Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#Review of Tales to Take You to Christmas by Sarah Tipper and Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

My season officially ended on January 6th so I'm pretty late with this. Of course, everyone knows by now that this is a year round Christmas site so my season never really officially ends. 😄

I'm including my review of this wonderful book of Christmas short stories and the CS reading challenge wrap-up in one post...for time economy's sake.

My thoughts on the book
If you buy any book next Christmas season, make it Sarah Tipper's Tales to Take You to Christmas. Better yet, buy it sooner. How about Rudolph Day (25th of each month) or during Christmas in July? You simply must read this charming book of short stories!

Sarah knows Christmas. I felt like I was reading the words of a kindred spirit. Each story is unique and though every one does not have a lesson, many of them do. Sarah touches on same sex relationships (acceptance), not-so-good-for-you relationships (independence), elderly loved ones, remembrance of loved ones who have passed, accepting oneself/being happy as you are, and more, but she's not heavy handed about it; and some stories are downright whimsical. Each story had its own merit and I loved them all. I can see myself picking this one up and reading favorites over the years. What I really loved was reading stories written from a British perspective. It gave me a glimpse into the Christmas traditions in England.

My favorites...

Keep It All The Year
The Pastry Plaster Plan For Patiently Pleasing Previously Perturbed People (read the full story here)
Deck the Halls
Fat - Her Christmas
Bring Me Sunshine
Secret Santa
The Freegle Has Landed
The Harvest Mouse Party
I Bet You Have A Great Christmas 1995
If I Had A Magic Wand in December

So, yes...I loved this book. I have a special love for Christmas themed short stories and this book fills the bill. I highly recommend this endearing book of stories to anyone who loves Christmas.

About the book
These twenty four short stories are ideal for advent reading. They are short enough for your commute into work in December and ideal for encouraging a festive mood to descend upon busy shoulders.
The titles of the stories and brief descriptions are as follows:

Keep It All The Year - The love of George leads to a lifelong love of Christmas.

Lost In A Forest - Kathleen needs to come up with a name for her and Don’s new house.

The End Of The Life Of Brian – Rats and romance combine in this tale.

The Pastry Plaster Plan For Patiently Pleasing Previously Perturbed People - Mince pie munching helps Roberta to cheer up in time for Christmas.

Deck The Halls – Communal living works out for the best, despite Jemima’s fears.

I Got Your Mum Alan Titchmarsh – Unlimited text messages between husband and wife help with Christmas plans.

Shirley’s Cold Cutz – Mrs C spends a pleasant few hours gossiping at the hairdressers.

Fat - Her Christmas – Mary learns to listen to the positive people and become one of them.

YulaTron 3000 – This robot promises to be your festive metal pal that does the job so well.

Teenage Cleans Are Hard To Beat – Melinda’s Christmas is made when she meets Simon in a launderette.
Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White – Karen is surprised to find that Santa was in her year at school.

The Bell – Donna feels grateful for being in the here and now in nineteen-eighty-three.

Bring Me Sunshine – Nancy hopes her daughter Lisa’s news will be met with understanding by the rest of the family.
Follow That Star Tonight – Lothario Terry strums his guitar to great effect and Jan is smitten.

Secret Santa – Lily finds the perfect gift for Edna after a prickly conversation.

The Freegle Has Landed – Peter’s big garage bill means Melanie has to budget very wisely for Christmas shopping.

Redemption – Ella has got into a pickle and isn’t looking forward to Christmas at all.

You’ve Got to Have Christmas Dinner For Christmas Dinner – Six people, six opinions on the yummiest thing to eat on the twenty-fifth of December.

Late Night Thursday – Maureen watches regular customers as they shop before Christmas nineteen-eighty-eight.

The Harvest Mouse Party – Christine suspects that mice inhabit the hedgerow she walks past every day on her way to school.

Monologue – Liz reflects on life and love while preparing to write her Christmas cards.

I Bet You Have A Great Christmas 1995 – Charlene is happiest when playing guessing games.

Pullit-on-Three – Christmas cracker jokes are created in the charming town of Pullit-on-Three.

If I Had a Magic Wand in December… - Some thoughts on how the festive season should be.

About the author
Sarah Tipper was born in Oxford, England in the 1970s and was very nearly called Robert. She enjoyed school, especially any classes that involved writing and that did not involve wearing shorts.

Sarah studied Psychology at the University of Reading. She missed her graduation ceremony because it clashed with seeing Black Sabbath. She went on to graduate with a masters degree in Health Psychology from Coventry University. Luckily this didn’t clash with anything and her Mum got a nice day out.

Sarah’s religion is heavy metal, she has written five books about a fictional metal band called Eviscerated Panda and three books that follow teenage metalhead Cleo Howard through the difficult days of growing up in the late nineteen-nineties. Sarah has also written a book of twenty-four short Christmas stories that can be used as a readable advent calendar.

During the day Sarah does cancer research, squirting things at other things in a science type way. She started writing her first novel because a friend kept telling her to write a book and because another friend had inspired her to write a ‘things to do before you’re forty list’ and write a book made it on to this list. Sarah can’t stop writing now.

The idea of the Eviscerated Panda series of books was conceived after twenty-four years of experience of going to gigs and drinking in rock pubs. It was hugely enjoyable to write and Sarah hopes to create heavymetalworld, much like Terry Pratchett created Discworld. The Cleo Howard diaries spun off out of the Eviscerated Panda series and gave Sarah the opportunity to regress to moody teenagerhood (and it’s much more fun in your forties).

Sarah’s Christmas book Tales to Take You to Christmas began as a small number of tales that grew into a whole book because Christmas is a very fun thing to write about. Sarah thinks of her twenty-four stories as little snow dusted windows into other peoples’ festivities.
Sarah’s favourite seasons are spring and fall. Her favourite cookie is the chocolate shortcake ring. Sarah’s favourite font is blood cyrillic, even though it’s really hard to read. Sarah finds writing about herself in the third person odd. It makes her worry she might get a big ego like that Kanye West fella.

Sarah’s Amazon.co.uk author page is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Tipper/e/B00A8Z5OVC
If you would rather buy from a smaller company, you can buy from here:


Sarah can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EvisceratedPanda/

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at https://twitter.com/evisceratedpand

Wrapping up the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. How did everyone do? I never officially signed up, but since I'm the host, I figured participation is a given.

What I read:

A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas (audio)
The Lion in the Box by Marguerite de Angeli
Christmas Tales: The Night Before Christmas and 21 Other Christmas Stories
Tales to Take You to Christmas by Sarah Tipper

I started reading The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans and Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L.M. Montgomery, but did not get to finish them. Next year...or maybe during Christmas in July.

I'm using the same linky as for the sign-up. When you add your wrap-up, be sure to add wrap-up, like so Michelle  @ True Book Addict - wrap-up or something similar. I will choose the giveaway winner soon and will add the winner's name at the top of this post. If you would like to be considered for the giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you. Here are the giveaway details again: The giveaway this year will be a $15 donation to the winner's choice of a human rights organization, such as the ACLU, Boys and Girls Club, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Amnesty International, It Gets Better, Planned Parenthood, or another human rights organization of your choice, perhaps your local chapter or organization. This giveaway is open internationally.

Thank you for joining me! I hope to see you next year!

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Always in spirit...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sharing the Joy - Christmas Tales: The Night Before Christmas and 21 Other Christmas Stories - Review

My thoughts
What a wonderful collection to read at Christmastime! Fairy Tales are always a favorite of mine, and reading them at Christmas, especially those with a Christmas theme, is a very nostalgic experience. 

I was thrilled to find in this collection favorites like The Little Match Girl and The Nutcracker. Each story tells which country it originates from, which is a wonderful touch and fits in well with my Christmas Around the World theme on this blog. A nice surprise was to find The Elves and the Shoemaker. I remembered that it was a favorite of mine when I was a child. I have not read it since then and it brought back memories.

What you don't often find in an eBook are gorgeous illustrations. This book has them. They really added to the atmosphere of the collection. 

If I had one slightly negative thing to say, it would be that the book could use some minor editing, as there are some typos and grammatical errors here and there. Honestly though, it did not detract from the beauty of the stories.

I highly recommend this collection. I look forward to checking out their website for more fairy tales!

About the book
Christmas Tales: The Night Before Christmas and 21 Other Christmas Stories features tales of the season from around the world. We have old favorites such as The Little Match Girl and The Nutcracker but also have shared some more obscure Christmas stories for young and old. This fully-illustrated book will be available on Kindle shortly, and I'd like to offer you a copy in either PDF or Mobi for review on your website.

This collection was compiled by...
Fairytalez.com is the world's largest website for fairy tales and folktales, with over 2,100 tales. All of our tales have been indexed by region and author. Included with each tale is a reading level and read-aloud time. Fairytalez is a fully-optimized website that can display cleanly on any computer or mobile device, and also features a PDF function to print a full PDF copy of any story on the website. Christmas Tales is the 2nd ebook from Fairytalez; the first was Mermaid Tales: The Little Mermaid and 14 Other Illustrated Mermaid Stories.

You can follow us on social media:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ftalez
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FairytalezCom/

This post is part of...

Always in spirit...

Sharing the Joy - Weekend Baking and Happy New Year


My mom gave me a stand mixer for Christmas!

So, I thought I'd put it to use last night. My boys were due to back from their dad's today and I wanted to bake some treats for them.

Peanut Butter Blossoms - this is a favorite. (Recipe, image below, nutrition info at BettyCrocker.com)

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
36 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped
White decorating gel
Holiday candy sprinkles
Red decorating icing
(The last three are if you want to dress them up for Christmas - see below)

  • Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, oil, water and egg until dough forms.
  • Shape dough into thirty-six 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately press 1 chocolate in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired using remaining ingredients.
Expert Tips
Cookie dough can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours before baking. If it's too firm, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Cake - recipe and image from The Country Cook
(I didn't take a picture of mine. It didn't look very pretty, but it tastes phenomenal!)

1 30 oz can pumpkin pie mix
(I made my own - 30 oz pumpkin puree (can or fresh), 1.5 cups sugar, 3 tsp sugar - mix together)
4 large eggs
1 box spice cake mix
1 cup butter (2 sticks) melted
1 container white or vanilla frosting

  • Preheat oven to 350f degrees.
  • Lightly spray the bottom only of a 9x13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a stand mixer, (or large mixing bowl) mix together pumpkin pie mix and eggs.
  • Then mix in cake mix and melted butter. Mix for a full 2 minutes.
  • Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for about 45-55 minutes (center of the cake shouldn't be jiggly.)
  • Allow cake to cool completely then spread the frosting on top.
  • Cut into 12 squares and serve!

5-Minute Cherry Crunch Dump Cake - recipe from The Seasoned Mom
(The image doesn't do it justice, but take it from me...it's delicious!)

1 (20 ounce) can of crushed pineapple (not drained)
1 (21 ounce) can of cherry pie filling
1 package of yellow cake mix
1 cup of pecans, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  • Spread pineapple in its juice evenly into the prepared pan.
  • Spoon pie filling over the pineapple.
  • Sprinkle DRY cake mix evenly over the mixture. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
  • Slice the chilled butter into thin strips and place the strips evenly over the nuts and other ingredients.
  • Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
Yes, we're having a scrumptious New Year's Eve. We're headed for a dinner out and then back home for celebrations, appetizer yummies, and delish desserts.

Wishing you a fun and safe New Year's Eve, and health, peace, and prosperity in the New Year!

Always in spirit...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sharing the Joy: Twas the Night Before Yuletide #Christmas

Carol at Carol's Notebook shared this on Friday on her Thursday's Tales post. She saw it originally on Tracy's blog,  Pen and Paper. It’s a re-working of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” probably written by C.C. Williford, a radio presenter during the 1930’s.

Twas the Night Before Yuletide
Twas the night before Yuletide and all through the glen
Not a creature was stirring, not a fox, not a hen.
A mantle of snow shone brightly that night
As it lay on the ground, reflecting moonlight.

The faeries were nestled all snug in their trees,
Unmindful of flurries and a chilly north breeze.
The elves and the gnomes were down in their burrows,
Sleeping like babes in their soft earthen furrows.

When low! The earth moved with a thunderous quake,
Causing chairs to fall over and dishes to break.
The Little Folk scrambled to get on their feet
Then raced to the river where they usually meet.

“What happened?” they wondered, they questioned, they probed,
As they shivered in night clothes, some bare-armed, some robed.
“What caused the earth’s shudder? What caused her to shiver?”
They all spoke at once as they stood by the river.

Then what to their wondering eyes should appear
But a shining gold light in the shape of a sphere.
It blinked and it twinkled, it winked like an eye,
Then it flew straight up and was lost in the sky.

Before they could murmur, before they could bustle,
There emerged from the crowd, with a swish and a rustle,
A stately old crone with her hand on a cane,
Resplendent in green with a flowing white mane.

As she passed by them the old crone’s perfume,
Smelling of meadows and flowers abloom,
Made each of the fey folk think of the spring
When the earth wakes from slumber and the birds start to sing.

“My name is Gaia,” the old crone proclaimed
in a voice that at once was both wild and tamed,
“I’ve come to remind you, for you seem to forget,
that Yule is the time of re-birth, and yet…”

“I see no hearth fires, hear no music, no bells,
The air isn’t filled with rich fragrant smells
Of baking and roasting, and simmering stews,
Of cider that’s mulled or other hot brews.”

“There aren’t any children at play in the snow,
Or houses lit up by candles’ glow.
Have you forgotten, my children, the fun
Of celebrating the rebirth of the sun?”

She looked at the fey folk, her eyes going round,
As they shuffled their feet and stared at the ground.
Then she smiled the smile that brings light to the day,
“Come, my children,” she said, “Let’s play.”

They gathered the mistletoe, gathered the holly,
Threw off the drab and drew on the jolly.
They lit a big bonfire, and they danced and they sang.
They brought out the bells and clapped when they rang.

They strung lights on the trees, and bows, oh so merry,
In colours of cranberry, bayberry, cherry.
They built giant snowmen and adorned them with hats,
Then surrounded them with snow birds, and snow cats and bats.

Then just before dawn, at the end of their fest,
Before they went homeward to seek out their rest,
The fey folk they gathered ‘round their favourite oak tree
And welcomed the sun ‘neath the tree’s finery.

They were just reaching home when it suddenly came,
The gold light returned like an arrow-shot flame.
It lit on the tree top where they could see from afar
The golden-like sphere turned into a star.

The old crone just smiled at the beautiful sight,
“Happy Yuletide, my children,” she whispered. “Good night.”

As you spend the day with family and friends tomorrow, remember what I believe is the reason for the season...goodwill toward all. 

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Always in spirit...

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sharing the Joy - Being a Child at #Christmas

Lisa Wilson wrote this with her friend and co-writer, Mitsuko Komuro many years ago. (Mitsuko wrote the music, and Lisa wrote the lyrics.) Their publisher never did anything with it at the time, so they just ended up dropping it. Lisa decided to bring it back to life after she came across the cassette last summer - which surprisingly still had good sound quality. She digitized it and made the accompanying video featuring culturally diverse children, in order to illustrate that the Christmas spirit truly is universal. Lisa thinks, and rightly so, that it's especially important to remember that now, in the midst of all the discord in the world these days...

I hope you enjoy the video and song as much as I did!

Music by Mitsuko Komuro
Lyrics by Lisa Wilson 


Always in spirit...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sharing the Joy: The Upside Down #ChristmasTree #Trend

Image credit: Wayfair

I remember seeing the Upside Down Christmas Tree trend several years back at a Christmas market at the fairgrounds. I thought it was a cool idea then, and I still do.

Then, recently Cole and Marmalade's human posted this video "10 Ways to Survive Christmas with Cats," and guess what...there's an upside down Christmas tree as a possible solution to cat-Christmas tree cat-astrophes. Take a look...

Wayfair has an amazing assortment of Upside Down Christmas trees, and they've written a fantastic article on the phenomenon. Here's what they say about the history...

History of the Upside Down Tree
In medieval Europe, Christmas trees were hung upside down from the ceilings of castles and the large homes of the aristocracy, much like a chandelier. It's possible the tradition of the Christmas tree dates as far back as the 8th century, where legend credits the spark of the tradition to Saint Boniface – but what is certain is that fir and spruce trees were being hung upside down by the 12th century, decorated with flowers and brightly wrapped food.

Image credit: Wayfair

In Poland the tradition of the upside down Christmas tree continued through the 18th century, when it was finally replaced by the German tradition of what today we consider a standard Christmas tree. The modern Christmas tree can trace its roots to 16th century Germany, where Martin Luther is said to have first placed lit candles onto an evergreen tree.

Read the rest of the article, and check out Wayfair's terrific assortment of Upside Down Trees here.

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Always in spirit...

Sharing the Joy: Time for #Funny - Cockney Rhyming #Christmas Comics

From the Happy2Move site:


Would you Christmas Eve it! The festive period is here again so we thought we’d show you how to have a proper cockney Christmas, explained in old East End cockney rhyming slang.

And because we at Happy2Move are legit Londoners, we can even throw in the non-cockney meanings in case you don’t know your apples and pears from your dog and bone.

On Christmas Eve...

On Christmas Day...

At Turkey Time...

While doing some epic digesting...

And inevitably...

Always in spirit...