31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012...

In Wales and Scotland there is a tradition called 'First Footing'. What might you ask is this first footing?

First-Footing is the visiting of friends and family immediately after midnight and sees many a Scott rushing from house to house to welcome in the New Year. The First-Foot in the house traditionally is a dark, handsome male carrying a piece of coal, whisky, Scottish shortbread and black bun - a rich dark fruitcake encased in pastry. The visitor in return is given a small glass of whisky.

If the first visitor across a Welsh threshold however was either a woman or a red haired man it was considered terribly unlucky for the household.
Another important Welsh tradition in the Victorian Age was to never lend anything on New Year's Day. A person's behaviour on that auspicious day was usually considered to be an indication of the way they would conduct themselves for the rest of the year.

 So as we sing  'Auld Lang Syne', let's remember family and friends afar always close to our heart!

'Goodbye 2012',
From our house to yours,
May all your Holiday wishes come true...

29 December 2012

And The Winner Is...

See Review (HERE)

See Review (HERE)

With the holidays in full swing it appears blogs are not so readily perused as regularly so with little ado and even less fanfare the ONLY entry and the WINNER of both giveaways is...

HEATHER of  http://wattsfamilybythesea.blogspot.com/

Thank you Heather for entering this giveaway! I hope you will enjoy both novels as Christian author Robin Lee Hatcher delivers once again heartfelt stories! I think you will enjoy relaxing after the holidays with these books and a cuppa!
I will contact you shortly for postal address! 
All the best to you and yours,

Thank you also to both ZONDERVAN and Author Robin Lee Hatcher for their generous gifts!

27 December 2012

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, Book review

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-1402241376

History has all but forgotten...In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. 
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

My thoughts:

My thoughts:

Susanna Kearsley writes the sort of spellbinding tomes any romantic soul feels drawn to and 'The Winter Sea' has to be her best novel so far! 
There is such a vivid quality to her storytelling you feel the quiver of each moment as you travel with her heroine throughout the centuries and discover timeless secrets.

The plot behind 'The Winter Sea' is a remarkable undertaking and the amazing amount of research required to make it possible should be heartily applauded. Susanna Kearsley received many accolades from fellow writers including Bernard Cornwell and the unmistakable respect perceived in such critiques should give readers an idea of the magnitude of the author's dedication to her art.
As a history buff, I was floating on cloud 9. It is however her intuitive skills that kept me from being bored for we all know the Scottish and English wars waged for centuries.

The Stewarts history has beguiled the world with its courageous endeavour to regain their rightful throne and it would seem novelist Carrie McClelland has found the perfect location near Slains Castle to write her new book. Ancestral memory or genetic memory is a powerful ingredient in the success of her writings and it is soon apparent she knows what truly happened in 1708 before inspiration dictates each new chapter.  Feelings of deja vu plagues her along with bits and pieces of remembered conversation and she finds herself powerfully drawn to writing about her character Sophia and the 1708 Jacobite uprising. 
She is almost finished with her novel when she realizes history cannot be changed and thus her story would end on a sad note. 
That's where I must acknowledge I did not see the ending hit me. Who would have found such an interesting finale but for Susanna Kearsley?!

Massive in historical details yet with enough charisma to enthrall even the most blase of reader, 'The Winter Sea' brings you entertainment at its best and will make you clamor for more! 
A copy of this one will find a spot on my shelf shortly (this being a library loan).

I give it a resounding 5 stars!!

About the Author:

'I write modern gothic novels that blend historical adventure and modern-day suspense with romance and a touch of something spooky, so they don't fit neatly into any category, really...but they're fun to write!'

Discover more about this author on her website (HERE)

Note to readers: Just to remind you of course...Unless stated otherwise this review was not requested and reflects my opinion only!

26 December 2012

Boxing Day...

Like many families we will be celebrating BOXING DAY today (26th Decembre)!
For those overseas it is a chance to get together with loved ones and remember this very English tradition and for those of us abroad, it is the opportunity to blend the new and the old!
And since I am always asked what exactly is Boxing Day, here follows as good an explanation as any! (HERE).

All the best to you and yours,

25 December 2012

Christmas Wishes...

"When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

(Howard Thurman, Adapted)

24 December 2012

Around The World...

Never a practical person, I was dismayed to notice the calendar and realized my plan for a series of  'Around The World Christmas Festivities' posts was not likely to happen. Sigh...
The original idea was to post about six different places (some visited, some still to discover) around the world and introduce their own special Christmas festivities. Ah well...
Practical I am not, a dreamer I shall always be but promises even if only made to myself shall come to pass!
My last four 'tours' follows in one swoop...

Our first stop is in Russia...

Following the Julian calendar Orthodox Russians celebrate Christmas on 7th January (13 days behind our own Gregorian calendar).
Many people abstain from eating meat, eggs or milk a few weeks before Christmas and it is customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. However meals are plentiful and very festive. Check out what I mean (HERE)! Natalia and Masha's home is breathtaking for the holidays!

A typical Christmas dinner includes delicacies such as hot roast Pirog (Russian pies made out of meat or cabbage), and Pelmeni (meat dumplings) and most important a special porridge called kutya. The traditional ingredients are wheatberries (or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality), and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success and peace. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity.

A Christmas ceremony of great significance in Russia is the blessing of individual homes. During Christmastime, a priest visits homes accompanied by boys carrying vessels of Holy water. A little water is sprinkled in each room, which is believed to usher in happiness and fortune to them. 

From there to Portugal...

A very important Christmas tradition in Portugal is setting up the Creche, the representation of Christ's nativity in the stable at Bethlehem.

In every Portuguese house, a piece of oak is kept burning on the hearth all through the Christmas day. This wooden piece is known as the "Cepo de Natal" or the Christmas log.
The Portugese enjoy a feast, called consoada, in the early morning hours of Christmas Day. They set extra places at the table for alminhas a penar ("the souls of the dead").

On 5th of January or Epiphany Eve, children keep their shoes along windowsills and doorways and fill them with carrots and straw. Children wake up in the morning to collect the gifts and the goodies consisting usually of candied fruits and sweet breads.

Then we travel to Armenia...

The Armenian Apostolic Church still uses the old 'Julian' Calendar and so Christmas is celebrated on 6 January. The Christmas holiday season starts on New Year's Eve (31st Decembre) and continues until the old Julian calendar's New Year's Eve on 13th January.
Some people do celebrate on 25th Decembre, but not Christmas but Soorb Stepanos Day (St Steven's day) celebrated on 26th Decembre (Boxing Day in th UK).

Traditional Holiday foods in Armenia include Anooshaboor (Armenian Christmas Pudding), Khozee bood (glazed ham) and dried fruits. Every house is ready with lots of sweets because anyone might knock on the door and come in for a party!

On a special note: The evening of 5th January, before the Divine Liturgy of Armenian Christmas Eve (Jrakalooyts), three young boys and a deacon alternately chant the biblical story of the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace from the Book of Daniel. Since the earliest years of Christendom, Armenians have chanted this Old Testament story on the eve of Christmas and Easter.

And finally we stop in Holland...

Prior to Christmas Day, many Dutch people decorate their homes and gardens with Christmas trees. In the Netherlands the Christmas tree is called the paradise tree.
Many people attend church services on this day and spend the rest of the day quietly in the company of family or close friends. Public life during Christmas is in fact, a quite one in Netherlands.
SinterKlaas or St. Nicholas's feast, held on 6th Decembre in the Netherlands and elsewhere, is a popular children's holiday. The Netherlands have long been a country of sailors and Saint Nicholas, believed to be the patron saint of sailors, is regarded here very highly.

A Christmas dinner might consist of North Sea shrimps (the best!), smoked fish (especially salmon and eel), soup, roast or stewed poultry or meat, such as duck, turkey, beef, wild boar or venison, and some choicest seasonal vegetables and perhaps a Yule log.

Vrolijk kerstfeest!

Christmas celebrations around the World...
As one, we pray...for Love, Peace and Charity...

A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night...

23 December 2012

This Being The Fourth Sunday Of Advent...

Lord, fill our hearts with your love, and as you revealed to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man, so lead us through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Source:  http://www.ourcatholicfaith.org/prayer/p-advent.html

22 December 2012

Christmas News In The World...

More than any other time in the calendar year sad events hits us the hardest around Christmas!
Blogger Mystica tells her readers of the deadly floodings in Sri Lanka. Twenty seven people have lost their lives so far and more than 300,0000 are displaced. Read more about it (HERE).
We continue to keep them in our prayers!

But there are also good  news Folks!

Check out the lovely lady whose photo is seen here. Her name is Harriet and she is soon to be home!
It is always nice to see what happens with the crew at MorningBray Farm (my favourite has to be Patrick) and this rescue is worth mentioning in the spirit of Christmas!

Discover all about Harriet and her chance to a new life (HERE).

What a Christmas for her! Happy Holidays Sweetie and loooking forward to hear more about 'you'!

21 December 2012

Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher, Book review & Giveaway

The following is a review of BETRAYAL, Book 2 in the 'Where the Heart Lives' series by Robin Lee Hatcher and the opportunity win a copy of the book (as mentioned in yesterday's post).
Be sure to scroll down for rules about the giveaway (Book waiting on my desk for the winner!).

A heartfelt thank you to both ZONDERVAN and ROBIN LEE HATCHER for the opportunity to offer both novels as giveaways for this blessed Season!

Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN-13: 978-0310258094


It's the turn of the twentieth century and drifter Hugh Brennan is a man well acquainted with betrayal. Hugh finds himself drawn to the attractive widow, Julia, yet when he looks into her eyes, he recognizes the same hurt that haunts him. 
Julia Grace has little reason to trust men, but she's going to have to trust someone if she's to keep her ranch from the clutches of her dead husband's half-brother. Is it possible God had a hand in bringing Hugh to her door? 

The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher and the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Betrayal will take you to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two seekers learning to trust God's love no matter the circumstances.

My thoughts:

After reading 'Belonging' I did not think Robin Lee Hatcher could top it but 'Betrayal' proved me wrong! Set in the high desert of Wyoming at the turn of the century this is an engaging Western written by a lovely lady who will pull at your heart strings with the story of a drifter named Hugh Brennan. 
As we discover in this second book of the 'Where The Heart Lives' Hugh is the young boy whose Irish Mum entrusted him with his sisters' welfare long ago in the tenements of Chicago. Placed on the Orphans train, Hugh however is separated from his siblings.

Life has not been kind to Hugh in the last 18 years and he has little possessions but his horse and his Bible. On his way to find Felicia whom he believes to reside now in Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho his horse turns lame. Hugh is no cowboy but when he meets the lovely Julia Grace and she offers him room and board whilst his horse recovers, he finds himself more than willing to pitch in ranch's life.

Julia is a young widow struggling to make a life for herself on Sage Run, her late husband's ranch. She is no stranger to tragedy yet her faith is strong. In Hugh she recognizes someone who has been betrayed in the past and wills herself to trust him. 
As new challenges arise Julia and Hugh team up learning that with God healing is possible after all!
Deftly written and with just the right amount of romance, this is a great follow up to Book 1 'Belonging' yet it can be read on its own. 
I hope you will enjoy reading this novel as much as I did!

5 Stars!

About the Author:

Robin Lee Hatcher is the bestselling author of over sixty-five books. Her well-drawn characters and heartwarming stories of faith, courage, and love have earned her both critical acclaim and the devotion of readers. Her numerous awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards for Americana Romance and for Inspirational Fiction, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award.
For more information visit her website (HERE)

And for those of you who enjoy finding more about the author's writings:

 Thanks Robin! Looking forward to the next novel in the series!

And now for the promised Giveaway Part 2! 'Betrayal' is waiting for you on my desk!
Just place a comment on this post and your name will be added to the drawing (winner chosen using True Random Number Generator). Voila!
Contest open to US and Canada only. Apologies!
Contest ends on 27 Decembre 2012 at midnight!
And remember to leave your email (i.e. 25christmas[at]yahoo[com]) for contact!

Thank you for entering and Blessings to all!

I received this book free from ZONDERVAN as part of their blogger review program.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255 'Guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. I was not asked to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

20 December 2012

Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher, Book review & Giveaway

BELONGING - Book 1 in The Where the Heart Lives Series

Note to Readers: What follows is a review of 'BELONGING', Book 1 in the series and thanks to ZONDERVAN and the featured Author the opportunity to win your own copy! (copy on my desk waiting for the winner! Scroll down for rules!)

Join me tomorrow on 21 Decembre 2012 for a review of 'BETRAYAL', Book 2 in the series and the opportunity to win your copy of the second book as well! (again a copy is waiting on my desk for the winner).


Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN-13: 978-0310258087


In the high desert town of Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho, Felicia Kristoffersen has set out to create a future for herself that is better than her painful past. Alone in the world with only her faith to sustain her, she must prove herself as this tiny community's new school teacher. She cannot, must not, fail. But, there are those who never wanted her there to begin with.

Five years after the death of his wife, local merchant Colin Murphy cares about just one thing: raising his daughter, Charity. Colin wants to give her the educational advantages he never had. The new schoolmarm's inexperience doesn't sit well with him, and if this teacher up and marries like the last one did, Charity's heart will be broken once again.

A woman who hasn't known love. A man who lost the love he had. In the midst of the wide, sage-covered plains, each is about to discover that life's bitterest circumstances truly can work together for good. 'Tender, evocative, and beautifully written, Belonging is a journey about love after loss, and about two hearts destined to become one---despite their stubbornness!

My thoughts:

Robin Lee Hatcher is once again bringing us the sort of stories we can never have enough of!
'Belonging' is Book 1 in her series "Where The Heart Lives' and I loved reading her skillfull description of life in the West.

Our story starts in 1881 in the tenements of Chicago where an exhausted Irish lass says goodbye to her three children asking her son to promise he will always take care of his sisters. With her last breath the mother bequeath him to get in contact with a Dr. Cray who promised her orphans could be placed safely in families out West.
Sixteen years later Felicia, the oldest of the two daughters, has applied for a teacher's position in Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho and find an oasis in the little cottage loaned to her by the Mercantile shoppe owner of the town. The latter does not favour her appointment as he fears she will leave her position to be married just like every other female teacher he has dealt with in the past. More than anything else widower Colin Murphy wants stability in his daughter's life.

With her knack for rich details, Robin Lee Hatcher allows her readers to discover a beautiful love story and provides a wealth of information about the notorious orphan trains and life in a small western town. You feel the author has imbued her protagonists with solid faith making this Christian novel a wonderful book for any age (and I might add the perfect Christmas gift for someone on your list!)

Felicia remembers haltingly her life prior to being taken from the train and placed with a loveless family but she never forgot her siblings and hopes to be reunited with them someday.
Charity, her landlord's daughter wins her heart very quickly despite Felicia's wish not to favour her above her other students. It is however Colin himself in whom she finds a kindred spirit.
When confronted with unfounded rumours Felicia decides to leave Frenchman's Bluff and Colin is faced with a decision which changes their lives.

A story to enjoy on a long winter's night and guaranteed to please even the hardest of soul! 5 Stars!

Note to readers: Be sure to join me tomorrow for Betrayal's review & Giveaway!

About the Author:

Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of 65+ novels and novellas. Her home is in Idaho, where she spends her time writing stories of faith, courage, and love; pondering the things of God; and loving her family and friends.
For more information visit her website (HERE)

Now that you have scrolled down, here are the rules for the Giveaway!

Just place a comment on this post and I will enter your name in the drawing!
Using True Random Number Generator a giveaway winner will be chosen and a copy of 'Belonging' will soon finds its way to her! Contest open to US and Canada only. Apologies!
Remember to include your email (i.e. 1234ADA[at]yahoo[period]com) for contact. 
You have 7 days (allowing for the holiday). Contest will end on 27 Decembre 2012 at midnight!

Remember to come back for a chance to win Book 2 tomorrow, 21 Decembre 2012!
I received this book free from ZONDERVAN as part of their blogger review program.

I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255 'Guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. I was not asked to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

18 December 2012

Snowflakes And Smiles (Dog smiles!)

Yes it is true...We have snow falling on the island...Unusual but there you have it!

And for once, the news were truly comforting...

'Some much-needed smiles were brought to the children of Newtown, Conn., by way of seven dogs especially trained to comfort survivors in the wake of a disaster...
The dogs, mostly golden retrievers, "bring some relief" to children, and put "a smile on their face, kind of like a teddy bear, but a live one.'

 Man's best friend! Such a wonderful idea!

Source (HERE)

17 December 2012

Christmas Festivities Around the World

A little about Christmas festivities in Ireland...

Traditionally the whole family used to participate in cleaning the house including whitewashing the outside to symbolize cleansing and purification before the birth of Christ. Greens are still gathered to decorate the house and mistletoe is hanged by the doorway. On Christmas morning children find a gift or two in a sack by their bed as well as at the foot of the tree.

Christmas in Ireland is celebrated with many of the same customs seen in other British Isles including Plum Pudding and Crackers!

Spiced beef and mince pies are part of a good Irish traditional meal for the Holidays!

The day after Christmas is called St Stephen's Day, better known for its most distinct Irish tradition, the Wren hunt or the Wren Boy Procession. Today a fake wren is used instead of hunting a real bird. Once hidden the children are tasked to find it.  

Like everywhere else, families get together, attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, sing carols and share the joy of the Season!

Nollaig Shona Dhuit!

Christmas Around the World...