Christmas Interview – Sheryl Browne

My guest today is the author of heart-warming love stories, written with humour. Sheryl Browne lives in the UK and likes to spend time on boats. She has a soft heart for her pets and in my book, that makes her a good person. Welcome, Sheryl.
Sheryl Photo

1. Do you celebrate Christmas?

I think if we didn’t we would never pause to draw breath. Christmas is the one time we cross everything off the agenda with a view to relaxing. It’s time for stopping and reflecting, I think. It can be a time of sadness, remembering those you’ve lost. That in itself, though, is a reason to celebrate, cherishing the memories, enjoying what you have; realising that many people the world over don’t have so many things we take for granted. It’s definitely a time for giving thanks, in my mind, and counting one’s blessings.

2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

Yes, once. My son was very young at that time and had gone to his dad’s that year. I lived a long way away from family, so spent the day on my own. I was fine with it, plenty of indulging and reading to do, but I did experience an overwhelming sense of sadness as the evening drew in. Some people are alone and lonely all the time, something else we should remember when we feel like garrotting the family, rather than stuffing the turkey on the big, frenetic day.

3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?

Does a sea-food raclette party count as non-traditional, followed by a chocolate fondue? I have no idea how the ceiling ended up covered in chocolate sauce, but I think we must have had fun!

4. What are your thoughts on gift giving?

Oh, dear…To be honest, I think Christmas should be a time of giving, but I would much rather people set a limit on the amount spent. It’s difficult when you have children not to want to provide them with the latest in gadgetry and cool footwear, especially when you think they’ll be under peer pressure at school, but so often people end up in serious debt. We tend to give fun but thoughtful gifts that don’t cost the earth.

5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas?

Charades!! Boring?? Not a bit of it. My partner stuffed a pillow up the back of his jumper and walked around hunched swinging an arm in front of him until we were hysterical with laughter one year (cue frenzied barking from the dogs). ‘Elephant!’ we kept screaming. ‘Mammoth!’ Noooo, he was a … camel???

6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?

Christmas morning. It’s a tradition carried on from my mum. We weren’t a well-off family (six siblings in all meant there were a lot of mouths to feed and stockings to fill). She always filled our stockings, though, in the wee hours. The little surprise presents were always precious, but the orange, nuts, and chunky chocolate tucked in the toe were the best.

7. What was the best gift you ever received at Christmas?

A bike! I was all grown up at the time, but I so wanted a traditional ladies’ bike. My partner bought one for me. It was the last Christmas I had with my dad (we knew he was poorly). My partner hid the bike at a neighbour’s and presented me with it after dinner, a proper bicycle with a bell and a basket and little roses on its frame. My dad’s face was one of pure joy. I think that was because he thought I was with someone who would look out for me.

8. What was the worst gift you ever received at Christmas?

A peg bag. Say no more.

9. What do you do with gifts you don’t like?

I take them to the charity shop. There are so many now, it’s not really a chore to do.

10. What was the best homemade gift you ever received?

A ceramic mouse made by my son. It’s so cute, I just adore it. Where I go, house-move wise, my mouse goes with me.

11. Have you ever given a homemade gift? Tell about it.

OK, this is quite sad. My father gave me a slip of paper before he died. On it was the quote, ’Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day’. He wasn’t particularly religious or generally demonstrative, so… You know. Anyway, I penned that up in italic script and framed it for my brothers and sisters. They did appreciate it.

12. What would you change about Christmas?

Christmas is way too commercialised for my liking. I love to see the twinkly lights, particularly coming home on a dark night, but I do so wish people wouldn’t put them up in November. Seeing the shops full of Christmas stock as early as September and October… Well, it just pressurises people to spend more, I think. But then, I suppose that’s the idea.

13. What would you keep the same if you could?

I’d like to keep everything the same (except maybe the commercialisation).

14. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?

A Winter’s Tale by David Essex. I think the fact that I drooled over him as a teen had something to do with it.

15. What do you like best about Christmas?

Walking my dogs and watching animated films in front of the fire after dinner.

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He’s coming down the chimney. Quick! Look obedient!

16. Any additional thoughts about Christmas?

I wish everyone could be as privileged as we sometimes forget we are.

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And here are some of Sheryl’s novels. You’ll enjoy them all.

books

SHERYL’S LINKS: 

Sheryl’s Website 

Safkhet Publishing 

Amazon.co.uk 

Amazon.com

Author Facebook     

Romantic Novelists’ Association

Sheryl is a Loveahappyending Lifestyle Author and Feature Editor.

Twitter: @sherylbrowne

Christmas Interview – Kit Domino

“Winter Wonderland” by Kit DominoWinter Wonderland

Besides being an author and editor, Kit Domino is a superb painter. I would love to have her painting, “Winter Wonderland,” hanging on my wall at home.

Kit lives in the UK and is visiting my blog today to tell us her thoughts about Christmas. Welcome, Kit.

1. Do you celebrate Christmas?

We are not religious so Dave and I celebrate it in our own special way – not for us the stress and hassle a lot of people seem to create for themselves. No paper hats, no crackers, and we don’t send cards. For us, it’s a time for relaxation, a few treats that we wouldn’t indulge in during the rest of the year, and a time for spending with loved ones. Everything is very low key and laid back.

2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

Never, and I’d hate it if I heard that any of my family were alone on Christmas Day.

3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?

We don’t do traditional. Normally we have roast beef but we have on occasion enjoyed sausage, egg and chips – not that we couldn’t afford anything else but because my husband doesn’t like turkey and all the trimmings, apart from the sausages!

4. What are your thoughts on gift giving?

Christmas is a magical time for children and every child should have something to unwrap from Father Christmas. In our family we only give gifts to the children; watching their faces as they rip off the paper is the best part of Christmas. We treat the adults on their birthdays instead.

5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas?

Many years ago when our daughter was aged about nine years, it snowed. We spent Christmas morning building a snowman in the garden, having a snowball fight and making snow angels. It was wonderful, and then coming in from the cold to a glass of warm mulled wine made the day. Simple pleasures that cost nothing and a memory we will never forget. Why can’t all Christmas mornings be like that? More recently, I enjoy watching Dave decorate the tree – for years he wouldn’t get involved, now it’s “his job,” as he tells me. Hmmm… he’s definitely mellowing as he gets older.

Mr and Mrs Snowman

6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?

As children, we never had stockings but a Christmas Day tray each – a special fluted shallow dish made of paper maché that was filled with sweets, nuts, fruit and little toys and trinkets. As we grew older, the toys and trinkets turned into jewellery, perfumes, etc. I continue this tradition by doing the same for any guest who is with us over Christmas.

7. What was the best gift you ever received at Christmas?

I have two older sisters who are twins, and most of my clothes as a child were hand-me-downs (two of everything!) which I hated, but I remember one particular Christmas I came down to find a brand new dress. It was brown and white with a pleated skirted and cap sleeves. I loved it – because it was new and bought especially for me.

8. What was the worst gift you ever received at Christmas?

Believe it or not, a giant roll of clingfilm – plastic food wrap – from a niece; my sister-in-law received the same. Neither of us could believe it. It was that which decided Dave and I to stop the gift giving. Decried at the time, but now all the family followed our lead and has stopped giving gifts except to the young ones. They all tell us how much more enjoyable Christmas is now without the worry of what to buy everyone.

9. What was the best homemade gift you ever received?

A dear lady in Germany who purchased the very first bluebell painting I’d ever created for several years afterwards always sent me a home-made Stollen. Being of German stock myself and enjoying many of the German traditions, especially the food, this was wonderful. This year I decided I would go back to making my own as I used to do years ago, long before you could buy Stollen here in the UK.

10. Have you ever given a homemade gift? Tell about it.

I’m not very good at making craft things but I have given a few paintings as gifts – does that count?

11. What would you change about Christmas?

The length of time we are bombarded with TV adverts and stuff in the shops from the moment the kids go back to school after the summer holidays – especially mince pies! Christmas is one day (okay, two in the UK), not three months. Okay, that makes me sound a grouch, which I’m not. Can I have a magic cracker that turns my Dave into someone who loves all the traditional foods and carols and such?

12. What would you keep the same if you could?

Always having my mother here for the holiday. We lost my father fifteen years ago, since then Mum invariably comes to stay, always asking if she can come. She loves it with us because we don’t fuss and it’s so quiet and relaxed. It wouldn’t be the same without her.

13. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?

I have three: Silent Night, preferably sung in German and another German carol Suesser die Glocken nie klingen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sNICNl9Los#t=72) – sorry, that’s the German blood in me again), and White Christmas by Bing Crosby – all guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. Actually, there’s more than three, now I think about it… I adore Fairytale in New York by the Pogues and Kirsty McColl, and Don’t Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie – two songs that always makes me feel that Christmas has arrived.

14. What do you like best about Christmas?

Being with my family.

15. Any additional thoughts about Christmas?

Whilst many of the traditions and food are well rooted in the past and the true Christian meaning has been lost by many, I do think we should endeavour to keep it alive. We value it and it is something enjoyable to look forward to during the middle of winter.

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Kit Domino, artist and author of Every Step of the Way

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Book link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Every-Step-Way-Kit-Domino-ebook/dp/B007ST58CG

Website: http://www.kit-domino.com/

Blog: http://kitdomino.wordpress.com/

Christmas Interview – Carmen

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My friend Carmen is my guest today. She lives in Germany and will give us a different perspective of how she celebrates the holidays.

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1. Do you celebrate Christmas? 

Yes, it’s the greatest family meeting ever – the whole family comes together at this time – more than at other feasts.

(We even remember family  members who are no longer with us: the cemetery is adorned with candlelight everywhere at that time.)

 2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

 No – I always met with my best friends or family at least.

3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?

Yes I have every year ! Because the traditional Christmas dinners are not good  for the figure.

My favourite non–traditional Christmas dinner is: Mixed Grill (Beef goulash – pieces; onion slices; colourful sweet pepper; and strips of bacon alternatively put on skewers) heated in the oven under the grill served together with an american barbecue sauce or tomato paste on top of it and french fries.

Or otherwise a Hungarian goulash with “Spätzle,” or a very good piece of beef with herb butter on it together with french fries or baked potato.

Before this there will be a healthy salad.

And we must not forget a sweet dessert after that. Maybe a kind of  cinnamon vanilla ice cream, or an iced coffee together with this, or cinnamon stars.

Everything served on bone china and a festive decorated tablecloth with candlelight.

cinnamon stars

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We like to pick nuts and make a liqueur from the biggest ones.

4. What are your thoughts on gift giving? 

I wonder if the gifted person  really likes this? It is never easy to make a gift to persons who need only money, but you want to give a personal gift at that time. Something that enchants even older persons. And I often noticed later, that especially these gifts are the ones where I was the most wrong.

5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas? 

Sleigh riding through the snowy forest on a horse-drawn sleigh with a lantern on the carriage near the Tegernsee and a torch-lit walk through the snowy mountain, followed by Bavarian shaking music and Christmas poems in a wood-heated festively decorated cabin.

6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?

I  only use  stockings at Christmas or St. Nicholas Day when the heating doesn’t work, or when I have a cold  ha ha….

I have only an Advent decoration in the form of embroidered socks made in Russia.

For St. Nicholas Day,  on the evening before the 6th of December, children place boots in front of their door. The next morning they will be filled up with sweet treats or if the children have not been good perhaps it could be a rod  in it, too. You can buy everywhere little red plastic boots (like the boots of Santa Claus) filled with sweet treats.

Not to forget, before Christmas we have a Christmas wreath with four candles – we light one after the other every Sunday in December before Christmas.

And we have a calendar with 24 little doors to open from the first of December with little chocolate goodies in it for children, the housewife (for her nerves ha ha…) or the pet, or very modern: filled with beer bottles for men.

I noticed these days. I have a re-fillable calendar for our pet –  every day he gets a Frolics (treat) and on the 24th some more, and he demands that with shiny eyes every morning.

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7. What was the best gift you ever received at Christmas?

A brunch for two in a Noble Hotel; or an evening in a dialectical or folk-theatre, a short trip together with our dog.

8. What was the worst gift you ever received at Christmas?

An egg cup, deodorant, and a electric garage door opener.

9. What do you do with gifts you don’t like?

I put it into an invisible corner and later on I throw it away. Or if it was very expensive – I try to change it or to get the money from it to buy something more useful.

10. What would you change about Christmas?

It becomes too commercial from year to year. Already in August the competition  begins at the supermarkets to sell their goods for it. The contemplation is too short in my opinion – it’s now only the pre-Christmas stress.

11. What would you keep the same if you could?

The time before Christmas is the best time with all the electric or candle lights – this has something mystical, like in fairy tales. The people are altogether more friendly and helpful; the preparations before the great feast, the anticipation, the sweet pastries everywhere and anywhere slightly different.

To see all the packages under the Christmas  tree before they are opened – I like this.

The tradition to go very well dressed to church and celebrate there with other people before the Christmas meal, and distribution of the Christmas presents.

12. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?

Silent Night, or O Christmas Tree, Daughter of Zion – we always sing that in the church at Christmas.

Or Pop Music of Bryan Adams, Simon and Garfunkel, or modern Christmas singers of England and America – I like to put on the radio at this time.

13. What do you like best about Christmas?

Especially it is a feast for little children – we all like their bright eyes when they see their gifts for the first time. And the candlelight and festive mood together with darkness and all the pretty light-decorated trees and houses and not to forget the Xmas markets in the cities with their special smell of mulled-wine and their sweet treats.

14. Any additional thoughts about Christmas?

At Christmas every year you notice that the years pass by quicker when you get older and you always think then, “Another year gone already.”

A Christmas without snow is not as beautiful as a Christmas with snow.

And after Christmas everybody waits already for New Year’s Eve to have a party and after that the new year begins again.

At New Year’s we always have a traditional fondue feast together with good friends.

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Christmas Interview – Nicky Wells

As we get closer to the big day, my guest for the Christmas interview is the rock chick author, Nicky Wells.

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Nicky has a very Christmas oriented novella just out on the shelves for this Christmas, entitled Spirits of Christmas.

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Amazon.co.uk Kindle | Amazon.co.uk Paperback

Amazon.com Kindle | Amazon.com Paperback

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I asked Nicky to share her thoughts about Christmas with us:

1. Do you celebrate Christmas?

Absolutely. I adore Christmas, it’s my favourite festival of the year. The lights, the coziness, the singing, the being together… love it. Oh and, did I mention chocolate? LOL!

2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

I have, as a matter of fact. I was in my late twenties, single, free and unattached in London, and for reasons too complicated to explain here, I didn’t make it home that year. So I bought a bumper CD of rock Christmas tunes, decorated my flat with pine twigs and fairy lights galore, splashed out on fancy food, and hunkered down for a few days with good books and romantic movies. It was very cold, too, so I got to go out and have lovely walks across a frosty park. I was alone, but I didn’t feel lonely. It was different, but it was a good experience.

3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?

*whispers* I hate turkey! *speaks in a normal voice* Well, normally, I have a Christmas dinner of roast chicken or roast beef. But one time, I simply couldn’t be bothered with all of that. The kids were too little to appreciate the effort and I was too tired to make it, so we had a pizza feast instead. (Me and my husband. The kids weren’t eating that kind of ‘junk’ food then).

4. What are your thoughts on gift giving?

Giving is better than receiving, for sure. I get really flustered and embarrassed when I get given gifts, but I love watching others open my presents. On the whole, I think that Christmas risks being one massive merry-go-round of exchanging presents, and I worry that the true spirit of the festival is being overlooked. But yes, I love presents.

5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas?

Singing carols under the Christmas tree. That probably doesn’t sound rock’n’roll but I’m a traditionalist, LOL.

6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?

BOTH! Although that’s a new way of doing things. Traditionally, I’d have had a stocking (well, a filled wellie-boot) on St Nicholas Day, and I’ve introduced that tradition for my children. However, to honour the British way of doing things, they also have stockings at Christmas. Best of both worlds, right?

9. What do you do with gifts you don’t like?

I feel guilty for even thinking that I don’t like them, then I put on my best smile, thank the giver and put the present to the best use possible. That may include passing it on, eventually, to somebody who appreciates it more than me.

10. What was the best homemade gift you ever received?

Christmas tree ornaments from the boys! I’d include a photo but the decorations are still firmly stacked in the loft and won’t be coming out until after my birthday. Sorry!

11. Have you ever given a homemade gift? Tell about it.

Ooh all the time. I used to make figurines and ornaments out of salt dough, paint them and varnish them and wrap them as best I could. My Mum still has all of those! I also did a fine line in candle-holders and coasters, although I fear those have bitten the dust by now.

It is also a Wells family tradition to give home-made chocolates and fudge, so every year, my OH and the kids get making sweet treats for the whole family.

12. What would you change about Christmas?

I would quite possibly cut through all that commercialism. Oh, now you got me thinking. Much as I LOVE Christmas, I’d pass a law that says no Christmas goodies, tunes or advertising in the shops before mid-November. And certainly not in July!!!

14. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?

I’ve got five. Of course! Here goes:

1. I Believe in Father Christmas ~ Greg Lake

Love the guitar and the jingles and the lyrics of this one!

http://youtu.be/RMK6eOueKNk

2. Merry Christmas Everybody ~ Slade

Well. Try and stop me from shouting ‘It’s Chrisssssstmaaaaas’ at the opportune moment!

http://youtu.be/6OAUs0rcsA4

 

3. Wish It Could be Christmas Every day ~ Wizzard

Enough said. Although, as my six-year-old pointed out, if it were Christmas every day, it would get a bit boring. Bless!

http://youtu.be/ZoxQ4Ul_DME

 

4. Gaudete ~ Steeleye Span

Love me some acapella. I sing along and pretend ‘I can.’ LOL!

http://youtu.be/EDc2FD-vy8M

 

5. Do They Know It’s Christmas ~ Band Aid

Because I love that all those stars came together to make a charity song, and that it still gets air play after all these years. Plus watching the video is like entering a time-warp, in a good way.

http://youtu.be/bmj7KlIut1w

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Christmas Interview – Chris Longmuir

 As part of our Christmas countdown, author Chris Longmuir has agreed to share her ideas, beliefs, and experiences about the holiday season and Christmas.

Welcome, Chris.

Chris Longmuir

Chris is the author of several novels. See the cover image of her latest one at the end of this blog. Do you like mysteries? You can find Chris’s books on amazon sites.

1. Do you celebrate Christmas?

I have Christmas dinner with my son and daughter-in-law at their house, but I have a post-Christmas dinner in January to which all the family are invited. There is always a Christmas story about Santa coming a cropper at Christmas time and having to leave a Santa sack with granny for the younger members of the family (there’s only 1 child eligible for it now). One year Santa tripped up and broke his ankle, another year he got lost, then there was the year he was arrested before he could make all his deliveries. And, of course, we can’t forget the year he got legless on mulled wine. The older members of the family bemoan the fact that once they reach the grand old age of eighteen they don’t get a Santa sack at granny’s post-Christmas dinner.

2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

No, but I did spend Christmas in hospital once after an operation. However, did you know that Santa has hospitals on his list? So, I got a Christmas stocking with some goodies in it.

3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?

Not really, they’ve all been the traditional turkey and trimmings.

4. What are your thoughts on gift giving?

I like to give my family what I think they will like, and I love to spoil the children. As far as getting gifts is concerned, it’s quite nice, but I don’t really need anything nowadays. I’m not so keen on all the commercialisation around Christmas though. I’d much rather it was all simpler.

5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas?

I don’t really do activities, but my daughter-in-law loves games (the kind you don’t need to move out of your chair to play) so that’s always fun. My granddaughter, aged 11, has story cubes and she brings them along and challenges everyone to take part in story telling after throwing the cubes. Some weird and wonderful stories originate from these cubes. It’s great fun.

6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?

Christmas Day of course. Although now I’m on my own there’s no one to fill a stocking for me.

7. What was the best gift you ever received at Christmas?

I don’t think I could pinpoint any one gift, however two years ago my adult granddaughter gave me two tickets for Strictly Come Dancing, the live show, at Newcastle. She paid for the train fares and the hotel as well. I took my daughter-in-law with me. I did a blog on it at the time and you can find it here http://chrislongmuir.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/strictly-come-dancing-live.html

8. What was the worst gift you ever received at Christmas?

Probably a mulled wine set. It was lovely but I don’t drink and I don’t like the taste of wine. It’s still sitting at the back of one of my cupboards.

9. What do you do with gifts you don’t like?

If I have anything I have no use for it usually winds up in a Charity Shop.

10. What was the best homemade gift you ever received?

Cherry cakes. My daughter used to make me a load of cherry cakes at Christmas. She doesn’t do it anymore and I miss them.

11. Have you ever given a homemade gift? Tell about it.

When I was a shopkeeper I used to crochet fashion garments for the family because at that time the most valuable gift I could give anyone was my time. So the garments were all crocheted with love.

12. What would you change about Christmas?

The only thing I would change would be to have my husband back to share it with me. But that’s impossible.

13. What would you keep the same if you could?

I wouldn’t change a thing.

14. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?

I’m not really a musical person, but I do like the Christmas Carols, and Bing Crosby (I’m showing my age here).

15. What do you like best about Christmas?

Being with the family. It’s the one time we all get together.

Granddaughter Amy:

Amy with her Santa sack Xmas day - Amy

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Chris Longmuir is the author of several novels. Here is her latest one:

Missing-Believed-Dead-AMAZON

amazon.co.uk

amazon.com

Dundee Crime Series 2