Posts tagged with: Boxing Day

Festive Fun – English Style – Quick Five!

IMG_1839Yes, it’s ‘the most wonderful time of the year’! Only two more sleeps! (Assuming you can sleep on Christmas Eve!)

I know it’s fashionable to be all ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas (or Hannukah/Festivus/Kwanzaa etc), but I really do love this holiday season. From the twinkling lights, the decorated tree and house, the festive food, the cheesy, schmaltzy films to the presents, celebrations and traditions. Speaking of traditions, I thought it would be fun to share with you some our English Christmas traditions.

Because we don’t have Thanksgiving over here in England, the period between Christmas and New Year is extra-special for us. It’s a time when most people try to have a few days off, so they can do the rounds of the family and also chill out!

Also related to not having Thanksgiving, we don’t decorate until the 1st of December at the earliest. And we’re very strict about decorations having to be down by midnight on twelfth night (Jan 5th) – it’s believed to be unlucky. Unfortunately, as we’re away at a new year wedding, we’ll have to take them down on the 6th this year. Hopefully, if it’s still the 5th somewhere in the world, we’ll be okay!

DSC_2272We’re very traditional about our food too. Yes, some people do actually make a point of having goose or try to be different with turducken or beef, but most of us stick with turkey. It’s always served with sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce, brussel sprouts, roasted parsnips and roasted potatoes. Often, there will be added accompaniments like pigs in blankets (little sausages wrapped in bacon) or a chestnut dish and even Yorkshire Pudding. In recent years cranberry sauce has made an appearance on many tables. Most families also have their own traditional extra dish. In our family, it’s cream cheese stuffed mushrooms.

Another one of our traditions is Christmas crackers. We all pull crackers, wear the silly paper hats, share the terrible little jokes  and laugh at the usually useless prize inside. (That’s me pulling a cracker with Doc Cambridge’s dad!)

DSC_0077 - CopyAfter lunch, or as dessert if you have room, there is the flaming Christmas pudding (often with a sixpence or silver treat inside – the person who finds it is very lucky!), Christmas cake and/or mince pies with brandy butter or cream. I’m not one for Christmas pudding, but I love Christmas cake and mince pies. My favourite dessrt, though, is trifle!

In the past, everyone listened to or watched the annual Queen’s Speech. Even those Brits around the world and people in Commonwealth countries would tune in to the BBC World Service, to hear what she had to say. These days, with social media, the internet and everyone needing to have a scoop, the text is available in advance. Also in the past, because we had very few channels, and no videos or DVDs, there would be a battle between the two major stations (BBC and ITV) for the big Christmas blockbuster movie premiere – which was usually at least a year old! These days, everything gets to TV so quickly and there are so many other options available, that the Christmas line-up, while still featuring a movie premier, concentrates more on Christmas specials of favourite shows like Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey, and the evening soaps.

A Perfect CatchMany families also avoid the TV and play board or card games! I find it’s the perfect time to sit down and read a book, uninterrupted except for someone handing you a mince pie or a drink!

And then there is Boxing Day – but those of you who have been with us in the Lair, know all about that! One of my old Boxing Day posts – which includes my famous Boxing Day Soup is here.

So, without further ado, it’s time for you to share your holiday traditions in the special festive edition of Quick Five! As part of the annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, not one, but two lucky commenters will win a signed copy of A Perfect Catch – and receive it before it’s released on Feb 1! If you’ve also signed up for my newsletter, you can receive a bonus exclusive Anna Sugden keyring (let me know in your comment).

1. Let’s talk lights – coloured or white, twinkling or static, just on the tree or elsewhere too?

2. Christmas lunch – what do you have and what’s your family’s traditional extra?

3. Christmas dessert or sweet treats – what’s your favourite?

4. Traditional Christmas activity – watch TV, play games or something else?

5. Do you open presents on Christmas Eve, in the morning or in the afternoon? Are you a rip into them all at once, or savour each one carefully? Does everyone open all at once or do you take turns?

Happy Boxing Day!!!

Yes, it’s time for the annual Boxing Day celebration, hosted by the Lair’s one and only Brit!

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, or whatever festival you celebrate, but aren’t too full to join in the fun.

Especially, as we’re hosting an extra-special party in the Lair today.

The hockey hunks have taken over the grand ballroom and turned it into their own party rink. (Don’t worry, Ermingarde has been locked in her tower for the duration.) The bar is stocked with your favourite drinks – with lots of ice, naturally. Sven, Paolo and the gang have prepared delicious nibbles (no, not that kind of nibbles, though if you catch them after a few mojitos, you never know!) And, for those who’d rather lounge in comfort than skate with the hunks, the fires are lit and fur-covered sofas abound.

No, it’s not all just for Boxing Day – though you know we love to give special treats to our fabulous BBs. And, no, it’s not just any old excuse to party … as if 😉

We’re celebrating something very special.

Another Bandita has SOLD!!!


After nearly 10 years of writing seriously, 8 full books, 4 partial books, 3 Golden Heart finals and numerous rejections, (I know there’s a partridge in a pear tree somewhere) I’ve sold my first book to Harlequin Superromance!!! What’s more, it is the book you’ve heard so much about – the one about the hockey hunks! Will give more details as they come available, but in the meantime, mark your diaries for September 2013!

So grab your favourite beverage, nibble and hockey hunk and let’s party!!

In true Boxing Day spirit, I thought we could play a fun game. It’s called ‘Guess the Bandita’. You’ll see below a number of pics of baby Banditas and either a book cover or something else you would associate with that Bandita. All you have to do is tell us which beautiful baby goes with which cover/pic.

A Super-sweetheart in any Town; those cakes are no competition!

This all-American beauty is already a Heartbreaker!

All the boys will have wanted to Kiss this Girl!

This little Duchess is pleased as punch about her memorable dress.

There’s nothing Dark or Deadly about this Charming young lady … or is there?

This ice princess wants to know if Jimmy Choo does skates?

Is this Down-Under doll a Courtesan in the making? Is that dog’s tartan coat a clue?

Already a sultry beauty, this little lady grew up to become a hot Blaze babe!

Has this cutie spotted a gorgeous gladiator or a monkey cat?


Can you match them to these images?





















As a special prize, I will give one lucky person who comments today a Cath Kidston-designed Diamond Jubilee Mug and a Limited Edition London Olympics pin!

Plumb Tuckered

by Nancy

My maternal grandfather was a country boy, born on a farm in the Carolina Piedmont when the Civil War was a vivid and comparatively recent memory. He went to college, moved to various cities and towns, and became a certified public accountant. When we cleaned out my folks’ house, we found his certificate–#29 for the State of North Carolina. He also became treasurer and business manager of a college. Among other things, he got the money donated to build the college’s second library (The first, which was much smaller, was endowed by Andrew Carnegie).

Despite all that polish, though, there were some phrases he held onto, like “plumb tuckered,” as in, “I’m plumb tuckered out,” meaning he was tired.

This would be me and my guys and today. Christmas seems to have leaped out of a closet at us and yelled, “Boo! I’m here NOW!” With no warning whatsoever. Of course there was warning. We just felt as though there wasn’t.

Many of you juggle far more than I do and with sharper focus. Once upon a time, when I had a career, I juggled more than this and did it better. I guess that old saying is true, that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person.

Yet it’s a good kind of being tired, the kind that means we had a pleasant holiday even though we maybe didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to. We did the last of the last necessary (as opposed to nice but optional) running around on the 24th. All the wrapping paraphernalia and other holiday clutter came off the table.

Most of the decorations for the house are still in boxes, but we do have a candle tower in the middle of the table, and the dh even found candles for it during his last-minute rush. The tree went up a week ago, giving us our main decoration. We capped off Christmas Eve with a nice meal, using the “good” dishes and crystal on the Christmas placemats the dh’s sister made. Yesterday, we had a leisurely exchange of gifts.

Even Herself had a gift (Hers was easy, straight from the grocery store.). She also gave a few that were purchased, wrapped and tagged for her by her two-legged servants. It’s so hard to wrap packages when you don’t have opposable thumbs.

In some parts of the world, this is Boxing Day. Anna Sugden wrote a terrific post about it on this date in 2007. You can find it if you click here, then scroll down. Or you can scroll down to the bottom of the sidebar, click on 2007, and scroll down to the post (That link has an ominous lot of html in it but worked when I tried it.). For those of us in the U.S., however, today is not a holiday. Today is more like the first day in the denouement of the year, a phase that ends with the year’s last mega-party on New Year’s Eve.

I always look back during this week, trying to see what went well and what I could or should have done better. Of course, some things are beyond our control. Another saying in my family was “Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” meaning “unless something beyond my control happens.”

I have no control, for example, over which students enroll in my classes. All I can do is try to reward the ones who’re serious and use drop/add to scare away the pinheads who think taking a science fiction class means watching movies and shooting the breeze instead of reading, discussing, and writing papers. I was reasonably successful in that this year.

I found a good rhythm for writing, increasing my productivity, and honed the technique of writing in different voices for different subgenres. However, I made no headway whatsoever–as one might expect when putting in no effort whatsoever–in mastering the skills that would make Michaels less intimidating.

I’ve been thinking a lot about character and language. Voice, in other words. When I was in college, I interned at a local TV/radio station for a week. This included trailing reporters around. I said something to one of them about a place being “down the road a piece,” good Southern vernacular, courtesy of my grandfather. The reporter’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you said that,” he said. “If you want a career in television news, you have to be precise. You can’t say hick things like that.”

Perhaps he was right. I decided against a career in news, so I never tested his advice. That phrase would, however, be a perfect thing for a rural, southern character to say. Or for a lawyer talking to a jury composed of such people to use. It’s a matter of context and impression for people, and for characters, too.

The dh grew up in Colorado. They said “pop” for carbonated beverages, though he uses brand names nowadays (“nowadays” is probably another word that reporter would scorn). In the South, we called them by their names, though I understand some areas call everything “Coke” or, in the deeper South, “Co’ Cola.”

Thanks to Christine and the two Annas, my British characters tend to say “as well” rather than “too” or “straight away” rather than “immediately.”

On a more frivolous note, I scored 180,000 points on Buzz Lightyear at DisneyWorld during RWA. I’m sure there are thousands, if not millions, of teenagers in the world with higher scores, but that was a good one for me. I’m going to take that into 2011 with the resolve to top it if I ever get the chance.

Below is one of my favorite Christmas photos, an old one of someone who now does way better than I do at video games. He and his buddy here are, appropriately, plumb tuckered out from their Christmas. He wasn’t quite a year old when this was taken, and now we’re having the last Christmas holidays that won’t see him pack up and leave at the end. It’s kind of hard to believe, frankly.

I hope you all had a peaceful holiday and are looking forward to the new year. We’ll launch it on Saturday with a look at our great January lineup.

What was good about this year for you? Did you learn anything or work on anything in particular in writing (or any other project) this year? Are there any phrases you like that were handed down in your family or are particular to your region?

A selection of books I picked up at conferences this year goes to one commenter today.

Winter Wonderland

by Nancy

We had a gray Christmas, not a white one, with rain most of the day yesterday. Not quite the ambiance we’ve been trained to expect. As the dh said, “No one wrote a song dreaming of a wet Christmas.” And Charles Dickens didn’t write about rain in A Christmas Carol. We would’ve liked just a bit of the white stuff–a few flurries, perhaps, though the boy believes “snow when [he’s] out of school is wasted snow.”

I imagine those of you looking at anything from multiple inches to a couple of feet of snow may wonder if I know what I’m saying, especially if the snow canceled your travel plans. And I do understand that snow presents anything from an inconvenience to a confounded nuisance to a danger. Yet snow has always had a mystique here in the central Carolinas, probably because we have it so seldom. I’ve had snow on the brain lately, in part because of my new fixation with the Times of London website, which featured snow so heavily this past week (including the Dickens article in the link above), and because of the nasty storm crippling the central US this week. However, I actually got the idea for this blog while watching the dh’s favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story, yesterday afternoon.

At the end of the movie, the parents sit in the darkened living room with light coming only from the tree lights and from streetlights shining through falling snow outside. And they comment on the beauty of the scene. It struck me then, obvious though this may have been to others, that it isn’t really the snow that’s beautiful, at least not for me. It’s what light does to snow and vice-versa.

Light shining through or reflecting off snow gives it a fairyland sheen. The snow covers the bumps and rough spots of the ground underneath, diffusing the light so everything glistens as though it had a magical coating. The shadows become more obvious than they would be on grass, and there’s an aura of magic about the whole thing. At least for those of us who don’t live with in week in and week out. I suspect this is all a matter of perspective, but I did enjoy looking at photos of snowy scenes from around the world.

Ice is dangerous–ask anyone. We’ve had ice storms here that brought down limbs on power lines and roofs and caused terrible hardships. Black ice caused a horrible bus crash in Cornwall last week. Yet seeing the sun shine through that ice coating a limb gives it a silvery, ethereal beauty made all the stronger because it’s fleeting. That very sunlight that creates the beauty will soon destroy it.

Snow used to be a “get out of school free” card. Around here, we know we don’t understand how to drive in snow, so most of us try not to. Yet there are always people who have to. For them, I’m sure, the snow is not so much a beauty as a nuisance. When I had to drive to work on snow-over-ice, I didn’t love it so much. Still, I fondly remember sledding down a slick street with my friends in high school. No one else was out, and I worked up my courage by starting halfway down the hill and then going progressively higher. Because my companions were lifelong friends, nobody gave me any grief about being afraid of speed.

What about you? Is snow a blessing or a bane to you? Or both?

In the spirit of Boxing Day, I’m boxing up and sending to one commenter a duplicate soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl I somehow acquired. It’s still in the packaging, but I don’t have the receipt, so it’s offered unused but “as is.” I also have a signed copy of Warrior’s Lady donated by Gerri Russell and a copy (not signed) of Don’t Bargain with the Devil donated by Sabrina Jeffries.

This is my last blog post of 2009, so Happy Boxing Day and best wishes for a healthy, happy 2010!

Happy Boxing Day!!

by Anna Sugden

Boxing Day? What is it? For many it is a great sporting day, for others a time to hit the shops for the best bargains, and for the rest of us, it’s another day of eating and relaxing (and maybe some sport on the telly – Go Manchester United and Exeter City!)

In the UK and other Commonwealth countries, the day after Christmas (also known as St Stephen’s Day) is a national holiday, called Boxing Day. There are a number of explanations as to how it got its name – but the most popular/well-known is that is the day when people would give a ‘Christmas box’ or gift to those who worked for them.

In feudal times, it was when the lord of the manor would hand out the equivalent of a Christmas bonus to his serfs and tenants. It was usually a box of practical goods like food and cloth, maybe even some tools.

I believe that later, anyone who had servants, would either give ‘boxed-up’ left-overs from Christmas lunch to those servants to eat the following day or they would even cook for their household.

Over time, it evolved into employers giving either money (the basis for the Christmas bonus) or a gift. In many towns and villages, it was also the day when the church donation boxes were opened and the contents shared out among the poor of the locality.

Today, there are still many who give presents or bonuses to people like the milkmen, postmen, dustbin men, paper boys etc on Boxing Day.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing today – I hope you are having a wonderful Boxing Day. May you be happy and healthy and … totally stuffed from all the holiday goodies! And may your favourite teams win (unless they’re playing against mine!).

For those of you who have been following our recipes, here is my recipe for Boxing Day Soup (aka what to do with all the Christmas left-overs!)

2 pints of chicken or turkey stock (we usually boil up the turkey carcasse and make our own)
2 or 3 large leeks
1 large onion
1 large chunk of butter
A big bowl leftover turkey meat (we use the dark meat and save the white meat for sandwiches or other dishes)
Left-over roast potatoes
Left-over roasted root vegetables eg parsnips, carrots etc
Left-over bread sauce and stuffing and gravy
(NB do not include any left-over brussel sprouts or other green vegetables – they’ll add a bitter taste!)

1. Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan
2. Chop onion and leeks and cook until they become translucent
3. Add chopped turkey meat
4. Chop roast potatoes and root vegetables into chunks and add to the saucepan.
5. Add the stock and stir while bringing the stock up to a simmer.
6. Stir in the left-over gravy, bread sauce and stuffing.
7. Let the soup simmer on the stove until it has a thick and hearty consistency.
8. Serve and enjoy. As a little extra touch, I like to add a large spoonful of sour cream.

So, what are you up to on this Boxing Day? If you’re watching sport, who are you supporting?
As a special Boxing Day prize, I’m giving away a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card.