Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 24

The end is here... I hope that everyone has enjoyed the tour this year. We are already looking forward to next year! We want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

For this last day of the tour, we visit the following blogs:

Beth @ Too Fond

I actually found this video back at the beginning of the month, but it seemed ideal to post on the night before Christmas rather than any other day.


Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 23

The tour is drawing to an end. Only one more day! I hope you have enjoyed the posts and will come back next year for more Virtual Advent fun. Today we visit these bloggers:

Carol Perry @ Better is Possible

Naida @ the bookworm

Today's quote comes from On Rue Tatin, which is a book about the author moving to a small town in France. It wasn't all smooth sailing, especially with some of the neighbours!
A couple of weeks later Michael began decorating the house for Christmas. He hung cedar boughs over ever door and window, then wove tiny white lights through them. He lit up our gnarled apple tree and hung multi-coloured lights in the two tiny-paned windows in Joe's room. I made and hung a giant wreath on our gate, festooning it with gold beads and a big red bow and we put candles at all the windows. Since our house is right in the centre of town across from the church we felt a certain obligation to decorate sumptuously.

Once the outside of the house was done we put a tree (which we didn't buy at the florists because we were too cowardly), decorated it and the rest of the interior by hanging decorations and boughs from the raw beams, on the ragged brick fireplace and on the not yet plastered walls. Our windows have tiny panes in them and most are curtainless, so the golden glow within was easily observed from without, and the house looked like a fairy tale dwelling, standing out starkly from the shops and apartments around it, which were more modestly decorated. We knew it was appreciated because we saw cars slow down and necks crane, and more than one person came with a camera and stood out front clicking away.

I have always baked a variety of cookies for Christmas and being in France didn't change that, even with the wealth of bakeries at our fingertips. I am a firm believer in tradition - ours and others - and I didn't see how it would be Christmas without Christmas cookies. Joe and I took an afternoon to mix, roll and decorate. Then we filled several gaily decorated cellophane bags and delivered them to the florists, the cafe owners, the crew at Chez Clet, Brigitte from the gift shop, and the family who ran the real estate agency across the street, along with an explanation of their place in our Christmas tradition. I was taking Claude's suggestion seriously.

Two days before Christmas, while I was baking, Michael was working and Joe was playing in the chilly entryway, Joe ran to get me. "Mama, there's someone at the door, those two ladies," he said with his lisp. I went to the door, wiping my hands on my apron. Michael, in his studio, had heard Joe and he emerged as well. It was dark already, and I switched on the outdoor light and opened the door. There, framed by the light in our doorway, were the twin sisters, a huge bouquet in their hands. They didn't say anything and just stood there. I was stunned and unsure of what to do, so we had a stand off for a moment, then they handed me the bouquet.

I had tears in my eyes and they did too. Michael, standing back just a bit, was equally moved. We didn't say anything. Finally, I said, "Merci," and they said simply, "Bon Noel." They handed Joe a little gift, shook our hands and were gone. We stayed in the doorway looking after them.

I looked at Michael, who looked back at me. "The rolls and the cookies. They worked," he said, smiling. We all felt as if a miracle had occurred, a cultural breakthrough that would improve the quality of our daily lives. Our first Christmas on Rue Tatin could not have offered us more.

That Christmas was a watershed, and none of us has ever looked back. Over subsequent years we've developed a close relationship with the florists, and found them to be warm and loving neighbours. Year round they bring us bouquets of flowers that they can't sell but still have many days of life in them. I take them cookies, or cakes, or whatever I am baking when it's something really special. Their grandchildren come over occasionally to play with Joe and even nice to Jonquil, their German Shepherd, though in my heart of hearts I am sure she is going to attack me one day.

Ironically, last Christmas found us urging them to store their Christmas trees in our backyard, as their usual storage area was damaged. It's easier now, of course, since we all know and appreciate each other, but still I had a quiet laugh about it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 22

For the 22nd day of the tour we visit with these fabulous people:

Kristen @ BookNAround

Barbara Bartels @ Barbara Bartels

Shellyrae @ Book'd Out

Speaking of fabulous, here is a link to a cello version of the Carol of the Bells. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 21

Day 21! We are now weeks into the tour and only have a few more days to go before it is over for another year.  It always seems to go so quickly once we get started.  Today's hosts are:

Julie @ Angler's Rest

For your watching pleasure, a really cute (and creative) flash mob:

Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 20

It's Friday! Thank goodness. My job gets really busy every time there are public holidays but Christmas and Easter are even more busy than the others. I am really glad to have made it to the end of the week and have some time to relax. I have already started with a generous slug of Baileys but there could be more by the time this night is done.

Hopefully you will have some time to relax and visit our hosts today who are:

Sprite @ Sprite Writes

Over the last couple of weeks I have been listening to the audio version of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and have loved the audio version! I know, I am about 3 years behind every one else in reading this book but what can I say....better later than never! I won't be waiting 3 years to read the follow up book!

Today's quote comes from Wolf Hall and features Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

At Whitehall - York Place, as it was - the builders are still in. For Christmas, the king had given Anne a bedroom. He led her to it himself, to see her gasp at the wall hangings, which were of cloth of silver and cloth of gold, the carved bed hung with crimson satin embroidered with images of flowers and children. Henry Norris had reported to him that Anne had failed to gasp; she had just looked around the room slowly, smiled, blinked. Then she had remembered what she ought to do; she pretended to feel faint at the honor, and it was only when she swayed and the king locked his arms around her that the gasp came. I do devoutly hope, Norris had said, that we shall all at least once in our lives cause a woman to utter that sound.

When Anne had expressed her thanks, kneeling, Henry had to leave, of course; to leave the shimmering room, trailing her by the hand, and go back to the New Year's Feast, to the public scrutiny of his expression: in the certainty that news of it would by conveyed all over Europe, by land and sea, in and out of cypher.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 19

Welcome to Day 19 of the tour! We just had our first mega hot day of the summer and so it is really beginning to feel like Christmas for us! I know....odd compared to the rest of the world but it is what we are used to!

Today our hosts are:

Kristin Omiccioli @ my little heart melodies

Heather @ Capricious Reader

I found out about the song that I am sharing today through an author group on Facebook. The author asked all of her FB fans what their favourite Christmas songs were. There were a lot of the usual carols plus a smattering of contemporary songs. There were also some very strong opinions (amazing how many people either really, really loved songs like The Little Drummer Boy or really, really disliked the same song!). Anyway, in the course of the conversation this song was mentioned, and right from the first time I heard it I liked it! I hope you do too.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 18

A week to go! Are you ready? I'm not really but I am sure it will all work out, even if I have to finish my shopping on Christmas Eve.

Today our hosts for the tour are:

Julie @ Angler's Rest

Today's Christmas quote comes from The Chevalier by Cynthia Harrod- Eagles, the seventh book in the Morland series which follows the fortunes of the Morland family through from the days of the Plantagenets through to the 20th century.

I liked this passage because I like the idea of being able to watch such a scene unfold. Wouldn't like to be the cook, or live like this all the time, but just once it would be fun!

Everything was done in the best of style, and the food was both lavish and elegant. Most of the servants liked and admired India, but the cook positively worshipped her, for under Clovis's direction, during Matt's minority, there had been little scope for his skills. Food at Morland Place had been plentiful, but plain and wholesome, no canvas for a great artist. This Christmas, inspired by India, he excelled himself. The centrepiece of the whole season's feasting was the colossal Twelfth-Night cake, which was three feet in diameter and decorated to be a perfect miniature of Morland Place in beautiful detail, right down to the marzipan peacocks who spread their paper tails on the sugar drawbridge.

As well as the feasting, there was of course music and entertainment of all kinds, all the favourite Christmas games and, every night, dancing. India danced with the best of them, and Matt, though he could hardly get a dance himself with his own wife, stood at the side of the room and watched with pride and love as she flew tirelessly up and down the sets, conspicuous in her peacock-blue satin, with the Queen's Emeralds glittering at her throat.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 17

Welcome to Day 17 of the tour. You know that means that this time next week the shopping should be done, all the preparation done, and it will nearly be all over for another year. I am not sure I am going to be ready! How about you?

Don't forget to visit our hosts for today.

Melissa Wiebe @ Jayne's Books

Today rather than a song or a quote I thought I would share a cartoon which amused me a little. Click on the image to make it a little larger!

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 16

Welcome to Day 16 of the tour! We really hope you are enjoying the tour and that you continue to enjoy the posts that today's participants have put together for us all. Our hosts today are:

Jane Furey @ A String of Pearls

Julia Phillips Smith @ A Piece of My Mind

For today's festive treat I thought I would share a video that has quickly gone viral. Whilst I wouldn't want to be in a flash mob, there is no doubt that when they are done well there is nothing better, especially if it is a holiday flash mob! Watching this one literally gave me shivers at some points. Enjoy!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 15

Fifteen days into the holiday season! Hard to believe December is going by so fast and the tour will soon be drawing to an end. I hope that people are having a chance to visit all the wonderful posts like the ones today from:

Melissa @ Book Nut

As for on this blog, Pentatonix posted a new Christmas video yesterday. I think I like 'Little Drummer Boy' by them better, but here they are singing 'Angels we Have Heard on High'.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 14

Today marks the end of the second week of the tour and I hope you are enjoying the tour so far. I am sure that we will all continue to enjoy what our hosts today have prepared for us. They are:

For today's post I am sharing a quote from Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole. This is an epistolary novel and so the passage I am sharing is a part of a letter from David, a young man who lives in Chicago to his friend Elspeth (who he calls Sue... you will need to read the book to find out why) who lives on the Isle of Skye

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A
January 12, 1914

A Happy New Year to you, Sue!

You're right, you do make a marvelous Christmas pudding! It's similar to the fruitcake my mother insists on making for us each Christmas. The woman doesn't set  foot into the kitchen all year, unless it's to make a last-minute change to the menu. But every year, as the Christmas season approaches, she dons a lace-edged apron about as effective as a paper cake doily and waves all the staff out of the kitchen. Mother emerges hours later, air floured, a smear of molasses on her cheek, and a shine in her eyes that could only be brought about by "sampling" the brandy, but victoriously bearing a fruitcake. It generally has the appearance, texture, and taste of a paving stone, but we must all eat a hearty slice on Christmas Eve.

The joy we had this year, Sue, was eating your delightful Christmas pudding. Both Evie and Hank insisted on examining the box you'd sent, to make sure I wasn't holding out on them. Even my father begged for more. When my mother asked, with the air of a jealous mistress, how this pudding compared to her fruitcake, we were quick to reassure her. "Oh, the Christmas pudding is good, but it's very...you know... British." We left it to her to to interpret just what that meant.

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 13

Well, the festive season is well and truly underway. I had my work Christmas lunch today - a very pleasant feast of Lebanese food! Are you all partied out already or just getting started?

Either way, I hope you will have time to stop by and visit our two fabulous hosts today:

Belle Wong @ MsBookish

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 12

Welcome to Day 12 of the 2013 Virtual Advent Tour. Today we are visiting with

Grace Elliot @ Fall in Love With History

Adria @ Adria in Paris

And here on the VA blog I am sharing a new version of the beautiful carol We Three Kings.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 11

If you are counting down, then you will know that it is two weeks until the big day! Maybe you've been checking off items on your to do list?? Checking it twice even?

Hopefully you will have time to visit our gracious hosts for today:

Meryl @ My Bit of Earth

Today's quote comes from pages 220 to 221 of Lilla's Feast by Frances Osborne. By way of introduction, Lilla's husband, Casey, has been arrested by the Japanese soldiers who have invaded China, along with many other Western businessmen. Not long after this all other allied nationals are also arrested and put into prisoner camps.

I often find myself drawn to quotes about how Christmas was for people during war times or other forms of adversity.

On Christmas Day 1941, as a gesture, as if clinging on to the idea that this was an honourable war, the Japanese let the businessmen go home briefly. Just long enough for a church service and Christmas lunch. Lilla, Casey, Mabel, Vivvy and Mabel's mother - Lilla's family in Chefoo - would have eaten together. Vivvy and Casey would not have a uttered a single word about what they were going through in the hotel, not wanting to worry their wives any more than necessary. But, looking at their husbands' pale, wasted faces, Lilla and Mabel would have known without asking that something awful was happening to them.

I am trying to imagine their meal. Lilla must have been living off peas, beans, lentils and peanuts, as everyone else in Chefoo was doing at the time. "Just as nourishing as meat," she later wrote, "especially if suet dumplings, bacon or fried bread are served with them." But on Christmas Day Lilla must have managed to lay her hands on at least a chicken, its flesh lean and taut from age. Her chef long since gone, she would have basted it again and again in its own thin juice, kept it well covered, not allowed a drop of moisture to escape. Still, it can't have been the same as turkey or goose. They must have chewed through their mouthfuls, puhsing a smile on to their faces between each bite. Trying to have a normal Christmas conversation, talking about anything they could think of except the war. If they could think of anything else at all. They they would have exchanged presents. Something small, a token. A favourite piece of embroidery. A drawing. A card. It was hard, almost impossible, to find anything new, so, like everyone else in Chefoo, they circulated their own treasures. Then tried to sing, Casey and Vivvy mustering all the enthusiasm they could, with Lilla accompanying them on the piano, striking chords.

When the soldiers came back that afternoon to take the men away again, they took Lilla's car with them. The car she'd boasted about to Ada. the car in which she and Casey had gone on so many picnics and dashes across the peninsula to see her brother Reggie in Tsingtao. Or even just out at night, when it was too cold or wet by far to walk. by Christmas 1941, there hadn't been any petrol for over a year. Still, the car has been sitting in the garage as if one day soon she'd take it out again. As the Japanese soldiers drove it off, they took that hope away too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 10

Busy, busy, busy. Let's get straight down to business!

Hopefully you will have time today to visit our tour hosts!

Deb Nance @ Readerbuzz

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 9

Today we are lucky to be visiting with three bloggers:

Last night my son and I went to see Bon Jovi in concert! I am still kind of buzzing from that so it seemed kind of obvious to go and see if there was any Bon Jovi Christmas music, and there was! Certainly didn't hurt that Mr Bon Jovi scrubs up very nicely in a suit too!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 8

Once the tour start it seems to go so quickly. We are through the first week already and so far we have had a great variety of different types of posts for you to explore and enjoy. If you haven't had a chance to do so yet, take the time to click through to the different participants posts.

Kicking off the second week we have

Colleen @ Books in the City

I wasn't originally sure about sharing this video, but in the end I decided to because both Kelly and I are both a little bit Trekkie!



Saturday, December 7, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 7

Yay, it's the weekend! Only a couple more of these before the big day. I should be out shopping but instead I am taking the weekend off! Next weekend I will have to hit the shops. Even if you are busy out and about, I hope you find the time to visit with our hosts for today.

Bellezza @ Dolce Bellezza

Today I am sharing a passage from The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal. I have read several of this author's books over the last year or so, and if you want a feel good read with lots of delicious sounding food then I would highly recommend Barbara O'Neal.

The passage is from pages 397 and 398

On Christmas Eve, the restaurant closed at eight, and by ten, Ivan and Patricak were settled in front of the Christmas tree at Patrick's place, drinking eggnog and listening to rock-and-roll Christmas carols, which Ivan insisted upon. Springstreen sang "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," in that raw, ragged voice, and Ivan leaned back happily, drink in hand, to watch the lights sparkle. Patrick was cutting out paper snowflakes that he was going to use for table decorations tomorrow, when a few people would come over for a Christmas goose with all the trimmings. Patrick had made a special request for it, tickled by the idea of a Dickens sort of Christmas and Ivan tracked down one of his suppliers to get a honking big bird - he laughed every time he said this - and it was marinating now. Ivan would get up at dawn to put it in the oven so it would be ready for dinner. He'd also secretly rented a Victorian-era costume, complete with a top hat, in which he thought he looked pretty hot.

The restaurant was closed. All of Liswood's restaurants were closed for Christmas and again on New Year's Day. He felt everyone deserved a couple of days off every year, no matter what, something Ivan found remarkable.

"This is great," Ivan said.

Patrick smiled up at him. "It is. I'm so looking forward to our dinner tomorrow! Thank you for cooking goose."

"One big honking bird," Ivan said, laughing

"The joke might be a little overdone," Patrick said, but he was grinning. He unfolded think white paper to reveal a beautifully intricate  snowflake. "Sure you don't want to try one?"

"I'm sure."

Over at my blog I am also sharing a recipe from the book today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 6

Welcome to day 6 of the Virtual Advent Tour. Today we are visiting with the following participants\

raidergirl3 @ an adventure in reading

Ashley @ Closed the Cover

And I am sharing a new to me carol that I have been introduced to over the last few days that I find really haunting. I hope you enjoy it too.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 5

Today we are glad to be visiting with some of the long term supporters of the Virtual Advent Tour. Whilst we love all the new people that participate, Kelly and I are always grateful when people love the tour so much that they come back year after year! Please take some time to visit

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf

One of the things that we have always tried to do as part of the Virtual Advent tour is highlight other events throughout book blog land. Normally we update them in the sidebar, but having previously highlighted #estellagram earlier in the tour, I thought I would share another event today.

Kim from Reading Matters is hosting the Book Bloggers Advent Calendar. Kim has asked some of her blogging friends (including me!) to share one of the favourite reads of 2013 and each day she shares one of those recommendations.

I have to say that the range of recommendations is as broad as it is interesting — and no one appears to have chosen the same title. The suggestions include everything from prize-winning novels to little-heard-of gems deserving of more attention. Some were published this year, many were not.
Maybe you will discover a fantastic read during the between now and Christmas. And if you were wondering, I shared a gushy, gushy review about the audio version of On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which was revealed on day 4.

Do you know of any bloggy holiday events that you would like to share with us?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 4

After yesterday's panic which has now abated a little despite the fact that I haven't done any additional preparation, it is time to visit our hosts for today

Today I am sharing the first of the quotes that I have saved up during the year. This one comes from The House at Salvation Creek by Suan Duncan. Just previous to this section a bushfire had come close to the houses in Lovett Bay where the author lives in a gorgeous old house once owned by one of Australia's most famous female poets.

The quote comes from pages 155-157

Bob's daughters, Meg and Kelly, arrive to celebrate Christmas bringing their partners...and dogs, Tali and Bear. Tali is a handsome black and white border collie with a baby pink lipstick smile and a ton of charm. He shadows Meg like her keeper. Bear is the ugliest dog ever born: too tall, skinny in the rump, big-chested. Not even her ears match. One sticks straight up. The other flops flatly. Her coat looks like it's been attacked by moths. Kelly adores her.

The floors of rooms all over the house are littered with clothing, mattresses and bedding for dogs and humans, strewn like the aftermath of gale-force winds. Lulu, my step-daughter from my first marriage, comes with her partner and her border collie, Bella. Bella's muzzle is greyer than ever, although she still never stops dropping sticks in your lap and begging you to throw them. The sticks are like toothpicks now, though. The floor space is chockers. Lulu will sleep in a tent on the lawn. She is kind enough to tell me she likes camping. Chip Chop is overwhelmed, but she cheers up at the sight of food.

Christmas dinner unfolds in chaos. the charcoal in the barbecue won't catch alight. The turkey, covered in the skin from the ham to keep it moist, is cooking too slowly. Dogs, stinky wet from a swim, hover politely at my feet in the kitchen, hoping a morsel will drop off the bench. When nothing does, they wander off, heads sagging with disappointment, pausing only to shake. The walls are sprayed with water. The salad, too. Chip Chop finds the ham skin after we take it off to brown the turkey. She eats it to the point of explosion. We call Ray the Vet who tells us she might die but there's not a damn thing we can do. We lock her away from even the smell of food.

My mother, resplendent in fire-engine red with strobing red reindeer earrings and a Santa Claus brooch that flashes like a lighthouse, tells me the Christmas decorations are a disgrace. "I'll do them next year," she huffs.

"I've gone minimalist," I snap back. Truth is, with bushfires and getting beds and tents sorted, I ran out of time and energy for more than a few baubles and a small old flashing Christmas tree I've had for years.

"Minimalist and Christmas don't work," she replies. And she has a point.

When we finally sit down to eat, I am sweating from a barrage of hot flushes. I whack down two glasses of champagne in rapid succession, then I look around. Smiling faces. Tanned arms reaching for a prawn, smoked trout, some mango salad.

"Ah bugger," I shout. "Put down your knives and forks. We haven't sung the carols yet."

Everyone groans. Lulu hands around the words to six carols we sing every year before we eat. She's been sitting on them, hoping I'll forget. Not a chance! Is there an exploding point for happiness? There can't be.


By midnight we're all in bed, even the youngies. Bob grabs me tightly. "Thank you," he says, with a sigh.

"Oh no, thank you!"

And we both fall into a deep sleep. Holding hands.

At the next Christmas the decorations are far from minimalist!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 3

Day 3. You know what that means? Only 3 weeks until Christmas Eve! I am sure that there are lots of you out there who are all organised and have now finished your shopping, all your cards are sent etc etc. Hopefully I won't be the only one whose reaction to the whole 3 weeks thing is PANIC!!!

I am sure that our tour hosts for today have everything under control, so be sure to visit them both!

Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 Virtual Advent Tour: Day 2

What a great start to the tour we had yesterday with Becky and Alexandra kicking things off in style! Today we are visiting the following blogs.

Let's kick things off with a beautiful acapella version of a Christmas favourite that has been doing the rounds for the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 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:

Alexandra @ The Sleepless Reader

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 most days.

Remember it isn't too late to sign up and join in the fun! You can find all the details, including how to sign up in this post!

Another way to have fun this holiday season is by participating in the December #EstellaGram hosted by the Estella Society. You just take a picture each day that relates in some way to the prompts. Then you can post on your blog, Instagram, Facebook etc.

Let the festivities begin!