Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 24

And so, we come to the end of another virtual advent tour. It's Christmas Eve and I am at home hoping like crazy that I don't suddenly remember that one more thing that will mean that I need to go to the shops.

Here are the final stops on the tour:

Before we close off for 2011, we want to say a super special thank you to Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings who has supported the Virtual Advent Tour right from it's inception six years ago! Thank you Carl. Kelly and I both appreciate your continued participation and hope you will be on board again for next year!

We would also like to thank everyone who participated in the tour this year, whether it be by posting, or commenting, or tweeting or anything.

We hope you enjoyed the tour. We are already thinking about ideas for next year, and if you have any feedback or ideas to make the tour better we would love to hear them!

My final quote for this year's tour comes from a novella in the Holiday Kisses anthology - This Time Next Year by Alison Kent. It seems a fitting way to end seeing as so many of our advent tour are about sharing traditions.

"You're pretty good at that. the cookies. The tree." He dipped up more glaze.

She shifted the pan again, nudging her hip against his and staying there. "Mostly I'm good at Christmas. I love it. The corny songs, stringing popcorn for the tree. Eating as much as ends up on the needle and thread."

"You do it by hand?'

"Gran and I do. Some folks buy finished strands, or fake plastic ones. But stuck fingers and Bing Crosby is our thing."

"What's Christmas without traditions, right?" 

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 23

Welcome to the penultimate day of the 2011 Virtual Advent tour.

Here are today's hosts:

*Georgie @ Georgie Lee
*Margot @ Joyfully Retired 
Sylvia @ paindecampagne

Now I need to go and finish my post for tomorrow!

Today, instead of a quote, I thought I would share a couple of contemporary Christmas songs. One is new to me this year, and the second is one that I first heard a couple of years ago now but really, really love. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 22

We are now very nearly at the end of the tour and I have to say ... it's been another fabulous year!

I am sure that our hosts today will only add to the fabulousness

*Kathy @ A Glass of Wine

Today's quote comes from a book that I only just finished a few days ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I found it hard to actually put it down which is always a good sign!

I did however forget to note down which pages the quote came from!

Christmas wouldn't be the same without Mikhail.

The room swirled with laughter and music, Peter and his brother Matt, the stockmen, were singing a drunken goodbye song, Lucy was jumping up and down near the Christmas tree demanding to know what the 'big green present' was. And Mikhail stood by the empty fireplace with his arm around his fiancee, grinning as widely as he had for the entire six months since he'd met her. Mikhail was marrying Catherine - a widow with two grown children - and they were moving to Launceston to be near her elderly parents. And Beattie would just have to learn to manage without him.

"Come on," Beattie said, flipping up the lid of the piano. "Rosella, will you play us a song to stop those men singing so terribly out of time?"

Rosella was her new neighbour. She and her husband had leased Jimmy Farquhar's farm at the start of the year, and become good friends to Beattie. Their daughter Lizzie was the same age as Lucy, and they spent every moment of the holidays together, racing around in the paddocks, building cubbies and making mud pies.

As Rosella sat and started playing 'Jingle Bells' and everyone joined in, Beattie curled her arm around Lucy and her eyes moved from face to face, counting her Christmas blessings. Two fabulous wool clips and growing side business in designing women's work wear had brought her the financial security she had long dreamed of. The piano, the little utility truck, the glass Christmas decorations.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 21

Day 21 and it really is so close. I hope you are all ready. I am pretty much done I think, but grateful, as always, that I am not the one doing all the cooking!

Here are our hosts for today:

Memory @ Stella Matutina
*Julie @ Anglers Rest
Christa @ Hooked on Books

One of my favourite series to read is the Virgin River series from Robyn Carr, and I am not alone in loving it. I am sure I heard something somewhere which said that there was a community in America who have taken the idea of honouring the armed forces with the Christmas decorations on their town square and made it their own.

This quote comes from pages 88-90 of Bringing Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr pages 88-90

The cutting of the Virgin River Christmas tree was an all-day affair that involved way more spectators than actual woodsmen. First, there was hunting for the tree - a thirty-foot fir high in the mountains. Becca watched from the truck the entire time. Then there was the cutting down. She would've expected that to take seconds, but it took a very long time and involved pulleys and ropes and chain saws. Next came the netting and dragging of the tree along barely visible old logging roads. Only big pickups with four-wheel-drive ventured back into the thickest part of the forest.

Once the tree was dragged as far as a main road, a local builder, Paul Haggerty, and his crew met it with a big flatbed truck and their hydraulic gear to lift it and haul it the rest of the way. By the time the tree made it to Virgin River, it was dark, but half the town seemed to be present to look at the catch, so to speak. There was lots of "oohing" and "aahing" going on.

On Saturday the tree was erected - a process that took many hands and more of Paul Haggerty's equipment and men.

"The first time we brought a tree this size into town, it was just Jack, Preacher and Mike Valenzuela standing it up," Mel told Becca."During the night, it fell down. Thankfully not on the bar."

Becca sat on Jack's porch between Mel and Paige. They all held hot drinks. Her eyes grew large at the prospect of that huge tree falling on the bar. "Should we move?" she asked.

Mel just laughed. "I think that now Paul's on board with this project, we're in pretty good hands. And I think your brother and his friends are kind of enjoying this. Too bad they won't see it completely decorated."

"That must take a long time," Becca said.

"A day or day and a half, and at least one cherry picker," Mel told her.

It was past noon before that tree was upright and stable. Mel and Paige were back and forth to the porch, taking children in and outside. By afternoon, a couple of cherry pickers had arrived and the stringing of the lights commenced.

Becca was surprised she wasn't frozen to the bone, but she couldn't stand to miss a second of this process.  And neither could anyone else! Townsfolk came and went throughout the day, everyone with a new opinion  about the tree. By then, night was falling, although it was only about five, and Jack and Denny were fastening up the last of the lights.

Cars and trucks were pulling into town. Becca gave a wave to Noah Kincaid and his family. Connie and Ron walked across the street from The Corner Store. Lorraine Thickson arrived in a beat-up old pickup with a passel of kids stuffed into it. No husband and father, she noticed. Becca sat up a little straighter as she saw Denny in the cherry-picker basket, going up up up to the top of the huge tree. Mel and Paige came back outside; their kids ran into the street. Everyone seemed to sense that culmination was near.

Denny fussed with the top of the tree, then the cherry picker lowered him to the ground again. Jack must have connected the electricity, because the tree came alive! Light twinkled all over the giant fir and on the very top was a star that positively brightened the sky! There was a collective "aww" in the crowd and as the night grew dark and the lights bright, there was silence. People seemed motionless.

Then magic happened - a gentle snow began to fall.

"Unbelievable," Becca whispered to no one. "Amazing." She felt her eyes water from the sheer beauty of the moment. Then the tree went dark and, after her eyes adjusted a bit, she noticed people beginning to disperse.

Suddenly Denny was beside her, scooting his chair close. "You okay?" he asked.

"Sure," she said, wiping at her eyes. "It was just so emotional - seeing all the work done and so many people turn out.

"Its far from done. There are ornaments and trim still to do. The official lighting is tomorrow night, after the rest of it is decorated. It takes half the town to get it done." He grabbed her hand and squeezed it. "You're going to love it. Too bad the boys can't stay for that."

And then from page 104

And that tree - a town project - was awesome. Finally done, it was trimmed with red, white and blue balls, laminated military unit badges and strung with gold tinsel. It was gorgeous in daylight; it would be magnificent lit against the night sky.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 20

Welcome to Day 20 of the Virtual Advent tour. Here are your hosts for today!

Here is my quote for today from Camp Nine by Vivienne Schiffer

I was as guilty as everyone else in my desire to pretend nothing was happening at Camp Nine, and with my first sight of an autumn leaf in October, I welcomed the thoughts of Christmas vacation that began creeping into my head. The reedy, echoing sound of a woodpecker indicated the thinning of the air that foretold coming holidays even before the landscape changed. These sight and sounds primed me to drift away from my lessons, down deep into a fantasy of the boxes Mother kept up the dark stairs in our gloomy attic, which was illuminated by a solitary four-paned window through which light barely filtered. While my teacher deadened my reality by scratching fractions on the chalkboard, my mind climbed the stairs with anticipation, searching among the dusty cardboard boxes stuffed with satin Hallowween costumes, baby toys, and clothes since discarded, until I found the holy grail of the season - the glittery glass ornaments and velvet skirt for our tree.

It seemed to snow more then than now, and, too young to appreciate the difficulty that accompanied the occasional dumping of heavy snow, I was always enchanted by it. Along with a welcome snowfall, Christmas was a time for special treats, like the multi-colored iced molasses cookies baked each morning by Mrs. Capps down the road and the oranges Mother ordered for me from New Orleans.

I can't help wonder what the equivalent to oranges is now? It is often said that the children of the past looked forward to an exotic treat each Christmas when they all got an orange.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 19

I am wondering if it is time to start counting down, rather than counting up from the start of the tour. Either way, it isn't long to go!

Here are the stops on the tour today:

*Rebecca @ Rebecca Reads

Today's quote comes from page 303 of Kommandant's Girl. These memories come from the Kommandant himself.
"Christmas is coming," he says at last. he sounds as if the realization has only just occurred to  him, though I had mentioned the holidays in his office earlier in the day.

"Just a few days away," I reply. I might have forgotten the holiday myself, but for the sprigs of fir and red bows that Krysia has placed around the house in lieu of a tree. The city, usually festive with displays in the window shops and the aroma of holiday treats, was virtually unadorned this year.

 "Christmas was such a grand affair in our house," he says. For a moment, I wonder if he is speaking of his life with Margot, but he continues, "Our father would take us on a midnight sleigh ride through the woods to search for the Weinachtsmann, whom we believed would bring the Christmas gifts." He walks over to the sofa and sits down beside me. "We never found him, of course, but would come back to the house to find that he had sneaked in while we were gone to the house to find that he had sneaked in while we were gone to leave us wonderful presents. And the next morning, the breakfast table was always piled high with cakes." He smiles, his expression almost childlike.

"That sounds lovely," I say. My mind races to come up with a story about my childhood Christmases, in case he asks.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 18

A week to go until the end of the tour, and the big day of course! Helping us get into Christmas mood today are:

*Julie @ Anglers Rest

Today's special shout out of thanks goes to Suey from It's All About Books as this is her fifth year of participating in the tour. Thank you for your contributions over the last 5 tours and your support Suey! Kelly and I really appreciate it!

Today's quote comes from a story by Jill Shalvis called Kissing Santa Claus which is in the Small Town Christmas anthology.

What hadn't helped her was the costume she now had on over her sexy little red dress., complete with a stuffed belly and butt, white beard and wig, red fur-lined hat, and the final touch, thick wire-rimmed glasses.

Santa Claus.

From outside her office and down the hall, there was only silence. The party had emptied out, leaving her alone in the building. Tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, everyone in town would be here for the annual Christmas parade, Santa would head up in the same 1972 Buick convertible, aka rust bucket, that they'd been using for years. The evening would culminate at the end of the pier, with all the kids lining up to sit on Santa's lap so they could whisper their holiday wish.

Sandy's wish, if anyone had asked, would be that Anderson hadn't caught the flu so he could play Santa as planned. She'd tried to get a last minute replacement, oh how she'd tried. But Jax Cullen, Lucky Harbor's mayor, was master of ceremonies of the parade. Ford Walker and resident hottie had taken his new fiancee to Palm Springs for a holiday getaway. Sandy's third and final choice, Sherriff Sawyer Thompson, was going to be on duty at the parade, handling crowd control.

There was no one else to ask, which panicked Sandy. No one but her... She took her roll of town clerk very seriously...but this was going over and above the call of duty. Yet all she could think of was the kids of Lucky Harbor, and how disappointed they'd be without Santa. Dammit. She sighed and took one last look at herself. She did actually look a little bit like Santa, albeit a very short one.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 17

So today is the morning after the night before, and I feel surprisingly good! Certainly good enough to catch up on my visits to the tour hosts yesterday as well as those who are hosting today:

*Sprite @ Sprite Writes

Today's quote come from page 204 of You are my Only by Beth Kephart. By way of explanation, this character is in a mental institution when this scene takes place.

"The barn was very large," I read, from the Charlotte's Web book. "It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the persperation of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell - as if nothing bad could ever happen again in the world."

Past the rectangle of the window, snow fall, fat and wet and white. All morning, all afternoon, it has laid its whiteness down, and beyond the window, in the courtyard, the bare trees wear the red bulbs of Christmas. The sound of the weather has worked its way inside - the hush-pause and the down tick, the ache in the clock on the walls.

"Autumn." I stop. "Sweetheart, look."

But she has closed her eyes and she won't look up. "Keep reading," she says with a sigh.

"It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope," I read on. "And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay up in the great loft overhead. And there was always hay being ditched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep."

I smell Christmas Eve on Autumn's breath, the chicken pot pie that we ate with a slender wedge of cheese and a little puddle each of cranberry juice poured out in Dixie cups. Someone had bought in an old stereo and plugged it in with old-fashioned Christmas blues and we sat there, together, while Jimmy Butler sang "Trim Your Tree", and Felix Gross sang "Love for Christmas," and when Sugar Chile Robinson sang "Christmas Boogie," Wolfie took up Virgin Mary's hand in hers and a space was cleared on the tabletop and the two of them danced, Virgin Mary's eyes a million miles away, but something close and near on her lips, something like a blessing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 16

For me, today is a festive kind of day! Yesterday we had drinks in the boardroom for the whole building and today it is lunch with the department (and more drinks) and then out for dinner to catch up with some friends (with more drinks). It's a beautiful summer's day so it will be a great day for sitting around socialising. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

What do you have on the agenda for this Friday? Perhaps you will find time to visit the following hosts on the tour today

*Cam @ epiBlouger

Today is the last of the passages from Empire Day by Diane Chamberlain.  It again features Hania, who we met in a passage that I posted last week. This quote is a kind of long one today and comes from pages 292-294.

For weeks Hania had heard the other children talking about Christmas. Beverley and her family were going to Thirroul to visit her Aunty Tessie, but when Aunty Muriel invited Hania to go with them, her mother tried to talk her out of it.

"Christmas is a family day for Christians," she said. "You'll be out of place."

But Hania was adamant. It was bad enough missing out on the Christmas tree, the presents and festivities she loved; she wasn't going to miss out on the outing as well. Away from her mother, with Beverley and her family, she'd be able to forget she was an outsider, and feel she was part of something for once.

On the train she sat next to Beverley, her nose pressed against the grimy window as she stared out at the back of red-tiled cottages with their outdoor wooden dunnies and the skinny dogs running around and barking  in backyards. Every few minutes the train ground to a halt at another station, until finally they reached Thirroul.

Aunty Tessie, Uncle Dick and their three children lived in a fibro cottage facing the beach. They kept chooks out the back, and as soon as they arrived, all the children rushed out to see if there were any eggs. Inside, the men were arguing about football, and Uncle Bill told Hania that his brother used to play for the Butchers, the local rugby league team. There was a strong piney smell in the loungeroom where the Christmas tree stood, hung with brightly coloured paper chains, tinsel, shiny baubles, and and an angel with a silver star on top. As they stood admiring the tree, Uncle Dick said that now the cedar forests around Thirroul had been logged, read Christmas trees were hard to come by, but he'd managed to get on for the kids.

Exciting boxes and parcel wrapped in bright Christmas paper were piled under the tree. Except for the fact the tree stood in a bucket and was propped up with bricks, it reminded Hania of Christmas at her foster parent's home in Poland. Despite her mother's warning that she'd be intruding, they all made her feel as if she were part of the family, and Beverley's aunty told her to call her Aunty Tessie like the other kids did.

After the roast turkey, ham and baked potatoes, Aunty Tessie bought out a steaming Christmas pudding and warned them to eat slowly to make sure they didn't swallow the threepences she'd put inside. Beverley's little sister Daisy was the first to squeal that she'd bitten into one. Auntie Tessie had been very generous with the coins, because by the time the pudding was finished, all the children had found at least one.

When they'd finished lunch, Hania hung back while Beverley and her little sister and cousins were given their presents but, to her surprise, she hadn't been forgotten. Aunty Tessie handed her a small parcel wrapped in Christmas paper, and said "Merry Christmas, love." It was a book called Seven Little Australians. Hania was thrilled to be given the book, but the best thing about the whole day was being included.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 15

Day 15, and the start of the third week of the tour. Here are our stops for today:

*Michelle Miller @ The Christmas Spirit
*Nancy @ Bookfoolery & Babble

Last week I introduced you to a few of the characters from Empire Day by Diane Chamberlain.

For the next two days we are going to revisit some of those same characters and see what has happened to them starting with struggling single mum Kath.

Today's excerpt comes from page 291:

After giving Meggsie a bed bath and massaging his back and legs, Kath went into the kitchen to make the Christmas pudding. Whenever she thought about Christmas she let out a long sigh. She'd managed to scrape together a few shillings to buy the boys some comic books, socks and a cricket ball, but she'd only be able to put rabbit on the table this year - a turkey was out of the question. Lost in her thoughts, she was stirring her worries into the dough along with the sultanas, and throwing in a few silver threepences, when the doorbell rang.

She wiped her floury hands on her apron and hurried to the door, but before she got there she could hear hoarse voices singing 'Jingle Bells'. Collecting money for some charity she supposed. She opened the door and was about to say she was sorry she couldn't spare anything, when she stepped back in surprise. On her doorstep stood Mick Kelly and Bob Longley from the pub, and they were struggling with a large cardboard box.

"This fell off a truck the other day and we thought maybe you could use it," Mick said. Thrusting the box into her hands, he mumbled, "Merry Christmas, love," and before she could thank them they'd gone.

Inside the box was the biggest turkey she'd ever seen, a leg of ham, a bag of potatoes and a box of biscuits.

Kath rushed to Meggsie's room. "It's a miracle, that's what it is," she kept saying as she sat down on the edge of his bed. "We'll have a proper Christmas now. All we need is another miracle to make you well."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 14

Can you believe that today is the end of the second week of the tour - once it gets started it goes so quickly!

Here are the hosts for today's stops on the tour!

*Nicole @ Linus's Blanket

Today's quote comes from one of the stories in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology that was released earlier this year. This quote is from the story Jane Austen and the Mistltoe Kiss by Jo Beverley and is from page 122:

Elinor laughed at that, turning to share amusement with the Austen ladies. "I'm far past the age for mistletoe kisses, I fear."

Miss Jane cocked her head. "That seems a shame, for we must be older still."

Elinor hastily apologized, but Miss Jane shook her head. "I was only teasing Mrs. Carsholt. I believe Sir Nicholas said you were thirty-six. I don't think you should refuse the mistletoe its chance.'

"Chance, ma'am?"

"Do you not know that tradition?"

"Oh, sister," said Miss Austen, as if uncomfortable with the subject.

"Cassandra doesn't approve," Miss Jane said, smiling. "She thinks it has a touch of pagan magic about it. Local tradition says that if true lovers kiss beneath a mistletoe bough, they will instantly know their devotion."

"It sounds a little pagan to me, too, Miss Jane," Elinor said, but lightly. "And perhaps overly romantical."

"If by romantical you speak of men and women forming true matches based on love, does that not happen all the time?"

Maria spoke, with the disastrous honesty of a young child. "Did you never find your true love through the mistletoe bough, ma'am?"

"Maria!" Elinor chided, but Miss Austen replied.

"I did, my dear, but it was not to be. However, to experience true love is better than not, and one can always imagine a story with a different ending."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011: Virtual Advent Day 13

Here are the tour stops for today!

No quote for today because I was looking for an Australian Christmas poem that I saw just a couple of lines of in a book but even with other people looking for it too I couldn't find it at all.

Instead, poetry set to music from a couple of Australian singers. The first is pretty well known the world over, but I am not sure how well known the second is! The Delta Goodrem video comes from Carols by Candlelight which is an Aussie tradition where you take advantage of the summer nights and take your family and a picnic to a big park and share in carols with lots of others. Shelleyrae from Book'd Out posted about attending her community event a couple of days ago.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 12

We are now half way through the tour, and I have to say the posts this year have been amazing! Just yesterday we had posts on an Australian Christmas tradition, and then a Finnish tradition, and then some US posts! This is an example of why I love doing the Advent Tour - seeing posts from all over the world!

*Deborah @ Homemaker Honey

Today's quote comes from The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison, which tells the story of a young girl who is evacuated to the English countryside during World War II.

Some of the evacuees never got letters, but they still could not resist hovering on the outside edge of the letter crowd with forlorn eyes. Yet even for those who were remembered, there was still a dull ache of homesickness which never really eased, running like a buried river through their daily lives.

December, in particular, was a time when many of the children grew sad, and in the years to come, Anna would never forget her wartime Christmases so far from home. But she would remember, too, how generous the Ashtons were, always making sure that every evacuee had a gift under the tree. And how on Christmas Day itself they all shared a hearty lunch, with the rare treat of roast chicken and crispy potatoes, with plenty more vegetables from the grounds.

Yet none of those consolotions could ever quite staunch the Christmas night tears in the dormitories. The remembrance of home, of mothers, of fathers. The emotional wasteland of their lives without them. It would take years for many of them to dare to love again.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 11

Day 11 of the tour means that it is only 2 weeks to go until the big day! Not quite time to start panicking as you realise that you still have lots to do, but not far off that time!

Here are today's hosts of the Virtual Advent tour:

*Jane of Australia @ A String of Pearls
*Shellyrae @ Book'd Out
*Beth F @ BethFishReads
*Michelle @ Liturgical Time

Today's special shout out of thanks goes to Jane of Australia from A String of Pearls as this is her fifth year of participating in the tour (albeit on a couple of different blogs)! Thank you for your contributions over the last 5 tours and your support Jane! Kelly and I really appreciate it!

Sharing your first Christmas with your new inlaws could be a bit nerve wracking, especially when they speak a whole other language. In Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas, John Baxter shares his journey as an Australian who has ended up living in France, via America, and how he became responsible for cooking the perfect Christmas dinner for his extended French family. This is his account of his first French Christmas. This quote comes from page 19.

With Jean-Paul present, the meal could begin. A few minutes later, he took his place at the head of the table, and the other dozen guests arranged themselves, with me at the foot.

The marathon of Christmas dinner commenced.

I'd been warned what to expect. After the foie gras, we'd be enjoying white boudin veal sausage with fried apple, then roast pintade - or guinea fowl - a grating dauphinois of sliced potatoes baked with cheese and cream, accompanied by green beans and carrots, followed by cheese, and Francoise's twenty-five-egg mousse - each course with its wine, including champagne with the dessert.

The goose liver was delicious enough for one to spare little thought for the poor bird that produced it.We smeared it into fresh white pain,, larger brother of the more familiar baguette, washing it down with '84 Bordeaux from Madame's own cave - which was literally cave, hollowed out of the rock on which this house was built.

The women never stopped handing around plates, offering more foie gras, and returning to the kitchen for bread or cornichons. Jean-Paul exchanged a few phlegmatic words with Jean-Marie, then fell silent. From time to time he would tilt a wine bottle away from him and stare at the label, as if it might have changed miraculously into a better year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 10

Welcome to Day 10 of the tour! Here are our stops for today:

The third and final character that I am going to introduce you to for these posts is Marija who is struggling with the idea of a hot Christmas, something that seems quite normal to us Southern Hemisphere peeps! There are lots of other characters to meet in the pages of Empire Day by Diane Chamberlain, not just the three I have introduced you to over the last few days!

Page 226-227

Marija Olmanis was thinking about Christmas too. Christmas in Latvia. Walking to church on Christmas Eve on snow that creaked under her fur-lined boots, placing Advent wreaths in the front of her home, watching the mummers who visited homes to bless the occupants and drive out evil spirits. And preparing the traditional food: brown peas with bacon, beef pies filled with cabbage, yeast cake with chopped almonds and cardamon, and ginger biscuits that made the whole house smell wonderful and which they ate with a drink made from honey, cranberries, rye bread and whipped cream. In Latvia, St Nicholas didn't arrive with gifts on just one night, he stopped by every evening for twelve wonderful nights.

Page 227 - 228

Marija wiped the sweat from her forehead and neck. Christmas in sweltering heat, without snow or ice, skating or toboganning, wasn't Christmas. Even the sky here was different. Whenever she looked up at night, she couldn't find any familiar stars.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 9

Here are the links to check out for Day 9 of the Virtual Advent Tour for 2011.

Hope that you enjoy the posts!

*Danielle @ There's A Book
*Bellezza @ Dolce Bellezza
*Lindsey @ Reeder Reads

In today's excerpts from Empire Day by Diane Chamberlain we hear part of Kath's story: Kath is a single mum, battling to make ends meet, and also having to deal with the serious illness of one of her children.

This one is for the battlers.

The first quote is from page 216:

Christmas was approaching and she regretted her reckless outburst at the pub. Now that she'd lost her job, she wondered how she's make ends meet, let alone provide Christmas dinner and buy gifts for the boys. She felt she'd fallen into a deep well without a rope or a ladder to climb out. She'd never felt so alone or so desperate. Jobs were scarce, and with Christmas only weeks away, her chance of finding one was slim. And to make things even worse, Meggsie wouldn't be home for Christmas

And then from page 226:

Across the road Kath sat at the kitchen table trying to figure out how she could stretch her meagre savings to put Christmas dinner on the table and buy something for the boys as well.

A few times lately , whenever she'd passed the red telephone box on the corner, she'd been on the verge of swallowing her pride and ringing Gran, but at the last moment the thought of going begging, and then having to listen to her grandmother's acid comments, had changed her mind.

Kath didn't care about Christmas for herself but she did want to try and make it special for the boys, especially little Pete. But what kind of Christmas would it be, with Meggsie still in hospital, unable to work, and no one knowing when he'd recover?

"I'd better start praying for a miracle because that's the only thing that'll help me," she mutter to herself.

Next week we will get an update on Kath's Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 8

Welcome to day 8 of the 2011 Virtual Advent Tour.

*Patti Smith @ Peppermint Ph. D.
*Kat Pruce @ No Page Left Behind

Today's special shout out of thanks goes to Chris from Stuff as Dreams are Made On as this is his fifth year of participating in the tour! Thank you for your contributions over the last 5 tours and your support Chris! Kelly and I really appreciate it!

If you are inspired by the posts that you have seen today, it is not too late to join in. You can still sign up at the sign up post.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to bring you a number of quotes from a book called Empire Day by Australian author Diane Chamberlain. In the first three quotes which I will post next week, the characters look back to the Christmas festivities in their native countries, and in the excerpts next week, the characters talk about their first summer Christmas here in Australia. The book is set just after the end of World War II predominantly in Sydney.

Page 224-225 Empire Day by Diane Chamberlain

Hania hated the idea of Christmas in Australia. In Poland, with her foster parents, it had been different. Shivers still ran down her spine whenever she thought of the hushed atmosphere in the church on Christmas Eve, with the flickering candles, the smoky smell of incense and the soulful voices chanting and praying. After Mass, she'd look forward to the traditional spicy beetroot borsch with potato pirogi. Her foster father would lug home a huge fir tree and the house would be filled with a sharp piney smell. Then they'd hang shiny baubles and coloured stars on the ends of the branches and arrange gifts around the tree.

By way of explanation, Hania was actually a young Jewish girl who was fostered by a Catholic family to keep her safe during World War II. Now, she is in Australia with her mother so not only is she looking back on Christmas in another country, but also in effect a whole other life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 7

Today is the end of the first week of the tour. I hope that you have enjoyed the posts so far, but there is still plenty more to come starting with today's stops:

*Pamela @ I Read. Do You?
*Susanna Kearsley @ A Woman in Jeopardy

A belated shout out to raidergirl3 from An Adventure in Reading. This is her fifth year participating in the tour. Thanks for your contributions over the last 5 years!

My teaser again comes from Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This time we see Christmas from inside the walls of a prisoner of war camp:

From pages 268-269 of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

On Christmas Eve, some Red Cross packages were finally handed out. Louie wrote triumphantly of it in his diary. His box, weighing some eleven pounds, contained corned beef, cheese, pate, salmon, butter, jam, chocolate, prunes, and four packs of Chesterfields. All evening long, the men of Omori traded goods, smoked and gorged themselves.

That night, there was another treat, and it came about as the result of a series of curious events. Among the POWs was a chronically unwahsed, ingeneous, and possibly insane kleptomaniac named Mansfield. Shortly before Christmas, Mansfield broke into the storehouse - slipping past seven guards - and made off with several Red Cross packages, which he buried under his barracks. Discovering his cache, guards locked him in a cell. Mansfield broke out, stole sixteen more parcels, and snuck them back into his cell. He hid the contents of the packages in a secret compartment he'd fashioned himself, marking the door with a message for other POWs: Food, help yourself, lift here. Caught again, he was tied to a tree in the snow without food or water, wearing only pajamas and beaten. By one account, he was left there for ten days. Late one night, when Louie was walking back from the benjo, he saw the camp interpreter, Yukichi Kano, kneeling beside Mansfiedl, draping a blanket over him. The next morning, the blanket was gone, retrieved before the Bird could see it. Eventually, Mansfield was untied and taken to a civilian prison, where he flourished.

The one good consequence of this event was that in the storehouse, Mansfield had discovered a Red Cross theatrical trunk. He told other POWs about it, and this gave the men the idea of boosting morale by staging a Christmas play. They secured the Bird's approval by stroking his ego, naming him "master of ceremonies" and giving him a throne at the front of the "theater" - the bathhouse - outfitted with planks perched on washtubs to serve as a stage. The men decided to put on a musical production of Cinderella, written, with creative liberties, by a British POW. Frank Tinker put his operatic gifts to work as Prince Leander of Pantoland. The Fairy Godmother was played by a mountainout cockney Brit dressed in a tutu and tights. Characters included Lady Dia Riere and Lady Gonna Riere. Louie thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. Private Kano translated for the guards, who sat in the back, laughing and clapping. The Bird gloried in the limelight, and for that night, he let Louie and the others be.

At Zentsuji, Christmas came to Phil and Fred Garrett. Some POWs scrounged up musical instruments and assembled in the camp. Before seven hundred starving men, they played rousing music as the men sang along. They ended with the national anthems of England, Holland, and the United States. The Zentsuji POWs stood together at attention in silence, thinking of home.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 6

Here are the stops for Day 6 of the 2011 Virtual Advent Tour.

Today's quote comes from Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Her book tells of a young Olympian who is taken as a prisoner of war during World War II. Not only did I choose this passage because of the sentiment within the context of the the book, but also to take a moment to honour those who will be away from their families this Christmas because they are serving their countries.

From page 215 of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

In December 1943, the family prepared to celebrate their first Christmas without Louie. The mailman knocked at the door each day to deliver a harvest of cards and letters, most of them offering sympathy. The holiday tree was strung with popcorn and cranberries, and beneath it sat a collection of gifts for Louie. The gifts would be tucked away in the belief that one day, Louie would come home to open them himself.

Louise bought a little Christmas card depicting a cherub in a red dress blowing a horn as she stood surrounded by lambs. Inside she wrote a message:

Dear Louis. Where ever you are, I know you want us to think of you as well and safe. May God be with you + guide you.Love from all. Mother Dad Pete Sylvia and Virginia. Christmas 25-43

Check back tomorrow to hear about a POW Christmas from this same book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 5

It is amazing to me how quickly the tour goes once it gets started! Already it is day 5 and here are our participants for today:

*Suzanne @ bibliosue
*Naida @ Bookworm
*Jaclyn @ Literary Treats

If you are inspired by the posts that you have seen today, it is not too late to join in. You can still sign up at the sign up post.

My quotes for today come from the historical fiction novel The Countess Angelique, part of the Angelique series written by Sergeanne Golon. It was originally published in the 1960s and some of the covers are very....coquettish. In this volume of Angelique's adventures she find herself living on the wild frontiers of the Americas.

Please note I have omitted a couple of character names because their inclusion in this passage might spoil some events from previous books in the series.

The first part of the quote from page 370:

So there really was a Christmas spirit in the camp. No task seemed too heavy, everything was done cheerfully. They laughed on the slightest pretext and caught themselves humming or whistling snatches of old refrains.

The everlasting boiled maize and smoked meat were eaten cheerfully with many a joke during happy mealtimes kept warm with good humoured conversation. They were all good friends, good companions, they understood one another, and supported one another. Let anyone who sout to harm them come and try!

Preparations for the feast were a great secret.

Wonderful smells began to tickle their nostrils.

And then from page 373

When, later that evening, the hunting horm was sounded, and F and C rang a peal on the cowbells, the children of the Silver Lake rushed over to the house, running, slipping and stumbling over on the frozen snow, and stopped on the threshold, as dazzled and delighted as any other children the world over.


The room was a-glitter with a thousand lights and the table that occupied the centre of the room groaned beneath a pile of treasures and knick-knacks. It was hard to say which was the best, the wonderful sight before them or the delicious smells of the fried black pudding and all the sweetmeats.

The three tiny tots of the Silver Lake stood on the threshold, their eyes shining like stars in their faces red with cold.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 4

Day 4 of the Virtual Advent Tour, and here are our stops for today!

*Melissa @ Book Nut
*Martina Kunz @ Book Drunkard

Today's special shout out of thanks goes to Melissa from Book Nut as this is her fifth year of participating in the tour! Thank you for your contributions over the last 5 tours and your support Melissa! Kelly and I really appreciate it!

If you are inspired by the posts that you have seen today, it is not too late to join in. You can still sign up at the sign up post.


One of the fascinating things about reading historical fiction is seeing how differently things that we take for granted now were treated in the past. I found this passage interesting as it is set at the time of the Restoration to the English throne of Charles II, not long after the Commonwealth ended. During this time, the celebrating of holy and feast days associated with the Catholic church was frowned upon, including Christmas.
This passage comes from page 243 of Anthony Capella's The Empress of Ice Cream

I told Elias we would be spending the winter out at Hampton and his face fell.

"What is it, boy?"

He said hesitantly, "It is just that we will miss Christmas."

"Elias!" his mother said, overhearing. "Christmas! What is this I hear?"

He hung his head in shame. "Some of the other children are saying that it will be a holiday."

Without asking my permission, she whisked him off into a corner. I thought she must be scolding him over his lack of enthusiasm for his work, until I realised that her objection was a different one. She was trying to speak quietly, but anger made her voice carry.

"... bad enought that you work for a papist. But I will not be celebrating papist festivals as well. Now be off with you, and no more talk of Christmas."
and then later....

"You don't celebrate Christmas, I take it?" I said neutrally.

"We do not."

"May I ask the reason?'

"Under the Protector, it was seen that there was no need for it."

"Whereas the Protector's own birthday, no doubt, was a public holiday?"

She glared at me. "Show me where in the Gospels it says that December the twenty-fifth is Christ's birthday, and we will celebrate it. Until then the Sabbath is enough Lord's Day for us."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2011 Virtual Advent: Day 3

Here are today's stops on the tour

*Amy @ Amy Reads
*Charlotte @ Charlotte's Library
*Angel Cruz @ Mermaid Vision Books

Today's special shout out of thanks goes to Chris from Chrisbookarama as this is her fifth year of participating in the tour! Thank you for your contributions over the last 5 tours and your support Chris! Kelly and I really appreciate it!

If you are inspired by the posts that you have seen today, it is not too late to join in. You can still sign up at the sign up post.


No quotes today! Instead I thought I would share a couple of my favourite Christmas related cartoons. The first series has been a favourite for quite a few years now.

This is one that I just saw on Facebook the other day and it amused me!