Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations Rewind – The Tenth Day of Christmas with guests Alison Williams, Patty Fletcher, #Food for Pets, Stollen and Martinis..


Welcome to the rewind of the series from 2018 which features not only the food and traditions of Christmas but also some special guests who it would be lovely to share Christmas dinner with in person. In the series my guests shared their best Christmas gift ever…and there will be food drink and of course music and to get you into the spirit of the season.

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

Festive Pet food for Christmas Dinner.

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) Sweet potato is a good choice.
  • 8 oz. of oats
  • 3 oz. of cooked basmati rice
  • A dessert spoon of cottage cheese to top it off

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…

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!

The 12 Days Of Christmas Stock Image - Image: 17186411

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 trained as a journalist and currently work as a freelance editor and writer, with articles published both online and in a variety of print publications. I have edited books in a variety of genres including dystopian, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business and have worked on over three hundred projects. I have worked on a freelance basis for US clients and am happy to edit in either UK or US English. I have previously worked on a freelance basis for several academic writing companies, writing model essays, proofreading essays and dissertations and editing and improving academic work at all levels from foundation to Ph.D. standard. I have taught creative writing with a focus on grammar, punctuation, creativity, voice and expression. Find out more about my editing services.

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing. I am fascinated by history – but not so much the kings and queens, the emperors, the military heroes or the great leaders. More the ordinary people whose lives were touched by the decisions, the beliefs and the whims of those who had power over them and who now fill our history books. It is their stories that I want to tell.

Read testimonials from clients.

As part of my Master’s degree I wrote my first historical novel ‘The Black Hours’ based on the notorious Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. I have also written a novella ‘Blackwater’. I am currently working on my next full length novel.

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.

Read the reviews and buy The Black Hours: Amazon UK – And: Amazon US – Connect to Alison Williams: Website/Blog: Alison Williams WordPress – Facebook: Alison Williams Writing – Twitter: @AlisonW_Editor

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 The Choirboys courtesy of The Choirboys – Topic

“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… Patty works with other sight impaired writers and is a very supportive blogger to all of us.

Patty and her guide dog Blue. Patty has her hair tied back in a low ponytail and rests her right hand on Blue's head. She wears a white shirt with a pink and purple butterfly on the front and light blue shorts. Blue is a handsome black lab. He wears a brown leather harness with a handle attached to the back and is smiling at the camera as he sits in front of Patty. In the background is a brick building with white, windowed doors and a flowerpot overflowing with pink and yellow blooms.

About Patty Fletcher

Patty Fletcher is a single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom she is enormously proud. She has a great son-in-law and six beautiful grandchildren. From April 2011 through September 2020 she owned and handled a black Labrador from The Seeing Eye® named King Campbell Lee Fletcher A.K.A. Bubba. Sadly, after a long battle with illness on September 24, 2020 King Campbell went to the Rainbow Bridge where all is peace and love. It is her hope to one day return to The Seeing Eye® for a successor guide.

Patty was born one and a half months premature. Her blindness was caused by her being given too much oxygen in the incubator. She was partially sighted until 1991, at which time she lost her sight due to an infection after cataract surgery and high eye pressure. She used a cane for 31 years before making the change to a guide dog.

Currently, Patty lives and works in Kingsport, Tenn. She’s the creator and owner of Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing (Author, Blogger, Business

Patty writes with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disabled from the non-disabled.

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….

Books by Patty Fletcher

Read the reviews and buy the books:Amazon USAnd :Amazon UK – Follow Patty: GoodreadsWebsite and Blog: Patty’s World Twitter: @Bubbalee04 

 

Christmas food – Stollen

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 Party 2020 – Invite a pet with guests Diana Wallace Peach, Patty Fletcher, Mary Anne Edwards and Claire Fullerton.


Welcome to the Smorgasbord Christmas Party, with the focus on the fur members of the family who also love this time of year, over this weekend and next I will be sharing the photographs of some much loved pets, and of course a little promo for their human companions.

Obviously with all these honoured guests expected, I have been busy in the kitchen preparing some treats that hopefully my guests both two-legged and four-legged will enjoy.. Joining last Sunday’s guests are some delightful felines and canines and their humans

My first guest today is  Diana Wallace Peach who has brought with her two delightful guests who were beloved family pets. Even when we lose them, they stay firmly in our hearts.

“Lulu and Honey were sisters who came into our lives in 2004 from a rescue shelter. They were our precious snuggle mutts and sources of endless laughter for their whole lives. Best Christmas presents ever. Happy Holidays!

A selection of books by Diana Wallace Peach.

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About Diana Wallace Peach

I didn’t care for reading as a child – I preferred Bonanza and Beverly Hillbillies reruns, Saturday morning cartoons and the Ed Sullivan show. Then one day, I opened a book titled The Hobbit. Tolkien … literally changed my life.

I love writing, and have the privilege to pursue my passion full time. I’m still exploring the fantasy genre, trying out new points of view, creating optimistic works with light-hearted endings, and delving into the grim and gritty what-ifs of a post-apocalyptic world. Forgive me if I seem untethered in my offering of reads. Perhaps one day, I’ll settle into something more reliable. For now, it’s simply an uncharted journey, and I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I.

Read the reviews and buy the books:  Amazon US – And : Amazon UK – Follow Diana: Goodreadsblog: Myths of the Mirror – Twitter: @Dwallacepeach

I thought that you might like to try this with your pets this Christmas as a party game.. I am sure there will be equally amusing results.. thanks to Pets Add Life

My next author is Patty Fletcher who sadly could not bring her Seeing Eye dog Campbell with her but is sharing a favourite photograph of this beloved companion, who is the subject of her new memoir.

Books by Patty Fletcher

About Patty Fletcher

I’m a single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom I am enormously proud. I have a great son-in-law and six beautiful grandchildren. From April, 2011 through September, 2020 I owned and handled a black Labrador from The Seeing Eye® named King Campbell Lee Fletcher A.K.A. Bubba. Sadly, after a long battle with illness on September 24, 2020 King Campbell went to the Rainbow Bridge where all is peace and love. It is my hope to one day return to The Seeing Eye® for a successor guide.

About my blindness

I was born one and a half months premature. My blindness was caused by my being given too much oxygen in the incubator. I was partially sighted until 1991, at which time I lost my sight due to an infection after cataract surgery and high eye pressure. I used a cane for 31 years before making the change to a guide dog.

Read the reviews and buy the books:  Amazon USAnd : Amazon UK – blog: Campbell’s WorldTwitter: @Bubbalee04

I am sure your pets will have just as elegant manners as these smartly turned out guests…thanks to Anton Tamin

My next guest is Mary Anne Edwards who has brought Gertrude along to meet us.

This is Gertrude. We rescued her in January 2015. We think she was 7-years old when she came to live with us. This picture is her first Christmas with us. She is a curious kitty but a good girl who rarely gets into trouble. Gertrude is mama’s girl, but if I’m not available, her father figure will do.  Her favorite hobbies are eating, sleeping, and chasing a red dot. Her favorite toy is a paper towel cardboard tube because treats are hidden in it twice a day. Gertrude’s dislikes are the vet, anything the vet does to her, and any medicine the vet prescribes.

Books by Mary Anne Edwards

About Mary Jane Edwards

Born in Mercedes, Texas, Mary Anne has lived in Georgia for most of her life. A life-long fan of authors such as Agatha Christie, Anne Perry, Caroline Graham, and Elizabeth Peters, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Mary Anne listened to the voices in her head and began writing her own series of traditional mysteries featuring Detective Charlie McClung.

The first book in the series, Brilliant Disguise, was released to critical acclaim in January 2014. She released the next three in the series, A Good Girl, Criminal Kind, and Sins of my Youth, soon afterward. The fifth book in the series, Flirting with Time, was released on June 30, 2017. Mary Anne released the sixth book, How Deep is the Darkness, on December 2, 2019, and is working on book seven, Complex Kid, with at least three more to follow.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – andAmazon UK – Follow Mary Anne on: Goodreads – Website: Mary Anne Edwards Twitter: @maedwards58

My final guests today are Claire Fullerton with her three beautiful German Shepherds.

Left to right: Ceili, Ronin, and Sorcha, our 3 German shepherds with Irish names! They are a joy, the center of our activity here in Malibu, and they have a lot of secure room to run around.

Books by Claire Fullerton

About Claire Fullerton

Claire is the author of Little Tea, set in the Deep South. It is the story of the bonds of female friendship, healing the past, and outdated racial relations. Little Tea is the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens, a Faulkner Society finalist in the William Wisdom international competition, 1st place winner in the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset award, a finalist in the International Book Awards, and the Independent Authors Network 1st place in Literary Fiction winner and 2nd place winner for 2020 Book of the year. Claire is also the author of 12 X award winning Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis. Claire is also the author of 3X award winning, Dancing to an Irish Reel, set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow Claire : Goodreads – website: Claire Fullerton – Twitter: @Cfullerton3

Thanks to my guests today for traveling such great distances to be with us.. Please check out their humans’ books so that their houses will be filled with sausages, cheese and other treats this Christmas...Thanks Sally.

Please join us again for more guests tomorrow…

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Update #Reviews – C.S. Boyack, Balroop Singh and Patty Fletcher


Welcome to the update for authors in the Cafe and Bookstore and the first author with  recent review is C.S. Boyack for his latest release Voyage of the Lanternfish.

About Voyage of the Lanternfish

An honorable man is mistaken for his disreputable father. Now he’s pushed into a political scheme to start a war that will spread across multiple kingdoms. James Cuttler’s fiancé is being held captive to ensure he goes through with the plan.

He soon decides his skills are at sea and procures a ship to wage war upon those who disrupted his simple life. He can’t do it alone, so he recruits a band of cutthroats to help him. But first, they need guns and munitions to outfit the ship properly. Deception and trickery will only get them so far. Eventually, they’re going to have to engage the enemy.

James’ goals aren’t necessarily the same as his crew. It’s a delicate balancing act to collect enough loot to keep his crew happy, while guiding them back to rescue the girl.

Voyage of the Lanternfish is filled with adventure, magic, and monsters. Lots of monsters. Hoist the colors and come along for the ride.

One of the recent reviews for the book

What a rollicking, magical, high-octane, deftly plotted adventure! Remember when Dorothy steps from her black-and-white world into the Land of Oz for the first time? That explosion of color, wonder, and delight is equivalent to what the reader experiences in Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Wow, where to begin? I won’t reiterate the plot (just hop up and read the blurb), but I will say you’re in for a treat with this story of pirates, high-sea adventure, a diverse cast of characters and plenty of bizarre creatures. Where else will you encounter root monsters, an anvil bird, Fu dogs, owlcats, and a moving reef? And those are just some of the imaginative beings Boyack introduces with his latest release.

I developed a special fondness for the root monsters with their unwavering loyalty, nightly story-telling sessions, rabid delight in receiving names, and atrocious mangling of language. Of special note: You can’t read this book and not appreciate the cleverness of “I I I I”
Trust me. 🙂

The cast is every bit as colorful as the creatures and extremely diverse in backgrounds. They each have such strong personalities, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Even secondary characters and third level characters get plenty of moments to shine. The battle scenes involving mortars, guns, and claiming ships are perfectly executed. I was dazzled and glued to the pages.

I have read several books by this author but this one is in a league of its own. Hop aboard and set sail. You won’t be disappointed!

Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MP8V633

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Voyage-Lanternfish-C-S-Boyack-ebook/dp/B07MP8V633

A small selection of other books by C.S. Boyack

 Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/C.-S.-Boyack/e/B00ILXBXUY

And on Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-S.-Boyack/e/B00ILXBXUY

Read more reviews and follow C.S. Boyack on Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9841203.C_S_Boyack

Connect to Craig via his website: http://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com

And the next author with a recent review is poet Balroop Singh for her collection Sublime Shadows of Life.

About Sublime Shadows of Life

Sublime Shadows of Life is a comment on life, its turbulent curves and relationships. It envisions people through the prism of poetry. I, you, he, we and they are universal symbols, which highlight the fact that happiness is not a destination but a chasm to bury agony, anguish, grief, distress and move on! No sea of solitude is so deep that it can drown us. Sometimes aspirations are trampled upon, the boulders of exploitation and discrimination may block your path but those who tread on undeterred are always successful.

One of the recent reviews for the collection on Goodreads

Jan 18, 2019 Robbie Cheadle rated it Five Stars

Sublime Shadows of Life is a beautiful expression of the poet, Balroop Singh‘s, own life, and personal observations of other people’s lives, in poetic form. The poet pays tribute to her thoughts, dreams, happiness, sadness and joyful moments in this lovely book. There are also poetic depictions of the darker side of life, as indicated by the use of the word “shadows” in the title. Abuse, loss, discrimination and oppression feature in this collection. The poems are freestyle and reading them feels like taking a walk through the mind of the writer.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Sublime-Shadows-Life-BALROOP-SINGH-ebook/dp/B00EBLWR0A

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sublime-Shadows-Life-BALROOP-SINGH-ebook/dp/B00EBLWR0A

Also by Balroop Singh

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Balroop-Singh/e/B00N5QLW8U

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Balroop-Singh/e/B00N5QLW8U

Read more reviews and follow Balroop on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7340810.Balroop_Singh

Connect to Balroop via her blog: ttp://balroop2013.wordpress.com

And the final author today with a recent review is Patty Fletcher with the story of her Seeing Eye Dog, King Campbell in Bubba Tales.

About Bubba’s Tails

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

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

One of the recent reviews for Bubba’s Tails on Smashwords.

Victoria Zigler on Dec. 31, 2018 : Five Stars

What a beautiful story! It’s well told, and is a fun way to teach children – and adults to

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

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

Also by Patty Fletcher

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

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

Patty has also contributed to two anthologies

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

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

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

Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you could spread the news about these authors and the new reviews. 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: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00Q9I7RWG/
Website: http://www.campbellsworld.wordpress.com

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  https://www.books2read.com/u/3yPZvB

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

Stollen

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