve become. Past and future meld as one.”

The short story “The Leaving” was engaging from the first line to the end. It’s eerie but not too scary.

I love poetry so it’s enjoyable to read Colleen’s many poems forms.

There are so many intriguing short stories and poems that one must read them to experience the delight of the book. Highly recommended to read for pleasure.

Day 11 (4th January): A very special woman St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), was the first American to be canonized by the Catholic Church in 1975. She had a tragic life in many ways but she established the first Catholic school in America in Maryland and it was also there that she founded the Sisters of Charity the first convent for religious sisters. She had a fascinating life and I have the link to her story on Wikipedia

Eleven Pipers Piping are believed to refer to the eleven Faithful Apostles following the betrayal of Judas. As I have previously mentioned this was according to the coded message within the original song that allowed Catholics to remember the tenets of their faith. And whilst largely discredited there is always a grain in truth in urban legends. However in modern times it has simply become eleven pipers piping…

Another beautiful carol O Holy Night from Kings College..The Carol (French: “Minuit, chretiens”, “Minuit, chretien” in original edition,or “Cantique de Noël”) is a well-known Christmas carol composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (Midnight, Christians) written by wine merchant and poet Placide Cappeau (1808–1877). In both the French original and the English version of the carol, as well as in many other languages, the text reflects on the birth of Jesus and on humanity’s redemption.

Now it is time to meet my next guest, author and book reviewer Anne Goodwin, who loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. You can find articles and posts on her own writing and also her Recommended reading

During her career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, was published in May 2017. Her most recent release is Becoming Someone.

Anne shares her most special Christmas memory…..

My best Christmas present came forty years ago when I won the Sunday Telegraph Student Travel Writing Competition. Those being pre-internet days, I’m relying on my dodgy memory for the details, but the remit was to pen a postcard message, my first ever flash. Later, itchy feet took me to Asia, Africa and South America but then I hadn’t been beyond northern Spain. Unable to depict exotic settings, I mined my emotions, as I travelled backwards, literally and metaphorically, home by train. The prize money bought me an inter-rail ticket; the kudos brought the confidence to pursue my writing dreams.

What an amazing achievement and so pleased that Anne found her way back to her own stories and perhaps she will find more inspiration with this virtual Christmas Gift…a trip on one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.

You can read the reviews and buy the books by Anne Goodwin:

An early review for Becoming Someone Dorothy Winsor 5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended December 15, 2018

This collection of short stories caught and held my attention throughout. I enjoyed the stories themselves, and loved the way the author was willing to play around and try different techniques, including one story in second person. Highly recommended.

Time for desserts and today it is Christmas Pudding with Trifle tomorrow – save some sherry to put in that…..

Like the history of Stollen earlier in the posts, The Christmas pudding that is available today for those of us who do not have the skill to make our own is very different from the original. It actually began life in the 14th century as a porridge that was savoury and made with beef and mutton with dried fruit such as raisins and the addition of wine and spices. It was actually the ‘slim shake’ of the day and eaten before any festivities during the year presumably to leave room for all the goodies they had back then such as a whole deer poached or otherwise..Nothing new in history then!

By 1600 the pudding had evolved to more of a cake consistency with the addition of stale breadcrumbs and eggs. It still contained the spirits and also beer and began to be associated with Christmas. However, there are always spoilsports and in the mid 1600s it was banned by the puritans for being too delicious and sinful by half….

Thankfully it received Royal approval and in 1714, King George I re-established it as part of the Christmas meal and by Victorian times most who could afford it were enjoying the same kind of steamed pudding that we do today. .

Although eaten at Christmas the pudding itself, like the rich Christmas cake is made several weeks if not months in advance. With the liberal addition of brandy to the mix it would probably last for years! It is then steamed to reheat while the turkey cooks and served with thick custard, icecream or whipped cream…

Carol Taylor our food expert provided a recipe for Christmas Pudding earlier in the year which is when it is best to make the dessert to allow to mature… here is the link for both the traditional and gluten free recipes

One of the  final drinks is one that you will be familiar with if you have been frequenting any of the high street coffee chains in the last few weeks… Festive Coffees...

When I did my management training with Schooner Inns steak houses in the mid-70s one of my jobs was to man the bar during busy periods. It was the in thing to finish the meal with a liqueur coffee which could be a pain to make since you could only serve a perfect finished glassful.

Into the wine glass you placed a spoonful of brown sugar, followed by the liqueur of choice – Irish coffees – Irish whisky – French with brandy – West Indies – Rum etc. Then you three quarters filled the glass with hot black coffee and stirred to dissolve the sugar. As that settled you then turn a teaspoon upside down over the mixture and gently poured double cream over it so that it settled on the top of the coffee in a thick white band. You should be able to see the coffee still jet black with the creamy topping. The glass would then be placed on a saucer and taken gently to the table to the eagerly awaiting diner. On busy Friday and Saturday nights it was not unusual to make and serve over 100 of these popular beverages. I got quite fast at preparing them and could usually make a perfect coffee in around 45 seconds.

However, there were times when the cream would break the surface of the coffee and it would become cloudy and those could not be served. In the spirit of waste not, want not those coffees that did not pass muster were then consumed after closing whilst the process of cleaning glasses and the bar was underway… Dreadful job but someone had to do it.

If you are planning to get in to get into that little black dress for the festive season…. I think you should just bear in mind that a Peppermint Mocha Latte with whip comes in at over 500 calories….

Thank you for joining us today and I hope you have enjoyed.. Tomorrow the final party before Christmas with a slightly different format… please drop in…thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas Celebrations – The Tenth Day of Christmas with guests Alison Williams and Patty Fletcher

Welcome to the tenth day of Christmas and my guests today are writer and editor Alison Williams and author Patty Fletcher, sharing their most favourite Christmas gifts of all time.

First some festive music to get the party started….I am a huge fan of Chris Rea .. and here is his Driving Home for Christmas. You can buy his music Amazon

Sally’s Christmas memories.

Yesterday I told the first half of the story about my temping up to Christmas 1979 whilst the hotel I was working in was closed for the season. After the cheque typing experience I was more than happy to undertake an assignment with a little more of a challenge. The agency contacted me and asked me if I would accept a two week contract that had been turned down by some of their regular temps due to the nature of the work..

It was for a receptionist/secretary at a large local funeral directors. Obviously many temps felt that at this festive time of year there might be little cheer to be had in such an establishment…. To be honest I was happy to have another two weeks work and on the Monday morning I turned up suitably attired in my most sombre outfit and rang the bell. A very nice lady showed me the ropes and gave me the guided tour of the public areas, explaining that only those involved in the actual process of preparing the deceased were allowed into certain areas. That was quite comforting I can tell you.

I had little contact with the public for the first couple of days as I settled into the routine but dealt with several enquiries by phone. The firm was an old established company and the two directors were brothers if I remember rightly. Eventually after I had been properly versed on the etiquette involved I was allowed to meet the general public. Of course the majority of these people were loved ones and family of those who had entered the building by the rear entrance.

This was my first real contact with the process of dying and I was heartened by the approach by all the members of staff publicly and privately behind the scenes. It was absolutely essential at all times to show respect for the deceased and their families and I must say I did find it hard at first to be natural but also sympathetic with those that came to pay their last respects.

The other rule was to keep visiting families separate and to this end there were two waiting rooms and appointments made so that there were no log jams or queues. I would also escort the visitors out after the viewing and confirm final arrangements with them. This required a level of delicacy that was great training for me for jobs that I went onto in later years and I actually enjoyed that part of the process where I felt I could help these grieving people.

At the end of the two weeks it was Christmas Eve and since there would not be any funerals over the Christmas week all the staff gathered in the office for sherry and mince pies.

Everyone was very friendly and I had honestly enjoyed my time there. In fact they were happy too, and one of the directors asked if I would like to stay on full-time. I actually was considering this carefully during the party. I loved my job in Wales but Portsmouth was my home and I had missed my own family and friends. However, whilst pondering my future the doorbell rang and I offered to answer it.

I opened the door to find a tiny old man with a walking stick standing on the door step in the lightly falling snow. He had tears running down his face and as I ushered him in he took my hand and simply said “Can you bury my dear wife for me love”. Luckily one of the directors had come through and stepped in to take the old man through to a waiting room. I was in bits and after composing myself in the ladies I gave my apologies and said that I would not be accepting their kind offer….

But I remembered their kindness and over the years they took care of the funeral arrangements of my father first and then my mother in 2012. They will probably take care of me too when it is my time as they have maintained their excellent level of respect and service to this day 40 years later. Which just goes to prove that good customer service is important to both the living and the dead.

Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially ‘named’ in the Jewish Temple. It’s celebrated by different churches on a wide number of different dates!

Today we have ten lords a leaping and in line with the previous mentioned use of the song to memorise catholic tenets during the years of persecution, this would refer to the Ten Commandments. However, it is recognised that as this song was sung by children and the penalty for practicing the Catholic faith was usually death during that time, most experts believe that it was not used for that purpose and that the 10 lords were really just leaping…because it fitted into the wording…

Time to welcome my first guest today.. writer and editor Alison Williams who will be sharing her most favourite Christmas gift…

I am a UK-based writer, editor and independent novelist. I love reading and I love to write. These are the two great passions of my life. I am a keen supporter of independent novelists. It frustrates me when a talented writer is held back or receives negative reviews because of typos or structural errors. If you have put a lot of time and effort, and indeed your heart and soul, into a book, then the last thing you want is for it to be criticised for errors that can be rectified with a professional edit of your work. You can find out more about Alison and her editing service on Alison Williams Blog

Alison shares a very memorable Christmas with Great Expectations.

Books and stories have always been a huge part of my life. As the youngest of five children, Christmas always seemed magical, and I didn’t really appreciate that my parents found the whole thing a huge headache due to lack of money. My dad was a milkman and in those days had to work on Christmas morning, so he would be home and waiting downstairs when we all got up. He used to make us wait for ages before we were allowed to go into the lounge where our presents were – one more cup of tea, one more cigarette (this was the seventies!), until we were all hopping about in frustration.

We all had (what seemed like) a huge plastic sack full of gifts and I remember being around seven and pulling out a hardback copy of ’Great Expectations’. It was a ‘proper’ book and I can still remember how excited I was that it was all mine. I can remember sitting there reading those first lines over and over, with the Christmas lights sparkling (we were only allowed to switch them on on Christmas Eve).

It was one of the Bancroft Classics, an abridged version, a series of classics for children. One of my sisters had ‘Jane Eyre’ which I inherited later, and which began my love of the Brontës.

It was a long time until I read the unabridged version of ‘Great Expectations’, but that first copy did mark the beginning of a real love of reading and literature and an admiration of how books and writing and creativity can shine a light on the world and society and people. I’ve read a lot of Dickens, but not enough, and I’m always struck by his ability to show the truth about society. Writers have a huge role to play – and we could do with a few more like him at the moment.

I did a quick search online to see if I could find a copy and was so pleased to see it:
There was a list of all the books in the collection on the back:

I spent many a dreary afternoon reading the list of titles and dreaming about reading them all – I was a rather odd child! I’m pleased to say that at nearly fifty, I have got round to most of them.

I thought that Alison might enjoy my virtual Christmas gift… the trailer for the 2013 version of Great Expectations.. I did see and it was very good.

The carol today is the wonderful In the Bleak Midwinter sung by Choir of Kings College Cambridge courtesy of drwestbury

“In the Bleak Midwinter” is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti. The poem was published, under the title “A Christmas Carol”, in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly. The poem first appeared set to music in The English Hymnal in 1906 with a setting by Gustav Holst. Harold Darke’s anthem setting of 1911 is more complex and was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts in 2008.

My next guest is author Patty Fletcher…who with her Seeing Eye guide dog.. King Campbell has delighted readers with their partnership. Patty works with other sight impaired writers and is a very supportive blogger to all of us.

Patty shares a little bit about herself.

I’m a 49-year-old single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom I am very proud. I have a great son-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren. Three girls, and two boys. I hope to be able to write more about them later on.

I own and handle a Black Labrador from The Seeing Eye™ named Campbell Lee—a.k.a. Bubba Lee or King Campbell, to give just a couple of his nicknames. Read more about Patty Fletcher

Patty shares her most special Christmas moment.

I loved typing because it enabled me to write stories and share them with my sighted friends.

I leapt around with joy when I opened that typewriter and after dinner, I sat it up and typed my first story. While I’m sure it was filled with unseemly blunders, I’ll never forget my joy when mom hung it on the fridge for all to read.

She always knew that one day I would write books.

She didn’t live to see my first one published, but I like to think she’d have been proud.

Patty is always very busy and I hope that she will enjoy one of my favourite songs from the film working 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton….

You can read the reviews and buy Patty Fletcher’s books:

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!

Patty has also recently featured in two anthologies.

December Awethology Light

A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales


We have always enjoyed Stollen or Christstollen for Christmas with its soft centre of marzipan and luckily we can obtain here at this time of year. Stollen in various forms has been made since the 14th Century in Germany.

The original recipe for Stollen however was very much more austere originally as they were made very simply with just water and flour. This was because during Advent butter and milk were not permitted to be consumed. It was not until about 1650 that the then Pope was petitioned to allow Stollen bakers to add these more flavoursome ingredients to make the bread more palatable.

Eventually over the centuries the dried fruit, nuts and candied peel have been added along with wonderful spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and mace. There are also versions that include brandy or rum and of course the melt in the mouth marzipan that runs along the centre of the loaf.

Legend says that the Stollen in its typical shape with the white layer of icing sugar symbolized the Christ Child wrapped in diapers.

Dry Martini – Shaken not Stirred

We often kick off a with Dry Martinis – and since there is a lot of sugar around over the holidays it is wonderful to have some slightly less sweet to clear the palate. However some people get very creative with the recipes and here is a link to 10 Festive Martinis

If you would like to make the authentic James Bond Martini….. the lads will show you how.

For ours you just need the following per martini…and the real martini glasses do add a little class to the beverage…

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 oz dry vermouth

Shake vodka and vermouth together with several ice cubes in a shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with an olive or a twist of lemon peel and serve.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s get together and if you have a special Christmas memory please share in the comments…we would love to hear it.  Thanks Sally

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

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

Sally’s Christmas Past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Linda with a little bit about herself.

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

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

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

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

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

Linda bethea two51qb8fm4dqL._AC_US240_QL65_

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

Entertaining  on November 5, 2018

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

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

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

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

The Twelve Days of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra shares her most treasured Christmas gift.

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

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

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

A recent review for Promised Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will she figure it out before she loses her mind?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Eighth Day of Christmas with guest Donata Zawakzka and Robbie Cheadle

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 latest book 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. You can find out more about her work in an interview last year

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

View her website :
Buy her work on Redbubble:
Like Dona on Facebook:
Follow her on Twitter:

In Dona’s interview last year 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).

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. You can sample some of her amazing fondant work (often appears in the books that she writes with her son Michael) on her Blog. 

You will also be able to enjoy the families vacations across their stunning home of South Africa and their frequent trips abroad.  To find out more about her books you can also visit her Website

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….

You can read the reviews for Robbie and Michael Cheadle’s books as well as Robbie’s stand alone novel and poetry collection:


One of the recent reviews for While the Bombs Fell

While WWII raged in England and the men left home and battled enemy forces, the bombs fell and the women and children left behind took care of the business of living. We rarely get the inside story of what it was like for the mothers and daughters; grandmothers and aunts and sisters, who had to find a way to get enough food on the table to survive, to stay warm during those cold winters with no fuel for the furnace or fireplace, to walk to the privy in cow dung and ice. Robbie Cheadle writes the story from her mom’s perspective, Elsie, when she was a child and lived through WWII. The stories remind us how spoiled we are now with our lives, and how comparatively weak. Those in the English countryside during the war needed to be hearty and strong to survive. Yet, they also found ways to have fun and to stay strong within their circle of family and friends. A loving tribute to what it was like for those left behind, “while the bombs fell.”

Time for another dish from Carol Taylor’s  Vegetarian Christmas Menu and it is an alternative to the turkey and all the other birds mentioned above…..

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.

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

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Sixth Day of Christmas with Guests William Price King, Annette Rochelle Aben and Jan Sikes

Welcome to the sixth party in this series and today my guests are the amazing William Price King, American Jazz singer, crooner and composer who has been providing the music content for Smorgasbord for over four years. Joining him today is friend but also new and very welcome collaborator, who has a background in broadcasting and music, Annette Rochelle Aben who will be writing her own Numerology column from the New Year. Also with a wonderful career in both publishing and the music industry, is my third guest, Jan Sikes.

All will be sharing their most cherished Christmas memories throughout today’s post.

My Christmas memories…

In early 1965 a film was released in the UK that was to be a turning point for me and the start of a lifelong crush on the lead actor. Christopher Plummer was 36 at the time that The Sound of Music became available to the general public and not just musical theatre goers. I was just twelve but I saw myself as Maria from that moment on. I saw that film three times in the next 18 months and I could rattle all the songs off at a drop of hat including The Lonely Goatherd with requisite yodelling.

My ardour did not diminish, and when we returned to Portsmouth in 1967, I managed to coerce a school friend into forming a double act. At age 14 we were encouraged to reach out to the community at Christmas, and undaunted by the prospect of performing publicly, my friend and I dressed ourselves in replicas of the film costumes. Actually my mother was missing a pair of old curtains, so we did not stray too far from the script…and we offered our services to three old people’s homes in the local area.

We would turn up after school in the weeks before Christmas and join the residents for a cup of tea and a piece of cake before performing our repertoire of songs from The Sound of Music. I must admit that a couple of songs in and there was a fair bit of nodding off…not to be outdone I would burst into The Lonely Goatherd and it served to enliven the audience who would look around bemusedly at the sound of a strangled cat in between the verses.

I did however have a ‘moment’ in my early 40’s. We were on holiday in the French Alps one summer and had hiked up one of the surrounding mountains. We reached a plateau that was dotted with alpine flowers and after we had consumed our packed lunch and with no one else in sight, I took my chance. I stood in the middle of the meadow and gave the title song as loud a rendition as I possibly could. I threw my arms wide as I finished and turned in a slow circle to receive the applause of my husband, only to find that a large group of Japanese tourists had just reached the edge of the plateau and were snapping photographs and clapping madly…I think they thought that it was especially laid on for their lunchtime entertainment. A quick descent was called for in the opposite direction.

As my first guest is William Price King it seems more than appropriate to get the party started with one of his own performances. We will meet him in person a little later.

My thanks again to Why Christmas for their detailed information on the traditions around the world. The Falkland Islands are in the South Atlantic Ocean about 300 miles from the east coast at the bottom of South America. They are a British Overseas Territory even though they’re about 8,000 miles away from the rest of the UK. There are only around 3,000 residents of the Islands with most living in the capital Stanley, and considering the land mass occupies around 4,700 square miles, it is hardly over populated.. But there 150,000 sheep.

It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere and being British the Islanders share many of the traditions with the UK. It is very windy which means few trees, but artificial ones are on display. As you might guess roast lamb is the most likely Christmas dinner and it is very expensive to fly turkeys in from South America.

As at home, pantomime is very popular and children on the more remote parts of the islands get their presents flown in from the capital. Carol singing takes place under a ‘Whale Bone Arch’  constructed from the jaw bones of two blue whales… and on Boxing Day the horse races attract punters and spectators from all over The Falklands.

Time now to meet William Price King and find out about his most favourite Christmas gift ever..His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour. You can find out more about William and his career in his latest Music Column

William shares his most treasured Christmas memory...

It was Christmas Eve. Before starting the day I called our youngest daughter who lives in Germany to wish her good luck for her performance as Rosina in “The Barber of Seville” that evening and to get confirmation that she and her boyfriend were still planning to celebrate Christmas at his parents’ home in Düsseldorf. She answered affirmatively and said that they were looking forward to it as they had done in the previous years. We spoke for a moment and then I wished her a good show and said we would call them on Christmas.

I finished decorating the tree and put the presents in place. Wakanda, our cat, took quick possession of her Christmas box and happily installed herself under the tree. In the meanwhile my wife and I continued preparing for the big day and began making the final touches, reminiscing over the good old days when we had the entire family at home for Christmas. Those days were gone.

Around midnight we went to bed happy that everything was ready for our Christmas celebration in anticipation of seeing the grand kids frantically open their gifts. Around 6 a.m. my wife woke me up and said that she heard someone walking in the house. I told her it must have been a dream, as we live alone. Plus, why would Santa be walking around in our house at 6 a.m. on Christmas day, right? My wife insisted it wasn’t a dream. She really was frightened and believed that someone had broken into the house. A bit annoyed I lurched downstairs, opened the living room door and there stood our opera singer with her boyfriend. “Merry Christmas!” they shouted gleefully. My mouth dropped in disbelief. I pinched myself to make sure it wasn’t I who was dreaming this time around. I knew that life could yield unexpected surprises but this one beat them all. It was the first time that she had come home for Christmas in 10 years, a gift from the stars, and the best Christmas gift I ever had.

Definitely a wonderful Christmas memory and I can imagine that the celebrations were fantastic.

I spent some time wondering what William might enjoy for his Christmas gift… and I hope that he will enjoy something from his home town. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with O Come O Come Emmanuel. Courtesy of Thomas Trimborn

The Sixth day (30th December) is dedicated to St Egwin of Worcester. Egwin was of noble if not royal blood and was born in the late 600’s and became a monk. Because of his lineage the royal court and hierarchy in the church pushed for his elevation to Bishop in in 693. He had strict moral code and was a benefactor for the poor and orphans. He was also very strict with worshippers and clergy alike and became increasingly unpopular when he began insisting that marriage vows should be taken seriously and that the clergy should be celibate… In the end tired of the resistance to his firm stance on these issues he took himself off to Rome to get the blessing of the Pope.

A number of ‘miracles’ occurred on the route and having received vindication from the Holy Father he returned to Evesham. He lived until between 917 and 920 bringing about many changes including founding Evesham Abbey which was one of the most important Benedictine Monasteries of medieval times. He died and was buried there but all was destroyed in the purges in the 16th century.


Six geese a laying – some say this symbolises the six days of creation but most assume it was a continuation in the bird theme from the Four Colley Birds, Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree…..

Time to meet my next guest, the delightful Annette Rochelle Aben – Annette has an attitude of gratitude that she spreads around on a daily basis… Annette’s Blog and also by interviewing authors on radio Tell Me A Story with Annette Rochelle Aben | The Magic Happens (TMH)

Over the years, Annette has been blessed with having both hobbies and jobs that required her to write. This resulted in her winning the admiration of peers and industry professionals alike. Publication lead to awards, which provided even more encouragement and now, Annette Rochelle Aben is a #1 Best Selling Author! These days, Annette writes poetry books, coaches others through the writing of their books, and edits articles for the digital magazine The Magic Happens.

In the New Year Annette will be joining the team here with her own column Universal energy – Numerology and I am delighted to welcome her to the blog.

Annette shares her most treasured Christmas Gift

Seventeen years ago, at our Christmas gift exchange, I opened the lovingly wrapped package from my nephew Danny, to find a statue of a black cherub sitting on a cloud. I choked back tears because I knew he originally planned to give it to my mother, but she rejected the gift because Angels couldn’t possibly be anything other than white you know.

As I drove home, I hit an ice storm and what would have taken me 45 minutes, took me over 5 hours. The whole way, that Angel sat on my dashboard. I made it home safely.

Very difficult after that very special memory to find a gift that compares for Annette, but knowing her love of angels and music.. I hope that she enjoys one of my favourite tracks In the Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLachlan

You can find all of Annette Rochelle Aben’s books:

Here is a selection of Annette’s books


A recent review for A Tanka Picture Book

Annette Rochelle Aben writes the most beautiful and heartfelt poetry, most frequently in the form of tanka and haiku verse. Annette bares her thoughts, feelings and soul to the world with her writing and enables you to experience her joy and delight at living with her. One identifying feature of Annette’s poetry is that she appeals to all five of the senses. I frequently find that poems focus on the visual, what the writer sees, but not that many poets manage to capture the smell, sound and touch of life in quite the way Annette does. One of the poems in this book that filled me with delight is this one: We found paradise Filled with rolling hills of green Houses so cozy Paths strewn with flowers fragrant Watercolor painted skies

Over the next few days I will be sharing some of the wonderful Christmas delicacies  that appeared on Carol Taylor’s Vegetarian Christmas Menu 

Ricotta, Blackberry and Walnut Toasts.

• 2 tbsp of maple syrup
• 150 gm blackberries
• 4 slices of your favorite bread I used sourdough
• 100 gm soft ricotta
• 1 tbsp toasted walnuts
• A few mint leaves

To Prepare

  1. Warm the maple syrup in a small pan and add the blackberries cook for 3-4 mins gently squashing a few blackberries with the back of your wooden spoon.
  2. Toast the bread.
  3. To serve spread some ricotta over the toast then spoon over the warm syrup and fruit, top with your toasted walnuts and a few mint leaves.


And now my final guest today who also has a wonderful life of music and love. Jan Sikes is an Award Winning Author, screenwriter and songwriter. She began her writing career as a young girl. Her first work was a gospel song. She had an uncle whom she loved dearly, but he was an alcoholic and his drinking caused such family discord that at times, resulted in him being banished from their home. So, she wrote a song about Uncle Luke finding Jesus. That is her first memory of feeling the passion deep down to her toes for writing and for music.

And here is Jan’s most favourite Christmas gift of all time

The best Christmas I can remember is 2003. Rick was just finishing the recording of his new music CD and he had a jacket monogrammed for me with the album cover on the back and my name in the front. I couldn’t have been more surprised or proud! That year all of our children, my mom and aunt came to our house for the celebration. There was an abundance of food, laughs and love. It is a sweet memory.

Another tough challenge to find a gift for Jan following that heartfelt memory… but I hope that this will make her smile and remind her of the first song that she wrote for her uncle. A wonderful Gospel Christmas.

Featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra again with The Pointer Sisters and  Adam L. McKnight..- Amen courtesy of Adam L. McKnight

You can find all of Jan’s books here:

One of the reviews for Home at Last

Almost Home is the third book in this series and every bit as exciting as the first two books! Mrs. Sikes lets us into their lives, finally lived together, and their love that continues to grow! Ms. Sikes has written each novel with such depth of emotion that I felt virtually every feeling along with Darlina as I was reading! I spent plenty of time with tissues in hand! The pace was very steady and my attention never wavered. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t reach the end of each book fast enough to move on to the next!

It was a mesmerizing story from beginning to end! The story of Darlina (Jan Sikes) and Luke (Rick Sikes) is a love story for the ages and fraught with challenges seemingly every step of the way. This series is made more poignant for me by the fact that it is the true account of two people, fictionalized for the benefit of the author! I give Almost Home by Jan Sikes five cups of steaming hot Room With Books coffee and I highly recommend you read it!

Now time for something to drink…..Whilst it is customary to see cranberries in a sauce on the Christmas Dinner Table, you can also enjoy in a cocktail during the holiday period. Cranberries have a great many health benefits…. which might be slightly diluted when adding alcohol.. but here is a video that will give you a recipe to try.

Thank you for dropping in today and tomorrow my guests are Jessica Norrie and Marjorie Mallon… I hope you will join us.. thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Fifth Day of Christmas with guests D.G. Kaye, Lizzie Chantree and Joy Lennick

Welcome to the fifth day of Christmas, and today my guests are D.G. Kaye (Debby Gies), Lizzie Chantree and Joy Lennick.  We will find out more about their most favourite Christmas memories later.

As I continue to reflect on Christmas Past… I came across some pictures of Saas Fee in Austria the Christmas of 1995, here is a mountain shot that I found on Pixabay which is far better than the ones I took with my old camera. It was to be a memorable festive break for more than one reason… We stayed in a lovely hotel which was family run and the guests were mainly German speaking. There was one other English couple and the management kindly put our two tables close together in the dining-room. We actually got on with them very well and over the course of the 10 days we went on some excursions as a foursome. The other thing that the management did to make our stay more enjoyable was to translate their morning newsletter and guide to the day’s menu from German into English.

These were the days before Google Translate was offering such a useful service and I know that the two pager must have taken considerable time to convert especially as there were only four of us who could not speak German. That is true customer service. However, it unfortunately did lead to some hilarity at the breakfast table despite our best efforts to maintain a stiff British upper lip. There were a number of ‘moments’ including our confusion over the ‘Cancer Butter’ to be served with the salmon at dinner (Crab butter) and the title of the Version Original film to be shown at the local cinema ‘The Hard with a Vengeance’ (Die Hard with a Vengeance).

David was hitting the ski slopes every day whilst I explored the trails around Saas Fee by foot. However, between Christmas and New Year the four of us decided to try out the very long toboggan run from the top of the tree line down into the town. Luckily there was a ski lift up to the top where we collected our individual sleds. I was not very proficient to begin with and the other three were soon on their way as I trailed tentatively behind. The route took two hours normally and by the time I got to the last down hill stretch David and our two companions were gathered enjoying a mulled wine and waiting for my arrival. That last slope was both steep and lengthy and I perched over the lip prepared for a fast ride.

At that moment the three of them turned to face the slope and began waving.. as did most of the other spectators. I was quite chuffed by the attention as they all waved both arms over their heads and shouted encouragement. Taking a deep breath I launched myself off and gathered momentum very quickly…. too quickly and barely keeping the sled under control I hurtled downwards towards the waiting crowd. The end of the run ended in a gradual slope upwards to slow the progress of over eager tobogganers.

It was obvious to those watching that I was not going to be stopping anytime soon and the crowd parted as I rushed through them and I heard what they had been shouting to me on the way down as they waved their arms in the air “Ice, Ice, walk down on the edge – don’t do it. I took off from that ramp like Santa and his sleigh and thankfully landed in a snow drift positioned as a precautionary measure…. As I rose to my feet unharmed I turned to find anxious faces peering over the edge. I was laughing with adrenaline overload and with that everybody began clapping and slapping each other on the back… It was obviously the best entertainment in town….

On a lighter note here is some music to get your feet tapping……Mariah Carey with All I Want for Christmas

Time for my first guest and it is D.G. Kaye.. Debby Gies who is not just a wonderful friend and supporter of the blog but also a much valued contributor. In particular the monthly Travel Column which has taken us to warm and exotic locations in the Caribbean and The Lesser Antilles…on cruise ships with all the know-how necessary to get the best value and enjoyment from our holiday. Recently Debby has been keeping an eye open for funnies to enhance the Laughter lines including this recent post

Debby shares her very poignant best Christmas Gift ever.. the first year that she was married.

My best Christmas gift was marrying my husband in October 1999. One week after our marriage I became almost fatally ill and spent the first few months of marriage in and out of hospital. The steroids I was put on made me gain a bunch of weight and my face wasn’t spared with the often talked about ‘moonface’ many experience on that drug. I was sick, depressed and couldn’t stand looking in a mirror. My husband caught me secretly crying in the bathroom and asked me what was the matter. I tried to explain how I felt through my fit of tears and here was his response: “I love you to the moon and back. You will always be beautiful to me and that’s all that counts.” If I hadn’t already known I married a prince, I knew in that moment.

My Christmas gift to Debby is a reminder of something I know she is very much looking forward to, especially as Toronto is cold and wet at the moment… her month’s trip to Puerto Vallarta in the New Year… Not long now Debby.

Courtesy of DD Food & Travel

Read the reviews and buy D.G. Kaye’s books:
Connect to Debby on her blog:

A recent review for Words We Carry Very insightful read. on September 16, 2018

Once in a while you come across a book that really speaks to you. Reading ‘Words We Carry’ by D. G. Kaye was like having friends over for coffee and revealing our innermost secrets or speaking to your mentor about life and how to make it better. The author, who has natural psychology opened my eyes and made me ponder why I react the way I do to certain things or certain people. I enjoyed author, D.G. Kaye’s writing style––so friendly and warm. This book is well written and is easily one that can change someone’s life. I recommend this book to anyone who ever felt insecure, self-conscious or inadequate. An easy 5 star read.

Traditionally on Day five of the Twelve Days of Christmas (29th December), the life and death of St Thomas Becket was remembered. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century and was murdered after questioning the ethics of the then King Henry II and his interference with the Church. Unusually St. Thomas Becket is saint and martyr revered by both the Catholic and the Anglican faiths.

Five Gold rings would be welcomed by everyone but over the years there have been various theories on the interpretation of this particular gift. One theory is that all the verses refer to birds in one way or another that were eaten in the 18th century – Partridge, Turtle Doves French Hens, Colley Birds, and the five rings referring to gold ringed pheasants, Geese, swans but then we hit the maids so some work needed on this hypothesis! I would say that it was more about how the lyrics fitted the song and in all the versions that were illustrated it was clearly in the form of actual gold rings.

Time to meet my second guest today and that is award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, who started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Lizzie shares her most treasured Christmas gift ever…

On Christmas day, the scent of pine needles and mulled wine are usually enough to bring a smile to my face, but I’ll always remember my children dipping their heads under the tree and giggling in excitement, at giving me what has turned out to be my favourite gift. As I opened the wrapping paper their faces peeped up at me through tissue paper and I turned page after page of photographs of family memories that they had spent hours and hours collecting, and presenting in a photo album, for me. It’s a gift that I will always cherish.

As I would Lizzie… lovely…..

As Lizzie is an award winning inventor, my Christmas gift to her is to virtually try out some of the lastest inventions for work and leisure.. my personal favourite the Orange Screw….courtesy of Quantum Tech HD

You can buy Lizzie Chantree’s books:
And connect to her on her website:

One of the recent reviews for If You Love Me I’m Yours

The author obviously has a love for, and knowledge of art in all its forms …and human nature as well. Clever the way she shows the influence of parents on their offspring, who either try to live up to expectations or deny their true selves to fit in. I felt for repressed artistic Maud, who was impelled to express her talent anonymously and leave her works of art to be picked up by anyone who wanted to give them a home. ( I also loved the brilliant descriptions of her amazing bedroom and her hidden ‘shed’. ) And then poor Dot, who only truly found her talent when she found Maud. The interweaving plot carries you along, willing and hoping for a happy ending for all these engaging characters. Another different story from Lizzie Chantree. It’s as funny and compulsive as her Ninja School Mum. More please.

Since we were in Austria for Christmas that year, it is appropriate that we look at some of their Christmas traditions. According to  Why Christmas Austria shares many Christmas traditions with its neighbor Germany, but also has many special Christmas customs of its own. This includes an Advent Wreath made from evergree twigs, with ribbons and four candles for each of the four Sundays in Advent.. when a candle is lit you might hear carols being sung.

Austria and Germany are well known for their Christmas markets with visitors from all over Europe arriving to enjoy the decorations, food and Glühwein (sweet, warm mulled wine).

There will be a large Christmas Tree in the town squares and at home most trees are decorated in gold and silver with straw stars. As in some other European countries December 6th is also celebrated in some homes for Saint Nicholas and children might be lucky to get an extra gift. Otherwise they will have to wait until 4pm on Christmas Eve for the festivities to begin.

The main Christmas Eve meal is Fried Carp for those who are Catholic and observe the day as a Fast, and for others it might be roast goose or turkey which is becoming more popular. Dessert might be the famous Austrian Sachertorte.

As Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was written in Austria in 1818.. here is a wonderful version by the Dresden Choir. Courtesy of Brent Postlethwaite

One of the accompaniments for our traditional Christmas dinner is bread sauce and here is the recipe taken from last week’s full Christmas menu by Carol Taylor

Bread Sauce

Freeze the breadcrumbs ready to use (I always) keep a bag of frozen breadcrumbs in the freezer. The sauce can be made the day before and reheated on the day… I have been surprised living here that many people have not heard of bread sauce my mum always made it at Christmas we couldn’t have turkey without bread sauce…


About half loaf of good quality stale white bread either broken into smallish pieces or can blitz into breadcrumbs if you like a smoother sauce.
• I brown Onion peeled and studded with cloves.
• 2 bay leaves.
• Salt & Pepper.
• About half pint milk.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Pour milk into a saucepan and add studded onion. Slowly bring to boil and turn down and let gently simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. When cool remove Onion and bay leaves. This can be reheated to serve or made the day before and kept covered in the fridge. It is quite a thick consistency so if too thin add some more bread if too thick some more milk.

And for my final guest today, the lovely poet and author Joy Lennick who is enjoying retirement in sunny Spain, but she is not spending all day at the beach as she supports her fellow authors and continues to publish books and blog posts.

Here is Joy in her own words….

Having worn several hats in my life: wife, mum, secretary, shop-keeper, hotelier; my favourite is the multi-coloured author’s creation. I am an eclectic writer: diary, articles, poetry, short stories and five books. Two books were factual, the third as biographer: HURRICANE HALSEY (a true sea adventure), fourth my Memoir MY GENTLE WAR and my fiction novel is THE CATALYST. Plenty more simmering…including a humour filled book called The Moon is Wearing a Tutu…

And here is Joy’s most precious Christmas gift ever….

Was it the ‘Coronation coach’ filled with iced gems in 1938? Or that ‘war-Christmas’ when we toboganned down an iced hill in Wales……Or appearing in “Mother Goose” at the Theatre Royal? And, one year, I had a new brother like an animated doll. A yuletide party in 1957, singing carols in a beautiful house in Toronto, Canada was special too. But the winner was the Christmas gift of 1959. Having returned to the UK, my doctor said those two magical words:: ‘You’re pregnant!’. Having dreamed of this for six years, it was the best Christmas present EVER.

It is tough to follow that precious a Christmas gift, and it took me some time to find the perfect Christmas present for Joy..

I worked in a hotel in the Snowdonia National Park, at Bontddu on the Mawddach  Estuary and love it.  There is now a coastal path along the entire length of the Welsh coastline and I thought Joy might like a virtual tour.

Discover Joy’s books read the reviews and buy:
Connect to Joy via her blog:

One of the reviews for My Gentle War

I found this book totally enchanting, not just for the way it was written (which was completely original being unfettered by any rules on writing and therefore delivered with great feeling). It evoked some long lost memories from my childhood, of family forgotten or misplaced by faulty memory. I thought of my grandmother clasping a homemade loaf of bread under her arm, giving it a good buttering, then with a large bread knife, sawing it off and setting a ‘doorstep’ sized slice free for jam or honey to follow. I wasn’t born at the time of the war, which doesn’t spoil any of this account and although I know it from history books and oft heard tales, was not a good time to live through, yet I’m left thinking there was another side to these times, told here with great fondness. Sometimes I think we’ve lost a great deal for all our modern ways. This is a lovely book and worth a read. Pat McDonald British Crime Author.

A Snowball is a cocktail made with advocaat and lemonade in equal quantities with a dash of lime juice to cut some of the sweetness.

Advocaat comes from Holland and is made from eggs, sugar and brandy. It looks and tastes like a very luxurious custard and is similar to eggnog but whereas you can enjoy a non-alcoholic eggnog a snowball is not for all the family…..There are a number of variations using egg yolks, aromatic spirits, honey, brandy and sometimes cream. The best commercial brands on the market are Bols and DeKuyper.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting my guests, the music, food and of course a snowball or two.. thanks for dropping in and please let us know what your most favourite Christmas Gift of all time is. thanks Sally


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

Welcome to the weekly round up and I am sure that you are all in the middle of getting your own Christmas or holidays sorted. We have family staying this week and a dinner planned with visitors which we are looking forward to.

We actually tend to hibernate from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day and it has become a tradition to drop whatever we are doing online (except for an hour a day – otherwise I get cranky)… and spend time together enjoying movies, meals out and laughing. Christmas is for family and we will be Skyping my sisters on the day, as they will be together for dinner in Portsmouth.

With just the two of us, we tend to not get a turkey and will be having aged sirloin steaks, chips, onion rings and ice-cream for our dinner. We might start with some scallops and prawns if I can find some fresh ones and any other of our favourite foods I can locate. A glass or two of good Spanish red and then a power nap I think before Quality Street and a rerun of one of the classic Christmas movies.

It has been a busy week with the Christmas book promotions and parties so I will stop chatting and get on with it.

As always very grateful to my regular contributors and you will find a couple of your favourites popping in over Christmas to entertain you. Including a four part story set in Japan by Writer in Residence Paul Andruss, who has taken time out from his writing sabbatical to share.

And thank you too for visiting, liking, commenting and sharing the post, it is much appreciated.

This week William Price King introduces us to the magical Alice Coltrane pianist and harpist.

Last week Carol Taylor delighted with her Vegetarian Christmas Menu.. and this week she created a feast for those of us who like some turkey for our dinner… with all the trimmings. An amazing amount of work and I am so grateful for all her efforts in the last 18 months.

Geoff Le Pard entertains with the second of his guest posts this Christmas…Traditions Le Pard Family Style

Delighted to announce that from January Annette Rochelle Aben will be writing a new column for the blog.

This week there are three prompts as part of Colleen Chesebro Poetry Challenge no. 114, 115, 116 as Colleen is going to be taking a well earned break.. So no recaps until early January. But Colleen has left you the prompts for those three weeks if you would like to continue with the series. I felt like going off piste this week.

Jessica Norrie

The First Day of Christmas with guests Mary Smith, Jacquie Biggar and John Howell sharing their most memorable Christmas gifts, with music, food and traditions from around the world.

The Second Day of Christmas with special memories from Darlene Foster and Miriam Hurdle.

The Third Day of Christmas with their most favourite Christmas gifts Jennie Fitzkee and Lisa Thomson

The Fourth Day of Christmas with guests Norah Colvin and Amy Reade sharing their most favourite gifts ever.

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.  Reach for the Peppermint

Thank you very much for visiting and hope you have enjoyed the Christmas celebrations.. more to come next week.. thanks Sally

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

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

My Christmas Past..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Norah’s  Very Best Christmas Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Amy’s most treasured Christmas gift ever

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

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

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

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

One of the recent reviews for The Worst Noel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrot Soup Ingredients: Serves 2

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

To prepare…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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