Wednesday 19 December 2012

Holiday Blogfest


Memoir, Fiction, Recipes, Traditions...and more

This is a holiday blogfest with a difference! Please join in the fun!

For this Holiday Spirit blogfest, we are looking for excerpts involving fiction or non-fiction stories of family tradition, favorite/unique recipes, inspirational articles, etc.; that represent the essence of the holiday spirit.   RFW, and the blogsphere itself, include a multitude of countries, cultures, and citizenry of the world.  Not every culture celebrates Thanksgiving, Christmas, Yom Kipper, or any variety of holidays of the “giving spirit” during the same season.  Because the RFW hosts are a part of western civilization, we choose the Christmas month (December) to celebrate the giving spirit, and would like you to post whatever passes for the Holiday Spirit in your neck ‘a the world.

For this challenge, your submission does not need to include an element of romance; however, we at RFW acknowledge that ANY writing involving family (their values, traditions, and conflicts) is a Romantic writing.  What is more romantic than Family?

Because of the special nature of this Holiday Spirit blogfest, we are allowing up to two submissions; however, they must be in two separate categories.  Meaning, you could post your favorite recipe AND a fictio/non-fiction family tradition; or a link to an inspirational news/magazine article AND a recipe; but not two of each category (two recipes, two memoir posts, two articles). If you are posting two separate submissions, please add your blog link twice and add  the category to your name/link - eg; Donna Hole, Recipe - so participants know to look for two separate posts.
The linky will open on December 12 and remain open thru December 31 to encourage linking to the direct post.  However, if you decide to link then schedule a post (or two) later, just leave a comment to let everyone know when your excerpt will be available.  The RFW hosts will be checking the comments and links, and if a direct link is available, we will edit your link(s) if you haven't done so.

Please join us in celebrating life, love, presents, good food, and of course Family Traditions of all types of all cultures.

This is not a competition - it is a sharing. We hope we'll all get to know each other better!
My father was a serving officer in the Royal Navy and sometimes he was absent for Christmas but we didn't miss him. I know that sounds strange and perhaps rather harsh but the reason his absence didn’t spoil the Christmas spirit was because my mother  and my grandparents always made sure that myself and my brother had such a wonderful time.

Preparations for Christmas started a few weeks before the actual big day with the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding being made at the end of October / beginning of November. The cake was ‘fed’ with a capful of alcohol each week until a week before Christmas.   The marzipan would be made and placed on the cake and left to dry out for a few days otherwise it would bleed through and discolour the icing.   Then the Royal Icing was made and the cake iced and decorated ready to be displayed on the Christmas table at teatime.
A fresh turkey was usually purchased a few days before Christmas from the market in the nearest town.  My grandmother would travel the three miles on the bus and return carrying a turkey  weighing around about 23 lb – 24 lb to feed somewhere between 10 – 14 people on Christmas Day.
My grandfather (Fred) had the job of plucking the feathers and preparing the bird ready for cooking.  I remember sitting in granddad’s shed, wrapped up warmly, watching him cleverly prepare the bird.  These days it is all prepared for us by the butcher or the supermarkets.
The women in my family are always very busy on Christmas Eve cooking mince pies, sausage rolls and preparing all the food for the meal the next day.

All the family would come to my grandparents’ house for Christmas Day, as we sat at the laden table we would pull the Christmas crackers and share the jokes inside, little trinkets and wear the Christmas paper hats and enjoy our turkey and all the trimmings.
The Christmas pudding would then be brought in, doused with a tablespoon of brandy and set alight.  It was a great sight this flaming pudding with a sprig of holly decorating the top that we would then eat.
Inserted inside the Christmas pudding, wrapped in greaseproof paper, would be a silver sixpenny piece and there would be a coin for each child present.   A rich Christmas pudding was not always to a child’s young palate but we always ate it so that we could keep the coin.
Once the washing up was done by many willing hands, we would then gather in the ‘best room’ where the Christmas tree was with all the presents piled around it.

One person was nominated to give out the presents reading out the labels on the gift.  This could take two to three hours depending on how many guests were staying for Christmas.
Christmas tea would be about six o’clock in the evening when the table was set again, groaning with all sorts of goodies, a baked ham, sausage rolls, mince pies, a cheese board and crackers, a  home-made sherry trifle, a chocolate blancmange rabbit and various other nibbles and chocolates.   There would be alcohol served if wanted or tea and we would go to bed stuffed to the gills with rich food.   If anybody had any energy left then a game of Charades always ended up in hilarity or maybe the grown-ups would play card games.

Our family tradition started at least three generations ago (1930’s) when family Christmases were hosted by Great Aunt Mill (my grandmother’s elder sister) and her husband Great Uncle Fred Stevens.  
Aunt Mill and Uncle Fred owned a newsagents/tobacconist shop that also sold toys, ice-creams, cakes and had a few tables set out where they would serve home-made ice-cream, milk shakes and baked beans on toast, sardines on toast and cream sodas.   They worked very hard, opening their shop at 6.00 a.m. for delivery of the morning newspapers and not shutting up the shop until 10.00 p.m. at night.
Great Aunt Mill Stevens and Great Aunt Flo Goodson outside Aunt Mill’s shop circa 1920 – 1930, well dressed ladies, note the fashion of the time with the fox furs around their necks (unacceptable these days but perfectly acceptable then).
On Christmas Day they would stay open until about 2.00p.m to cater for the young children who had been given sixpence or a shilling for Christmas to spend and also to catch the trade from people visiting family who wanted a last minute present to take with them.   They would then close the shop and have their turkey dinner and the presents from around the tree.
My granddad, Fred, was always a little bit excited about Christmas and he would always have a sneaky look and a sneaky feel of all the presents around the tree before Christmas afternoon.  One year he became a bit grumpy and when Hetty challenged his mood he admitted that he couldn’t find a present from his daughter, June, my mother, around the tree. 
That year after all the presents had been distributed Fred still hadn’t received a gift from my mother.   All those sitting on the sofa were asked to get up and stand away while the sofa was moved out into the room.  Hidden behind the sofa, wrapped in Christmas paper, was his present from his daughter, a brand new spade for his garden.  The whole family had kept the secret and obviously this was a present that couldn’t be wrapped without giving away what it was, amid lots of laughter Fred was really pleased with his gift.
One year Granddad had his own surprise.  He had bought my grandmother an eternity ring and came over to our house where, with my mother’s help, wrapped this small box up and then put it inside a slightly larger box and a slightly larger box and so on and so on until a very large box was wrapped.  It took my Grandmother ages to undo all the boxes.  That was a good laugh as well.
One year my first husband asked me what I would like for Christmas and as money was tight in those early days of marriage and young children I had asked for something ‘pretty and practical.’   I opened my present from him to reveal a linen peg bag.  I must admit to feeling slightly let down until I felt another bulge inside the peg bag.  I retrieved the object and found a beautiful wristwatch inside.  That was a lovely surprise. 
We’ve also had our disasters with presents besides the usual items of clothing that didn't fit.  My father gave my mother a boxed bottle of expensive perfume.  As she opened the box and took out the bottle it was empty of any perfume.  The cap was still sealed and no leakage had occurred so our theory was that he had been sold the dummy bottle that had previously been on display. 

As an engaged couple my fiancĂ©e was invited to spend Christmas with my family and his mother was invited as well.  She refused to come as she wanted her son to spend the day with her.  We took her present round to her and she literally threw it back in our faces.
One year my aunt hosted Christmas.  She put the remains of the carved turkey back in the oven to save space until she was ready to wrap it and place it in the fridge.  Unfortunately, the turkey was forgotten about until an awful smell coming from the kitchen reminded her of the turkey sitting inside the oven.
A couple of years ago my mother was defrosting a frozen turkey in the fridge when unknown to her the fridge had broken down and stopped working; again the smell was the giveaway that all was not right. 
My husband decanted the gravy from the saucepan into a gravy boat and spilt it all over his hand and burnt it badly and sat at the Christmas table with one had wrapped in a tea towel encased with a packet of frozen peas.  

As the time has gone on it is now my turn to host Christmas Day and that seems to happen every year.  I am still lucky enough to have both my parents and this year there will be ten of us on Christmas Day ranging in age from just under two years old to just over 82 years old.
We still stick to our family tradition of catering our main meal for 1.00 p.m. – 2.00 p.m. and then clearing up the dishes and then sitting down around the tree for the ‘passing out of the presents’.  As each child grows up and learns how to read they take a turn or share this part of Christmas.  It teaches the young ones how to give gifts and wait until that present is opened and thanked for rather than diving in and opening a mass of presents all at once.
Colds and coughs and flu also abound around Christmas time but we all valiantly carry on and have a wonderful day, everyone is forgiven for slights and arguments throughout the year. When everybody has left or retired to bed I breathe a huge sigh of relief that Christmas is over for another year.
Last year's Christmas cake
Nativity Scene

Thursday 6 December 2012


100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups – Week#69
Do read ‘What is 100WCGU?’ if you are completely in the dark about all this!
A picture prompt this week:

Left alone, all alone, going solo
Slightly askew, slightly akimbo
Specks and crumbs of knowledge
Spreading out to the edge

Waiting, waiting, forever waiting
Loving living but always longing
That feeling of not quite belonging
To be in with the crowd, always wanting

To be part of the popularity contest
Knowing  I am obsessed
They glance at me furtively
Eyes darting back and forth chastely
Not willing to dive in just for fun
Could I be that someone
They can think what they like
My fingers suddenly strike
To me the spoils  of  victory
It is so very, very tasty.

Wednesday 28 November 2012


100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups – Week#68
Posted on November 26, 2012 by Tanner

The prompt fits well with the weather and November. It is simply:
As usual you must restrict your writing to 100 words and make it suitable for PG certificate. If you are confused what this is all about do read ‘What is 100WCGU?’ and it might help.The link will close at 9pm on 3rd December


The entire land became covered in a grey drizzle
North to South, East to West felt so sterile
An insidious moistness crept into the very souls of their beings
It was so very difficult to get their bearings
They couldn’t believe the sun wouldn’t shine again.
They should have had more faith in the spokesmen
The strong men and women who believed the sun would appear
It would shine down on their land and make everything clear
The sun did appear and gradually burnt away the greyness
Joy came to the world again as it chased away the foulness.

Thursday 22 November 2012


100 Words For Grown Ups – Week#67
This week Julia has given us this prompt because she says:
The last couple of weeks have been very sombre so I thought we might lighten things a little this week.
Hopefully you will write with a smile on this prompt:
…I really tried not to laugh …..
As usual keep it suitable for a PG certificate and only use 100 to add to the 6 above. If you are new here and have got completely lost do read ‘What is 100WCGU?’ which should help. If not leave a comment below and I’ll get to you as soon as I can. You can always tweet me (@jfb57)


His mum said, a day trip to London
We’ll have an adventure on a train
We will go on the London Eye
See the sights from the sky

A young lad of only just four
An excited and brave little boy
Came across a multi coloured lizard
The creature touched his head

He stood stock still in shock
Didn’t utter a word or even talk
He gazed in awe and wonderment
At the colours before him so brilliant

On a bicycle was this chameleon
Sparking a young imagination
Quietly I really tried not to laugh
As a man’s head looked out of the mask

Wednesday 14 November 2012


Today is the 13th of November already which means it's time for Kathy and Jess to give us the Knights of MicroFiction Prompt.

The prompt is:  In 300 words or less write a scene where the main character realizes he/she is thankful for something.  Include the words "turkey" and "Mayflower" (this could be May flowers too or other creative variations).

You have until 11:59 pm on November 15th to post your entry.  Sign up on the Linky List  Can't wait to read what you come up with.  :)

Lilian began to pant, her breathing became ragged, she arched her back and bit down on her bottom lip.  The pain eased off and she straightened up slowly.  The hum of the fan assisted oven droned on in the background, the computer was playing Christmas songs non-stop on a loop that her husband had set up. 
I can't have this baby today, she thought with dread.  The turkey still needs another couple of hours to cook.  Her husband had just left the house to pick up her mother from the other side of town, so she would wait until they came back. 
It would be just her luck to have this baby while everybody was out, she thought as she gritted her teeth through another contraction.  
A knock came on the back door and as it opened she saw her neighbour, May, walking in with a bouquet of flowers in her hand, smiling, glad that she had been invited to join them.
“Oh my, my dear flower,” she said, “looks like I came just in time.  Now, let’s get you comfortable and sitting in the rocking chair.”
“Thank you for coming early,” Lilian grunted through another contraction.
Half an hour later her husband and her mother walked in through the kitchen, calling out as they divested themselves of their outer garments.  
May was at the kitchen sink washing some dishes; she turned and said, ‘Your Christmas present is in the other room with your wife!”
Dave and his mother-in-law hurried through, shock registering on their faces. 
“Wow!” Dave exclaimed with tears running down his face. 
“Lilian,” whispered her mum, “she’s adorable.”
Wrapped in a white cot blanket, her snub nose peeking out and a shock of black hair sticking up all over her head was Holly, a surprise Christmas baby.


100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups – Week#66
The prompt chose itself this week.
…. the silence was deafening…..
As usual you have 100 words to add to the 4 above making a total of 104. Make your entries suitable for a PG certificate as I’m hoping to do a joint prompt with the children soon and it is good to practice!

How could she go on with this life that was hers?
She was used and abused at home behind closed doors
Her childhood gone, hopes and dreams shattered
As well as her body her mind was bruised and battered
Outside her bedroom window she watched the cold, bare branches on the tree
Waving in the wind they mirrored her mood, a mind full of misery
No way out
She tried to shout
No-one listened
No-one cared

Pulled in a downward spiral
She felt her mind go viral
The pain was welcome
As she gained her freedom
The silence was deafening
Peace began descending

Word count: 104

Wednesday 7 November 2012


100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups – Week#65
This week Julia has given us a picture and we can let our imaginations wander about the significance or otherwise of an ORANGE SPOT or what it may represent!
As usual it is just 100 words.

The marker was an orange spot
On the bark of a tree an ugly blotch
No idea of which direction to take
Her legs hurt and her back ached
No arrows or pointers to show her the way
She stood and looked at the sky turning grey
Scanning the copse she stood still and listened
To the hum of traffic in the distance and felt heartened
She made a decision, stepped round the tree
Blinking she closed her eyes and opened them to see
In the distance she recognised a landmark
Thankfully she would be home now before dark

Monday 5 November 2012


November 5th in the UK is Guy Fawkes night

We celebrate by building bonfires and setting off fireworks on the night and the weekend before and sometimes the weekend after.  There are organised events and family parties, people wrap up warm and stand outside on a chilly November evening oohing and aahing at the sights. 

All our animals and pets are scared witless but we will enjoy the night nevertheless.

She stood with her elbows leaning on the window sill
Wishing she could go outside but she felt so ill
Resting her forehead on the cool window pane
When they came in they would all complain
That they couldn’t feel their fingers and toes
They’d grab the tissues and give their noses a good blow
In the meanwhile she watched the sparks from the bonfire
Dance and flicker, orange flames spurting up in spires
She saw her brother and cousins arching their sparklers
Writing words in the air like famous conjurers
Heads in bobble hats leaning back as the noise of the rockets
Whooshed past high in to the sky and burst into little pockets
Of brilliant hues and showered down in glittery streams
Delighting the observers as they squealed and screamed
She looked forward to hot dogs and bowls of tomato soup
When the party rushed in from the cold in a headlong group
Wellies and boots and hats and scarves and coats and gloves
Discarded with abandon along with good natured pushing and shoves
Next year she wouldn’t be alone indoors and down in the dumps
‘Cos her mum said you can’t catch them twice these horrible, painful mumps



Hi everyone,

Part One of my guest blog on the lovely Kathy McKendry Imagine Today blog is up with Part Two following on Friday.

Saturday 27 October 2012



1. Follow Jackie and Dani if you don’t already. They do follow back.
2. Your Flash Fiction piece cannot be any longer than 300 words. Sorry… that’s part of the challenge.
3. You must use the MANDATORY 5 words listed below…
4. Post your Flash Fiction piece any day from Friday Oct 26th thru Monday, Oct. 29th.
5. It’s a blog hop, so… hop around to other participating blogs and leave them some awesome comments.
6. Have fun.

Your flash fiction piece can be scary, comical, romantic, or whatever you choose, just be creative!

The winners will be posted on HALLOWEEN! That’s right, Wednesday, Oct. 31st. Jackie and Dani will each choose a winner. That’s right – two winners!

PRIZES: A grab bag and candy. The winners will get the biggest bags we can find of their favorite candy along with some spookified items.

Oh, and yes, this blogfest is international. So what are you ghouls waiting for? Get hopping!
* ********** *

The razor sharp edge of the envelop cut her lower lip making it bleed profusely.  Oh that’s great, she thought, now I’ll have blood all over this letter.   I wonder if the postman will realise it’s Halloween, ha, ha that should flag up a Health and Safety issue.  I wonder if there will be a memo from Head Office about wearing gloves to stop contamination from blood products.
She shook her head to clear away the cobwebs.  She’d have to get going and start preparations for tonight’s party if there was a ghost of chance things were going to go with a swing.
She bent down and started searching through her pan drawers for the biggest saucepan she could find.  It needed to be nearly as big as a cauldron for the amount of soup she was going to have to make for the guests for the evening party.
She started chopping the ingredients, onions, celery sticks, carrots and potatoes.  She gently fried the vegetables whilst opening tins of chopped tomatoes, tins of tomato puree, packets of passata and vegetable stock cubes, she added water to the pan, bay leaves, some sugar,  red and white wine vinegar and topped it all up with full fat milk. 
She would let that simmer for half an hour or so before blending it in the mixer.   On a tray she would arrange bowls of celery salt and celery seeds, mixed crushed peppercorns, with a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, a small bottle of Tabasco sauce and a small bottle of vodka along with wedges of lemon for the adults to add to their soup for a bit of  spice.
She printed off a label that said


with a picture of the Jack-O-Lanterns filled with chopped fruit she had made previously.   

Word count: 300 / 302 with title