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Volume 1, Issue 3

December 2018

Promoting Literacy, Parenting Tips, Short Stories, Recipes, Activities for the Kids, Exploring New Worlds, Wellness and Well-being, Discovering New Authors and so much more...

All contents Copyright Š the individual authors and used with their permission. All rights reserved.

Promoting Literacy Parenting Tips Short Stories Recipes Activities for the Kids Exploring New Worlds Wellness and Well-being Discovering New Authors and so much more...

Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine is published monthly by Goylake Publishing and designed by Nicole Lavoie of

Mom’s Favorite Reads Find us online

Founders Hannah Howe

Denise McCabe

Ronesa Aveela

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Feature Article Reading Tricks for Kids of Any Age by Nicholas Rossis..................................................4

Young Writers Great Ormond Street by Logan, Age 11..........................................................................10

Articles & Short Stories A Victorian Christmas by Mansel Jones .........................................................................12 Stress. It’s a fact of life... by Eileen Sheehan....................................................................14 A Ghost Story For Christmas by T.E. Hodden................................................................16 Christmas in Manila by Grant Leishman.........................................................................18 Christmas in Trinidad by Brenda Mohammed.................................................................20 Co-Parenting During the Holidays by Rhonda Hopkins.................................................22 Scariest Night of the Year by Cate Mckoy.......................................................................24 All I want for Christmas is a Puppy! by Kelly Artieri ...................................................26 5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain by Heather Ramsay.............................................28 Midnight Song by Kate McGinn.......................................................................................30 Kindness, Love, Unity & Bravery - Join the KLUB by April Cox................................32 Superfly Part One by Anthony Randall............................................................................34 It’s time for Christmas ‘Hygge’ by L.L. Thomsen..........................................................38 Wordsearch: On the Origins of Christmas by Millie Slavidou......................................46 Christmas in Germany by Barbara Doran-Rogel.............................................................48 Is a Name Day in Game of Thrones a Real Tradition? by Ronesa Aveela....................59 Paddy, The Christmas Turkey by Denise McCabe..........................................................62 Beware the Christmas Mice! by Sylva Fae......................................................................74 Stand and Deliver! by Hannah Howe...............................................................................77 Surviving the Holidays Without Gaining a Pound by Christine Ardigo........................76 Yes, Virginia There Really is a Santa Claus by Kelly Artieri.........................................82 The First Female Private Detective by Hannah Howe...................................................84

Recipes Danish Christmas Pancakes (æbleskiver).......................................................................39 Chocolate Marzipan Pralines...........................................................................................51 Gingerbread Recipe..........................................................................................................76 Coconut-Cardamom Sweet Potatoes...............................................................................80 Green Beans with Roasted Chestnuts.............................................................................80 Spiced Pumpkin Mousse..................................................................................................81

Horoscopes December ..........................................................................................................................52

Books Bestsellers & Hot New Releases.......................................................................................40 Christmas Stories..............................................................................................................42

Activities December Word Search......................................................................................................9 Family Traditions Activity................................................................................................72 Chess Puzzle......................................................................................................................73 December Crossword Puzzle............................................................................................85 Christmas Word Scramble...............................................................................................87

Author Spotlight Amanda Steel.....................................................................................................................86

Reading Tricks for Kids of Any Age by Nicholas Rossis

As a dad of a 3-year-old whirlwind, I find myself already asking the question facing most parents: how can I make my child read more and spend less time in front of a screen? As an author of children books and teenfriendly fantasy books, I also ask myself this question’s flipside: how can-I make my books appealing to them? In the immortal words of Gonzo the Great, if at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again. In my case, after many trials, failures, and retrials, I have come to two main conclusions: First, every child is different; second, every age has different triggers, needs, and sensibilities. Which means that for every age, your weapons, allies, and book-loving super powers are different.

How to make toddlers love books It is a paradox, yet not a secret: for many children, the love for books emerges at an age when they cannot read for themselves. Encouraging a toddler to love books needs lots of energy on your part, so it is important to also encourage yourself! Here are a few tips that have worked for my family: • Take them to the library or bookstore. It can be scary sometimes, as it is more than certain that toddlers will be more fascinated by the library

stool and will want to climb on it rather than looking at books with you. Allow that within reasonable limits—after all it is not a bad thing for your toddler to think of the bookstore or the library as an exciting place. Then move on to the books. • Let them select some of the books. You will probably choose most of the books at that age, according to what messages you would like to pass to your little ones. However, let them also make their own choices. Sometimes, the result may surprise you. It could be that your toddler will be interested at a coffeetable book on tractors, farming, insects etc. Coffee table books are not “age appropriate” by any publisher standards, but so what? If it doesn’t break the bank for you and you find it interesting, take the chance. Your toddler will be proud to own a grown-up book, plus this one book will be an opportunity for both of you to learn something new together (it is possible that you know absolutely nothing on tractors until your 3 year old chooses a coffee-table book on the green and yellow John Deere monsters) • Read the book but do not read the book. Read to your toddler every day, as you are her anchor to books and her facilitator to reading them. That does not mean you are obliged to actually READ the book, especially if you are tired of the same rhymes bedtime after bedtime. Look at the text as an actor. Make different voices for every animal, skip boring pages, improvise dialogues, find all the ducks on the page rather than repeating the mama-duck story once more. Make the book yours and enjoy it.


How to Encourage your Young Reader So they know how to read now. Why don’t they read? Why do you still need to read to them, or need to force them onto the couch with a book (which they love when you read it to them but hate when they are supposed to read it on themselves)? I came across a startling statistic the other day: • Don’t be scared of repetition. At this age, children are not bored by repetition. On the contrary, it is key to their development. Specialists say that a child gains much confidence and satisfaction from being able to “predict” what happens next, while a new book at bedtime could prove stressing. However, if you are bored, try introducing new elements to your reading every few days. When the main story has sunk in, start looking at the pictures with your toddler. Then let them complete the rhymes. Keep exploring the book, until your sweet one is ready to move on to a new fixation. • Make it a sweet moment. During the toddler years, it is more likely that the parent rather than the child will drop reading as a daily activity and let the love for books deteriorate. Because, let’s face it, we get tired during the day; too tired to impersonate the big good wolf once more. So we need to remember that there are actually very few moments of calm that we enjoy with our toddlers during our demanding schedules and busy days. Dim the lights, get under the comforter, inhale the sweet smell of their silky hair, and start reading.

• Every child wants to read when they begin school. Enthusiasm is 100%. • By fourth grade, only 54% read something for pleasure every day. • By eighth grade, only 30% read for pleasure. • By twelfth grade, that number has dropped to 19%. I suspect that, with school, children start looking at books as some kind of extension of homework, therefore as nonfun. Our expectation that they can read alone makes it an activity that, instead of being fun, is subject to assessment. “I don’t read well enough.” “I don’t understand the words.” “It is too long and I am tired.” So, how can we to help them sustain their “fun” relationship with books? • Keep reading to them. Listening to a narrator seems to be a very primal instinct. In my opinion, the success of audiobooks shows that even adults love to listen to someone reading to us. So keep reading. There is no age for stopping reading to our children. As they grow up, maybe we can take turns and ask them to read a favorite story to us from time to time. Also, by


taking the “toddler” routine to the next level, we sustain a habit that they love not only because they love stories, but because they also love the privileged moment with us. If, on the other hand, reading alone becomes the reason to lose that favorite moment with us, it is possible that they will resent reading alone. So keep making those voices! • Definitely let them choose their books, or most of them. If your daughter can choose cereals and outfits, she can definitely choose her books. Children at this age learn to make responsible choices and gain autonomy. Use your parental control only when it’s really worth it (more on that on teens...). • Books make good gifts. Birthdays, Christmas, important milestones; all these are good occasions to gift them a book. Some children will love books at this age and consider them a great gift on their own. Others, not so much. In this case, offer a book ON TOP of the rest, rather than making it an alternative to other gifts. Books are fun—not the reason to miss a long-awaited present. Sooner or later, when they get tired of the toy, your kids will turn their attention to the book.

• Participate in reading activities. Is the teacher asking for contributions to the class library or for volunteer librarians? Is an author your child loves signing books in the neighborhood? Is there a book fair in your town? Go for it. Let your children feel that books are a fun part of their social life. • Read books yourself. Although I know many bookworm parents whose children are never seen to read on their own (much to their despair), setting an example is important. It may remain dormant for some time, but the seed is planted.

Teens and Books Ah, how the terrible twos and the horrible threes look quite lovely right now, don’t they? Or at least that’s what seasoned parents tell me. This is the age we battle with our children more than we would ever imagine. We need to pick our battles, and books might not be one of the battles we should fight. Try some subtle techniques instead of fighting: • Keep setting a silent example. Remember that even if your teen is going through an age of negating their parents, they still model many of their behaviors on you. Therefore, the most important thing you can do is to read yourself. Let your teen see you read, make time for the library and bookstore, and have well-stocked bookshelves in a prominent place at home. • Be nonchalant about their reading preferences, unless they read something that really crosses the line. Avoid both complimenting and criticizing your teen on the books they choose, as at this age they may not appreciate the attention. You may not understand the appeal of dragons, comic


books, or vampires, but if you try to steer their preferences to yours, you will most probably stifle their enthusiasm. Likewise, if you “catch” your daughter reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ instead of “50 Shades of Gray,” don’t compliment her choice: teens try to differentiate from you at that age, so you risk making a worthy book look “old world” to their eyes by condoning it. • Discuss it if they cross the line: So, your teen did bring “50 Shades of Gray” to read. What to do then? First, we can make our objections clear and discuss them openly. In some cases, bad books can be a clue that something needs our attention, so it would not be wise to ignore this. Maybe your teen is growing up faster than you think. Maybe she has questions that she tries to find answers in books rather than asking you. Go on and ask the questions. Try finding an alternative to the “bad book.” If the emotional need for romance is strong in a teen, there are plenty of YA best-selling romances for them to read rather than adult erotica. • Respect their reading moments. When you see them read, just leave them alone. Reading is a place for finding yourself and an important moment of the day, rather than an indication that your teen has some free time to help you with the chores. • Develop the skill of planting books and letting them grow. If your teen only shows minimal interest in books but are hooked on Game of Thrones, “plant” ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ on the coffee table, next to the bathroom sink (hello, captive audience!), on the garden table, in the car backseat. Make graphic books, beautiful coffee table books, and interesting magazines part of your décor. Lure your teen with interesting adult books: science fiction, mysteries,

thrillers, funny books, sports books… Again, subtlety is key: instead of openly suggesting the book, just let it be on common sight. Let them watch you flick through them. You can bet it will end up in their hands at some point. Just let the envy grow. • Give them missions that involve reading (but don’t tell them that): Let your teen see how reading relates to life’s everyday activities. Let them prepare for a trip by reading a guide or even fiction about your destination. Take the time to visit a bookstore during the holidays and choose a book to bring back from the holidays. Find books related to your family history. Offer them books related to some sports activity they love. Select together a cooking book and prepare some of the recipes with them.

An Act of Freedom More than everything, I think that it is important to teach our children from a young age that reading is a pleasure, not a chore. We need to remind them that, contrary to popular belief, they have the right to read the end of the book before the beginning if they wish, to let a book half-read if they don’t like it, to read many books at the same time, to read the same book or chapter again and again, to


fixate on a genre, to stop liking an author or a genre they used to adore, to read only a few select chapters, and even to judge a book from its cover alone. Reading should be an act of freedom. Treat it like one and enjoy the wonderful sight of your beautiful child reading their favorite book!

Nicholas Rossis lives to write and does so from his cottage on the edge of a magical forest in Athens, Greece. When not composing epic fantasies or short sci-fi stories, he chats with fans and colleagues, writes blog posts, walks his dog, and enjoys the antics of two silly cats and his baby daughter, all of whom claim his lap as home. His first children’s book, Runaway Smile, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award, among other distinctions. You can check it out for free on his blog. You can check out his second children’s book, Musiville, on his blog. He has also written the epic fantasy series, Pearseus. Many of his short stories have appeared in various collections and anthologies. He has published The Power of Six, Honest Fibs, You’re in for a Ride and Infinite Waters, which was voted as one of the best 50 Indie books of 2015. You can discover more about Nicholas on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here:


December Word Search by Mom’s Favorite Reads

This activity is available to download and print out on our website (click here) The answers for this activity are also available on our website (click here) -9-

Great Ormond Street by Logan, Age 11

My name is Logan and I am 11 years old. I can’t read or write too well because I have a problem with my tummy and I have to take a lot of medicine and I can’t go to school all the time. My mum writes books and she has a special app where I can talk and the app writes the words, that is what I am using to write this story.

I had to have a cannula in my hand. I didn’t really want to, but it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I also had to have a tube that went down my nose and into my tummy to give me medicine. That had to stay there the whole time, even when I was sleeping and at first it hurt my throat a bit cos it went there from my nose, but I kinda got used to it.

A few months ago I had to go to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital for a week. I live in Wales and it was a long way to go to London. I was a bit scared but it’s a really nice place and it doesn’t really look like a hospital. I asked my mum to find some photos to show you.

This is me all hooked up to my medicine in the tube down my nose. I had to push it around if I went places.

This is when I arrived.

The people who work there are really great and they looked after me and my mum could stay in a special sleeping chair next to my bed. The food was good, everyone was nice that and they treated you like royalty, it’s like the nicest hospital in the world.

At the end of the week they did lots of tests so that they could tell my mum what’s wrong with me and they told me stuff about me and what they would do and one of the best parts about it was they said they would put me to sleep with this gas and it made me laugh a lot before I went to sleep. It was so cool. There were special play people who came around to see if there was anything we would like to do and there were lots of toys and stuff to do.

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The day that I had my tests, I had to stay in bed for 7 hours hooked up to a machine which put readings onto a kind of TV for the doctor to see. The play lady asked if I wanted to watch a DVD. I said I’d like to see The Greatest Showman, but they didn’t have it there, so the play lady was so nice, and she searched all the different wards in the hospital until she found it for me. I watched it twice. I have got to go back to Great Ormond Street soon to have surgery. I won’t be so scared this time even though I don’t really want to have surgery. I guess what I want to say is that if you have to go to hospital then sometimes in your head it is more scary than it is in real life. Everybody at the hospital was so nice. They explained everything that was happening and told me what to expect and, in the end, it wasn’t so bad after all.

This is the statue of Peter Pan next to the hospital door. The rights to the story of Peter Pan was donated to the hospital and they get money from the sales from the book or even if it is made into films and things.

So my advice is if you need to go to that place and you don’t want to, don’t worry it’s fine and everything will be good in the end.

This is the Disney themed outside space, even though it is outside it is surrounded by buildings that are really tall.

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A Victorian Christmas by Mansel Jones

Christmas in the Victorian era differed considerably from the Christmas we celebrate today as these extracts from the Glamorgan Gazette reveal. In 1876 the Gazette reported that: ‘The Sunday Schools belonging to the Calvinistic Methodists in this district held a meeting on Christmas Day at Cornelly, to recite portions of “Hyfforddwr Charles.” The following schools took part: Kenfig, Water Street, North and South Cornelly. The meetings were held at two o’clock and six o’clock in the evening. The scholars were questioned by the Rev. J. T. Jones of Marlas House and the answers were very satisfactory’.

Meanwhile, in Kenfig Hill: ‘Meetings were held at Elim Chapel on Christmas Day for the purpose of encouraging the young people of the place in worthy exercises. A meeting was held at two

o’clock, consisting of recitations and singing by the members of the Band of Hope. At six o’clock a literary meeting was held and prizes were offered for singing, reciting, lecturing, prose and poetry. The prizes consisted of various interesting books. The chapel was crowded, and the whole proceedings turned out quite a success’.

In 1881 the Gazette stated that: ‘The churches in this parish (Pyle and Kenfig Hill) were tastefully decorated for Christmas with holly and evergreens by Mrs Davies the Vicarage, Mrs Morgan, Marlas, and numerous friends. At the morning service on Christmas Day the Vicar preached, taking for his text St John iii, 16. After the service Holy Communion was celebrated. In the evening the Vicar again preached from Timothy i, 15. On Thursday evening, December 29th, a special service was held for catechising the children of the Sunday School and presenting them with prizes for good conduct during the year. A similar meeting will be held in Welsh next Tuesday evening’. - 12 -

Lit Up Like a Christmas Tree The festive season is traditionally a time of over-indulgence, but if you are thinking of consuming one glass too many this Christmas, you might like to consider these cautionary tales of our ancestors. In August 1875 Frederick Bryant, a haulier from Cefn Cribwr was so drunk that he fell off his horse in Park Street, Bridgend. Totally legless, he was unable to support himself or his horse and he was fined 15 shillings for his trouble.

Alternatively, consider Rees Rees, a carpenter and the Mayor of Kenfig who, in April 1867, was found splashing in a pool of water by the roadside. As PC Beynon approached, he heard the mayor cry out, ‘O, God, save my life!’ At the subsequent court case, PC Beynon reported that the mayor was ‘very drunk’. The mayor, himself a magistrate, received a fine of 20 shillings with costs of 9 shillings tuppence. Finally, in July 1869, the Glamorgan Gazette reported the following exchange of views: Magistrate, ‘What brought you here, sir?’ Prisoner, ‘Two officers, please, Your Honour.’ Magistrate, ‘Then I suppose liquor had nothing to do with it?’ Prisoner, ‘Yes, sir, they were both drunk!’

Mansel Jones has been researching and writing about medieval history for the past forty years. He is an acknowledged expert in his field and academics and universities seek his views. He is the author of A History of Kenfig, Pendragon and Tangwstyl. You can discover more about Mansel on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 13 -

Stress. It’s a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a way of life. by Eileen Sheehan

Stress is something that we face and deal with on a daily basis, but never so much as during the holiday season. It can rear its ugly head in a myriad of ways. One of the biggest mistakes that a person can make is to downplay stress and the effect it can have on your emotional and physical well-being. First, it’s important to understand and identify the stress. allow it to be. It’s all about perception. This is very true when it comes to emotional stress, but what about physical stress? That’s a little different. If you eat the wrong foods, don’t exercise or exercise too much, live in a polluted environment, drink polluted water, etc., staying calm and telling yourself that these things won’t put stress on your body simply won’t work. So, what to do? There’s the stress of missing loved ones or of being alone. Or, the stress of gift giving and receiving. How about the stress of working the holiday festivities into your already busy schedule? The expectations that others place on you during the holiday season as far as making time to see them, do for them, buy for them, etc. can be exhausting. Add this seasonal stress to daily living stress and you can get an idea of how serious this can really be.

Simple. Be informed and take action. Certain foods not only cleanse your body of environmental pollutants, but they can help calm and relax your body. I will give you a few examples in this article, but a complete list can be found in my self-help book titled, “Human, Help Thyself; Natural Solutions for Stress of Body, Mind, and Spirit”.

Not only is it exciting to realize that there are natural things to do to ease the stress from your body and that you don’t need to run to the pharmacist for something As a certified hypnotherapist, one of the first things that was taught to me was the chemically made, but its even more fact that something is only stressful if you exciting to discover that most of these - 14 -

remedies can be found in your kitchen cupboards or done in the privacy of your own home!

Since your immune system can also be compromised by stress, something so simple as taking rosemary on a daily basis will help boost it. That’s right. Meditation is a natural stress reliever. Rosemary. The very same thing that There are many forms of meditation. The you put into your spaghetti sauce! I most popular is sitting quietly. make a tea of it with a bit of inulin in the Sitting down with a caring person to “talk form of the product “Sweet Perfection” as a sweetener, but there are capsules it out” can be extremely therapeutic. containing rosemary sold by herbal companies for those who aren’t a fan of Light -not heavy- exercise will help the taste of rosemary tea. By the way, your emotional self to ease the stress inulin is a fibrous sweetener that comes away. Yoga, walking, or swimming are from the chicory plant. It not only helps excellent for this. to regulate our blood sugar and keep you Deep breathing has been scientifically regular, but it strengthens your heart! proven to relieve stress. Breathe in to the count of 8 through your nose and then out Enter this holiday season informed and prepared for the stresses that will come to the count of 10 through your mouth. Do it three times. You’ll be surprised by your way. More ideas on how to handle and relieve stress can be found in Lena the results. (This is great when you’re Sheehan’s book: Human, Help Thyself; stuck in the holiday rush!) Natural Solutions for Stress of Body, Can’t sleep? Did you know that the old Mind, and Spirit. remedy of warm milk has some merit? It, along with turkey meat, contains tryptophan, which acts as a sedative. That’s why we tend to take a nap after Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re not a meat eater or are a vegan, fear not. A baked potato will help raise your “feel good” hormone (serotonin) level which will also help you to sleep.

Eileen Sheehan writes hot, steamy romances with a sexy male and strong female. The majority of her novels are paranormal, but some are straightforward love stories. Her screenplay, ‘When East Meets West’, was a finalist in the 2001 Independent International Film and Video Festival. You can discover more about Eileen on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 15 -

A Ghost Story For Christmas by T.E. Hodden

Perhaps like myself, you are fond of the traditional Christmas ghost story. It is a tradition that clings on, in books, cinema, and television, but one that has waned considerably these last few decades. We tend now to view ghost stories, and horror, as something more closely associated with Halloween.

I admit openly to being fond of a good Crimbo Chiller. I grew up with MR James and Dickens being forever associated with late night television, as Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Morning. The BBC for many years produced short films, based largely upon MR James’ tales, but with some Dickens and some modern stories, that have been revived on and off across the years. If you are unfamiliar with the tradition, my mention of Dickens has given you quite probably sent you thinking of A Christmas Carol, and given you quite the

wrong idea. Carol is story with ghosts, and with Christmas, but it is not the kind of story I mean. It has distinctly cold moments (such as the visions of lost souls weighed down by chains, walking London’s streets) but it is a warm story full of hope, love and cheer. We do not have to look far for more apt examples of a Crimbo Chiller. In the Pickwick papers, amongst the comedy and character pieces, and of course in The Haunted House, we can see Dickens effortlessly creating ghostly stories of dread, and unease, through a few well honed characters, their turns of phrase and simple mannerisms. The stories do not mistake shock, or violence, for horror, and instead produce lingering dread, and uncomfortable atmosphere. Indeed, Dicken’s The Signalman is one of the perfect examples of the best Christmas Eve stories. Perhaps drawing on his own experiences of a terrible railway incident, that cost many their lives, Dickens weaves, in a short page count, the tale of a man haunted by echoes of some great disaster yet to come. It is a human tale, of a man fearing the consequences of distraction, as he stands vigil over a railway tunnel, as an ethereal, unseeable presence reaches out to him through small noises. At first a nuisance, but soon building, inevitably, towards a terrible fate. The bleak, cold, lonely setting can seem, in term, quaint and beautiful, almost nostalgic, and then suddenly isolated and lonely.

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It is this intimate scale to the horror that is essential. As much as I love HP Lovecraft’s tales, his sweeping scale of cosmic horrors, gods from beyond, and ancient civilisations are not Christmas Eve fayre, in the way that smaller, more personal horrors, like The Woman In Black, or Turning Of The Shrew, are.

That you can see the outcome is not the point. Like Dicken’s Signalman, we are forced to stand by, waiting for those terrible last moments to reach us through the darkness.

It is MR James who offers us the quintessential Christmas horrors. There is a reason why the BBC chooses his works, time and again, for readings or adaptions. Small stories, indeed written to be read around a fire, to his students, often read as though they are his own experiences, or related to him by friends, these are the very essence of a Christmas tale. The best of these, A Warning To The Curious, is one I return to every year. The tale of a would be treasure hunter, searching for long buried treasures on the coast of East Anglia, is well written, and is, at first, a cosy, amiable, tale. Soon however it grows as chill as the night air, with a haunting presence, existing on the page, and yet somehow only glimpsed, only vaguely understood by the characters, lingers in the mind. It makes you read back, deciding if this is the recently deceased last of the Jeager line, or something older and far less forgiving.

Grant Leishman has perfectly captured the feel of the classics, in a modern setting with his story The Photograph. It is a mystery that starts small, and keeps you hooked, as the atmosphere sours around the characters, and the presence moves from the psychological to the supernatural.

So… might you consider reading this Christmas?

For a different kind of intimacy, perhaps consider Dolls House, by Colin Griffiths. This is a far more lively tale, with the feel of a Hammer Horror, complete with a buxom lass in a maid’s outfit. At the core, are chills that breed from our most intimate moments, our relationships and our betrayals. So, pour yourself a brandy, find an open fire, and allow yourself that chill on your spine. Happy readings.

T.E. Hodden trained in engineering, and works in a specialised role in the transport industry. He is a life long fan of comic books, science fiction, myths, legends, and history. In the past he has contributed to podcasts, blogs, and anthologies.

You can discover more about T.E. on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 17 -

Christmas in Manila by Grant Leishman

Having first visited The Philippines in 1993 and now, having lived here permanently since 2011, I have always been taken by the fervour with which Filipinos embrace the spirit and excitement of Christmas. There is a saying here: once the “ber” months arrive, it is time to start celebrating Christmas. To a New Zealander, even thinking about Christmas prior to December was always an absolute no-no and a subject that should never be raised. Not so here! Here there is an almost childlike excitement, even among the adults, about Christmas and its meaning and importance. Having studied Filipino culture as an “outsider” for a couple of decades now, I think I know part of the reason for this.

Century, at least nominally, around 90% of the over one hundred million Filipinos profess to be Catholic. This means the Cathedrals and Churches are packed at Christmas time, with the “Simbang Gabi”, being the nine masses prior to Christmas, having an enormous impact. As a religious festival, Christmas still holds much power over these people. The second main reason for the celebration and indeed the great pleasure Filipinos take from all holidays is it gives them a break from the daily grind of life here. In 2015, it was estimated over 20% of the population lived under the poverty line. This is still a developing country, besieged by corruption in power, and for many Filipinos daily survival for them and their family is their first priority. Holidays offer the opportunity to forget the travails of daily life, to kick back and enjoy the celebration and to do what Filipinos love most; eat and chat. Many Filipinos families may be poor, but they will always share whatever little they have with you, especially at Christmas.

Firstly, Christmas, as a religious celebration has much meaning to the majority of Filipinos. Yes, this is a multi-cultural society, with a significant Muslim population, especially in the south of the country, but it is also deeply rooted in the Catholicism brought to these islands by the Spanish invaders in 1565, where the brown-robed Friars The third reason why Christmas means held sway over the population, until the so much to the Filipinos is family. The Spanish defeat in the Battle of Manila extended family unit is the most powerful Bay, by the Americans in 1898. Whilst, political and social force in this country. modern influences may have eroded the The order of loyalty is as follows, in my power of the Church in the Twenty-First opinion: family, barangay, city, province, - 18 -

country. Family comes first… first… first… which may explain the levels of nepotism and corruption in all layers of Government (national and local), for so long. Regardless, Christmas is family time. A time when people flock back from Manila, to the provinces, from overseas (there are an estimated 10 million Filipinos working overseas; OFW’s – Overseas Filipino workers). Christmas is truly a time for family bonding.

all over the nation become a profusion of gorgeous, twinkling, Christmas lights (albeit often homemade). It is said, if Santa ever gets lost, he just needs to look to The Philippines to light his way. Christmas here, is very different from Christmas back in New Zealand, but, in a good way and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love it!

If there is one thing that delineates Christmas in Manila from say, New Zealand, it is light – The Christmas lights of The Philippines light up the world. Manila and even the individual houses

Grant Leishman is a fifty-nine-year-old full-time author and editor, domiciled in the beautiful islands of The Philippines. After careers in finance and journalism, Grant finally found his true bliss in life – writing. He his happily married to Thess and they have two daughters, Rose and Angeline. You can discover more about Grant on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here:

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Christmas in Trinidad by Brenda Mohammed

Christmas is a very special time in Trinidad and Tobago.

elaborately lighted for this special occasion. This is the time that many people buy new electrical appliances and furniture. Many homes are enhanced with Christmas trees and other decorations in the weeks leading to Christmas Day.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, companies and families hold many parties. Festive activities include exchanging presents and singing Christmas songs.

Most families go to church on Christmas Day and then spend the rest of the day at home with friends and family members. The traditional Trinidadian Christmas meal includes Spanish rice, ham, turkey, chicken, homemade bread, pastelles (a version of tamales) local wine, sorrel, ponche-de-creme (a version of eggnog) and ginger beer.

The television and radio stations play Christmas carols and songs as well as traditional and contemporary carols from the USA. A special Trinidadian music, Parang, is also played. Parang is an upbeat Venezuela-Trinidad hybrid.

Trinidadian Christmas fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits (such as raisins and sultanas) in the cake are usually soaked in cherry wine, sherry and rum for several months before Christmas! It is fabulous and something I love even better than chocolate. People of all religions make elaborate preparations. They paint, make repairs to their houses, hang new curtains and decorations (especially lights) for Christmas. It is a marvellous sight to drive around the island and see houses

Christmas Day is a public holiday. It’s a special day when children and grownups get presents from family, friends and Santa Claus, or Father Christmas. Christmas cards are also given or sent out prior to Christmas Day. - 20 -

For many, Christmas is an exclusive family affair, while others invite friends to celebrate the birth of Christ with a Christmas buffet or potluck meal. Churches have special services and may include a crèche or miniature Nativity scene. To sum it up, Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago means. “Lots of LIMING (hanging out) and MUSIC, a little bit of ‘spring’ CLEANING, lots of LAUGHING, FAMILY GATHERINGS and tons of FOOD and DRINKS!” That’s how Christmas is celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago but never forgetting the reason for Christmas! Brenda Mohammed is a former Bank Manager who was successful in her job. After her retirement from banking, she ventured into Insurance Underwriting. After six years, she was awarded Life membership in the Million Dollar Round Table, a Premier Association for Financial Professionals.A diagnosis of cancer changed her career aspirations and in 2013 she became a writer. You can discover more about Brenda on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here:

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Co-Parenting During the Holidays by Rhonda Hopkins

The holidays are upon us. I know when parents are separated or divorced; the holidays can be extra stressful, trying to fit in the children’s plans and events with both parents. When parents don’t get along, things can escalate to where the time that should be joyful is miserable in both homes. Holidays can be a magical time if parents are able to co-parent effectively. Co-parenting basically boils down to “cooperative parenting” or “parenting together”. It is a firmly held belief with professionals that children fare better when parents can minimize any trauma during and after their divorce and can communicate, cooperate, and compromise with consistency.

will be easy. But, I’ve found that when one parent (even when not deserved) offers respect and courtesy, the other parent tends to mellow some. Always? No. Sometimes, one party is just not able to function and co-parent. But, the more even one parent tries, the less stressful it will be for them, and their children.

When I did custody evaluations for the family courts, I always asked the children to tell me what they’d wish for if they had three wishes that would come true. The number one wish for nearly 100% of the children I spoke to was “for mom and dad not to fight anymore”. This is especially true during holidays and other special events.

Before we go any further, I want to make sure you know I am not an attorney and am not offering legal advice - just some observations from my twenty years within the family courts. You should always follow your custody orders. You don’t want to get in trouble by violating what the court put in place. But, in most cases, your orders may say that as long as you both agree, you may make exceptions to the plan. Make sure you understand what yours says. If you’re unclear, contact your attorney for clarification. In some circumstances, there may be issues on one or sometimes both sides that prevent changing the plan at all for the safety of the children or a parent. So, it’s important that you understand your orders before you do anything. This article is meant for those that have the flexibility to make adjustments.

With the new year coming up, it’s healthy to look back over the past and think about what you did that worked for you and what you might have done differently. I know some of you have had a more difficult time dealing with the ex and have had some bad experiences. I understand that and I’m not saying it

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When you are able to modify access/ visitation by mutual agreement, then it’s okay to give Mom extra days. It’s okay to split Christmas day. It’s okay to change the dates so Dad can have the children during his time with his family. As long as you’re not doing anything special, why not agree the other parent can have the children, so they can enjoy the events and holidays with each of you? It’s easy to say, “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” And, it’s sometimes hard to say, “I may be angry with my ex, but I can compromise.” Which do you think is better for your children?

amicable as quickly as possible to ensure your child has the best of both of you and to help your children make wonderful conflict-free holiday memories. I’ve actually had clients who were able to spend holidays together in a peaceful and fun manner. Those were the exceptions of course, but think how awesome those memories will be for their children. No animosity - just a wonderful holiday for everyone. While I know that’s a dream for some, and isn’t possible for the majority, it is possible to come up with a plan that will work for all of you.

Isn’t it more important for your children Happy holidays! to look back and remember the special times they’ve had with both parents than to remember all the arguing, fighting, and missed events just because their parents could never agree on anything? We’re all human. We all make mistakes. If you’ve been caught in the vicious cycle of arguing with your child’s other parent, now is a great time to try to make things better for all of you. Why drag out the drama or deprive your child of fun? Try to work out something

Rhonda Hopkins has learned firsthand that truth is stranger than fiction. Her two decades of experience as an investigator provide her characters with a depth and realism that gives truth a run for its money. Having come in contact with the best and the worst that society has to offer, Rhonda’s imagination is filled with story ideas. Rhonda writes Horror, Suspense, Paranormal, and YA Urban Fantasy. She is the award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL You can discover more about Rhonda on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 23 -

Scariest Night of the Year by Cate Mckoy

I was suddenly awake and didn’t know why. I felt a slight chill that brought my eyes to my bedroom window. The window was closed. It was Halloween. I glanced at the clock on my bedside table. Correction, it was two-oh-two in the morning on November first. I removed the covers. I realized I was squinting to make out the numbers on the clockface. Why was my vision blurry? The chill caused by an unknown draft carried me from my bed to investigate.

answering the phone? It was supposed to be a quick answer. Rinnnng! How many was that?

I opened my bedroom door. The chill increased. I stepped out into the hallway. The cold floor made me think of my forgotten slippers. I turn back to grab them. A loud thump froze me on the spot. Slippers forgotten again, I turn and reach for the hall light. The dim light hadn’t helped vision. I rubbed at my eyes.

Thump! Crash! “Noooo!” The scream holds me frozen on the landing, too scared to take the last six stairs. I look at my phone annoyed. Galvanized by the abrupt silence, I hang up and redial. For several seconds, the only sound is the creepy quality of my cellphone’s ring.

Suddenly, a loud shattering of glass made me jump in fright and press the last number to complete my call. Trembling, I put my cellphone to my ear. I take the first step down. Crash! Startled, I almost drop the phone. It’s incessant ringing adding an eerie echo to my surroundings.

delaying the moment when I round the entrance to the living room. I know the sounds I’ve heard is coming from there.

Crash! Thump! I take another few stairs. I am almost at the curved landing. The draft’s chilly air rushes pass the skin on my arm, raising the hairs on the back of my neck. The feeling of a presence behind me is so strong I snap my head behind me. Nothing is there but the empty stairs.

I take the first step of the last six. The frightening sounds begin again; horrific Thumps sounded repeatedly, scaring me back into my bedroom to grab my phone. screaming that tells you someone is in serious trouble, terrifying thumps that I punched in the numbers nine and one, leaving off the final number. Gripping my had a rhythmic cadence that didn’t bode phone tightly, I again leave my bedroom. well for anything. They weren’t happy sounds by no stretch of the imagination. Tiptoeing to the top of the staircase, I peer down the stairs. I see nothing in the I take two steps and the harrowing sounds darkness and am unable to see around of struggle and shattering glass become the curved landing that led to the final so loud I cover my ears. I take the last remaining six steps. steps in a rush. I stand in the foyer,

I take two more steps, have a moment’s pause, why is emergency services not

My grip tightens on my still ringing phone. I step quickly around the entrance into the living room.

Simultaneously, my eyes widen at the horror that greets my eyes, my blood curdling scream joins the other scream - 24 -

forming a macabre chorus, the phone slips from fingers that have gone numb. The room spins, my body lifts as though I am weightless; in an atmosphere devoid of gravity. High above my living room floor, I watch a masked intruder, dressed in black, stab me repeatedly. I am fighting and screaming but I am losing as the evil figure raises his fist gripping a large hunter’s knife and plunges it deeply into my abdomen. He grunts and pulls the knife out with a force. The blood splatter sprays my ghostly form resting on the ceiling. I can taste the metallic warm wetness as it lands on my lips still parted in a scream.

glass, overturning furniture. He threw me against my glass china cabinet that held my collectible shot glasses. His first thrust of the knife came then. I fought, I felt my blood leaving my body and with it my strength. I watched my killer continue to stab me long after I grew still. Thump, thump. The still open door causing the mysterious bone chilling draft. Sirens wailed in the distance. I look at my dropped phone and see it is engaged in a live call. Emergency services finally answered. I realized my ghostly form made my own nine, one, one call. My killer tilts his head at the sound of the sirens and runs out the back.

As I continue to watch my own murder, The law enforcement officials and crime I remember. I remember going to the scene techs flood my small home. Halloween party given by friends. I I watch a detective lean over my remember meeting the creepy guy in a mutilated, bloody, body, shaking his head burglar’s costume. He had followed me all around the party as I mingled. He had with a sadden expression. asked me out several times and I had “Damn shame. I hate the scariest night of rejected him. He had refused to take off the year.” his mask as he talked to me. The whole encounter had been creepy, and I had I float up and away. extracted myself from the situation as soon as possible. Cate Mckoy is a lifetime resident of a small I remember walking home upstate town about because my friends didn’t sixty minutes north of live too far from me. I Manhattan. The only remembered arriving at my thing she loves more front porch and inserting my than being a writer is key. When I had the door ajar, being a mother and I was shoved violently from grandmother. She behind. I remember fighting has been a Jane of all trades and was formerly from the second I had spun trained as a technology analyst and computer tech. around and came face to face Cate supports a number of charities and wishes with a nightmare. A hulking everyone “Happy Reading.” figure in black from head to toe and a black ski mask. The You can discover more about Cate on the creepy guy from the party. Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: He had followed me. We fought from the entryway cate-mckoy/ to the living room, breaking - 25 -

All I want for Christmas is a Puppy! by Kelly Artieri

We all have watched the “Hallmark Moment” movies portraying pajama clad children surrounded by mounds of gifts on Christmas morning. They open a box and out pops an adorable puppy adored with a large ribbon. Though it is a touching heartwarming moment on film, it has been discounted by animal groups as an inappropriate time, and many have actually curtailed adoptions completely during the holidays.

be ready to welcome your new addition into your home, both for your sake and the sake of the animal. The responsibility of caring for the new addition is also critical that whoever is receiving your furry bundle of love really wants and is ready to receive such a commitment.

For years animal agencies have cautioned against pet adoptions during the holidays because of spontaneous decisions during festive times leading to unwanted pets in unfavorable home settings. Many are now actually rethinking the very premise of these seasonal adoptions, and have begun cautiously embracing them. Some even offer holiday discounts. What does all this mean?

As far as I am concerned there is never a bad time to rescue or adopt a new member of your family! There are so many good agencies equipped to help you with placement and so many wet animal nose kisses to be had. Regardless whether you rescue or purchase a pet for Christmas or anytime, it is important to

Commitment is the key! If you consider taking on a pet rescue or a breeder animal, make the commitment because the animal sure will. Never take an animal just to try it out. Be sure of your decision prior to making it; otherwise it is so unfair to the animal you adopt. We all know that we want to teach our kids responsibility, and we also know we as parents are usually the ones who end up with it! You will be taking on the good, the bad and the silliness of caring for an animal, and should be willing to do just that, but will also reap the benefits of unconditional love given abundantly. Please also consider the “imperfect” pet in your quest for your family addition. There are always those who are shy,

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All in all, if you are sure you are ready for a furry family member, remember any time is a good time to adopt a pet and enjoy the loads of love to be had. So go ahead and make your own “Hallmark Moments” this Christmas!

scared, blind, deaf, or any number of other possibly reasons they may not meet and greet well. These animals, though handicapped, should never be considered throw-away animals and can become wonderful additions to a loving family. You may just have to learn to think just a bit differently how to work with them, but what a wonderful family achievement! There are books out there that can help you with your decisions, helping you learn how to adapt to bringing a new pet into your home or learning how to accept a pet with a disability. Read, read, read!

Kelly Artieri is an author/illustrator with degrees in Medical & Scientific Illustration. She resides in the Buffalo, NY area with her family. She is the author of “A Spot in My Heart”. Kelly began journaling after the loss of a beloved pet, she and her family had adopted due to his special needs. Her journals have become an award winning memoir. It is not a dog book; it is a powerful memoir with a dog in it. Kelly enjoys writing, freelance illustration work and speaking engagements that the success of the book has awarded her. She is currently working on her second book. You can discover more about Kelly on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 27 -

5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain by Heather Ramsay

5| Have wine. Skip the eggnog and

other holiday cocktails and stick to wine. Either red or white, they both typically have fewer calories, fat and sugar than most mixed drinks.

2| Have fruit for dessert. Fruit is a

for decorations. Why not get together with friends or family and take a stroll, admiring the lights.

light and sweet compliment to finish off a no doubt rich and savory meal. Try grilling grapefruit, pineapple or pears, baking apples or adding a little whipped cream or mascarpone cheese to cut up fruit. If you aren’t hosting the holiday meal, or there is a traditional desert you serve, a good way to cut back a few calories is by either avoiding the appetizers, or having only a little.

3| Fill up on vegetables. Keep your

1| Check your portions. It’s easy to

4| Take a walk. This is the season

veggies as natural as possible. A high nutrient vegetable can easily turn into a high calorie catastrophe depending on how it’s prepared. Stick to raw, steamed or roasted.

get carried away overfilling your plate, especially with so many scrumptious things to eat. And there is no reason you can’t have a little of everything. Load up on veggies and stick to smaller portions of meats, sweets and alcoholic beverages. - 28 -

The big take away... Calories are like money; you only have so much. Spend them wisely!

Heather Ramsay grew up in a town just outside of Toronto, Ontario. After spending a few years working and exploring California, she now resides in Pennsylvania with her family. Personal trainer, yoga teacher, and group exercise instructor by trade, her true passion is writing. An avid reader and make believer from a young age, Heather dreamed of one day publishing her own book. When not reading or writing, you can often find her training, spending time with family, or chasing around her kids. You can discover more about Heather on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here:

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Midnight Song by Kate McGinn

The dimly lit courtyard held a snaking line of visitors which buzzed with muted conversations, the shuffling of feet, and an occasional entreaty by a youngster to the elders who accompanied them. The group waited in anticipation to hear Pope John Paul II say Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Among the crowd were people of all ages, colors and ethnicities. Ahead of us, the melodic cadence of Italian came from an animated troupe while behind us stood a gathering of nuns with dark veils covering their hair and wooden crosses hanging from the rosary beads secured at their waists. In our group were military families taking a trip to Rome on Christmas weekend. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for my small family. I had purchased a crucifix to hang in our home and brought my rosary so both items could be blessed by the Pope during Midnight Mass. Growing up in a Catholic family, my favorite mass of the year was this one celebrated on Christmas Eve.

fields until they glowed. The country church we attended it’s a well-known fact you had to get there early because the church reached its capacity for Midnight Mass. If you arrived late, you’d have to stand in the back and for a young child it was reminiscent to standing among a suffocating forest of human legs.

The choir would start off the standard hymns I’d learned when my dad would play the Christmas album, “Sing Along with Mitch.” The voices of the faithful would swell with hope and love infused into their harmonies. Our song was a prayerful offering to the Creator.

In that dark Vatican courtyard as we tried to stay warm, stomping our feet and rubbing our hands together, our small military group began to sing Silent Night to keep our minds off the December chill in the air and to pass the time. The Canadian nuns joined us and soon a trickle of other groups followed, providing a mixture of accented When I was a young girl, we would get baritones, sopranos, tenors and altos. Our bundled up in our winter coats, boots and song grew in strength into something so mittens and crawl into our beat-up Chevy pure it connected us all in that moment. for the drive along snowy highways with One carol followed another until the the moonlight lighting the snow-covered stone walls surrounding us echoed with - 30 -

our words. Goosebumps popped up on my arms, and I felt a chill deep in my chest as I sang along. We--the travelers to this place on this specific night--were one in song and in fellowship. I remember that night like it happened yesterday and not twenty-four years ago. We connected to strangers with our familiar song. I haven’t any photos or videos to document the moment, but they aren’t needed because the memories are permanently engraved in my mind and heart. I wonder if the other people remember that evening as fondly.

Kate McGinn loves a good story. An avid reader, she enjoyed writing short stories and would begin writing a few chapters of a longer work only to set it aside. Two years ago, she decided to begin her first novel, “Exodus”, a romantic suspense story and the first book in the Clare Thibodeaux series. Book Two, “Winter’s Icy Caress” was published in June 2017. Her third book in the series was published in November 2018. Her current works in progress include a humorous tale about a young woman, Natalie, who is one of the main characters in some of her short stories (Natalie is the main character in “Mucking Around” which can be found in the short story anthology, Bite-Sized Stories V. 2 and also in the recently published “One Million Project: Fiction Anthology” for charity.) Kate pulls from her own life experiences when writing. She has worked over the years as a registered nurse, an Army Reserve officer, and ran a Bed & Breakfast Inn. Born in New York City, Kate grew up in the Midwest and lived along the Gulf Coast and in Italy for many years before moving to Wisconsin. In her free time, she enjoys reading, golf, hiking, camping, travel and hanging out with a crazy yellow Lab. She and her husband have two adult sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and live near the Mississippi River in a c. 1855 Greek Revival home. You can discover more about Kate on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 31 -

Kindness, Love, Unity & Bravery Join the KLUB by April Cox

Between today’s highly charged political will stand tall.” she tells them. Given this environment and the many stressors of inspiration, the animal friends decide to the day, I find negativity creeping into my form a club… or should I say KLUB? mind and while I try my best to resist, it is not easy. I am usually a very positive person, looking for the silver lining in every cloud. So, if I am being affected by the woes of the day and the voices invading the airways, I can only imagine how it must be affecting our children and grandchildren. Kids tend to internalize things - from the raised voices in the next room to challenges at school or troubles with interpersonal relationships. Some struggle with other issues like bullying, learning disabilities, poverty and more. These things make them feel isolated from others. They may think that they just don’t “fit in”. While I know (from firsthand experience) that dealing with adversity makes us stronger, I can’t help but want something more for our children - a positive force for good. One that could empower them and give them a sense of control. With my latest work in progress picture book, Join the KLUB. - No Bullies Allowed, we find our sweet little Labradoodle character and his friends coming face to face with bullies and feeling discouraged, left out and hurt. They are reminded by wise Aunt Nola that they are not alone. There are many others who face the same challenges and those doing the bullying are in the minority. “Do not let the bullies make you feel small. Stand together and you

The letters K-L-U-B mean something important and become guiding principles for the group - Kindness, Love, Unity and Bravery. With those four tools the animal friends decide that they can accomplish anything. Kindness and love lead to friendship, inclusion instead of bullying and help for those in need. Unity is a strong word that means they are not alone. It represents working with others toward a common goal (being part of something bigger than ourselves). In the case of our Little Labradoodle and his friends, it is standing together to embrace goodness, stand against bullying, welcoming / serving others and making the world a better place. Wouldn’t that be amazing?! The final tool is bravery, which is a critical part of accomplishing those big goals and being successful when faced with adversity. Fear comes with the unknown or when dealing with difficult situations. Having courage is not about the absence of fear, but it is moving

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me at

forward and taking action despite the existence of fear. It is much easier to be brave with encouragement from others and knowledge that you are not alone. Those four tools are powerful guiding principles and values for our Little Labradoodle, his friends and KLUB members.

My new book, “Join the KLUB - No Bullies Allowed” will be going to editing later this month. If you would like to be a beta reader for the book, we would be glad to include you! Silicone bracelets have been ordered with “The Little Labradoodle KLUB” debossed on them along with the words, “KINDNESS, LOVE, UNITY & BRAVERY”. It is a symbol of the commitment made and empowers the wearer, reminding them that they are part of something bigger than themselves - a community that cares about improving things.

Yes - we CAN make a difference… one good deed at a time, one act of love and kindness at a time. That is what the Little Labradoodle stands for and this sweet character will work hard to influence others to make a difference too. I hope it creates not just a mindset, but a movement with kids, teachers, parents, coaches, youth groups and more. If you would like to be a part of it, please email

Visit http://www.thelittlelabradoodle. com/klub for more information and materials. I look forward to battling the negative forces and stressors invading my day by joining with others, introducing more positivity into the world and making it a better place. Yes, together we CAN make a difference! I will wear my Little Labradoodle KLUB bracelet proudly. Won’t you join me?

April M Cox, an Author, and Entrepreneur who has always enjoyed creative writing, rediscovered children’s picture books while reading to her grandchildren. Her little Labradoodle often sat with them and was the inspiration for this book series. She founded Little Labradoodle Publishing in 2018 with a passion to publish beautifully illustrated books that children would love and parents would appreciate. Little Labradoodle books provide underlying themes like gratitude, kindness, friendship, diversity, self-acceptance, and inclusion. April lives in Pawtucket, Rhode Island with her husband of 30 years and their two Labradoodles. She dedicates her work to her four beautiful grandchildren who have stoke the passion for writing children’s books. You can discover more about April on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 33 -

Superfly Part One by Anthony Randall

relished the band. This event was going to be their biggest fundraiser to date, with around five hundred guests, prominent people and business types all suited and booted, and geared up to spend copious amounts of cash on the prestigious auction held during the evening; it had the promise of a rather lavish affair.

For ten years, during most of the nineties and into the new millennium I fronted and managed a seven piece function band called Superfly, initially performing locally (I hail from Watford in Hertfordshire) with 60’s soul and 70’s funk hits, we evolved to cover a wide spectrum of music catering for all manor of parties and weddings, pubs and clubs nationwide. The band had an ever shifting line up of seasoned musicians each with a vast and colourful history and as you can imagine we got up to some high jinks. Even though we endeavoured to keep it professional, life throws some curve balls at times. One agent once told me “You are the act on my books that gets the most complaints, but also by far the most compliments”.

My first set back during the week prior was that my keyboard player Paul couldn’t make it, which usually meant he’d had a higher paying offer come in, musicians can be such whores sometimes, so I turned to my ‘dep’ (deputy) list and rang around hoping to find someone who was free, it didn’t take long, Matt was available, a sound choice, he now writes and plays with the multi-million album selling funksters Jamiroquai. That was that sorted then, he knew all the tunes, sigh of relief.

One was the Henley-upon-Thames Roundtable Christmas charity ball of 2001, a large auspicious shindig held that year in a sprawling marquee in the grounds of Henley Town hall.

I was propagating a cold, nothing too devastating, I’d sung with all manor of bugs, sore throats and blockages and survived, I usually just took a couple of Sudafed an hour before going on stage and they would clear the airways reasonably enough to produce a nasally rendition of a set and have the bonus of giving me a little lift as well, but this cold got progressively worse and come the day of the gig I could hardly talk let alone sing. Nightmare, I couldn’t get a replacement singer who’d know our repertoire, especially with such short notice, besides it was nearly Christmas, and I really needed the dosh.

The event was organized by the lovely, bubbly Lisa, who had booked us on several previous occasions and really

If I relaxed, refrained from talking all day, took lots of medication and drank plenty of water, maybe it’ll be all right - 34 -

on the night. It wasn’t, it was worse, nothing but strained rasps grating passed my tortured larynx which made me wince and swallow hard. Damn it, I was buggered.

box in thirty minutes, besides I never normally drank anything other than Coke or Redbull when I was working, driving to gigs and such, but desperate times needed desperate measures, the drink might do something, numb the embarrassment perhaps. The miracle cure, although warming and hearty, did nothing to bring back James Brown and Arthur Conly, so I was fairly anxious by the time the boys arrived, one by one despondently listening to my husky tale of woe whilst setting up their gear on stage with looks of rueful apprehension.

The show must go on though; I had an audience to entertain after all, and a band relying on me for their supper. Travelling to the venue took around three quarters of an hour from where I lived at the time, Hemel Hempstead. I always arrived first (and was usually last the leave) because I liked to be prompt (freaky for a musician I know) and, I had the cumbersome PA to set up. Lisa came over to greet me buoyantly enthusiastic under the star spangled velvet marquee lining, bound tightly in a sequined pearlescent white ball gown that promised to decimate its stitching with the slightest amount of stress. “I’ve lost my voice,” I managed to hiss owning up to the impending disaster from the off. She either didn’t grasp the fullness of my predicament, or was too hyped up with the occasion for it to register as the apocalyptic event destroyer apparent. “Have a brandy,” she advised assuredly touching my shoulder, “You’ll be fine.” before shuffling away. Brandy! Didn’t she realise I was about to ruin the whole extravaganza, and half a years work organising the bloody thing; this was going to be a disparaging fiasco A Brandy, as if that was going rearrange the molecular structure of my voice

Time to start playing was drawing ever closer and still no voice, out of shear desperation I was forced to ask Matt, who sang back up vocals, and Julian our guitarist, who could also hold a tune, if they knew any of the lyrics. They were familiar with basics for a few songs between them, and what they didn’t know Julian would make up, he was excellent at improv’. They winged it, jamming out the numbers over three forty-five minute sets with Julian adlibbing, playing guitar solo’s with his teeth or behind his head and rapping out a load of nonsense over the mike, it turned into the stupendous Julian show, whilst I danced, played the tambourine and mimed my way through the night without the intoxicated cavorting throng twigging my

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masquerade. Amazing, it remains to this a break. Unfortunately there wasn’t a day the only time that I’ve ever been paid table for us in the ballroom, so we were to dance. shoehorned into a corner of the kitchen tent side stage around a small table, along with our cases, coats and all of the dirty dishes, continuously being piled high like rancid tower’s of Pisa directly onto the grass floor.. They did however give us some bottles of Champagne, and to mark the auspicious occasion, well most occasions really, a bag of puff was produced by a band member, usually limited to a few joints shared among the players who smoked, not me, never touched a drop in those days, but Another December gig that remains certain members of the female contingent indelible on my grey mush was with us, who shall remain anonymous memorable for two reasons, largely due through fear of derision, went extensively to it being the Millennium New Years overboard with the poisons on offer. Eve party, a triple bubble gig hosted in a large garden of a large house in the money belt village of Oxshott, Surrey. Again accommodated in sprawling marquee (you get an awful sound in marquees, low frequencies dissipate without walls to resonate off), and rammed with very wealthy patrons in penguin suits and posh frocks. It was thoughtful enough that the organisers had invited our wives and girlfriends to the party, seeing that it was a once in a lifetime event, us couples should mark the occasion together, very kind, alas not very wise. There must have been two or three hundred guest seated for dinner around bountiful, beautifully decorated round tables, very high end, money being no object I should imagine, tens of staff fussing and ferreting about making sure that everything was just perfect. As was always constituted in our contract, we were provided with a hot meal and non alcoholic beverages during

We played our second set, all was well, the lubricated hoorays were letting their hair down and shaking off their resolve, where were the girls? Back stage still soaking up the freebies it seemed. A huge projector screen sided up to the canvas stage left and an image of Big Ben beamed live from somewhere in the room, it was getting close to midnight, the end of the twentieth century, the dawn of the new era, a promise of a brighter, cleaner, technologically advanced existence, a breath of new life, of peace and tranquillity, love for all mankind and harmony with our mother earth.

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The revellers gathered around the screen, our women sauntered out from back stage, the tension was palpable, the countdown began, ten, nine, eight…

hand, just some paper towel reluctantly given over from the kitchen staff who were hurriedly trying to clear the place. Nobody from the house extended us any assistance what so ever, we were regally At the stroke of midnight, the first gong, ignored, left to get on with it. It occurred she who shall remain nameless performed to me then that we were just like those a magnificent projectile vomit the envy discarded plates, essential for a purpose, of Linda Blair. It striped a table walnut but hastily abandoned when the music brown and lavished down the centre of died. her dress a rather ornate pattern. She then duly collapsed against me, crumpling I was annoyed, and embarrassed, and a into a heap under some velour cushioned bit disappointed that I couldn’t be joining metal chairs unconscious. in with all the merriment. We still had another set to perform; we were booked There was a brief moment when the until 1:00 a.m. And then we had to pack stunned world noticed and held its breath, all our equipment away and face a long before POW!, the festivities erupted drive home, so the disgraced individual with bellowed shouts of ‘Happy New had to sit there forlorn in a corner reeking Year’, kissing, party poppers and rousing of sick, head lolling on her chest, and chorus’ of Auld lang syine. Not from fidgeting listlessly, while I had to perform me, while half the band was curled up like I was having a grand old time. with mirth and tortured giggles, I had Note to self, if invited to bring wives the horrible job of raising the fallen and girlfriends along next time, politely one and trying to revive and clean her decline. up without any washing facilities on Anthony Randall is fifty-six and hails from Watford in Hertfordshire. He has resided in Tucson, Arizona and Bourlens, France, but now lives in sunny Dorset on the south coast of England by the sea. He has been a singer and song writer for nearly thirty years, recording and performing hundreds pop tunes all over the world. He wrote and self published his first novel ‘The English Sombrero’ with co-author Doug Goddard back in 2005, now released on Kindle and as a paperback through KDP. This book is the first of a four part saga about the trials and tribulations of Don Simmons, an extravagant millionaire who lends himself to some outrageous adventures and sticky situations. Book two ‘The Little White Ball’ see’s Don further his journey of enlightenment and is also available on Kindle and as a paperback. Book three ‘Choice’ is under construction, as is a Thriller entitled ‘Tip of the teaspoon’ and my own novel called ‘Tales of Tucson.’ You can discover more about Anthony on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 37 -

It’s time for Christmas ‘Hygge’ by L.L. Thomsen

Yes! It’s that time of year again.

world and the coming of tomorrow. You can be alone or with friends and/ For me, born and raised in Denmark or family, it doesn’t matter. See, the but now resident in the UK, there is no number of people is irrelevant because excuse like Christmas to re-connect with it’s all about evoking that feeling of my roots and take a stroll down memory contented intimacy with the present. It’s lane with some favourite activities that about somehow simplifying your life for are specifically linked to my memories of a few hours in a way that allows you to ‘home’. enjoy that bit of selfish ‘me’ or ‘us’ time without guilt. It’s not that I do not feel perfectly at home in the UK, because I do, but for those of us who have upped roots and moved a fair distance from where we were brought up, there are still certain things that are hard to leave behind and for me, one of these things is the definite (and apparently very unique) Scandinavian concept of ‘Hygge’.

Yet ‘Hygge’ would not be ‘Hygge’ without food and drink. It cannot be helped – it’s crucial to the concept and without it you cannot achieve the right sense of nesting and belonging. It’s just the way it is.

Now until recently, this idea was seemingly unheard of across most other countries, including the UK and US, but I’m pretty sure that most people now have a fair inkling as to what it entails. However, if it still baffles you, allow me offer you my own simple thoughts on the matter. ‘Hygge’ is somehow both a feeling and an activity. Yet simply put, it’s essentially a term us ‘Scandies’ use when we need to kick back and deliberately embrace the urge to get cosy - usually without any added ceremony involved.

I wonder if this has come about from the notion of simply enjoying what you have when you can? Or perhaps it’s come about from the urge of making the most of the Scandinavian seasons where the winters are long and dark, and the need to burrow down behind shutters and locked doors lingers until the summer days come along once more and people feel encouraged by the light to celebrate its return - but in truth I do not know.

It’s the ‘put your feet up and snuggle down with hot coco and biscuits on a windy afternoon’ kind-of-thing, or it’s the ‘put your PJs on immediately after a long day at work, then open some wine, eat a pizza, and binge-read your favourite What I do know, however, is that there is simply nothing quite like a ‘taster’ book in utter disregard of the outside to invoke understanding, so if you feel - 38 -

like sampling a sliver of true Danish Christmas ‘Hygge’, here’s your chance. Recipe for ‘Apple Slices’ (or as we call them, ‘Æbleskiver’) It should be noted that the original recipe called for slices of apple to go in the middle – hence the name and its reference to apples – however, these days the majority forego this, but do feel free to add bits of apple if you should feel like Danish Christmas Pancakes it. (æbleskiver) To make these, you need a special pan - 3 eggs, separated called an æbleskive pan – you can find - 300 ml buttermilk these on Amazon and speciality shops. - 100 ml double cream You can also use a Japanese takoyaki - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pan. - 1 tablespoon caster sugar If you use a frying pan, they will look - ½ teaspoon salt like mini pancakes instead but will still - 1 teaspoon baking powder be delicious. - ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

L.L. Thomsen is the author of The Missing Shield: an adult high fantasy series that is set in an epic new world that involves a full cast of flawed, multi-faceted characters. With a hint of mystery, darkness and romance her conceptual approach to writing is utterly unique to the fantasy genre and cannot be fully appreciated unless you are prepared to read beyond the ‘first 10 pages’ and immerse yourself in the experience. You can discover more about Linda on the Mon’s Favorite Reads website here:

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Bestsellers & Hot New Releases Crystal Casters: Mirror Realm – Jenn Nixon “A unique fantasy adventure continues, written in a rapid fire, all action style, and bristling with sexual tension and broken hearted desires.”

Guarding Light – Cate Mckoy “Hot, mysterious and wonderfully written... it’s a heart pounding page turner!”

So, You Say I Can’t Vote!: Frances Connelly: The working-class woman’s route to the vote – Sheena Macleod “A fascinating read. A story of a woman standing up for what is right. A Rosa Parks of her day so to speak. Beautifully written.”

Little Zoi – Ronesa Aveela “Meet the playful little kitty, Zoi. She likes eating cookies, playing in the garden, and stealing fish from a magical glass bowl.”

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Bestsellers & Hot New Releases Puppy Pickup Day - Companion Coloring Book – April Cox “48 pages of coloring and activities that can stand alone or used to accompany the award-winning picture book, Puppy Pickup Day.”

The Axe Murderer – Brenda Mohammed “Mangled body parts covered with bed sheets have been turning up all over the small Caribbean island and the inhabitants are scared.”

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s e h s i w t s e b d n a s a m t s i r h Merry C ! r a e Y w e N for a Happy - 41 -

Christmas Stories The Big Chill – Hannah Howe “Howe’s books are bright, breezy and short enough to read in a couple of sittings. They are hard to put down.”

Little Miracles – Tom Hodden “A journey of self discovery for one sister, for the other a journey of redemption. Neither has a clue what is waiting for them on the way.”

A Little Trouble – Tom Hodden “This is a fascinating and somewhat surreal tale that kept me captivated and intrigued.”

Of Christmases Past – Tom Hodden “Recording a long forgotten collection of ghost stories stirs ghosts from the past.”

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Christmas Stories Intelligent Declines – Tom Hodden “Each has such a personality they come to life allowing you a moment to believe in mystical, magical Bears.”

Crystal Casters: Awakening – Jenn Nixon “Jenn Nixon is a gifted author that brings her characters into your mind and home. You live their life and their battle with each page. It’s a wondrous journey.”

Boston: A Sam Smith Mystery – Hannah Howe “As if Sam doesn’t get into enough trouble in Europe, now she’s involved in American troubles.”

Coming Home for Christmas– Helen Pryke “A beautiful short story that shines a light on domestic psychological abuse that is both readable and insightful.”

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Christmas Stories Christmas in Greece – Millie Slavidou “The true Christmas spirit comes across in this book as a time for sharing and celebrating friendships, helping others, and enjoying being part of a warm and loving society.”

The Christmas Thief – Ronesa Aveela “This is a warm, charming and ethic story about sharing and the spirit of Christmas.”

Blackmail – Hannah Howe “Love can be bittersweet, Ann learns, especially forbidden love.”

The Gift – Rhonda Hopkins “This book will get you into the spirit of the Holidays.”

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Christmas Stories Snarking All The Way – Cusper Lynn “Six unique and truly-rib-tickling PG-13+ tales, with racy characters, hilarious (sometimes adult!) situations, vivid, colorful illustrations, and all the ‘snark’ one could hope for.”

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Cats’ Revenge: This Time It’s Purrsonal! – Cusper Lynn “An absolutely hilarious, unique and thoroughly entertaining look at Christmas through a comically cranky kitty’s eyes, and the consequences of crossing her.”

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Wordsearch: On the Origins of Christmas by Millie Slavidou

Christmas is just around the corner and there is an atmosphere of festivity and fun in the streets. We may now associate the word Christmas with thoughts of presents, of Santa Claus, of mulled wine and decorated trees. But have you ever considered where the word originally came from?

past participle of the verb mittere, which means ‘to send, dismiss, let go’. You may be thinking that this is a very strange word to use to refer to a religious service, but there is an explanation. For centuries, the mass was held in Latin, and this A Greek and Latin Pairing word, missa, is one of the closing words of the service. For English speakers In order to find its origins, we are going who had little or no real knowledge to split the word into two parts: ‘Christ’ and ‘mas’. You might now think that it is of Latin, this would have been one of the last words they heard every time obvious – Christ is the central figure of Christianity, after all. But there is more to they attended the service, and as such, the story than that. Christ is not simply a it would have stuck in the mind, until name. It was originally used as a kind of it gradually became the name for the service itself. description of what Christ was believed to be. It comes from Greek, from the verb χρίζω [chrizo], which means to annoint. The adjective derived from χρίζω is χριστός [christos], meaning ‘annointed’. Christ, therefore, is the annointed one. Let’s take a look now at the second element of the word: mas. This comes, perhaps unsurprisingly, from ‘Mass’, the name given to the Eucharistic service in the church. Yet again there is a little more to the story than that. Mass comes from Latin missa, which is the feminine - 46 -

Swedish, Danish, Norwegian jul and English yule all come from Old Norse jol, a mid-winter festival predating Christianity that was adopted by Christians and given a Christian theme.

Christmas Around the World A number of languages use words for “birth” to denote Christmas, to signify that it is the season of Christ’s birth. In Greek, it is Χριστούγεννα [Christouyenna], from the genitive form of Christos, “Christ” and yenna, meaning “birth. Italian Natale, French Noël, Spanish Navidad, Portuguese Natal and Welsh Nadolig all derive from the Latin for “birth”. The French word also appears in Turkish as Noel.

In Hungarian it is karácsony, which is a Slavic loan-word, possibly from Bulgarian. Variants of it can be found in various Slavic languages to refer to the mid-winter solstice or mid-winter festival.

German Weihnachten is made up of two elements: weihen and Nachten. The first part, weihen, is a verb meaning “to consecrate”, or perhaps “hallow”. The second part means “nights”. This makes it “Consecrated (or “hallowed”) Nights”.

Millie Slavidou, author of the Lucy Evans Instaexplorer adventure series for preteens, featuring little snippets of language, and Sparky, a first chapter book for early readers.

You can discover more about Millie on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 47 -

Christmas in Germany by Barbara Doran-Rogel

Christmas in Germany is rich in tradition. As nature’s colours fade in November and the skies turn grey, it’s time for the Light Fest. The countdown begins. This is far removed from the cries of the Temples of Glitter. It’s more about quiet contemplation and using what nature provides. There are so many forests scattered throughout Germany. The therapeutic value of taking a walk in nature is well known. You’ll be in awe as you look with an artist’s eye at the beauty of nature, even in winter. You might encounter a shy deer and its family on your forest walk. If you’re quiet you’ll hear a cacophony of sounds, perhaps the rustling of feathers. And if you look up, you might spot an owl on a branch staring at you with unblinking eyes. Nature’s jewellery is abundant, even in winter. You’ll find berries, acorns missing their caps, pine cones, holly, ivy and even some mistletoe, if you’re lucky. Check to make sure that what you take isn’t under protection. The other day I found some exquisite little pink flowered-branches. I didn’t take them because they’d have died within hours and they looked so gorgeous where they were. You can use nature’s jewellery to decorate your home and it won’t cost you a penny. Once back home, the scent of simmering cinnamon and orange will add to the Christmas ambiance. Light a candle and put on your favourite Christmas music and you’ll be in the swing of it. Grey skies no longer have power over your moods. It’s the season for light and sparkly things and children’s eyes grow wide with glee as the anticipation rises. In Germany, people begin preparing their

Adventskranz (wreath) at the end of November. If you decide to follow this tradition, you can let your imagination guide you. Whereas some people prefer the traditional red and green colour scheme, anything goes. The Adventskranz is usually a focal point on the table. In the days approaching Christmas, people enjoy the ritual of lighting the candles and sitting together to drink coffee and try the Weihnactsgebäck (Christmas cookies). The 6th December sees most families celebrating St. Nikolaus Tag. Children leave their shoes outside the door and they are miraculously filled with sweets or a gift the next morning. The story goes that a poor man who had three daughters and no money to pay for their wedding was desperate. St. Nikolaus heard of his plight and dropped some gold coins down his chimney. They fell into the girls’ boots, which were laid out to dry. Hence the boots or stockings. St. Nikolaus or s not to be confused with Santa Claus or Father Christmas (der Weihnachtsman), who first appeared on the scene in his current form as a cheerful, chubby man with red coat, rosy cheeks and white beard in the 1920’s Coca Cola ads. The original St. Nikolaus was reported to have been the Bishop of Myra, who lived in former Asia Minor, now Turkey. He was renowned for his good deeds and for his kindness to all people, particularly children. In some rural areas, St. Nikolaus comes to schools, asking the children if they’ve been good or bad. He sometimes comes with

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his sidekick, Knecht Ruprecht, a more sinister character, who gives the child a mild warning to behave, a lump of coal, or a rod to symbolise a beating. I don’t think this is common any more. You can see how all these traditions got mixed up. It largely depends on the region you’re from.

light reflects on the surface of the tray. I take greenery from the garden and add some sparkling things. And of course, I have to have an amaryllis. Make sure, when you light your candles, that you don’t leave them unattended. Before you roll your eyes to heaven, I almost burned my office to a cinder one year. And I was old enough to know better. A lovely colleague had given me an Advents Wreath for my desk. One day, I went out for a few minutes and left the candle burning. A spark must have ignited the dried greenery. Puff. Just like that! By now, you should be getting into the spirit of Christmas. And even if you are not a Christian, it does break up the dull, winter months. I can smell the cloves and cinnamon as I write.

The next big event is Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit. On the second Sunday, the second candle is lit and then on the fourth Sunday all four candles are alight. The shops are busy enticing us with new colour trends each year. It is not in their best interests if we go to the forest and turn our backs on consumerism. And let’s face it, we all have enough baubles and shiny things to last forever. But then there’s the other side of things. When we support the shops, we support each other; we keep jobs in place. I have already spent about 60€ on various decorations. Four candles, several irresistible glass decorations, moss and a Christmas rose (Christrose). I am not immune to the cunning wiles of the marketing gurus. As I write, I can also see that silver candle-holder stag I bought last year. How could I resist. It was in a sale after all.

But let me return to Christmas in Germany and how it might differ from where you come from. Germans are great bakers and many German women pride themselves on their cakes. But Christmas is a special time, and you’ll find even the most reluctant bakers buying ground hazelnuts, marzipan, walnuts, dried fruit etc. The isles are packed with everything you could imagine. There are kits for making the traditional Gingerbread House. Children love seeing it all come together and decorating it with different coloured sweets. The base of the house is usually made with Lebkuchen (spiced teacake, like those hearts you see at the Oktoberfest), or a Stollen (see recipe on next plage).

Most families also make their own selection of favourite cookies. Some of the most popular are Nußecken (nut wedges), Mandelhörnchen (almond I have a silver tray I sometimes use as the crescents), melt-in-your-mouth coconut biscuits, but there are many more. Again, base for my advent candle arrangement. children love helping out with the more The candles look lovely when lit, as the - 49 -

basic cookie dough and decorating with different coloured icing and sprinklers. One of my favourites is chocolate covered marzipan pralines topped with a walnut. My mother-in-law used to make them every year. Sadly, she’s no longer with us. Agnes made the most delicious baked goods and I have fond memories of sitting in her kitchen, drinking tea and trying her little almond crescents or chocolate pralines. I’ve made these and given them as gifts too. They look impressive but are easy to make and they taste delicious. (see recipe below). Speculatius are another kind of spiced biscuits. You can buy them in most supermarkets, including Aldi and Lidl and I’m sure they must sell them abroad too. If you want to go the extra mile, you can make them yourself. But who has the time!! I’ve seen traditional wooden speculatius moulds and spices in specialty shops. Sometimes you can buy the moulds at the Christmas markets too. Germany is famous for its bakeries and they also sell little bags of cookies for a few Euro. It is also customary to present tins of biscuits to friends, relatives and neighbours. Stollen is a sweet cake made with nuts, dried fruit and marzipan and covered with powdered sugar. (see recipe link below). How times have changed in most German homes. When I first came here, my husband’s family lit real candles on the tree. The scent of pine and green from the forest filled the whole room. And the candles were lit by a friend or neighbour to surprise the children when they returned from mass. They thought the Christkind (the Christ child) had miraculously lit the candles. Then we have the famous Christmas markets, which are no longer exclusive

to Germany. A couple of years ago, I saw a documentary about a German woman who has a Christmas market in Chicago. I’ve even rented one of those little huts and sold my hand-made goods one year. I’ll try anything once, just for the experience. Some businesses make most of their yearly sales during the Christmas markets. A trip to the Christmas market is always a fun experience. There’s Glühwein (mulled wine), Bratwurst, pancakes, candied almonds, roasted chestnuts and all sorts of delicious foods and drink stands at every corner. If you’re looking for gifts, it’s better to go in the morning when it’s not too busy and you can actually look at the goods on display. You’ll find wonderful paper crafts, boxes, pens and other wood turning gifts, woollen wear, beeswax candles, honey, soaps, jewellery, leatherwear and delicate glass ornaments from the Erzgebirge (near the Czech Republic). I usually buy some gifts at the market before stopping off for a mulled wine and something to eat. It’s hard to avoid when you’re surrounded by all those enticing aromas. The downside of the annual Christmas Market is the amount of buses and tourists in town, making parking even more difficult. Because we live near the Dutch border, we have many visitors from The Netherlands. But it’s an even exchange because a lot of locals travel to the Netherlands to shop throughout the year. Christmas Eve in Germany plays an equally important role as Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, Germans have their Bescherung where they exchange gifts and have a less formal meal in the evening. It is common to have something simple like Bratwurst and Kartoffelsalad (potato salad) on Christmas Eve. Some

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families prefer the meat-free variety and salmon or carp is popular, with the more opulent meal served and prepared on Christmas Day. I come from a tradition where roast turkey with sage and onion stuffing, roast ham, gravy, mashed and roast potatoes and a colourful array of veg is the standard Christmas fare. In Germany, depending on the region, roast goose with dumplings and red cabbage is very popular. I still make my turkey dinner though, and add Yorkshire pudding, especially when my mother comes to visit.

let the excess chocolate drip off. Place on a mesh tray to cool off. (You can buy special long-handled confectionary forks and fine-mesh wire trays if you’re planning on making a lot of pralines). Before the chocolate has completely dried, top with half a fresh walnut or a candied orange segment, or whatever takes your fancy. The walnut will stick to the not-quite-dry chocolate. Presentation is everything. They look very posh if you present them in a little box with ribbons. Now you have an inexpensive gift to give to your neighbour, the postman, your child’s teacher or a work colleague.

No matter where you are in the world, I hope you enjoy this Christmas season and take time for a walk in the woods. Perhaps you’ll be tempted to try one or both of the recipes below. Chocolate Marzipan Pralines You can buy the marzipan ready-made. I made it from scratch years ago at school but it took ages. Roll it out to form little praline shapes. In the meantime, melt the dark or light chocolate in a water bath. Use a form to prong the marzipan into the hot chocolate, making sure to

Stollen Recipe available here: com/food/recipes/stollen_27553

Barbara Doran-Rogel is an Irish writer currently living in Germany. She is no stranger to moving and has also worked and lived in Dublin, London, the U.S. and Germany. She enjoys meeting new people and is fascinated with their stories. One of her favourite quotes is: Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. She is the author of Where She Belongs (Liz Doran) and a Memoir, Red Hat, Green Boots (Barbara E Doran) and hopes to write many more. You can discover more about Barbara on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 51 -


by Barbara Astrosis, December 2018


January 20 - February 18 Auspicious energies surround you now, especially in the latter part of the month. Good for investigative work of any kind, research etc. A lot of you might find yourselves exploring areas you never would have been interested in before. Something you’ve been secretly hoping for will be granted in December. It could be something you’ve been waiting for for a long time. This will bring a new sense of harmony to your life. Don’t make any serious decisions until after the 12 th. Your feelings of optimism might lead you to saying yes to something you’ll later regret. Or, you might be feeling extra generous and spend more than you can afford. At least wait until you’ve had your windfall before splashing out! The Mars Neptune conjunct can make you do silly things. Jupiter and Mercury are now in your money-making house. But Mars can indicate hidden expenses you’ve not reckoned with. The sun enters Capricorn on the 21 st . Solstice—this is a spiritual time of the year. You’ll also be getting ready for your birthday cycle. You should have a lot more clarification with things running more smoothly after a few couple of difficult years. Yes, you’ve had your highlights too. But you’ve also had a lot of eye-opening moments when you’ve had to look deep within and face certain truths about yourself and others. If you’ve done the work, you’ll reap the rewards now as the energy shifts. What do you need to finish? Full moon in Cancer on the 22 nd . Leo total lunar eclipse in January. All at 0 deg. Like a reset. Choices we make in 2019 are

incredibly significant for the next 20 years. December is a wonderful time for you to solve any pressing problems. Don’t dwell on disappointments of the past. Move on and enjoy the Christmas season and the magical time between Christmas and the New Year. This is where you sow your seeds.


February 19 – March 20 You are very susceptible for moods and love having everything just right. Christmas and the month leading up to it is particularly important for you. You’ll be feeling sentimental. Every time you hear your favourite song, you’ll be taking a trip down memory lane and remembering all your loved ones, past and present. Apropos presents: The best gift you can give yourself this month is a day of self-pampering. Turn off social media. Organise a spa day, even if it’s a home spa day with candles, a bubble bath, your favourite music, a pedicure or manicure. Perhaps you could snuggle up on the couch with a feel-good book. When you take care of yourself first, you’ll be more present for others. There’s a lot of healing going on in your life at this time. You might meet someone who shares their healing gifts with you.

You’ll be back on track by mid-December after a period of back and forth, revisiting and sorting out things from the past. Jupiter is moving into your 10 th house of opportunity and careers. But then it went retrograde in the 9 th , in your travel or education house. You might need to learn something new, get your marketing up, reevaluation. Brainstorming until - 52 -

the 12 th when Mercury moves forward again in the 10 th house of careers. Now you’re more clear-headed about what you want. Joining the sun in Sag. After a lot of backtracking, the focus is on growth, success, launching the business and having it grow throughout 2019. By mid December you’ll be feeling very optimistic about career/business growth. Uranus, liberation, consciousness raising but tis been in a difficult place with Neptune. Pisces is good for Neptune. A lot of anxiety provoking events, unsettledness in the world, political turmoil, especially the last two years. With Neptune in Pisces, you lose your way. This bad aspect is now subsiding, we can trust where the future is going.


March 21 – April 19 Life doesn’t have to be a battle. Just relax and know that everything will work out well. If the past few years have been difficult, pat yourself on the back. You’ve survived. Be proud and let go of any negative emotions you’ve been holding onto. Think outside of the box. Do things differently this year as you prepare for the New Year ahead.

coincidence. New moon complex and fab. Be careful. Don’t let the exuberance you’ll be feeling later in the month cause you to say something you’ll regret. Venus trine Neptune will cause you to feel romantic and sentimental. Perhaps you’ll revisit your relationships now and see things from a different perspective. Maybe you’ll have more empathy for your partner. How do you wish to carry on with this? It’s never too late for a new start. Perhaps it’s time for some deep talks. Sun enters Capricorn on 21 st . Business on your mind. Possible thoughts of stretching your wings, going abroad. New study area. Mars trine North node. Karmic stuff regarding family coming up near the end of the month.


April 20 – May 20

Venus shifting signs. Karmic stuff going on. What’s real? What makes you feel safe? You’re learning to compromise. You realise how important it is for you to have peace and harmony in your relationships. Commit to love but you need a certain amount of freedom and help you make the positive changes you need. It’s good for you to challenge yourself and take some new paths. By It’s a mystical and magical month. You’ll mid-December you’ll be much clearer be feeling super psychic so pay attention about what you want. You’re realising to your hunches and dreams. Venus what you need to change; you don’t like moving into Scorpio. Where do you want anyone interfering in your business. And to create abundance in your life? The sun you are known to dig your heels in. But will be squaring Mars and Neptune at the now, you’ve been meeting a whole new beginning of the month. Wait until after 7 group of people and are beginning to th when mercury turns direct. Things will open your mind a bit more and let some be easier then. Something that has been new ideas in. You might decide to go in causing you worry, an addiction perhaps, a totally different direction. A shift in the financial woes or a secret affair will be people you mix with this past year. On on your mind. You can’t seem to find a the 21 st, the sun goes into Capricorn. way out or make a decision. Soon you’ll You’ll be feeling quite positive. It’s find clarity though an unusual means, really a month of introspection. Uranus perhaps through your dreams or a strange retrograde in Aries, will be coming back - 53 -

to Taurus. You’re busy hatching plans and going within to figure out what you really want to do next in other to fulfil your soul contract.

always a mirror of your own behaviour. You’re being given a new opportunity to learn something about your reactions to others.

You could have a surprise heart-to-heart talk with a loved one to clear up some issues that were causing your confusion. Be careful of your expenditures during December as you may be tempted to go overboard with spending. .When Mars escapes from the clutches of Neptune, you’ll be feeling much more determined and you could even feel a sense of excitement as you are hit with a brilliant idea which is connected with your work or self-employment. Go for it! Taurus folk typically like routine and security. But now you are being nudged to try something different. It will be good!


June 21 – July 22

Venus, although still in shadow, is going direct. Fix or transform current relationships. Opening up to seeing what you need to change within yourself to make your relationships more passionate etc. Perhaps there has been some friction. Right now things are shifting. Joyful awakening. Happier about romance in your relationships. Resolution on the cards for December. Mercury is going direct once more and we’ll all have more clarity as the mists clear and things begin working again. More creativity. Gemini: Let things flow. New moon indicates May 21 – June 20 big changes, your focus will also be on health and well-being. Interesting and Ruler Mercury moves direct on the 7 unexpected new directions. May be th , making everything flow better. On an exaggerated change or opportunity. the 3 rd , Venus joins Mercury, your You’re open to it this month. By midruler. Typically, as the end of the year December you may be settling down to approaches, you’ll be thinking about a person or activity that gives your soul what the next year will bring. Your focus new pleasure. Mars sextiles Pluto, a will be on doing more for your body and positive aspect. You’re open to adventure. making some positive changes, whether it It’s all about diversification now. Trying be sport, change of diet, even introducing new things, meeting new people and meditation or some form of relaxation opening up to new areas of study or into your life. A Gemini’s mind is always travel. Pleasure, harmony, happiness. busy and anything that can help to turn You’ll be better at compromise and off those busy thoughts will be beneficial listening to others. Full moon in your to you. Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation or even sign in December. Expect messages to walking in nature or cycling are all good. come. Profound. Perhaps more vivid It’s not about being the best or being the dreams. quickest, but more about going within. With this auspicious conjunction, you’ll Jupiter, optimistic plans for Christmas. be feeling romantic and sentimental. Another aspect, Mars and Neptune It heralds new beginnings in your escapism. New moon on the 7 th relationships and in business. You’ll be strengthens your physicality. It’s all more introspective as you think about about finding balance between creating your own reaction to people. People are your own space and being supportive - 54 -

of family. You’ll particularly enjoy the season’s preparations with friends and family. Mercury going direct on 6 th December. From the 17 to 24 th , very positive Jupiter placement. 22 nd full moon in your sign. Sun moves to your relationship house. It’s all about give and take. You also have a Saturn/Pluto aspect, but Venus forms a positive aspect near Christmas. On Christmas day the moon will add a sensual aspect, gifting you with harmonious feelings and joy with family. Cooperation and collaboration. You’ll have dynamic and adventurous plans for 2019.


July 23 – August 22

Add a bit of luxury, something leonine perhaps, like a luxurious rug or blanket. Reconciliation with close friend or family member. Easier from the 7 th for travel, communication etc. Also on the 7 th , new moon in your 5 th house joining Jupiter and the sun. Fabulous for new business, creativity, anything fun like that, dance etc. All about your inner child, romance perhaps too. Mercury joins the party on the 13 th . A good time for sharing your enthusiasm. Communicating your passion with others. Mars in your 8 th house all month. Good time to put energy into psychology and mindfulness. Take time out; it’s not always about action. Renew your health and vitality now. Something you may have been worrying about for a few months will be resolved. You’ll be able to chill out and relax now. Someone will have good news for you too. You’ll be feeling very harmonious and happy on the 25 th December, especially if you’ve follow this advice and taken some time off beforehand. You’ll be surrounded by people who have a wonderful impact on your life. Lucky number 8 on that date. Big adventure starting after this.

Number 4 plays a big role this month, gathering all the threads, things are going to change, karmically and energetically. Something you couldn’t put your finger on before. A whole new destination, makes you feel really optimistic. So much connected to your future planning. Will make you reenergised and full of life. People will be able to feel the difference in you. A whole new balance in your life. Your energy levels will be improved too. You’ll be able to achieve Virgo: so much more now. Venus changes sign August 23 – September 22 on the 3 rd , moving into your 4 th house, joining Mercury which is retrograde till Last month Mercury went into Sag. the 7 th . Don’t sign any contracts until Your thoughts had been more focused on after the 7 th , when Mercury goes direct home, family and real estate. Then it went again. There will be a positive aspect retrograde. This time of year is one where on your home, family and loved ones. we focused on home and family matters. Anything to do with children will play a Mercury always travels close to the sun. positive role in your life now. If you don’t Not so unusual to have your focus on that have children, you may be remembering home and family in December, but with happy childhood times. Let you playful Jupiter added, it will bring expansion. side out. If you’ve been worried about First time in 12 years. Great for making your own children, or grandchildren, money in real estate. Great for getting you can be assured that things will move more support and generosity from family. forward in a positive way now. Have Mercury goes direct on December 6 th faith. Beautify your home in some way. , it retrograded into 3 rd house, sales, - 55 -

travel, communications. It will return into the 4 th house of home and real estate on the 12 th . You’ll be back, feeling optimistic and confident about home and family matters. What you set in motion in December will carry you through 2019. Uranus has been in a difficult angle to nebulous and confusing Neptune since 2017. This has been causing a lot of us confusion as a subliminal Angst as we watch reports of increased natural disasters. It has been causing us to look within, re-evaluating our lives. That’s a good thing though. With Jupiter moving into Sagittarius, we can all start getting back on track. We’ll be feeling more settled and optimistic. Mars is in Pisces once every two years. It entered in mid-November and is there throughout December. Mars in Pisces is the exact opposite to the sun in Virgo. It causes a lot of tension and competitiveness. Mars, when alone, can be too anxious, too irritable, but it’s in harmony when together with Venus. Venus will soften the fiery Mars energy. Regarding your health, you’ll be having a lot of energy you can channel it in more constructive ways than you have in the past. Venus forms a positive aspect to Mars and will ensure more harmony in relationships. You could meet someone while you’re travelling. Or you might meet your new neighbour and strike up a friendship. It’s a successful time for careers, possibly a rise or a promotion is in the cards. If you’re not feeling appreciated at work, do look around for something better. It’s a good time for anything to do with real estate. You could be thinking of moving, investing in a new home or selling a property. In matters of finance, Saturn is in Capricorn, an earth sign in harmony with Virgo. No more blocks and delays, but do use caution when it comes to risktaking and investing. Know your limits.

Chiron’s placement indicates you’ll be doing some spiritual work, which will allow you to heal your own destructive behaviours, ridding yourself of old pain. It’s an emotional detox period. You’re being mirrored now. You see why certain things happened and how your behaviour contributed to it. You’re speaking truth now with your heart on your sleeve. You discover that one of your friendships isn’t a real friendship. This new realisation shows you the truth. That then has an impact on the structures already in your life. Huge personal growth for you in December. Happy energy in your 4 th house of family. Allow yourself to let your hair down and have fun.


September 23 - October 22

Your ruling planet, Venus, moves into 2 nd house of money. Bonus, gifts, bargains are coming your way. Maybe treat yourself to something special. It doesn’t have to be much. Do something that uplifts you. Good for developing one of your talents. Mercury goes direct on the 7 th in the 2 nd house of money. Try to avoid signing any important contracts until the 7th or a couple of days afterwards. There’s a new moon on the 7 th in the 3 rd house. Mercury also joins the party in the 3 rd house. Wonderful time for studying something new, connections, writing, reading and sharing information and inspiration. With Jupiter there, many of you are expanding your perspective. You’re beginning to realise that we’re all connected. Uranus back in 7 th house of relationships until March. May be some changes in that area. Dependency, co-dependency. You need to feel free instead of feeling burdened. Could bring surprise romantic encounter for those of you who are single. On 22 nd, the full moon will shine a light on - 56 -

your 10 th house, the house of outward success and profession. On the 22 nd , the sun is moving into the 4 th, the house of home and family. Since there’s a polarity between 4 and 10 th houses, you might be feeling restless. Perhaps you’ll need some alone time to process all that’s been going on. You’ll be very aware of the passing of time this season, the impermanence of all things and the connection of the timelines as you think of loved ones who’ve passed on and are missing from the table. And so in turn, you’ll look to your loved ones and realise that you, too, will one day be a memory. Make the most of these wonderful experiences and enjoy the gifts at hand.


October 23 – November 21

succeed. An abundance of inspiration on the 21 st . Merc conjunct Jupiter. Very positive communications. Seal a deal, secure success. Full moon adventures, feeling frisky. You want to hang out with people who are into different things. You might hear from someone via text or email. Someone wants to reveal their feelings toward you. You are now on track and it feels so good. Even if you’re not one hundred percent sure of the next step, make your decision and go for it.


November 22 – December 21 Something’s going to happen this month that hasn’t happened for 12 years. You might start the month feeling sluggish. The Mercury retrograde could be partly to blame, but the good news is that it will be moving forward again on the 7th th and re-entering your sign on the 12th. Venus moving into Scorpio might make you sentimental about past loves etc. If you’re not sure you’re in the right relationship, it might be due to Neptune’s influence. You might have been going through a lot of changes concerning security, relationships, living space etc. since 2012. During the first half of the month, you won’t know whether you’re coming or going. Everything seems confusing. There’s a new moon on the 7 th in your sign. This, coupled with mercury going direct, will clear your head and give you more insight. In fact, pay attention to your hunches and dreams. You’ll be tapping into the Zone, feeling and sensing things that you know are true but you can’t put your finger on how you know. It’s an expensive time of year for everyone. If money is a bit tight, try to focus more on the spiritual and philosophical side of the season. On

You’ve been preparing for what’s coming up for a long time, going within, contemplating, and not rushing things because the time wasn’t right. Great news. Venus is going direct in your sign. It’s urging you to be kind to yourself. Positive effect on money and abundance. Mercury, the planet of communication is also going direct in your sign. Your relationships may have been unclear of late, but now you’ll be feeling much better and your mojo is coming back. You’ll be ready for action. New moon in Sagittarius. All about your security, money, pleasures. Mars in your pleasure zone facilitates a new start for you. Heady lust and passion lurking around you. You are not yet sure what that’s about. Mercury shifting signs going into Sagittarius on the 12 th . You want people who are solid and grounded. Venus sextile Saturn on the 16th, there’ll be an important decision to make about love and what you want. Pleasant transformation. Much more positive month. You’ll be feeling determined to - 57 -

Christmas day, a change of scene might be good for you, even if you only manage to get out for a long walk in nature, it will do you good, give you some space. Enjoy the season and enjoy your birthday. You have a lot to look forward to in the coming year.


December 22 - January 19

the things you love about yourself. Pamper yourself. This will transform your relationships in a positive way. Capricorn likes to feel secure, and the past couple of years you have been feelings unsure, like a lot of signs, doing a lot of soul searching. You’ll see when you go into 2019 how much you have changed because of that soul-searching and uncertainty. We are all feeling the effects of the political turmoil and weather changes, extreme heat, solar flares, hurricanes. It’s been a hard but necessary awakening. You’ll feel more secure in 2019. You might get much more involved in spiritual matters, perhaps you’ll feel inclined to do something like charity work. Pace yourself and don’t overdo it. The sun goes into Capricorn on December 22. Now you’ll be feeling more energetic. Venus and Mars forming a positive aspect in your chart nudges you to be more passionate and sociable. Perhaps a new romance

Exciting month ahead for you. Venus coming into 11 th house on the 3 rd . As with most signs, try not to sign any contracts in the first half of the month. Venus in the 11 th house offers an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your social contacts and perhaps release some old connections. Don’t close the door completely. Rather, look at the kinds of people you’d like to meet. What kind of community of people would you like to share your social life with? Mercury on the 13 th in the 12 th house. Important to release the past, any traumas, upsets, betrayals. Let the emotions go. In order Credit to Pixabay for Zodiac symbols. to let them go, you’ll have to go back and visit them again. This is called completion. You’ll be healing the past. You can decide whether you want to hang on to something, or let it go. What happened in the past does not define you. It’s a most auspicious time for writing, photography, film and music. Also for creating rituals for your new life, whether that be through visualisation, writing, making a vision board or something else. It’s all about setting intentions. Mars in the 3 rd house is really good for communication, short trips, signing up for a new course etc. Also for sharing information and inspiring others. Full moon on the 22 nd in your relationship house. Polarity between you and your relationships. You might have a new relationship or something might change in your existing relationship. Find - 58 -

Is a Name Day in Game of Thrones a Real Tradition? by Ronesa Aveela

A name day (Имен ден) is not a custom only in the society of the Seven Kingdoms in Game of Thrones. It’s also an annual Bulgarian celebration of a person’s name and is a way to determine the person’s age. This celebration may elicit a “Really?” from people when you describe it to them. It’s a festivity like a birthday, but is more popular than a birthday. Each day of the year has several related names assigned to it—quite often associated with the holidays of the saints. When babies are born, they may be named for the saint of the day, but not always. Their name day is quite often is on a different day than their birthday. Long ago, a person’s name was like a magic word, an amulet, or a spell. It held power. Even today, Bulgarians consider a person’s name important. One proverb says, “The name makes the man,” while another states, “A man with no name is no man.” On a person’s name day, it’s customary to greet them with “Long live you and your name.”

and bless the child. Over time, people began to associate the celebration of the saint’s feast day more with the name than with the saint. Where a name day differs from a birthday is in the giving of gifts. Like a birthday, people may receive presents from friends and family. Quite often, though, instead of receiving gifts, the person who is celebrating is the one who’s providing food and beverages to those who visit. And since everyone knows when it’s another person’s name day, no special invitations are needed. Anyone can drop by to wish the person a blessing and happiness on his name day. At one time, if people didn’t want visitors on their name day, they placed ads in the paper that they would not be receiving guests. Those who do celebrate will prepare a meal that is associated with the saint. For example, fish is a staple on St. Nicholas’ Day, while lamb will be served on St. Georges’s Day, and chicken on St. Peter’s Day.

One famous saint most people have heard of is St. Name days may have come Nicholas (Nikolas). The name about because people in day in his honor, Nikulden ancient times didn’t know the (Никулден, St. Nicholas’ exact date of their birth. They Day), is celebrated on would mention of the day of their birth December 6. What many people know as “born after St. Demetrius’ Day,” “at him for is his reputation for giving gifts. threshing time,” “before grape-picking,” The most famous story about this was or “on Holy Virgin’s Day.” People also that he secretly threw three purses of gold often named their children after the coins through the window of the house saints, believing the saint would protect of a poor man who had three unmarried - 59 -

daughters. In those days, women needed a dowry to marry. Without one and with not much hope of obtaining employment sufficient to live on, most poor women ended up as prostitutes. Thus, from this generous act, Santa Claus came into existence. In some parts of Bulgaria, unmarried women leave gifts at the saint’s icon in the church as part of premarriage rituals.

shaped like a cross. The bone is often used as an amulet, sewn inside the hat of a newborn, to protect the infant.

Many legends tell of the miracles St. Nikolas performed. Because of this he is also known as “the Wonderworker.” One story in particular tells about a violent storm that arose while St. Nikolas was on a ship headed to Less known is the fact that St. Nicholas Christ’s was the patron saint of fishermen and tomb. sailors (and also bankers and merchants). The storm Since the eastern side of Bulgaria borders killed one the Black Sea, this is an important of the holiday for Bulgarians. As a sign of sailors and respect to the saint, men don’t go out on damaged the sea. Special offerings are made at the ship the church. Wreaths are made and later so that it tossed out into the water in memory of began to the many who have drowned. fill with water. St. Nikolas prayed and fish filled Since St. Nicholas is the patron of the hole in the boat. He also brought the fishermen, the fish is an important aspect dead man back to life. of celebrations in his honor. The fish, like bread and wine in ceremonies honoring Have You Heard about the saints, is rife with symbolism. It Fortune Bread? represents women (and consequently fertility), water (which is essential for I’m sure everyone knows about fortune life), the depths of the underworld (again cookies. You’ve probably tried them fertility, since new life begins in the many times. But have you heard about earth), Christianity (disciples were called fortune bread? fishers of men), and granting wishes (as seen in the story of St. George and St. In Bulgaria on Christmas Eve (Budni Demetrius described earlier). vecher), the meal consists of an odd number (at least seven) vegetarian dishes: such things as tikvenik (a pumpkin banista), red wine, mixed nuts, stuffed grape leaves, olives, honey, oshav (boiled dry apples and plums), fruits, garlic, dried fruits, and ptika (a round fortune bread) in which a coin has been place inside foil. The carp, in particular, is called the servant of St. Nicholas. It is considered The bread is the center of the feast. At sacred because a bone inside its head is the start of the meal, the head of the - 60 -

household breaks the bread into chunks. The first piece is wrapped in a white cloth and set aside for the household. Next, a piece is designated for God or the Virgin Mary, then a piece for the animals (dogs, cats, or others) individually or as a whole. The bread is not actually given to the animals to eat, but is placed on the table in a special plate. One piece is then given to every member of the family, oldest first. Whoever finds the coin inside his bread is certain to have luck throughout the year. If the coin is found in the household piece, everyone in the family will have health and luck. Anyone who puts a piece of bread under his pillow at night will dream of his future because dreams on Christmas Eve become reality. If a young woman dreams

of a man, he is destined to become her husband within the year. This tradition is incorporated into my children’s short story and coloring/ activity book, The Christmas Thief, where a seven-year-old boy named Christopher is determined he’s going to catch the Winter Monster who steals food from his family’s porch every Christmas. What he discovers instead is the meaning of sharing. You can find this and my other books on my website:

All images by Nelinda and copyright Bendideia Publishing.

Ronesa Aveela is “the creative power of two.” Two authors that is. The main force behind the work, the creative genius, was born in Bulgaria and moved to the US in the 1990s. She grew up with stories of wild Samodivi, Kikimora, the dragons Zmey and Lamia, Baba Yaga, and much more. She’s a freelance artist and writer. She likes writing mystery romance inspired by legends and tales. In her free time, she paints. Her artistic interests include the female figure, Greek and Thracian mythology, folklore tales, and the natural world interpreted through her eyes. She is married and has two children. Her writing partner was born and raised in the New England area. She has a background in writing and editing, as well as having a love of all things from different cultures. Together, the two make up the writing of Ronesa Aveela. You can discover more about Ronesa on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 61 -

Paddy, The Christmas Turkey by Denise McCabe

Tom looked at his watch. Finally, he thought, another half hour and I’m outta this place. It was the last day in work before the Christmas holidays and he was looking forward to getting out of work early that day. He’d had enough all year what with everyone rushing around the factory like the world was going to end tomorrow. Declan, pompous little brat was his new eager young manager had been on their back all year pontificating at them about his cost productive stats and work enhancing performances. He just wanted to get home, have a rest, sit back with a hot whiskey and watch the TV. “Tom c’mon, the boss man has called us for this stupid ‘let’s get together team meeting’,” Mick, Tom’s colleague called out. “I’m not in the mood of listening to that¬¬ little upstart who’s barely out of school and never did a hard days graft in his life. Can you tell him I went home sick and you can get my bonus for me?” “No, Tom,” laughed Mick. “Unfortunately we all have to go to listen to his shite one more time this year.” “Right, c’mon so,” Tom said as him and Mick went into Declan’s office. When Tom and Mick went to the office, Declan was already there with a few others. “And I must say, you have all been darling workers this year,” he was saying as he held up a glass of mulled wine. “It’s amazing what a little team work and a listening can do for us. Next year I have more plans for you all. I

know none of you are afraid of a little extra work. I think we should all give a little round of applause to each other.” Declan put his glass down and began to clap. Mick whispered into Tom’s ear, “He’s a right little feck that still should be getting slapped on the arse over mammy’s lap. It’d do the world of good for him.” Tom started laughing and Declan turned around. “Ah, Tom. You decided to show up. We will have to work on that a little bit more. That’s not the first time you were late to a meeting this year, but even though it’s Christmas I will still have to dock your wages,” he said as he threw head back and gave the loudest snorting laugh. When he finally stopped laughing he looked at Tom and said, “Oh, you should see your face Tom. You thought I was serious. Oh I do crack myself up at times.” “Yes Declan, you certainly do crack me up too,” Tom said dryly.

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“Right everyone, now it’s time you’ve all been waiting for,” Declan called out. “Our bonus!” someone shouted. “Yes, we will come to that. They can be collected on the way out, but first we will have the raffle. We have some great prizes this year,” Declan laughed. He picked out a few tickets from a bowl and called out five names, each receiving a bottle of supermarket labelled brand of wine and a box of chocolates that looked like they were lying on a shelf for last three years. Each one also had to listen to a little piece of advice on how they can go a little step further in their work performance next year. Finally there was one more winner to be called out

“Tom, my good man, don’t be bothering yourself. I’m sure Rays butchers will sort ya out. They are a barbaric lot who would have no qualms getting paid for performing such a task. Wait one moment,” said Declan as he went towards the door. “Hey, Tom, Meself and Sheila will be around for dinner tomorrow. I’ll even bring the little grand kiddies with me. Nice bit of fresh turkey for us all. The Mrs will be delighted!” yelled out Mick. Some banging and clattering and voices could be heard in the hallway and strange gobbling cackling noises. “You disgusting fowl, will you calm down, and keep those filthy feathers away from me. It’ll all be over for you soon!”

“And this year’s first prize winner goes to Tom O’Shea,” announced Declan as he Tom and the others looked at the door held up a raffle ticket. as a dishevelled Declan fell in holding a cage in his hand with the largest turkey “Nice one, about feckin’ time,” cheered they ever saw. It was flapping its wings in Tom. “Hope it’s an all-inclusive week in distress eager to get out. the Caribbean?” “Here you go Tom,” said Declan as he “No Tom,” Declan said. “Even better. tried to compose himself and get his You get to feed the whole family for breathing back to normal. “He’s all yours. a month. You’ve won Paddy the 50lb I...I have to go.” turkey straight from Johnny Lyons farm. This fine one has been fattening up all “Wait, I told you I di-“ year waiting for Christmas.” “Enjoy. I’m off home now. Happy “What the feck am I supposed to do with Christmas lads,” said Declan as he ran that!?” Tom complained. out and slammed the door. “Well, before you place it into the oven, either yourself of the wife has to first hold it up by its legs, then the other holds the knife up to its throat and begins to slowly sli-“ “You sick bastard, I’m not going back tonight and telling Mary she’s in for a slaughter fest as I know whose neck she’ll be cutting! I’m out of here!”

“He wasn’t lying when he said it was a big turkey,” said Mick. “I’m off now myself. I’m getting the train with Johnny. I’ll see you and Mary for dinner.” Tom was left in the office on his own staring down at Paddy, the biggest turkey he’d ever seen. “Mary will have my guts when I come home with this,” he said out loud as he

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turned to grab his jacket.

you really think I’m going for a pint with a turkey who insults me and clearly doesn’t have his own entrance fee into a pub?”

“Rather your guts than mine. You’re not going home without buying me a pint first surely?” Tom turned around and said, “Mick I thought you had gone?” “He did,” a voice said. “Now will you hurry up? I’ve been stuck in this cage in Johnny Lyons farm listening to him whining on all year about how he’s looking forward to Christmas and getting rid of me.” Tom looked around the room and the only thing living and breathing was the turkey.

Paddy looked at Tom, eyes glaring, “Do you think if I could fly I’d be stuck here with a half-wit like yourself. I’d be out seeing the world with my own species and not stuck in some feckin’ farm when my owners decide to abandon me all the time.” Paddy began flapping his wings wildly and his wattle under his chin was flopping and becoming redder as he began pecking into Tom’s leg. “Ouch, that hurts. Get off me!” shouted Tom as he tried to kick him away. “No! Next it’ll be your eyes I’ll start poking if you don’t change your attitude.”

I’ve had too much to drink, he thought. I’m hearing things. “And a round of applause goes to Tom. Yes, of course you are hearing things. It’s me, Paddy, the greatest size turkey. Jaysus, you humans are a little slow at times!” “What the….Hey who are you calling slow?” Tom yelled as looked down to an empty cage. He could feel a breeze beside his legs and hear a flapping noise. He looked to his right and saw Paddy the turkey all of 2 ½ feet standing beside him. “Now, are you buying that pint or what? I’m gasping. You’re beginning to sound like the hens. They sure do know how to go on!”

“Fine. Have it your way then,” said Tom. “But we’re going for one and then it’s back to the farm with you. We’re not walking in together though. Get into my rucksack and behave yourself.” “As you wish boss,” snickered Paddy. “What’s Mary going to say about this,” Tom cried out as he walked out to the bike shed with rucksack on his back and Paddy’s head on his shoulder gleaming. “Mary will be more surprised that you have a friend to go for a pint with,” Paddy smirked.

They finally made it to O’Mahony’s Pub. Tom dismounted from his bike. Paddy Tom, in a dazed and delirious state as one popped his head up. could only be when a 2 ½ foot Turkey is not only talking, but is also demanding “Are we here, are we here?” he asked as you are its paid drinking buddy for the his head bobbled up and down. night. “Keep that head of yours in,” said Tom. “The feck I am,” Tom finally said. “Do “I don’t want to be seen walking into a - 64 -

pub a with a talking turkey.” “Oooh, like that is it?” Not good enough company for you? You’re just like the rest of them,” said Paddy. “I’ll have you know, on the farm, the others were begging for my company.” “Good, you’ll be back there soon,” said Tom. “And yes, it is your company I don’t want right now. You’ve insulted me more than once today and frankly I can’t wait to get rid of you. You’re the first and last turkey I ever want to have a pint with. Now quit moaning and keep your head in.” Tom went into O’Mahony’s pub and went towards the bar. He could feel Paddy’s beak flapping against his ear. “Oh I like this place,” he was saying. “Not too swanky, not too rough around the edges. Just right.” “Quiet,” Tom whispered as the barman came over to him. “What’ll it be,” he asked. Tom opened his mouth to say something but Paddy shouted out, “I’ll have meself one of those fast twister vodka cocktails with a hint of vanilla followed by a shot of tequila.” “I beg your pardon,” said the barman. “I’ll have a pint of Guinness,” said Tom. “Do you want me to start flapping my wings and get angry,” he could hear. “That tall barman looks like the serious type that has issues. I betcha his face would crack if he tried to smile. Do you want me to say it to him? He also looks like he’d come out the right end of a fight.”

waiting on a friend to come,” said Tom to the barman. The barman said nothing and began to pull the pints. “The staff here are a bit grumpy,” Paddy called out. “What did you say?” the barman asked. “The ride here was a bit bumpy,” Tom said. “Yeah whatever,” the barman replied. “Mr Miserable Grinch is still alive I see,” Paddy continued. “Shut it,” Tom said. “Just making an observation is all,” Paddy whispered. “This place seems alive tonight I see,” Tom said to the barman as he handed the pints to him and grunted. Tom took the pints and went over to a table in a quiet corner of the pub and took the rucksack off. “One pint,” he said. Paddy peeped his head out from the bag and lowered his neck down and put his head into the pint of Guinness. Within 30 seconds he had drank the whole lot. He looked into Toms face and said “More.” “No, we’re going,” said Tom. “More!” shouted Paddy. “More Guinness for me.” People were beginning to turn around to see where the noise was coming from.

“Alright, keep your feathers on,” Tom said with his hands raised. “And after “Actually, can you make it two pints? I’m that I don’t care how much you throw a turkey fit. We’re going.” - 65 -

Tom brought another couple of pints back to the table and Paddy did the same thing again and stuck his head in and drank it back within a few seconds. “Ah, there we go. That’s’ better,” he said looking up at Tom eyes glazing. “Now, this makes your company a little bit more manageable.”

bit of shite talking and even more shite promises of what they’ll do through the year and don’t see each other again. It’s all shite. I once had a family you know Tom. I didn’t always live on Johnny’s farm. I’ve family all over the world you know.

“Do you know what Paddy,” Tom said. “Even though you are a turkey, it is still customary to be polite every once in a while. Now I can see why your owners abandoned you back at the farm. I’ve better things to be doing than sitting here wasting my time with a turkey who clearly has no concept of social interaction.”

“I’m going up to the bar to get myself a few shots of whiskey,” Tom said. “Whatever is happening to me right now in my head at this present time, I’m sure a few shots of whiskey will solve it as I’m talking to a turkey!”

“I am truly hurt Tom. I thought we were friends.” “Why on earth would you think that?” Tom asked. “You were the first human to not want to slaughter me. Humans only think of the turkey at Christmas as another part of the commercial riot act. That’s all people want. They invite family over once a year that they don’t talk to from one end of year to next. They exchange overpriced gifts with each other that they spent moaning about as everything is so costly. They then they present the turkey showing off with a carving knife of how manly it is to slice us up. 500 hundred years ago, no one gave us a second glance at Christmas. Do you know my family were said to be from North America. But then the import business came in and we all got separated and then the high kings of Europe decided that the pheasants and geese weren’t good enough for them and now we, this charade of killing turkey was their feast so therefore we are made tradition at Christmas, along with the drinks that are exchanged,

Tom went to the bar and ordered a two shots of whiskey and two fast twister vodka cocktails with a hint of vanilla with a straw and a shot of tequila. “And another thing, Tom,” Paddy said when Tom arrived back with the drinks, “I’m not technically called a turkey. As I said, I have family all over the world and we are originally from a family of birds called Galliformes. It was you Europeans again that decided to call us that, as we were imported here from Turkey. Humans again, not respecting us and not being original with your names together you all came up with a ‘clever’ name ‘Turkey’. Wow, I wonder how many of you it took to come up with that!” Despite himself Tom began to laugh. “Here Paddy, have one on me,” he said as he passed the drink over to Paddy. “Are they not all on you? It’s the least you could do for a turkey who is about to become another statistic at Christmas like the rest,” Paddy sighed as he began sipping the drink. “A turkey with emotions. I’ve heard it all,” said Tom. “I’ll have you know, I’m very emotional

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at times. Back when I was living on the farm before that gobshite Johnny took it over after his dear mother Grace Lyons passed away, it wasn’t always a farm. She kept us as her little pets. Lovely woman she was. Every morning she’d come out to us and greet us good morning and chat to us for hours. Think she was a bit lonely to be honest. I was her favourite though. In the evening time, she would bring me into the cottage and we’d sit down and have a chat and a sing song over a few shots of whiskey. She was like myself, that lost her family, some due to war, others just left her and went on. Johnny was always hanging around near the end just waiting on her to take her last breath. Do you know the song Grace? Some say it was written for Joseph Mary Plunketts fiancé Grace. He was one of the leaders of the 1916 rising and a poet and scholar. You remember the ….erection… secretions of-“ “The Insurrection,” Tom corrected.

“Well, seen as you asked,” Paddy said, “But I’m getting out of this rucksack once and for all,” “I didn’-“ Paddy got out of the rucksack and stood up on the seat, wings spanned out fully, neck up straight and began to sing, “Oh Grace just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger, they’ll take me out at dawn and I will die. With all my love I place this wedding ring upon your finger. There won’t be time to share our love for we must say goodbye…” Tom looked around the pub and saw that people had stopped their conversations and were beginning to draw their attention to Paddy “Sit the feck down,” Tom was saying through gritted teeth. “How am I supposed to explain this?”

A couple of drunken girls came over and “Yes, that week. Well, he was one leaders squealed, “Wow, listen to this.” of the some 1,600 rebels that fought for a “Hang on,” her friend said “Is that a week and seized prominent buildings in Dublin. Do you know we didn’t actually turkey?” get our independence from the British Tom was beginning to panic. He put his that week like it was led to believe? It arm around Paddy and said “Thanks for wasn’t in fact until 1922 that a treaty of the compliment girls and I hope you like independence was signed, but it did start the show. I’m a ventriloquist and this is of a large chain of events. Also it was my new friend Paddy.” not a good day for Grace as they had the shortest marriage sadly.” “Wow, that’s so real like,” one of them said as she waved over to the rest of her “Why was that,” said Tom as he took a friends at the table to come over. long sip if his whiskey. “Enlighten me please.” Before he knew it, Tom was surrounded by a bunch of eager people waiting in “Well, he was executed one hour after anticipation for more. One of the men it, but it was a happy marriage. But that had brought over another round of drinks song is in my heart for my Gracey.” to them. Tom grabbed both of them up, “I’m not sure I’ve heard that song,” said and him and held one up to Paddy and both of them swallowed fast. “Just play Tom. - 67 -

along,” he said under his teeth to Paddy. Paddy winked at him and together Tom with his new found ventriloquist act they sang,

think but the show is definitely over now. Isn’t that right Paddy?”

Paddy was on the table, “This one goes to my lovely Gracey again,” he yelled out. “Does anyone know the song Molly “Now I know it’s hard for you my love to Malone?” ever understand, The love I bear for these brave men, my love for this dear land “Oh sweet Jesus,” Tom gasped as he ,But when the Padhraic called me to his rubbed his temples trying to think of side down in the GPO ,I had to leave my what his next move could be. He knew own sick bed, to him I had to go” however it was not going to be good as there apparently seems to be no stopping Tom was shocked looking at the growing a drunken turkey once they start. He went crowd that was clapping and cheering over and stood beside Paddy at the table along with them. Tom looked at Paddy and mouthed at him ‘you are for dinner and could see the happiness in his eyes as tomorrow’. Paddy didn’t acknowledge the crowd stared in awe. anything and kept on singing, while Tom “Oh Grace just hold me in your arms and had to play along “In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set let this moment linger, they’ll take me my eyes on my sweet Gracey Lyons, As out at dawn and” he continued. “I miss she wheeled her wheel-barrow, Through my Gracey.” streets broad and narr…….” “Shh, carry on with the song,” Tom tried “Why did he stop?” a girl from crowd to say to him. called out. Tom looked at Paddy who was “No, I miss her,” he sobbed. “Don’t send swaying at this stage. me back there tonight, please.” “Ughh I feel a little whoosy,” was all he The crowd was now looking to Tom. Tom could hear from him. Just then Paddy slumped down from the table causing was looking at Paddy who was sobbing it to topple over and smashing all the into his drink. glasses onto the floor. He lay there “Sorry lads, bit too much to drink covered in Guinness and groaning. When tonight,” he said as he tried to laugh it the barman looked over and saw what the off. “ This is a part of the scene we will commotion was about he stormed over in be both performing in the Gaiety Theatre a rage. tomorrow evening ‘Gobblers Love Stories’ Please do come along, you are all Uh no, Tom thought. “Quick, get up,” he hissed at Paddy. “We’re in for it now.” welcome.” “No Tom, we’re not going yet. I want to sing another,” Paddy slurred as he began to get up on the table. Tom was beginning to panic at this stage. The crowd were staring at Tom waiting on his next move. “Ha ha,” he laughed nervously. “I’m still in acting mode I

“That’s it,” shouted into Toms face , the side of his temples bulging. “Get you and your filthy fowl out of here!” “I do apologise,” Tom said. “We’ll be on our way.” “Hey bullet head, don’t you talk to my - 68 -

friend like that,” Paddy called out. “Oh and by the way who are you calling filthy?” “What did you say to me?” the barman roared while clenching his fists. Tom said nothing. “I said you have a bullet head and also where is the service with a smile we all hear about these days. Are you afraid you’ll look more like a ponce than you already do? Fecks sake, I thought at first I’d walked into meeting of ‘Characterless People Anonymous’ at first.” The barman looked at Tom and raised his fist, “Think you’re a smart arse with your ventriloquism, do you? How about I knock your teeth out and see how that’ll work for you!”

circumstances,” smirked Paddy. “Now let’s go.” Tom grabbed his jacket and lifted Paddy down from the barman’s head and held him up against his chest. Paddy rested his head on Tom’s shoulder. “My best friend,” he dribbled into his ear. As they walked out of the bar Paddy looked down at the barman who was now on his knees still rubbing his eyes and said, “Night night Mr Barman, I do hope you sort your issues out soon. A smile never goes astray. Oh and a little bit of soap and water and your eyes will be back to normal in no time.” The barman raised his head and groaned. Tom made his way through the onlookers and outside to where his bike was parked. “Hurry, we better go. Feck, I forgot the rucksack,” he said.

“I don’t think so,” Paddy shouted as he ran over and jumped on the barman’s head and began slapping his wings wildly “Don’t murder me and make me for across his face. dinner …please…..” Paddy mumbled. “Quick Tom, run!”

“Sshh, no one is getting murdered tonight except me, when Mary sees me bringing “Get that animal off me!” the barman home a 50lb live drunken turkey,” Tom cried as he tried to free the wings from said. “I can’t bring you back to the farm his face. Paddy continued to slap him and in this state. Although, I might add, the barman was losing his balance. you’re not a bad singer and you did stop me from getting a beating from the Tom, in a panic grabbed his jacket. barman, even though you caused the “Right Paddy, we have to go now!” fight.” “Hang on, just one more thing to do,” he said as he winked at Tom. “Ah, that’s “That’s what friends do for each other,” Paddy said. better.” “Yes, but next time let me do the “My eyes,” the barman screamed as he talking,” Tom said as he winked and realised what was dripping down from got onto his bike and placed Paddy over his head. the cross bar. “Hold on,” he said as this Tom stood there frozen “Did you just…. might be a bumpy ride.” on his head…you actually sha-“ Paddy placed his head on the handlebars and looked up.”Weee, this is fun,” he “Yes. I did what I saw fit under the - 69 -

squealed as they went down the hill. “Do in the car who was waving Tom to pull you want to hear another song? Oh, what over to the kerb. are they?” he said as he looked down at “Now you’ve done it,” he whispered. the mudguards. “Are we not in enough trouble tonight as “Stop moving, I’m losing my balance,” is?” Tom cried, but Paddy didn’t listen and “Not my fault. I’m only a mere turkey. leaned his head and neck over more. We can’t receive a DUI. You’re the one His beak got caught in the spokes of cycling the bike.” the wheel and Tom could feel himself quickly swaying and losing his balance Tom put the brake on the bike and tried off the bike. Next thing, they both came to compose himself. tumbling down. “Are you alright sir?” the policeman Paddy looked up at Tom, “Are we here asked, “and how is your friend?” already?” “Ah, I’m grand,” Tom said, “but my “No, told you to keep your head down. friend may not say the same. Just coming I have an idea,” Tom said when he got back from a work party. You know back on the bike. He put Paddy across on yourself at this time of year. Amn’t I a the handlebars and pulled his head and lucky fella to win this fine turkey but neck up through his jumper. “Now, that’ll I admit I’m struggling a little with the keep you steady.” weight of him on the bike is all. He’ll go Tom continued on the rocky cycle home. down well with the wife when I get home though.” Paddy being as drunk as any turkey can be after having too much consumption of “That he will,” said the policeman cocktails was beginning to lose control of looking at Paddy. his head. As they cycled over the speed ramps his head was hitting Toms face, “I’m not for dinner tomorrow,” Paddy causing him to lose control of his vision. sobbed. “Excuse me?” said the policeman “I’m hot for me dinner tomorrow,” Tom said quickly. “Well, mind how you go,” the policeman said as he got back into the car. Paddy looked into Toms eyes and began to sob uncontrollably. “Ya little feck, will you keep your head down or you’ll kill us both,” Tom shouted. Just then he heard a police car siren beside him. He looked at the policeman

“Quit that whining or I will be carving you at the table tomorrow,” shouted Tom. “Yes boss. Ooh Tom loves me….he’s my new Gracey. I’m not going back to the farm. What will Mary say? Will Mary be - 70 -

my new friend too?”

“Sorry Mary. Just me. I may have had a little bit to drink but I brought a good “Shut it and let me think about that,” said friend home for dinner you will like. He Tom. may be staying with us for a while too,” he shouted up to Mary and winked at They eventually arrived at Tom’s house almost in one piece. When they got to the Paddy who was now leaning up against door Tom turned to Paddy and said, “Let the wall preparing for another chorus of ‘Grace’ me handle this first.” Paddy tried to stand up and walk but he fell into the hallway and knocked into the table causing the Victorian porcelain figure lamp to fall and smash. “Ooops,” Paddy said as he began to sob, “I’m…I’m…-“ “Don’t start whining. It was hideous anyway,” said Tom. “Tom, is that you? What’s that racket?”

Denise McCabe is a children’s book author and blogger. She resides in Dublin with her two children. Her favourite pastime is writing, and reading with a cup of tea at hand.

You can discover more about Denise on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here:

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Family Traditions Activity by Mom’s Favorite Reads

This activity is available to download and print out on our website (click here) The answers for this activity are also available on our website (click here) - 72 -

December Chess Puzzle Supplied by

Checkmate in One White to move.

Supplied by the #1 chess website. Used with permission. For more chess puzzles please visit The answer for this puzzle is available on our website (click here) - 73 -

Beware the Christmas Mice! by Sylva Fae

I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice, Beware, beware the Christmas mice! Once they’re inside, they cause such a mess. They don’t twitch a whisker at Mum’s distress.

They leave the fridge open, and nibble the cheese. They stomp in the butter and flick all the peas.

They hurry and scurry, they get everywhere, under the sofa and onto Dad’s chair.

They jump in the jellies, throw cake out the door, then leave mince pie crumbs all over the floor.

They pull down the tinsel and climb up the tree, then knock off the fairy onto the TV.

Then just as your mum comes back to the house, they all run and hide, each and every mouse.

They unwrap your presents and shred all the wrapping. They cause total mayhem, while you lie napping.

As you wake on the sofa, from Mum’s angry cries, the mess and the mayhem is such a surprise.

Then into the kitchen and onto the table. They unplug the kettle and chew on the cable.

Mum never suspects that the Christmas mice came. She looks at the mess and you take the blame.

I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice, Beware, beware the Christmas mice! - 74 -

Beware The Christmas Mice is just one of the stories from the

Children’s Christmas Collection, an indie anthology by award-winning authors; Suzanne Downes, Kate Robinson, Paul Ian Cross, Millie Slavidou, Patricia M Ahern and Sylva Fae. Volumes 1 to 4 are soon to be released.

As the Winter nights draw in there’s nothing quite like curling up in front of the blazing fire, under the twinkling Christmas tree, to share stories with your loved ones. With a selection of festive tales for you to enjoy, from naughty Christmas mice causing chaos to robots rescuing reindeer, from strange green fish, to naughty little sisters, and from looking after a poorly Christmas robin to a brilliant beagle called Humbug, the Children’s Christmas Collection has something special for everyone.

Discover something wonderful this holiday season. Merry Christmas one and all. Sylva Fae is a married mum of three from Lancashire, England. She has spent twenty years teaching literacy to adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, and now works from home as a children’s writer and illustrator. Sylva has published several children’s books and also writes a blog, Sylvanian Ramblings. Her debut book, Rainbow Monsters won the Chanticleer Best in Category award. You can discover more about Sylva on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 75 -

Gingerbread Recipe by Kirsten Nairn

Sift flour, spices and bicarb into a large bowl Rub butter into the dried ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs ( I always end up with lumps of butter which I can’t mix in but I don’t let that bother me!)

Gingerbread Santas, Reindeer, Christmas Stockings, Star and snowflakes! Ingredients • 350g Plain Flour • 1 Teaspoon bicarbonate of soda • 2 teaspoons ground ginger • 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon • 125 butter • 175g brown sugar • 1 egg • 4 tablespoons golden syrup

Add sugar Beat egg and syrup together, add to mixture and mix with spoon (or if you’re very fancy and modern, mix with food processor) until it clumps together Tip out onto a floured surface, knead, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 15 mins Roll out the dough and cut into shapes with whatever Christmas shapes you have Bake in the oven for 12-15 mins at 180 Once cooled, lightly dust with icing sugar You can store them in air airtight container, however, ours never last that long. Enjoy with ore mulled wine!

Kirsten Nairn is a part time author, writing in secret, having just published my first novel A Sorry Affair, which goes perfectly with gingerbread santas and mulled wine!

You can discover more about Kirsten on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 76 -

Stand and Deliver! by Hannah Howe

You have probably heard of Dick Turpin, but who was he and what happened to him? Dick Turpin was baptised on 21 September 1705 at Hempstead, Essex. He established himself as a butcher, stealing stock from local farmers. Later, while on the run, he resorted to robbing smugglers who roamed the local coast. On 4 May 1737, Turpin murdered Thomas Morris while out poaching. With a £200 bounty on his head, Turpin fled to Yorkshire. Apparently, he rode the 200 miles from London to York on his mare,

Black Bess, in fifteen hours, but this feat was probably achieved by John Nevison, aka Swift Nick, another highwayman. Under the name of John Palmer, Turpin dealt in horses. Unsuccessful, he ended up in York’s Debtors’ Prison where, on 6 February 1739, he wrote to his brother-in-law asking for help. However, his brother-in-law refused to pay the sixpence delivery charge and returned the letter to the post office where James Smith recognised the handwriting. Smith travelled to York and identified Palmer as Dick Turpin. Turpin was duly arrested, Smith pocketed the £200 reward and a legend was born.

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series and the #1 international bestseller Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audio books, and are being translated into ten languages. You can discover more about Hannah here:

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Surviving the Holidays Without Gaining a Pound by Christine Ardigo MS RD CPT

The holidays are upon us and the gift no one wants to get stuck with is “those extra pounds.” Between the parties, stress, and holiday food, you need a plan to deal with all these tempting eating occasions. Holidays should be a time of memories, thanks and laughter with family and friends, but there is always a huge amount of food around. We need to eat healthier and lighter on non-function days, and increase our exercise as well. Here are some tips to get you started:

DRINKS Although a celebratory drink is fine, excessive drinking or consuming drinks that are really “desserts in disguise” can be a too easy way to ingest your calories. At gatherings, start with a non-alcoholic drink or save the alcoholic beverage for your meal. Mix alcohol with diet soda or club soda. Mix wine with club soda for a wine spritzer. Drink light beer. Here are the calories in common holiday drinks: Eggnog with rum: 370 calories & 14gms of fat Peppermint hot chocolate: 380 calories & 26gms fat Hot buttered rum: 300 calories & 11gms of fat Martini: (6oz) 600 calories Godiva chocolate liqueur (3oz): 310 calories Kahlua, Amaretto, Schnapps (1oz): 110-135 calories Baileys (1oz): 150 calories and 7gms of fat

Wine: 120 calories (Spritzer: 60 calories) Champagne: 100 calories Regular beer: 150 calories Light beer: 100 calories Vodka/Gin: (1oz) 65 calories

TRICKS TO GET YOU THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS If you feel the need to splurge on all the glorious food, don’t waste calories on beverages; drink water. Fill up on low fat meat and vegetables and decrease your carbohydrate intake. When you eat carbs, choose those high in fiber. If you must try everything your host prepares, take small portions of each. If you indulge, pick your poison: alcohol or dessert, or just have a small serving or both. Exercise more to reduce stress and keep the pounds off. If you are hosting a party, serve lower fat, lower calorie varieties of all of the favorites: you will feel better and so will your guests. Instead of bringing the usual high fat desserts or alcohol as a gift, opt for healthier choices such as a fruit or vegetable platter, or even gift certificates to a spa, personal trainer or a dietitian! And, don’t forget, when shopping for gifts, bring your list, but also bring healthy snacks to get you through the long day. Even tossing a protein bar in your jacket will do.

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THE PLAN FOR THE Good and Not So Good ACTUAL DAY OF EVENT Food Choices *Eat a good healthy breakfast, high in protein & fiber, for example:

Good: Broth based soups Not So Good: Cream based soups

• Protein Shake with fruit, veggies, Greek Good: Turkey, lean roast beef yogurt, whey protein powder, or peanut Not So Good: Antipasto meats butter Good: All vegetables • Oatmeal with nuts, fruit, flaxseed, chia Not So Good: Glazed/candied/buttered seeds, protein powder, milk veggies • Egg omelet with peppers, onion, tomatoes

Good: Baked sweet potato Not So Good: Mashed potatoes/rolls

• Right before the event EAT! Starving yourself will increase the chances of bingeing and making poor food choices. Have a high protein, high in fiber snack, like 8 grapes with 8 whole almonds.

Good: Unsalted nuts Not So Good: Salted/candied nuts Good: Light beer, wine spritzer Not So Good: Heavy holiday drinks

• Chew on a piece of gum before entering Good: Water, tea/coffee Not So Good: Sodas, juices, fancy hot party and start with a cold glass of beverages water. • Limit appetizers. One little pigs in the blanket, 1 Swedish meatball and 1 cracker with cheese provides 300 calories already!

Good: Veggie/fruit platter Not So Good: Fried appetizers/cheese

• Keep portion sizes in mind when sitting down for dinner. There will be more food than you can fit on your plate. Choose foods wisely, limit portions, and watch out for additions such as gravy, salad dressings, “glazed” foods and butter.

Good: Small portion of dessert Not So Good: Multiple portions of dessert

Good: Mixed green salad Not So Good: Croutons, salad dressings

If your host is serving all “not so good” foods, just have a very small portion of each. After all, you’re really there for the company not the food. Maintaining your • Choose more meat and vegetables, and weight during the holidays is a great step less carbs. in starting a healthy lifestyle for the New Year. Why wait until January 1st? If • Start the party with the fruit and vegetable platter; then eat lean protein, you are able to do it now, you’ll be able to conquer any food situation. On the more vegetables; then high fiber other hand, it’s a holiday - relax, have fun starches. Keep any sweets or alcohol with your family and friends, and return last, and only in limited quantities. to your healthy lifestyle the following morning. - 79 -

Coconut-Cardamom Sweet Potatoes

Green Beans with Roasted Chestnuts

Serves 10

Serves 10

• 5 medium sweet potatoes peeled

• 1 & 1/2 lbs French green beans • 4 cloves garlic, minced • 1 TBSP olive oil • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced

and cut into ¾ inch pieces

• 3/4 cup light coconut milk • 2 tsp cardamom, ground • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract • 1/2 tsp sea salt • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper • 1/3 cup unsalted pecan halves, • • • • • • • • • •

(1/2 cup)

• roasted chestnuts, sliced • 1 & 1/2 cups canned vacuum-packed • juice of half a lemon • 1/3 cup low salt chicken broth • 1/4 tsp sea salt • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add beans to pot and boil for 3-4 minutes. Fill another bowl with ice water. Drain and immediately transfer beans to ice water for 2 minutes.

Drain again and set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add chestnuts and garlic Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. and cook for 1 minute. Add broth, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by Add sweet potatoes, return to boiling half, stirring occasionally. Add beans and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. to shallot mixture and toss well, about Drain and transfer potatoes to a bowl. 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and Add all ingredients (except pecans) to potatoes and mix on medium. Transfer to pepper. Remove from heat and serve hot. a 9x9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle pecans 90 calories, 5gms fat, 12gms carbs. evenly over sweet potato mixture. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. 100 calories, 3.5gms fat, 15gm carbs.

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Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Serves 10

• 2 15-oz cans 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

• 1 1-lb pkg of silken tofu, drained • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup • 1 & 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground • 3/4 tsp ginger, ground • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg, ground • 1/4 tsp cloves, ground • 1/2 cup Fat free Greek yogurt • 1/4 tsp sea salt • 1oz dark chocolate, cut into thin shards (1/4 cup)

Combine pumpkin and tofu and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Add maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Process until combined, about 30 seconds more. Transfer mousse to a re-sealable container, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Drain any water that has accumulated from mousse; give it a quick stir and scoop ½ cup mousse into each of 10 small glasses. Top each serving with 2 tsp yogurt and 1 tsp chocolate. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. 130 calories, 3.5gms fat, 22gms carbs.

Christine Ardigo is a Registered Dietitian/Personal Trainer who writes contemporary romance novels in her spare time. When weight lifting, rock climbing, white-water rafting, and jumping out of airplanes wasn’t enough, she decided to fulfill a dream she had as a child: to write a book. She’s lived in New York her entire life and can’t imagine living anywhere else. She has the beaches, the bay and the city, all a half hour away. She’s built memories here with her husband, two silly daughters and a bunch of crazy friends, all whom she loves very much. You can discover more about Christine on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: - 81 -

Yes, Virginia There Really is a Santa Claus by Kelly Artieri

It is December, there is a bit of snow on the ground and a chill in the air. I can hear Christmas carols almost everywhere I go. Lights, garlands and decorations adorn most every building, desk and door. My gifts are purchased, wrapped and cookies made, yet I lack the giddy anticipation that I usually welcome this time of year. I love Christmas, usually the more holiday chaos the better, but I am just not feeling it much this year. There is nothing wrong, no particular reason, just a lack of enthusiasm for the season. I almost feel guilty for my complacency. I think back several years ago when my daughter was just a wee thing, all of about four years old or so. We had attended a company Christmas party. Santa was there and everyone’s children were enjoying the festivities. There were goodies and gifts for everyone. My husband and I noticed on the way home, how quiet our daughter was after the party. We chalked it off to fatigue, since Christmas is exhausting when you are a child. All or nothing! The next morning was a different story, we prepared for Pre-school, but the silent listless abandon could no longer be attributed to the previous evening’s weariness. Foreheads were checked for signs of fever, belly buttons tickled to rule out tummy disturbances, and only when I grabbed her up in a “mom-hug” did the tears begin to fly. “Santa is not real” came out between sobs. Heartbroken, I looked at my

daughter, and asked her what she meant. Hanging tightly around my neck she began to explain that one of the big kids at last evening’s party told all the little ones that there was no Santa. I looked into my daughters big brown eyes filled with tears and sheer anguish. Honestly, I am not sure who was crying harder at that point. I hugged her as tightly as I could and whispered that regardless what she heard, Mommy believed in Santa. She softly patted my face and seemed to take some solace in that statement. After taking my daughter to Pre-school for the morning, I traveled across town to the mall. I needed to talk to Santa. I was not prepared for this revelation to happen to my family yet. Selfishly I adored the Christmas morning excitement and I was just not ready to give it up, nor was I content with the way that the blissful childhood mystery had ended. I waited there in line by myself with other Mom’s and kids waiting to tell the big guy what they wished for. When my turn approached, Santa looked at me strangely. I am sure it looked odd me standing there with no child in tow.

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I told my story to Santa. He listened intently and his kind eyes spoke volumes to me. He asked when I could bring my daughter to see him. I explained that I would be picking her up shortly from school and would come straight back. He gave me a hug and told me that he had everything under control. Somehow I knew he did.

him a big hug, and skipped to my side with a smile the size of Texas on her face. Santa gave me a wink and a wave and miraculously Christmas was back! There was no more talk of Santa not being real!

We shared a few more Santa years and were able to have the appropriate parental discussion about the holiday and the magic that lies within. Today, I still have I picked my daughter up and though no idea what Santa told to my daughter. better, she still seemed sad. We usually I do not know who he was, but I will ran errands on our way home so it was never forget what he did for her and my not unusual that we would go to the mall. family that day. Bless the man who saw As we walked down the midway towards the desperation in my face, and sadness the center where Santa was holding court, in hers. My Christmas wish for him is for we saw him stand and place his hand him to always hold that Christmas magic over his eyes as though he was looking in his heart that he had that day. for something. Then it happened. Santa As for my Bah-Hum-bug-ness, regardless called out my daughter’s name all the of my glum feelings, I will always way across the mall. Her eyes got large believe in the magic of the season. It and a very surprised look came over her is funny sometimes how particular face. She grabbed onto my hand even memories come to us at random times. harder. “Mom” she said “Santa knows my name”. I smiled at her and said “yes Hmmmmm . . . . Santa, I believe I might have found my Christmas again! Honey, Santa knows your name”. As Santa motioned to us, we walked past the droves of children in queue. My You can discover more about Kelly daughter and Santa spoke for quite a on page 26, as well as on the Mom’s while that day. She sat on his lap intently Favorite Reads website here: listening to him. I have no idea what the man said to her, but he had her undivided moms-authors/kelly-artieri/ attentions. When their conversation was completed, she hopped off his lap, gave

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The First Female Private Detective by Hannah Howe

In 1861 Allan Pinkerton of the Pinkerton Detective Agency placed his entire squad of hand-picked detectives at the disposal of Abraham Lincoln and the Pinkerton agents became the North’s military intelligence arm during the American Civil War. These agents included Kate Warne, the first female private detective, recruited by Pinkerton in 1856. A slim, brown-haired widow, Kate walked into Pinkerton’s office and asked for a job. Pinkerton noted that Kate was “graceful in her movements and selfpossessed. Her features, although not what could be called handsome, were decidedly of an intellectual cast and her face was honest, which would cause one in distress instinctly to select her as a confidant.” Pinkerton asked Kate why she thought she qualified for the job. Kate replied that she could “worm out secrets in many places to which it was impossible for male detectives to gain access.” Pinkerton spent a restless night mulling over the idea of recruiting Kate and he concluded, “the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.”

Kate Warne stayed with the Pinkerton Agency for many years, rising through the ranks to become a branch superintendent. With other agents she was given the task of tracking Southern sympathisers in Washington and with setting up a secret service for the army. In 1861 Kate played a vital role in heading off a plot to assassinate Lincoln in Baltimore. She booked two private sleeping cars on a train out of town for ‘a sick friend and party’ then she smuggled the president-elect out of danger and travelled with him as personal protector. Pinkerton had a high regard for Kate and he left instructions in his will that her grave in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery should always be maintained to perpetuate the memory of the first female private detective. Picture, Allan Pinkerton (no official photograph of Kate Warne survives)

You can discover more about Hannah on page 77, as well as on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here:

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December Crossword Puzzle by Mom’s Favorite Reads

This activity is available to download and print out on our website (click here) You can also play this crossword puzzle online (click here) The answers for this activity are also available on our website (click here) - 85 -

Author Spotlight Amanda Steel Your favourite... Qualities in a man?

Patience and an understanding of writing, because otherwise, it can seem weird when I’m spending my evenings writing, looking for new marketing ideas, or searching for information on serial killers (for a story…obviously)


Apart from writing, I enjoy attending spoken word nights. It’s a real good way of not being isolated as a writer.

Painters and musicians?

I don’t have any favourite painters, but I have a mixed taste in music; from All American Rejects, Imagine Dragons, and AJR – to Dierks Bentley and Charlie Worsham.

Prose authors and poets?

My favourite authors include well-known writers such as Stephen King, and less well-known (but just as talented) writers such as Alice VL and Jason Meuschke.

Heroes in fiction?

I recently read The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. My partner and I both agreed that Jasper (the cat) was the best male character in the book.

Heroines in fiction?

I love the character of Louisa Clark in Me Before You. She had unusual tastes and learns not to care what other people think, while still being vulnerable in her own way. I consider her to be a strong female character.

Colour and flower? Red and roses.

What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

Creativity. That doesn’t have to be writing, but I get on best with creative people

What is your main fault?

I can be very stubborn. I think most people who know me will agree.

What is your idea of happiness?

Doing a job I enjoy, while it not feeling like a job and still having enough money to survive; maybe a little extra to treat myself occasionally too.

If not yourself, who would you be? Jessica Jones. - 86 -

Amanda Steel is a multi-genre author based in Manchester, UK. She has written “Love, Dates and other Nightmares”. Amanda is the author of “Lost and Found” under the pen name “Aleesha Black”. She is also the co-host of “Reading in Bed”, a monthly book review podcast. This is available on Bandcamp and Mixcloud. You can discover more about Amanda on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here:

Christmas Word Scramble by Mom’s Favorite Reads

This activity is available to download and print out on our website (click here) The answers for this activity are also available on our website (click here) - 87 -

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Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine is published monthly and designed by Nicole Lavoie of All contents Copyright © the individual authors and used with their permission. - 88 - All rights reserved.

Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2018