Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 24

And so we come to the end of this year's tour! It was another good one. I hope you have time for one last visit of our tour hosts for today.

Kailana @ The Written World
Carl @ Stainless Steel Droppings
Lauren @ The Australian Bookshelf
Cynthia White @ The Things You Can Read

I thought as we close the calendar for this year I would share one of my favourite Christmas shorts. It is a retelling of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and is available on YouTube. Enjoy!

Kelly and Marg would like to thank everyone who has participated in the tour this year - whether it is the first time you have participated or the seventh! We really appreciate the effort that everyone goes to to share their memories, traditions, food and drink, movies and songs...and so much more!

We hope that you will be back to participate in next year's tour.

In the mean time, if you have any suggestions or comments about the tour, please feel free to contact either of us individually or through the Virtual Advent tour twitter account or email.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 23

Only a couple of days left of the tour and, of course, the big day! Are you ready? I think I am. Maybe.

While I think about what I might not have done yet, how about we visit the following hosts on the tour:

Emma @ Girl Loves Books
*Carol @ Better is Possible
*Kaetrin @ Kaetrin's Musings

There are a few things I do every year. One of those is to watch Muppet Christmas Carol. I have to watch it at least once during the month of December. And, actually, I have done that since it came out in 1992. A 20 year tradition definitely is a tradition, huh?

What are some of your Christmas traditions that you feel lost if you don't do?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 22

I am on the road today, but I am hoping that you all get to visit our hosts today who are:

*Hannah @ Word Lily
*Deb Nance @ Readerbuzz
Heather @ Capricious Reader

If, like me, you are travelling these holidays, I hope everyone stays safe.

Today's quote comes from pages 140-141 of A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper. The book is told in a diary format so this quote is an extract from a diary entry.

What else? Oh, Christmas. Well, Aunt Charlotte must have insisted Toby spend it with her. So much for Veronica's Christmas pudding wish - or mine, come to that. I'm pretty sure Simon spent Christmas at Aunt Charlotte's, too. As for us, we tried to put on a cheerful front for Henry's sake, but she was too miserable to appreciate it. To be honest, even I felt my festive spirits evaporate when I went to look for the box of decorations and found they'd been stored directly under a leaky part of the nursery ceiling. Toby's cardboard angels, my tissue-paper snowflakes, a dozen years worth of paper chains - all reduced to a sodden gray pulp. Even the gold-painted pine-cones seemed to have sprouted mould. And it was raining too hard to contemplate gathering any flowers or greenery outside, not that there's much about at this time of year anyway.

In the end, I followed the example of an arty governess we had a few years ago and set up a tall twisted bit of driftwood in the kitchen, with shells strung from the branches on pieces of leftover knitting wool. Henry contributed an angel she'd carved from a cuttlefish shell. And Veronica and Rebecca managed to cook Christmas dinner together without any major catastrophes. We had roast chicken stuffed with herbs, glazed ham and all the vegetables Henry could salvage from the waterlogged garden. The pudding was... well, it had a very interesting texture. Henry dropped her slice on the floor and it bounced. I think we boiled it too long. But Julia and the rest of the Stanley-Rosses had very kindly sent us a hamper stuffed full of mince pies and nuts and preserved fruit, so we had that instead. Afterwards Rebecca made egg-nog and I read A Christmas Carol aloud by the stove, while Veronica fixed the leaky tap over the sink and Henry mended a rip in her best fishing set. Uncle John stayed in his room throughout, of course, but the door was ajar, so it was almost as though he was there, too. So it wasn't such a terrible Christmas, after all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 21

With today's posts we complete three weeks of the tour. Kelly and I really hope that you are enjoying it! I am sure that we will also enjoy today's stops:

Sassymonkey @ Sassymonkey Reads
*Julie @ Anglers Rest
*Julia @ A Piece of My Mind
*John Mutford @ The Book Mine Set

As with yesterday's quote, this one is from A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead.

Towards Christmas, one of the transports brought a piano to Ravensbruck. Watching it being unloaded, a young Russian girl exclaimed, 'My God! If only I could be allowed to play?' The chief sorter that day, a German girl called Sophie, asked the SS guard in charge. He found the idea of a young Russian Jew able to play the piano absurd. But the piano was moved on to flat ground and the girl sat down. She was an accomplished pianist. All over the camp, as far as the notes reached, the women prisoners stopped what they were doing to listen.

This was the second Christmas the group of French women had spent in a German camp. Once again, they gave each other little presents that they had made, stolen or saved up. The news of the war, transmitted by the women working int he SS offices and translated into a dozen languages, was getting better all the time, and there were real hopes that it might be their last Christmas in captivity. A Christmas tree was brought from the forest and the women stole little bits of wire and thread and material from the factories with which to decorate it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 20

Are you on the countdown yet? We are. My house doesn't feel particularly festive because we haven't decorated as we are going to be away, but we have spent some time in the city trying to get into the spirit.

I am sure our tour stops today are feeling very festive!

Lu @ Regular Ruminations
*Alexandra @ The Sleepless Reader
*John @ The Book Mine Set

Both today's and tomorrow's quotes come from Caroline Moorehead's A Train in Winter, a non fiction book about female French Resistance workers who are captured by the Germans and spend time in some of the most infamous prison camps during WWII. Whilst they are kind of bleak I think they also demonstrate the strength of the human spirit in difficult circumstances.

Today's quote comes from page 239

On Christmas Eve, the women were permitted to stop work at four. Plans had been made for a dinner of celebration: women still alive despite all the odds celebrating the simple fact that they were not dead. They realised with delight that their hair had grown back a bit and they helped each other to wash it and brush the new tufts and strands that covered their heads. A few of the women had acquired stockings from 'Canada', and shirts had been 'organised' and cut up to make a clean white collar for each of them. With sheets as tablecloths, the refectory tables were formed into a horseshoe and decorated. Paper was crinkled into flowers, and the chemists had fashioned rouge and lipstick out of powders in the laboratory. Food, saved from the parcels from France and vegetables pilfered from the gardens were made into a feast of beans and cabbage, potatoes with onion sauce and poppy seeds. The women ate little, having lost the habit of food, but the sight of so much to eat made them cheerful. They drank sweet dark beer, stolen from the SS kitchens. After they had eaten, they turned out the lights, lit candles, and the Polish women sang hymns and ballads, saying to each other Do domou: back home. presents were exchanged: a bar of soap, a rope woven into a belt, a teddy bear found near the gas chambers and exchanged for two onions.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 19

Apologies to our hosts today for not getting their links up on time. I hope that people can still take the time to visit:

Meryl @ My Bit of Earth
Jinger @ The Intrepid Angeleno
*Vicki @ I'd Rather Be Reading at the Beach

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 18

I don't want to be the bearer of panic inducing bad news but .... there are only 7 days to go until the big day. Let us provide you with a way to procrastinate just for a while by suggesting you visit the following stops on this year's tour.

*Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree
*Trish @ Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity
*Julie @ Anglers Rest

I am just about to head interstate and might even manage to find myself spending some time in the small town of Clare, which is where Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney is set. Here are the opening paragraphs of that book:

Even after more than sixty years of living in Australia, eighty-four-year-old Lola Quinlan couldn't get used to a hot Christmas. Back home in Ireland, December has mean short days, darkness by four p.m., open fires and frosty walks. Snow if they were lucky. Her mother had loved following Christmas traditions, many of them passed down by her own mother. The tree decorated a week before Christmas Day and not a day earlier. Carols in the chilly church before Midnight Mass. Lola's favourite tradition of all had been the placing of a lit candle in each window of the house on Christmas Eve. It was a symbolic welcome to Mary and Joseph, but also a message to any passing stranger that they would be made welcome too. As a child, she'd begged to be the one to light the candles, carefully tying back the curtains to avoid the chance of fire. Afterwards, she'd stood outside with her parents, their breath three frosty clouds, gazing up at their two-storey house transformed into something almost magical.

She was a long way from Ireland and dark frosty Decembers now. Sixteen thousand kilometres and about thirty-five degrees Celsius to be exact. The temperature in the Clare Vally of South Australia was already heading towards forty degrees and it wasn't even ten a.m. yet. The hills that were visible through the window were burnt golden by the sun, not a blade of green grass to be seen. There was no sound of carols or tinkling sleigh bells. The loudest noise was coming from the airconditioner behind her. If she did take a notion to start lighting candles and placing them in all the windows, there was every chance the fire brigade would come roaring up the hill, sirens blaring and water hoses at the ready. At last count, the Valley View Motel that Lola called home had more than sixty windows. Imagine that, Lola mused. Sixty candles ablaze at once. It would be quite a sight. Almost worth the trouble it would cause ...

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 17

I hope that you are still enjoying the tour this year, and that you are keeping up with all the tour stops!

Today, the tour stops at:

*Amy @ My Friend Amy 
Stacy @ The Novel Life 
*Lauren @ The Australian Bookshelf

Also, Lauren posted on the 10th, but she was accidentally left off the schedule. oops! Here is the link to her post.

Today's quotes come from the Daughters of Mars by Tom Keneally. It is hard to imagine how difficult it must be for people who are serving their countries far from home during the holiday season and so today I am taking a moment to think of them and posting these quotes in their honour.

The first quote comes from page 281 of Daughter of Mars by Tom Keneally

Outside the mess tent the orderlies were unloading Christmas billy cans - stamped with a kangaroo and a boomerang and full of chocolate and minute puddings in cloth. A letter inside was addressed to 'Dear Soldier of Australia'. Ten days to Christmas, and intact men were landing on Lemnos each day in numbers suddenly too big for the rest camp. Sally and Slattery - shopping from peddlers - watched them march by. Their faces were gaunt and stained with weariness. The eyes seemed not yet aware that they had been brought back into the living world. There was too much continuances of geography between Gallipoli and here.

And from later in the war (page 483).

Lady Tarlton's chateau was decked for Christmas and kept warm at least in patches by army stoves. Naomi and the nurses made up Christmas boxes for each patient - simple things such as chocolate and tobacco, shortbread, a writing pad. Symbols of homely renewal. She had bought Matron Mitchie some lace in Boulogne. This was one of those Christmases Naomi had read of - when joy is a simple achievement. Her sister now wrote to her weekly and Ian at least each second day. Yet even with the Americans now in France, no one dared speak anymore of the coming year as the conclusive one.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 16

Today we have a bumper number of stops on the tour so we best get onto it with a minimum of introduction. Here are the stops today:

*Teri @ Henningsen Happenings
*Colleen @ Books in the City
Cam @ epiBloguer
*Jane @ Life @ Number 8

Today's quote comes from Farewell to Lancashire by Anna Jacobs, which is about a young girl who finds herself living in Western Australia during the early days of colonisation. How strange it must have been to find yourself suddenly celebrating Christmas in the heat of summer!

The quote comes from pages 396-397

Two days later, Reece drove Kevin the long way round to join the celebrations.

"I'm still surprised they invited me," he said as the ugly mare clopped up the gentle slope to the farm.

"Mrs Southerham invited you.. Mr Southerham usually does as she tells him."

Kevin grinned. "Well, I'm glad to have some company, I am indeed, not to mention a good meal. And if you and your young lady will speak to me from time to time, I'll be satisfied to sit quietly and try not to upset my host too much."

When Reece helped him down, Kevin took the bottle of port wine he'd brought as a gift and presented it to his host with a small bow.

"Thank you" Francis said stiffly.

"Just what we needed to crown our celebrations," Liva said.

It was the strangest Christmas he'd ever had, Reece thought. A hot day, still too warm for coats or wraps even after the sun had gone down. They ate outside a the table, spread for the occasion with a white cloth. There were no church bells pealing, only the rustling of trees and the occasional call of a boobook owl, which sounded more like a cuckoo than an owl.

Reece joined in the hymn singing, his eyes meeting Cassandra's and their voices blending well together.

"It gladdens my heart to see those two," Kevin murmured to Livia as the song finished. "He's a good man, Reece is."

"Yes. They're well matched, I think."

As the two men drove back through a moonlit landscape, Kevin said quietly, "I like your young lady."

"So do I! I just hope I can make a good life for us here."

"If hard work will do it, you'll succeed."

"Sometimes fate won't let you succeed."

"No." Kevin fell silent, staring ahead, clearly lost in his own thoughts, and Reece could have kicked himself for making that remark.

"It's all right, lad." Kevin patted Reece's hand. "It's not what you said that's upsetting me. Christmas always brings back memories. It was the last meal I shared with my family, you see. I only saw them once afterwards, and that was across a courtroom.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 15

And so we begin the third week of the tour! For me, I have suddenly realised that I have a week until I have to have everything ready and I am not sure that I am going to make it. I am dealing with that by sitting at home blogging, but I am sure the Christmas fairies will be here soon to make it all happen!

Here are the tour stops for today:

*Joy Weese Moll @ Joy's Book Blog
*Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Today's quote comes from pages 81-82 of Paris in Love by Eloisa James - my love of reading about Paris continued this year, and this book was one that fed that love!

And then came December in Paris. Overnight our neighbourhood covered marked, Marche Saint-Quentin, was transformed into the movie set for a Dickens musical, complete with garlands and strings of lights. Our favourite fromagerie put out boxes of tiny quail eggs and three hitherto unfamiliar kinds of chevre, produced only for the Christmas season. I was staggered by a mound of fresh mushrooms, big and ruffled like hats for elderly churchgoing fairies. I twas only when the marchand de fruits asked me if I was quite sure I wanted that many that I realized this particular fungus cost the same as our rent.

Paris is always a materialist's playground, but December is in a class by itself. One day I wandered into the gourmet department of Galeries Lafayette to find that it had sprouted tables piled high with decorative flourishes for holiday baking: jars of edible gold leaf, silver stars, candied violets. The display was designed to tempt the unwary shopper not to gluttony per se - but rather to the pure beauty of food, to the ways it can be decorated and dusted and presented, turned into something that can take your breath away. I instantly succumbed to a wild desire for Staub mini-cocottes, enameled in a shiny burnt crimson. I bought eight of them, kissing the dream of an austere kitchen goodbye. Surely antioxidants taste better in cocottes.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 14

Whew! We've made it to the end of the second week of the tour! I hope you are really enjoying all the stops! I am sure that we will also enjoy these stops today too.

*Suzanne @ bibliosue
*Cass @ Bonjour, Cass

And now, Kelly shares -

I don't just live in the past. I also appreciate many new Christmas carols and movies. One of my favourite is shown very well by listening to this fantastic song from a wonderfully done movie:

What are some of your favourite newer Christmas carols and movies?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 13

Day 13 - the tour will be over for another year before we know it! But not before we visit the following people today:

*Cat @ Beyond Elsewhere
*Savvy Reader @ The Savvy Reader
*Joanna @ Create Your World

Given that Kelly shared her post about poetry yesterday, I thought I would share an Australian poem. I am not sure where I even came across it in my reading this year but I must have seen a mention of it somewhere.

A Bush Christmas by CJ Dennis

The sun burns hotly thro' the gums
As down the road old Rogan comes --
   The hatter from the lonely hut
   Beside the track to Woollybutt.
      He likes to spend his Christmas with us here.
He says a man gets sort of strange
Living alone without a change,
   Gets sort of settled in his way;
   And so he comes each Christmas day
To share a bite of tucker and a beer.

Dad and the boys have nought to do,
Except a stray odd job or two.
   Along the fence or in the yard,
   "It ain't a day for workin' hard."
Says Dad.  "One day a year don't matter much."
And then dishevelled, hot and red,
Mum, thro' the doorway puts her head
   And says, "This Christmas cooking, My!
   The sun's near fit for cooking by."
Upon her word she never did see such.

"Your fault," says Dad, "you know it is.
Plum puddin'!  on a day like this,
   And roasted turkeys!  Spare me days,
   I can't get over women's ways.
      In climates such as this the thing's all wrong.
A bit of cold corned beef an' bread
Would do us very well instead."
   Then Rogan said, "You're right; it's hot.
   It makes a feller drink a lot."
      And Dad gets up and says, "Well, come along."
The dinner's served -- full bite and sup.
"Come on," says Mum, "Now all sit up."
   The meal takes on a festive air;
   And even father eats his share
      And passes up his plate to have some more.
He laughs and says it's Christmas time,
"That's cookin', Mum. The stuffin's prime."
   But Rogan pauses once to praise,
   Then eats as tho' he'd starved for days.
      And pitches turkey bones outside the door.

The sun burns hotly thro' the gums,
The chirping of the locusts comes
   Across the paddocks, parched and grey.
   "Whew!" wheezes Father. "What a day!"
      And sheds his vest.  For coats no man had need.
Then Rogan shoves his plate aside
And sighs, as sated men have sighed,
   At many boards in many climes
   On many other Christmas times.
      "By gum!" he says, "That was a slap-up feed!"

Then, with his black pipe well alight,
Old Rogan brings the kids delight
   By telling o'er again his yarns
   Of Christmas tide 'mid English barns
      When he was, long ago, a farmer's boy.
His old eyes glisten as he sees
Half glimpses of old memories,
   Of whitened fields and winter snows,
   And yuletide logs and mistletoes,
   And all that half-forgotten, hallowed joy.

The children listen, mouths agape,
And see a land with no escape
   For biting cold and snow and frost --
   A land to all earth's brightness lost,
A strange and freakish Christmas land to them.
But Rogan, with his dim old eyes
Grown far away and strangely wise
   Talks on; and pauses but to ask
   "Ain't there a drop more in that cask?"
   And father nods; but Mother says "Ahem!"

The sun slants redly thro' the gums
As quietly the evening comes,
   And Rogan gets his old grey mare,
   That matches well his own grey hair,
      And rides away into the setting sun.
"Ah, well," says Dad.  "I got to say
I never spent a lazier day.
   We ought to get that top fence wired."
   "My!" sighs poor Mum.  "But I am tired!
      An' all that washing up still to be done."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 12: Poetry

Welcome to Day 12 of the Virtual Advent Tour!

One of the events happening around the blogosphere is the Poetry Project that I co-host with Leslie from Regular Ruminations. To celebrate the season, we have made this months topic Holiday Poems. I decided to share a holiday poem on this blog today:

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house 
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. 
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, 
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads. 
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, 
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, 
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. 
Away to the window I flew like a flash, 
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow 
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below. 
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, 
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, 
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick. 

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, 
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! 
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen! 
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! 
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, 
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky. 
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, 
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof 
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. 
As I drew in my head, and was turning around, 
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, 
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. 
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back, 
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! 
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, 
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, 
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. 
He had a broad face and a little round belly, 
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, 
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself! 
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, 
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, 
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. 
And laying his finger aside of his nose, 
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, 
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. 
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight, 
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Today's stops

*Pepca @ Beyond Strange New Words
*Melissa Wiebe @ Jayne's Books

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 11

With two weeks to go to the big day, we are definitely on the countdown right now! And that means that we are already in the final two weeks of this year's tour. I can't wait to see what today's tour hosts have to share;

*Chris @ Chrisbookarama
Melissa Darsey @ Reflection of Providence

Today's quote comes from I am Half-Sick of Shadows, book 3 in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. Flavia is a very precocious young amateur detective who is determined to prove once and for all that Father Christmas is not real.

The quote from page 104

"Did you celebrate Christmas in Germany?" I asked Dieter. "Before the war, I mean."

"Of course," he said. "Father Christmas was born in Germany. Didn't you know that?"

"I did," I said. "But I must have forgotten."

"Weihnachten, we call it. Saint Nikolaus, the lighted Christmas tree.... Saint Nikolaus brings sweet for the children on the sixth of December, and Weihnachtsmann bring gifts for everyone on Christmas Eve."

He said this looking teasingly at Feely, who was sneaking a peak at herself in the looking glass.

"Two Father Christmases?" I asked.

"Something like that."

I gave an inward sigh of relief. Even if I did manage to bring one of them down and keep him from his rounds, there was still a spare to carry out whatever was left of the long night's work. At least in Germany.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 10

I hope you are enjoying the tour so far! We have a wide variety of posts so far!

Today's stops on the tour are at:

*Sprite @ Sprite Writes
*Random Magic Tour - The Coven

I love Christmas Carols... There are a couple that are timeless for me.

Like 'Holly Jolly Christmas' by Burl Ives:

Or, the Carpenters are always nice:

What are some of your favourite Christmas carols?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 9

Welcome to Day 9 of the Virtual Advent Tour!

Here are our stops for today:

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf
Susanna Kearsley @ A Woman in Jeopardy
Chris @ Stuff as Dreams are Made On

Yesterday, I shared a quote from The Long Shadow by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Today I havce a quote from the same book, this time from pages 315 to 317:

Hugo was delighted, but somewhat surprised, that his mother remained at Morland Place for Christmas: he had expected her to take the opportunity to go to London. But she threw herself into the celebrations with a will, organising a large party to ride out on Christmas Eve and fetch the holly and ivy and mistletoe and bay to decorate the hall, and to drag back the Yule log. The day was sharply cold, dry and crisp; snow had been falling for a week, but on that day the skies cleared and were wide and curved and blue as a robin's egg, and the snow glittered like diamond dust, and crunched an d cracked beneath them with a noise like dry twigs. the sun shone down on them, pale, brilliant and heatless, and their voices rang and echoed as if the sky were as close as it looked. It was a day of brilliantly contrasted colours - the bitter white of the snow, the heraldic azure of the sky, glassy green holly, red holly-berries like fallen drops of blood in the snow. His mother wore a cloak of Kingfisher blue, and its folds hung vividly across the burnished copper of Banner's rump. She was laughing all the time as she exhorted them to greater efforts; Maurice found her a pheasant's tail-feather, and she stuck it into her hair as if she was wearing a hat, and Hugo remembered how it swung against the blue sky as she turned her head this way and that.

When they reached home the servants ran out with cups of hot spiced wine, and Clement brought the brand preserved from last year's Yule log, with which the new one must be fired if good luck was to come to the house. The log was dragged indoors in procession while everyone sang the Yule-log carol, and was put into the hearth in the great hall; Clement lit the brand and Father St Maur blessed it and Martin fired the new log. There was a breathless silence while everyone watched and waited, and as the first smoky crackling flames jumped up a great cheer rang around the hall and set all the dogs barking madly. The cups were refilled, and everyone stood around drinking and laughing and talking. Annunciata crouched down by the hearth like a child to rescue the little creatures driven out of the log by the heat, and Martin teased her gently for her tenderness.

It was a lovely Christmas, twelve days of freezing sunshine and the house filled with the smells of delicious cooking and the sounds of merriment. Great fires burned in every room, and at night there were enough candles to light the house as brightly as day. The house was full of people , too: Maurice and Karellie were home, of course, and Daisy and John Ailesbury came for the season - Daisy was pregnant again, as was Caroline, so they had plenty to talk about. Sabine and Crispian came too, and they joined in cheerfully with everything, although Hugo thought that Sabine looked rather wistfully at the two women whose bellies were full, and at the two babies, Arthur and James Matthias.

Hugo had never known his mother in such a mad mood, and when Martin named Karellie as Lord of Misrule, he and his mother seemed to conspire to make it the merriest Christmas ever. Each of Karellie's pranks was wilder than the last, and Annunciata urged him on to still more lunacy, until Martin protested that they would not reach Twelfth Night without some broken limbs. Karellie acquired a long, striped cat's tale from somewhere, and had it sewn to the seat of his breeches, and he wore odd-coloured hose, one leg white and one yellow, 'To shew my authority,' he said.

Then when everyone was exhausted with playing games and dancing and charades, there would be music and singing. Martin played to them, and Daisy and Maurice sang, and they all joined in the carols that everyone loved, 'In Dulci Jubilo', and 'Quem Pastores', and 'Green Groweth the Holly' and 'There is no Rose'. On Christmas Evening there was a special surprise for them all: Maurice had written a piece of music especially for Christmas night, and over the past week had taught Martin the second part, and they played it together on two cornetti for the assembled family. it was very beautiful: the cornetto was thought to be the instrument that most closely resembled the human voice in its range and flexibility, and Maurice played it exquisitely. Martin had never played a cornetto before, though he could play any reed instrument, but the second part was simple, and he managed it extremely well for his one week of tuition. When Hugo closed his eyes, it sounded like two voices, distant and pure, twining one around the other - it made him think of angels singing out in the clear dark night.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 8

The second week of the tour is now underway, and I finally bought my first Christmas present! Go me!

Here are the stops for the tour today!

*Suey @ It's All About Books
*Susan @ You Can Never Have Too Many Books
*Robin @ A Fondness for Reading

Today's quote comes from pages90-91 of The Long Shadow by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, book 6 in the Morland Dynasty series. I will have another quote from this same book tomorrow.

Hugo had enjoyed Christmas at Morland Place more than any he remembered. At Martin's instigation Ralph had named Hugo Lord of Misrule for the twelve days, which meant that everyone had to obey him, whatever he told them to do and he and Martin had a great deal of fun thinking out absurd orders. He was also master of ceremonies in all the  games and festivities. Martin and George between them wrote a masque with music, and Hugo had the direction of it, which pleased him so much he even accepted it as reasonable that George should have the principal part. There was all the traditional feasting - the boar's head, the gilded peacock, the plum porrage, the mince-meat pies - with the poor at the gates coming in every day for the open table, and tenants and villagers bringing seasonal gifts for the master and staying for good ale and  good fare.

There were mummers and jugglers and travelling players and carol-singers forever at the door, and they too were brought in to the great hall, made festive with boughs of bay and rosemary and holly and ivy, to entertain the gentry. There was singing and dancing every night. At the Boxing-day hunt, Hugo was in at the kill and Ralph awarded him the antlers, and when the Twelfth-day Cake was cut, Hugo got the King's token and Daisy got the Queen's token, and he got to kiss her, which he did with a flourish that made everyone laugh. For the whole season everyone was kind to him and no-one slighted or despised him, and he was gloriously happy. His one regret was that his mother was not there to see what a fine and popular person he was.

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 7

I don't know about you, but once the tour starts, it seems to go so quickly! Can you believe today we will already have been on tour for a week?

Here are today's stops:

*Belle Wong @ MsBookish
*Bellezza @ Dolce Bellezza
*Snowball @ Come, Sit by the Hearth

Today, Kelly shares one of her favourite movies.

One lesser known, I think, Christmas movie is Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas. I had not seen this movie in years, but I found a copy last year and had a nice trip down memory lane. This is an example of the music included on it.

What is your favourite lesser known Christmas movie?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 6

Today's stops on the Virtual Advent Tour are at:

Teresa @ Teresa's Reading Corner
*Lisa @ Books. Lists. Life
*raidergirl3 @ an adventure in reading

Today's quotes come from Salvation Creek: An Unexpected Life by Susan Duncan.

The first part comes from page 113:

But my brother is dead. And Christmas since his death has been more of an ordeal than a celebration. However, this first Pittwater Christmas, when I live in the wooden house set at the water's edge, I am determined to get organised in a way that my brother would have approved, revive the Duncan family tradition. I want it to be a grand time for the fourteen people who will gather around the table on the deck at about noon. My goal is to restore, if I can a little of the old joie.

I begin making the pudding only a week before Christmas Day. Which is a bit scary because it's a three-day process. First, double the recipe. Then candy the orange and lemon peel and soak the raisins, sultanas, dates and currants in four times the suggested amount of brandy, letting the fruit sit for a couple of days.Stir (by turning over, not mashing!) every time you go past the bowl and make a wish. Invite everyone who passes to stir and make a wish. Watch them succumb to the sweet, dizzying brandy fragrance. see them close their eyes, breathe deep and hold their breath. Then wish.

'Never heard of this tradition,' Marie notes, wielding the thick wooden spoon. 'But it's a great way to get your pudding mixed!'

For a moment I wonder if it's a tradition. Then I remember Christmas at the pub. A local woman, famous for her puddings, soaked bucket loads of dried fruit in rough-as-guts brandy for a day or two in an old tin baby's bathtub in the pub's concrete-floored laundry. A barrel of batter, made from butter, eggs, dark brown sugar, ginger and flour, was poured on top, bringing the mixture to almost the rim of the tub. It was too huge and heavy for one pair of hands to mix, so the tub was ceremoniously dumped in the public bar for a couple of hours and everyone asked to have a stir and make a wish. By the time the bar closed at six o'clock, the batter had been turned over hundreds of times and the fruit was well and truly mixed in. A bit of cigarette ash and a slop or two of beer as well, I suspect.

After mixing, the batter was divided up and wrapped in steaming, floured calico, to be dumped in the copper boiler where the sheets and towels were washed on Monday mornings. The puddings were tied to a stick so they didn't sink and fill up with water, and the bobbed on the surface like giant dumplings for about six hours. They they were pulled out and hung from an indoor clothesline to cool down. I like to think now that those puddings were filled with the wishes of decent but reticent country blokes who would never dare say them out loud. As I recall, they were loaded with threepences and sixpences, which we warned guests about every year after one bloke swallowed a sixpence and nearly choked.

On Scotland Island, when I finally assemble the pudding mixture about three days before we're due to eat it, I'm anchored to the house for the next six hours, topping up the water in the pot. It's a broiling job but easily bearable. When the heat feels over-powering and sweat rolls down the valley in my back, I walk out the door and fall in to the sea. Nice life, huh?

And then from page 345

I start making the puddings in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, to give them time to mature. The kitchen fills with the sweet, boozy smell of dried fruit soaking in brandy. And every time I see someone new arrive at the boatshed, I fly down with the bowl and demand they have a stir and make a wish.

'Is there a limit to the numbers of wishes?' Veit asks, his long arms lifting and turning the mixture carefully. 'Or should I repeat the same one every time I stir the pudding?'

His question stalls me for a moment. Why do we always say make a wish? Why not make some wishes? Why shouldn't we be able to make as many wishes as there is time for?

'Nope! There's no limit. Go for it!' I tell him

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 5

December 5
Memory @ Stella Matutina
Linda @ Hutt-Write Voice
Pogue @ Katzenjammer

Victoria Hislop is an author I really enjoyed discovering this year! This quote comes from pages 110 and 111 of The Island.

When Advent began, Giorgis and Eleni needed to decide how to deal with Christmas. It was to be their first one apart for fifteen years. The festival did not have the importance of Easter, but it was a time for ritual and feasting with the family and Eleni's absence would be a gaping void.

For a few days before and after Christmas Giorgis did not cross the choppy waters to visit Eleni. Not just because the vicious wind would bite into his hands and face until they were raw, but because his daughters needed him to stay. Similarly, Eleni's attentions had to be on Dimitri and they played out in parallel the age-old traditions. As they always had, the girls sang tuneful kalada from house to house and were rewarded with sweets and dried fruit, and after early morning mass on Christmas Day they feasted with the Angelopoulos family on pork and delicious kourambiethes, sweet nutty biscuits baked by Savina. things were no so very different on Spinalonga. The children sang in the square, helped bake the ornate seasonal loaves known as christopsomo, Christ's bread, and ate as never before. For Dimitri it was the first time he had enjoyed such plentiful quantities of rich food and witnessed such hedonism.

Throughout the twelve days of Christmas, Giorgis and Elenis sprinkled a little holy water in each room of their respective houses to deter the kallikantzari, seasonal goblins that were said to play havoc in the home, and on 1 January, St Basil's Day, Giorgis visited Eleni once again, bringing her presents from the children and from Savina. The ending of the old year and the beginning of the new was a watershed, a mile-stone that had been safely passed, taking the Petrakis family into a different era.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 4

December 4
*Cindy @ Cindy's Love of Books
*Pamela @ Lavish Bookshelf
*Christine @ the happily ever after...

Today's quote comes from page 494 and 495 of Olivia and Jai by Rebecca Ryman. The book is set in colonial India and the main character, Olivia, has just been reconciled with her cousin Estelle.

It was the season of Christmas.

In the cosy downstairs parlour of the Birkhurst residence, the least formal of the reception-rooms, a tall conifer stood in a wooden tub, and it was splendidly decorated with coloured streamers, glass baubles, silver fairies in twinkling tinsel, gold stars, snowy white cotton wool, a cardboard Santa Claus and his rendeer, and banks of mistletoe and holly purchased with scandalous extravagance from Whiteaways. The house was filled with music and song and seldom heard gales of laughter. On Christmas Day the Donaldsons, the Humphries and, of course, Arthur Ransome had been guests at a veritable feast of trandational fare produced with uncanny skill by Rashid Ali andn the specially summoned Babulal. There had been gaily wrapped gifts for everyone, including the servants and their families, particularly the children. There had been crackers and fireworks, boisterous carol singing and generally uninhibited revelry such as had not been witnessed in years at the austere, under-inhabited mansion.

It was Olivia's second Christmas is India. And so different in spirit from that miserable occasion of twelve months ago in Barrackpore, which no one could now rustle up the courage to remember!

And then....

The Christmas festivities and frivolities had been her (Estelle's) idea. "A quiet Christmas?" She had echoed Olivia's desultory suggestion with horror. "Why, Amos will never forgive us that! If only for his sake, we must make it as merry as we can no matter what our own feelings." Olivia could not deny that she had been touched.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 3

Welcome to day 3 of the tour! We hope you have enjoyed the contributions so far. We certainly have. We are also sure that we are going to have a great time visiting with the following bloggers today:

*Ana @ things mean a lot
Michelle @ The True Book Addict
*Melissa @ The Book Nut

Today Kelly shares one of her favourite holiday memories! Enjoy!

I am still a kid at heart during the holidays... I really enjoy The Muppets movies and have been watching them for years. They are just a part of Christmas. One of my favourite is Muppet Family Christmas when they sing 'Jingle Bell Rock'. It is very well-done!

What is your favourite movie from your childhood?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 2

What a great start we had to the tour yesterday. If you haven't had a chance to visit yesterdays blogs, please do so. One of them is even hosting a Christmas Puzzle where there is a handmade ornament for the person who gets the most guesses correct! I am not going to tell you which one though! You have to visit the blogs to find out!

I am sure it will be another great day as we get to visit with the following bloggers:

*Rachel @ a fair substitute for heaven
*kelley @ the road goes ever ever on
*Tasha @ Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books

Today's quote comes from page 71 of School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

He didn't even mind those early Christmas mornings when first one, then another toddler would climb into the bed that he and Helen had so recently fallen into themselves after a night of putting together wooden wagons, or bicycles, or dollhouses. He opened his arms and they piled in, trying to convince him that the streetlight outside really was the sun and that it was certainly time to open the stockings, if maybe not presents, when in fact it was usually only two in the morning. Helen would groan good-naturedly and roll over, telling Carl all she wanted for Christmas was a good night's sleep, and he would pull the children close and whisper the story of the Night Before Christmas until they would slowly, one by one, fall asleep, their bodies draped across each other like laundry in a basket. When the children got older, self-sufficient enough to go on their own midnight exploratory missions among the boxes under the tree (where, more often than not, Carl and Helen discovered them sleeping in the morning, Carl found himself missing their warm intrusions into his dreams.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Virtual Advent Tour Day 1

Welcome to the 2013 Virtual Advent Tour!

We are so excited to see what everyone has to share with us this year. Our first stops are at the following blogs:

Tami @ Just One More Thing...
Andi @ Estella's Revenge
Katie @ Book Addict Katie

Like last year, we are going to be sharing some quotes that I have been saving up during the year specifically to share for the tour! There will also be some songs and other things. What that means is that there will be something new to see or hear at the blog every day.

Today I bring the first of the Christmas quotes for this year. I think that the quotes this year reflect the way that my reading changed this year - lot of Australian quotes to be shared. Today though, I am starting with a quote from The Bungalow by Sarah Jio.

From pages 121

I couldn't stay in on Christmas Eve thinking about Papa and Maxine roasting chestnuts together back at home. I shook my head, and made my way down Someone in a room upstairs must have found a radio, and even rarer, a signal out across the great blue ocean that carried the sweet, beautiful, pure sound of "O Holy Night" sung by Bing Crosby. My knees weakened as I listened to the song drifting over the airwaves like a warm breeze, comforting me, reminding me of Christmases in Seattle. With cider, Carolers. An enormous fir tree in the entryway. Papa smoking by the fire. Mother fussing about wrapping gifts. Maxine's sweets, though I didn't have the taste for them now. And Gerard, of course. I couldn't forget Gerard.

"Makes you sentimental, doesn't it?"

I turned around upon hearing Stella's voice behind me. "Yes," I said. If only she knew.

Her face appeared softer in the dim light of the entryway. Has the island changed her? "It hardly feels right," she continued. "No snow. Not even a tree. For the first time, I'm homesick. Really homesick." "Me too," I said, locking my arm in hers. we stood there listening until the song ended and the radio frequency become garbled - the moment lost forever, swallowed up by the lonely Pacific.

and then from page 123

As we walked outside, the radio's signal regrouped and began transmitting a weak version of "Silent Night" sung in a foreign language I didn't recognize. It sounded strange and lost, which was exactly how I felt.

Once inside the little chapel adjacent to the mess hall I let out a gasp. "Where on earth did they get a tree?" I eyed the fir standing to attention near the piano. "A Douglas fir, in the tropics?" Mary grinned, "It was our big secret," she said. "The Social Committee has been planning it for months. One of the pilots brought it over with the supplies last week. Nobody thought of decorations so we had to get creative. The men deserve a tree on Christmas." The choir began warming up to our left, as I looked at the fir tree, adorned with tinsel - handmade from finely cut tin foil - and read apples on each bow. Some of the women must have loaned out their hair ribbons, as there were at least two dozen white satin bows from top to bottom.

"It's beautiful," I said, blinking back a tear.
By the way, there is still time to sign up for the tour if you haven't already! Head to the tour announcement post to join in the fun!