All I want for Christmas …

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A festive post with a difference written by our author, Sarah Waights. Have you ever wished that getting what you wanted most in life was as simple as writing to Father Christmas? Emma does … 

Dear Father Christmas,

You don’t mind if I call you ‘Father Christmas’ do you? Tell me if I’m wrong but I’m guessing you’re something of a traditionalist. That said, I appreciate ‘Santa’ has been creeping up the popularity ranks for a while now. It’s all ‘Santa baby’ and ‘I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus’… I appreciate singing ‘Father Christmas is coming to town’ doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Maybe I’m just a late adopter, but I can’t go with ‘Santa’, I really can’t. For me ‘Santa’ sounds like an item of sanitary protection. It evokes pictures of lithe young women roller-skating in unfeasibly tiny shorts, diving into swimming pools displaying unlikely levels of abdominal muscle perfection, or flying kites on the tops of hills, all whilst laughing inanely with their girlfriends and exchanging flirty but empowered looks with handsome young men who are looking on admiringly. Why? Because this is apparently what advertising men think women get up to when they’ve got their period … God knows why. I definitely don’t. So, the point is, say the word ‘Santa’ and feminine hygiene is what pops into my mind – as it probably will into yours from now on too. Sorry about that.

Actually, whilst I’m apologising, let me just come straight out and acknowledge the elephant in the room; you will have noticed I’ve not written to you since I was seven. Twenty years, eh?  How time flies … I appreciate, belatedly, you might have assumed it was because you didn’t fully deliver on my expectations that time. Obviously the tiny tears doll which eats yellow gunk and then dirties its nappy when you squeeze it was bang on, and the extensive list of stocking fillers was broadly fulfilled – no complaints – but I do want to make it absolutely clear that there are no hard feelings about you not coming through with the real, live penguin. To be honest, my geographical knowledge as a seven year old was poor (it isn’t much better now) and I simply thought it would be a case of leaning out of your sleigh and grabbing one in passing. I certainly didn’t expect you to go all the way to the South Pole, which you obviously wouldn’t have had time to do. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t ask for a polar bear.

Talking of hindsight, I imagine we need to cover the issue of whether I’ve been naughty or nice. Are we talking just the last year or the whole couple of decades? I’ll assume the latter but, for brevity, we had better stick to edited highlights. So let’s see … I’ve always tried not to be knowingly cruel (but also see below), I’ve been polite and grateful to my mother, apart from the obligatory teenage years obviously, and broadly I think my friends would say I’m a reasonably nice person.

And now for the last year. Well – they say “you hurt the ones you love” don’t they? And I have. I know I have and I am so desperately sorry, (although I suppose it’s not you I should be apologising to). All I can say is I would do anything for things to be simple again, to wind back the clock and be asking for a doll or a new packet of felt tips because I left the lids off the old ones. But that isn’t how life works. So here goes: The reason I am writing to you now, is because I have to ask for just one, final thing, and after that I promise I will never ask ever again. You see, Father Christmas (or, what the hell, ‘Santa’ if you prefer), the only thing I want – not just for Christmas but for ever and ever is James. And if he were to come down my chimney and back into my life I promise I would love him and cherish him and never let him go until death us do part. He could even watch the football. Sometimes. Potentially in return for emptying the dishwasher occasionally. I’m not unreasonable …

Lots of love

Emma xxx

Never Marry a Politician 150 dpi

Find out more about Sarah’s debut novel, Never Marry a Politician:

@SarahWaights

www.sarahwaights.com

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Onesie for Christmas by Melanie Hudson

Kneeling on all fours, Janet rested the present from Pete against the tree, reversed under the branches while ChocLit-logoXmasdisentangling the lights from her hair, stood and rubbed her bruised knee caps.  After flopping onto the sofa, she tucked cold feet into the gap between the cushions, and slugged back the last of Santa’s sherry.  Staring blankly at the twinkling tree, she wondered how her life could have gone belly-up so quickly (she also wondered if it was the tears in her eyes that blurred the tree lights, or if she had accidentally bought the kind of lights that were impossible to focus on – they’d go back!).  Padding her left hand round the mahogany side table that was a wedding present in 1989, she found a mince pie (which was placed on the arm of the sofa for later) then found the phone.    

‘Hi, Jan.  What’s up?’

On hearing her sister’s voice, Janet released the sob of a grieving Mafia mother, and dabbed wet lashes with the sleeve of her Monsoon Christmas jumper.

‘Pete’s having an affair…ohhhhh, how could he?  And when we were just about to get a new kitchen!’

Sue – a sensible woman – could not have imagined a more unlikely candidate for a ‘bit of extra’ than Pete.

‘Never.  How do you know?’

‘I’ve just been under the tree, and he’s bought me a – I can hardly bring myself to say it – but he’s bought me a… onesie for Christmas, the swine!’

‘Hmm.  And a onesie is?

Janet blew her nose on a stray tissue her toe had touched down the crack of the sofa.

‘You must have seen them, Sue.  They’ve got them everywhere…Next…M&S…Primark.  A onesie is an all-in-one pyjama suit.’

‘So?’

So, buying me a onesie is his way of saying, ‘Wife of mine, I’m not intending to have hot sex with you ever again!’

Sue tried to find a balance between commiseration and common sense.

‘But accusing him of an affair based on pyjamas…isn’t that a bit of a leap, even for you?’

Janet rallied.  ‘For goodness sake, Sue. I told you last week, all the signs are there.  He’s been closing the screen of the laptop whenever I walk in the room, and the lock on his phone isn’t Pollock1982 anymore, I checked.’

‘Er…pollock?’

‘…his first fish.’

‘Oh.’

‘And then there’s his new clothes (since when has Pete been trendy?), and he’s even had his bloody back waxed, for crying out loud.  So anyway, I followed him…’

‘Oh, no!  How demeaning.  Where to?’

‘The travel agents.’

Sue gasped.  Even the voice of reason found this a step too far.  ‘The travel agents!!  You surely don’t mean the travel agents, where Hard-On Heidi works?’

Janet let out a low guttural wail.  ‘Yeeessss.  And, oh God, Sue, they hugged and kissed on both cheeks…both!’

Sue tried reason again.  ‘That doesn’t necessarily mean…’  But Janet wasn’t listening.

‘It’s all my fault.  I should never have knitted that nativity scene in front of him.  Week after week he had to put up with the relentless click, click, click of the needles – I think the knitted baby Jesus was just a step too far.  Let’s face it, he sees me as…as…as an old woman now.’  Another wail.  ‘And the sex has all but gone.’

‘What?  No sex…ever?’

‘Well, we did try to do it the other day, when he came home in his Santa suit…’

‘Santa suit?  Seriously?’

Janet’s voice softened.  ‘We do this… thing, every year.’

Sue couldn’t help but ask, even though she knew it would be the sexual equivalent of looking at a car crash. ‘What thing?’

‘Every Christmas, Pete opens the front door and shouts up, ‘Ho! Ho! Ho! Does my little elf want to see what Santa’s got in his sack today’… and then I…’  Janet paused,  ‘…well, it doesn’t matter what I do, but this year, I was just about to tie him to the bed with his Santa braces, when he sat up and said, ‘hold on a minute love, I’ve just got to nip downstairs and record Deadliest Catch’.’

Sue swallowed a laugh. ‘Oh no, how humiliating.’

‘But it gets worse.  The daft arse still had his welly boots on and his Santa trousers round his ankles, so he hopped off like a randy bloody penguin, then tripped over his trousers and fell down the stairs.’

‘What did you do?’

‘Dabbed the blood with his beard, went to casualty to get his head stitched (we told that staff we were doing the grotto at the garden centre) and then stopped off at B&Q on the way back – the sale’s started and he wanted to get the grout for the bathroom.  And that was that, no sex.  It’s obvious, he’s leaving me…’

The front door banged.  Janet took another deep sniff and dabbed her eyes again.

‘He’s back.  I’m going to confront him.  Phone you later.’

 

Two hours later, Sue’s phone rang.

‘Hi, Jan.  Dare I ask what happened?’

‘Happened?  What do you mean?  Oh, the affair…I got it wrong.  Poor Pete.  When I said I wanted something sparkly and magical for Christmas, you’ll never guess what he did…’

Relieved (but not surprised) that her sister’s latest crisis had been averted, Sue started flicking through the TV channels to see if she could find a re-run of Cadfael.

‘No idea.’

‘Go on,’ Janet pressed, ‘I bet you can’t guess.’

Sue tried to hide her indifference.  ‘Er, a ring?  A necklace?’

‘No!  He’s only gone and booked us on a trip to Norway to see the northern lights!  The tickets were in the sleeve of the onesie.  Ok, he’s going to spend the day ice fishing, but still, how amazing is that?  I would have phoned you back earlier, but we’ve just had sex.’

Sue smiled.

‘And the onesie?  Have you told him to take it back?’

‘God, no.  I’m wearing it now – ever so toasty.  And Pete loves it, especially when I do this elf-type thing where I unzip…’

‘Happy Christmas, Janet.’

‘Oh, and to you, Sue.’

 

Merry Christmas!

Mel

xxx

 

 

 

 

Sarah’s Wednesday W – W is for Wild

It’s pretty wild in our house at the moment. Not unusual ― but with two boys who both still believe in Father Christmas, things are getting wilder by the millisecond. I know from years gone by, there’s no hope of effective taming until they’ve unleashed their full feral forces on parcels and wrapping on the big day itself.

The build-up starts early with my two. On the first day back to school after the summer holidays, I was informed that winter would soon be here. Followed by the question that has sounded each morning school-run since: ‘How many days until Christmas, mummy?’ It’s not therefore surprising, that by the time they reach December, they have driven themselves into a wild frenzy of excitement.

Everything is that much more extreme with my two in December. Domestication goes out the window. They seem to have lost any taming I may have managed. It is back to basics. They seem to be driven by their raw child. By base instinct. And the same goes for their maleness. My boys are boy-boys year round. Nothing I have attempted to do or instil has helped on that front. Probably quite the opposite. But when it comes to December, they reach whole new levels of innate boy-boyness. There are more and more pranks. More and more dares and daring activities. More and more … stupidity. And of course, more and more fights. And the ferocity of those fights reaches whole new levels.

Whilst my attempts at taming are generally unsuccessful, it doesn’t stop me trying. Although I can say with conviction, that to see a true wild boy-boy child ― shout up the chimney to tell Father Christmas that said wild boy-boy child should be added to the naughty list. The reaction that unleashed had me thinking of tranquillizer darts.

But do you know? I will treasure the wildness this year. This is most probably the last December I will experience in which both my boys believe in Father Christmas. The last year they will write their letters to him and then jump up and down in excitement as they watch mummy and daddy post them up the chimney to magically wing there way to the North Pole ― or heaven. According to my boys, Father Christmas divides his time between those two locations. The last year, that on Christmas morning, they will stare in awe at the snowy footprints Father Christmas has left upon the hearth. Next year, I will no doubt find myself answering my eldest’s questions and explaining all about the ledge inside the chimney that accommodates letters so well. And about the sprinkled icing sugar around a pair of daddy’s wellington boots.

When you look at it that way, there’s a lot to be said for wildness. In fact ― bring it on! Happy December everyone. May it be wild and magical!

I leave you with a picture of the man himself. Don’t you think Father Christmas is just everywhere this time of year?  And he does have a beard … and eyes. And I could say something about base instincts here and the ability to turn one wild. But won’t :)

It IS a Wednesday :)

It IS a Wednesday :)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 10

Christmas is often the ideal time to take photos, some of which we treasure as they remind us of loved ones and all the good times. Today we thought we’d share some of our favourite photos (both old and new) with you, and we hope you enjoy our “Christmas Album”!

Do you have any special photos you’d like to share with us? Please e-mail a jpeg to Christina at christinacourtenay@googlemail.com and she’ll post a selection here. Don’t forget to add a caption! The photo we like best will win you a copy of Kate Johnson’s brilliant novel The Untied Kingdom – set in an England where Christmas was very different indeed! (Competition ends midnight on New Year’s Eve)

Kate - Here's my Christmas photo, (as I can't find one of myself, although I know there is one of me and my brother standing to attention besides a badly decorated tinsel tree, but I seem to have lost it ...). It's Sugar, one of my birthday kittens, helping me with the gift wrapping!

Kate - Here's my Christmas photo, (as I can't find one of myself, although I know there is one of me and my brother standing to attention besides a badly decorated tinsel tree, but I seem to have lost it ...). It's Sugar, one of my birthday kittens, helping me with the gift wrapping!

Henriette – I always smile when I look at this picture of my sister and myself (it’s me on the left) baking pebernødder, small Danish cookies the size of round licorice allsorts.  The word translates as “pepper nuts”, but today people use cardamom.  Traditionally they’re placed inside cone-shaped Christmas tree decorations, with strict instructions to any children present not to “eat the tree” until we’ve finished singing and dancing around it.

Henriette – I always smile when I look at this picture of my sister and myself (it’s me on the left) baking pebernødder, small Danish cookies the size of round licorice allsorts. The word translates as “pepper nuts”, but today people use cardamom. Traditionally they’re placed inside cone-shaped Christmas tree decorations, with strict instructions to any children present not to “eat the tree” until we’ve finished singing and dancing around it.

Sue - And here’s one with my dad.  I know it was Christmas because I’m wearing two of my presents.

Sue - And here’s one with my dad. I know it was Christmas because I’m wearing two of my presents.

Sue – I know there is a picture of me on the spacehopper, but can’t find it.  So here’s one of me with another hot favourite present – a book.

Sue – I know there is a picture of me on the spacehopper, but can’t find it. So here’s one of me with another hot favourite present – a book.

Linda - They say you know you're getting older when policemen start to look younger ... well, what about when Father Christmas looks like he's still in nappies - as in this picture!  (My grandson - not sure if he's enjoying the experience of his first Christmas Day or not! Say aaaaahhhhh. )

Linda - They say you know you're getting older when policemen start to look younger ... well, what about when Father Christmas looks like he's still in nappies - as in this picture! (My grandson - not sure if he's enjoying the experience of his first Christmas Day or not! Say aaaaahhhhh. )

Chris - Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a brisk walk.  Living on the west Wales coast we’re spoilt for a choice of beautiful locations.  Here’s us on Christmas Day walking at Poppit Sands, Pembs.

Chris - Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a brisk walk. Living on the west Wales coast we’re spoilt for a choice of beautiful locations. Here’s us on Christmas Day walking at Poppit Sands, Pembs.

Linda - And here at Preston in Paignton we have a community tree. Said tree donated by Marldon Christmas Tree Farm and all the decorations made by the little ones at Preston Primary. It always makes me smile because we have a fir and a palm side by side!

Linda - And here at Preston in Paignton we have a community tree. Said tree donated by Marldon Christmas Tree Farm and all the decorations made by the little ones at Preston Primary. It always makes me smile because we have a fir and a palm side by side!

Christina – Here are a couple of photos of me, aged three, as St Lucia – all Swedish girls dress up for this on 13th December each year and although I’m sure I loved the attention at first, I seem to have tired of my crown fairly quickly!

Christina – Here are a couple of photos of me, aged three, as St Lucia – all Swedish girls dress up for this on 13th December each year and although I’m sure I loved the attention at first, I seem to have tired of my crown fairly quickly!

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Liz – Here is a photo of a group of super people - the Oxford Chapter of the RNA, who meet monthly.  It was taken just before Christmas last year and sent to the Cotswold Life magazine.  They'd asked us to remove any trace of Christmas as it was to be featured after Christmas - but the smiles on all faces show, I believe, that the Christmas spirit was very present amongst us!

Liz – Here is a photo of a group of super people - the Oxford Chapter of the RNA, who meet monthly. It was taken just before Christmas last year and sent to the Cotswold Life magazine. They'd asked us to remove any trace of Christmas as it was to be featured after Christmas - but the smiles on all faces show, I believe, that the Christmas spirit was very present amongst us!

Jane - Last Christmas – me and my giant icicle.  Best present since the headcollar!

Jane - Last Christmas – me and my giant icicle. Best present since the headcollar!

Margaret – My daughters and my grandson go for the Traditional Healthy Walk on Christmas Day 2008.

Margaret – My daughters and my grandson go for the Traditional Healthy Walk on Christmas Day 2008.

In 2010, however, Devon looked more like the North Pole – deep and crisp and even, and jolly chilly!

In 2010, however, Devon looked more like the North Pole – deep and crisp and even, and jolly chilly!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 9

choclit-logoxmassmallerYesterday we shared some delicious chocolate food recipes with you, but on a cold day, maybe all you need is a hot drink instead? Well, we might be able to help you with that too! Here are some of our “specials” that will warm you right down to your toes:-

MargaretWhy is it that chocolate and brandy go so well together? I guess we’ll never know, but I’m happy to carry on trying to find out. Some Cadbury’s hot chocolate, whisked into a foam and enhanced with some VSOP certainly keeps out the cold.

Sue – Lots of whisky, a spoon of clear honey, a little hot water. If you have a cold, add a Lemsip. Drink in front of a nice fire over a good book.

Chris – A large measure of Talisker, to be taken by the fire. I’ve had this on the deck of a boat on New Year’s Eve too and it’s equally good there.

Linda – Juice of a lemon, same quantity of brandy, a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon in a glass topped up with hot water.  Great if you have a cold.  Even greater on a cold night, wrapped up in bed with a good book!

JaneHalf fill a mug with single cream and half with milk. Add a few squares of good-quality chocolate and microwave gently until the chocolate has melted and the milk is hot. Stir. Top with large marshmallow (must be large, not those prissy little ones) and drink through the resulting sticky mass. Delicious. Unless you have a beard, in which case, leave off the marshmallow …

Henriette – Papa Gyland’s Red Wine Toddy – Fill a mug (or a toddy glass) with red wine to the halfway mark, add the juice of half an orange, then a measure of schnapps or brandy.  Sweeten with sugar to taste, and pour in boiling water.  Stir and serve steaming hot.  If you feel you’re about to come down with a cold, make up my father’s toddy and take yourself to bed immediately.  I promise you, it works.  Probably because no one dares to be ill after that …

clxmashotchocKate – Hot toddy recipes … oh dear I’ve already done mine! Hot chocolate with Baileys in it. It’ll cure whatever’s wrong with you. Including verticality.

LizI’m drinking hot chocolate now.  Recipe: put three heaped teaspoons of Cadbury’s Highlights into a mug, and (if, like me, you have a sweet tooth) either a heaped teaspoon of sugar or two artificial sweeteners.  Add boiling water, and stir.  It’s delicious. That’s the best I can do, I’m afraid!!  I have one mug of my hot chocolate (with sweeteners, not sugar) every afternoon, and I love it.

Christina – And mine is hot chocolate too (non-alcoholic), but a slightly different version. Take one teaspoon of cocoa and six teaspoons of white sugar and stir together in a mug. Add eight to ten teaspoons of double cream (or whipped cream if you have some to hand) and stir this in too. (I would recommend tasting at this point, very decadent!) Pour boiling water over this mixture, stir, and add a little bit of cold full milk to make it instantly drinkable!

Juliet – I’ll stick to wine!

And why not? It definitely keeps you warm! We hope you’re all nice and toasty now!?

What’s your favourite hot drink/toddy?  We’d love some more recipes to add to this collection!  And please come back tomorrow if you’d like to see some of our favourite Christmas photos – plus you’ll have a chance to win another Choc Lit title as well!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 7

clxmaswreath Today we would just like to wish you all

a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!

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We hope you have a wonderful day and if, by any chance, Santa should happen to bring you a Kindle or other e-reader, perhaps you’d like to download one of our novels to read over the holidays? Just click on the titles below for the Kindle links or go to http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/ for links to all other types of e-books.

The Importance of Being Emma – Juliet Archer

Starting Over – Sue Moorcroft

Turning the Tide – Christine Stovell

All That Mullarkey – Sue Moorcroftclxmasreddecs1

Trade Winds – Christina Courtenay

The Silver Locket – Margaret James

Please Don’t Stop the Music – Jane Lovering

Want to Know aclxmashenristree Secret? – Sue Moorcroft

The Untied Kingdom – Kate Johnson

The Golden Chain – Margaret James

The Scarlet Kimono – Christina Courtenay

Love & Freedom – Sue Moorcroft

Persuade Me – Juliet Archer

Highland Storms – Christina Courtenay

Star Struck – Jane Lovering

Please come back tomorrow when we’ll be talking about chocolate (another subject close to our hearts :) and giving away one more Choc Lit novel!


Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 6

choclit-logoxmassmallerAt last we come to our favourite topic – the top ten heroes we’d like to find in our Christmas stockings tomorrow! Well, actually, we’ve added a couple of extra ones as (a) there are eleven of us and (b) we couldn’t possibly ask Juliet to choose between the two Mr Darcy’s. We’re pretty sure you won’t object to some bonus ones, are we right?

Without further ado, here they are – enjoy!

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Henriette – My stocking hero for this Christmas has to be the American actor Matthew McConaughey, star of films such as The Wedding Planner, Sahara and A Time to Kill.  I just lurve his heavy Texas drawl and his habit of taking his shirt off.  The guy has a chest to die for.

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Juliet – Definitely a Darcy, in any shape or form! Either of these will do nicely.

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage

Kate – I’ve asked for Richard Armitage for Christmas for three years now and still don’t have him. It’s very disappointing.

James McAvoy

James McAvoy

Margaret – I’d like James McAvoy. I’ll let you have him back soon, Mrs McAvoy, I promise. Of course I’m not keeping my fingers firmly crossed behind my back, what a suspicious mind you have!

Anthony Calf

Anthony Calf

Evonne -  This was a very difficult choice, but in the end I opted for Anthony Calf – one of my many favourite actors. He has a lovely smile.

Colin Farrel

Colin Farrel

SueColin Farrell!

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

ChrisI’d like Harrison Ford, circa 1985, for that amazing scene in the film Witness when he and the heroine Kelly McGillis dance to Sam Cooke’s ‘Wonderful World’. There’s nothing explicit, the hero and heroine barely touch, but the looks they exchange just sizzle with longing. (YouTube link here)

Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck

Linda – Gregory Peck, to add a bit of style and class to my life – he was sublime in Roman Holiday!

David Mitchell

David Mitchell

JaneDavid Mitchell – gorgeous eyes!

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Liz – I give in – I know that someone else will have bagged the gorgeous Richard Armitage, so I shall go for a second choice – Ryan Gosling, after seeing The Ides of March.  You could not take your eyes off him – not even when George Clooney was around, and that’s quite something!

Jared Leto

Jared Leto

Christina – Jared Leto. Sorry to be so predictable, but I really don’t think anyone else even comes close!

So there you have it, our favourite heroes for this year – hope you agreed with our choices? If not, who would you pick? Send us your suggestions and the one we agree with the most will win a copy of Sue Moorcroft’s Love & Freedom, which features a drop-dead gorgeous guy who’d probably beat all of the above if only he was real! (competition ends at midnight on New Year’s Eve).


Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 5

choclit-logoxmassmallerChristmas wouldn’t feel so special without all the extra sparkle we add to our homes each year – the lights, the tinsel and the candles. And whether we’re decorating the tree or the rest of our house for the festive season (or like some people, the entire outside of the house plus the garden!), we all have special decorations we treasure for one reason or another. Here is a selection from us:-

Juliet – When my daughter was born, my mother-in-law gave us a big bauble where we could add her name and the year. (No. 21 on the list of things you can have personalised for Baby!) There was also space to add a second name and year, which we did for our son three Christmases later.

Henriette's Peace Dove

Henriette's Peace Dove

Henriette – My favourite tree decoration is made by capiz shell by craftsmen in the Philippines, and it’s either a Peace Dove or perhaps a symbol of the Holy spirit, I’m not sure.  I love the simple beauty of it and the reminder of what Christmas is truly about.

KateI bought a glittery butterfly for the top of the tree last year. In the Christmas market they had a display tree totally covered with them, in all different colours: it looked like something Tim Burton would have. It was fabulous!

Margaret's big bauble

Margaret's big bauble

Margaret – Christmas isn’t Christmas without a tree covered in as much tinsel and other tasteless trash as it can possibly hold. I’m not a fan of tastefully colour-themed trees – all white, or all silver, or a minimalist few twigs hung with one or two exquisite baubles. I like there to be as much clashing colour as possible, and as for the baubles – as big and brash and bright as possible, please!

EvonneThis year, I coveted some beautiful decorations shaped as birds in the gift shop at the Birmingham Art Gallery.

Sue – A Christmas tree made out of dough and painted green, by one of my children. It’s probably past its “eat by” date, by now …

Jane's bauble (unchewed version)

Jane's bauble (unchewed version)

JaneNow here is where I have a problem. We have mice. (Bear with me here). Every year I swear I’ll find somewhere to keep the decorations where they don’t get chewed, and every year they go back into the same cupboard, and every year (afterwards, obviously) I triumphantly bring out decorations which now resemble doilies or, in the case of the salt-dough ones the children made in playgroup, are just a piece of string with a sad lump of something unidentifiable on the end. So every other year we buy completely new decorations. It doesn’t pay to get too attached to anything in this house. Some of those mice are really big … But if I had any, they’d look like this. Only, due to mice, they’d probably all say ‘Mer Histma’.

Liz – I can’t yet photograph these decorations as we’ve eaten the ones I made in previous years, and I’ve not yet made this year’s decorations.  I don’t make them too early as I fear that I might eat them well before Christmas arrives if I do.  They are a Polish decoration – chocolates which look like snowflakes all over the tree.  I was shown by a Polish friend how to make them.

You take a wrapped chocolate, wrap it in a piece of white tissue, which you’ve cut to size and so that it has a small fringe at each end, then you wrap the tissue around the chocolate, with the fringe at each end.  Tie a piece of cotton in the crease at each end so that the fringe sticks out a little.  It looks like a small white rounded Christmas cracker.  Put all over the tree, they are very effective.

Christina's mini fans

Christina's mini fans

Christina – my favourite tree decorations are five miniature Japanese fans which my mother bought for me when we lived in Tokyo. I love them because they’re so pretty and because they remind me of some of the best times of my life as well as many happy Christmases.

Chris – Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it, but my youngest niece, who’s not known for her craft skills, presented my mum with a lovely figure she’d made for her tree. It was a sad little person with one leg twice as long as the other, gigantic feet and a missing eye. I’m afraid we all took one look at it and collapsed with laughter.

Linda's Fairy

Linda's Fairy

Linda – The fairy on my tree. The little doll was bought – naked – at a Christmas fair, one in a box of about 50 one of the parents had brought into my children’s junior school to raise funds. I say, one but really there are two, and they alternate on top of the tree. My children – then aged eight and five – helped me dress the dolls and would be outraged if I chose something else to top the tree! I have to say they are a testament to the glue I used to stick the tinsel and rick-rack on! And here is model one, on top of this year’s tree.

Which is your favourite Christmas decoration and why? The best comment will win you a copy of Star Struck, Jane Lovering’s latest novel, which is almost pretty enough to hang on your tree! (competition ends at midnight on Christmas Day)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 2

choclit-logoxmassmallerEveryone has their own Christmas traditions, be it stirring the pudding or putting up special decorations, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without them. Today we thought we’d share our favourites with you, so here they are:-

Margaret – My mother and I have always made the Christmas puddings together. I remember being very small – two or three, perhaps – and having to stand on a kitchen stool to stir all the ingredients together. Then I’d close my eyes and make a wish or several. Last month we made our Christmas puddings in the same old yellow china mixing bowl, following the same old recipe first printed during WW2, and stirring them with the same old wooden spoon. Only nowadays Mum sits down and I do all the stirring. I’m the one in charge. So I slosh some brandy in, as well.

EvonneA childhood tradition was a trip to the pantomime, back in the day, when the Principal Boy was played by a girl and the costume was a cross between a musketeer and a chorus girl.  You can forget poor downtrodden Cinderella, I wanted to be Prince Charming, or his side kick Dandini – cavalier satin and lace, endless legs, killer heels and a hat with a plume!

Sue – Parties? Do they count? I don’t (necessarily) mean the type where intrepid partygoers get falling-over-drunk under the partner of the moment, but more the Christmas celebrations with workmates past and present, fellow club members etc. It’s just nice to get to know people out of their usual environment or catch up on old buddies.

KateMy favourite Christmas tradition is probably my Christmas Eve lunch and cinema date with my best friend. We’ve been doing it a few years now, and it’s a lovely start to Christmas proper.

Liz's unusual stocking

Liz's unusual stocking

Chris – Making up Christmas stockings for my daughters. I did it right up until they left home, and still do if they’re staying with me for Christmas. They don’t make quite as much noise as when they were little (or wake up so early, thank goodness) but it’s still good fun.

LizOld tradition: We never open any presents until after the Christmas lunch has been cleared away. It means that the cook (usually me) gets to join in with all of the unwrapping of gifts when it takes place, without keeping an eye on the clock.

New tradition: We have expanded in number and we now do a Secret Santa, with a fixed price limit.  It’s great fun and we never want to return to the situation where everyone buys a present for everyone else.

LindaNow, listen up – I’m not a cheapskate. This is a bit of fun – honestly. Every year – and I mean the whole 365 days of it – I think about/keep an eye out for the ‘Freebie Box’ my family exchanges with my brother’s family. Think BOGOFs. Think 3-4-2. Think those books and make-up and bags and other gift carrots they stick to the front of magazines to get the punters to part with their cash. Think mail-order ‘free gifts’ – a scarf if you buy a jumper for example. Anything non-perishable is up for grabs. Think wine (often a couple of cases of it over the year!) and toiletries and nearer Christmas chocolates and biscuits with long sell-by dates – it all goes in the ‘Freebie Box’. We get back as much as we give and it’s huge fun doing it. Everything likes something for nothing, don’t they? But did I say box? Some years we need a tea crate!

Henriette – My favourite tradition is when we light the Advent candles on the first Sunday in Advent (like Christina said yesterday). Unlike Christina’s Swedish version, the candles in a Danish one are placed in a wreath or a circular candle holder, and we light one candle each time but only burn it a quarter of the way down. On the last Sunday all four candles will be lit in a staggered pattern.

swedensnow3smallJaneWe have always gone for a Christmas Day walk. As a child, I used to love the fact that the whole family (even the laziest members) got out of their chairs and went somewhere picturesque, and I’ve kept up the tradition over the years. We do have to prod some of the children, particularly anyone who receives an X Box game, but they eventually give in and we head out onto the moors in search of Christmas spirit, an appetite for dinner and hypothermia.

Christina – Hmm, there are so many to choose from, so I can’t just pick one, but making saffron buns, decorating the tree and watching Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” on the evening of the 23rd December are some of my favourites! (not all at once obviously)

JulietThe stockings under the tree. They date from the children being young, and each one belongs to a different member of the family. It’s always a struggle to find presents that fit inside the narrower stockings – but very worthwhile on Christmas morning.

So do you have any traditions that make Christmas special for you? Please share them with us! And come back tomorrow if you’d like to find out about our favourite gifts …

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 1

choclit-logoxmassmallerChristmas is almost here, so for the next twelve days we thought we’d have our own special Christmas celebrations here in the Choc Lit Authors’ Corner. We’ll be discussing everything to do with the festive season (our Top Ten heroes for this year being our favourite topic of course) so please come back every day until New Year’s Eve to see what we’re up to. And don’t miss the special giveaways – every second day you’ll have the chance to win something to add to your own stocking, starting today with Chris Stovell’s lovely novel Turning the Tide!

To get you all into the Christmas spirit, here’s what our authors had to say when asked “When does Christmas really start for you?”

JaneI’d like to say that it starts in June, when I buy my first Christmas presents, but the reality doesn’t really kick in until the shops close on Christmas Eve and I’m forcibly shunted out onto the pavement surrounded by plastic carriers, but minus the three bags of sprouts I went in for!

Kate – December. Well, I try to make it December. And then I panic I’ve run out of time. I didn’t buy my first presents until the last week of November, and I’ll probably be halfway through December when I put the tree up. Actually… That’s when it starts for me. When I put the tree up!

Margaret – When Mum and I make the puddings – in November, on Stir Up Sunday, which was 20 November this year (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stir-up_Sunday )

clxmasadvent1Christina – For me, it always starts on the first day of Advent (fourth Sunday before Christmas) because that’s when I get my Advent candles out and light the first one. This is a Swedish tradition and a lovely way to begin the countdown to Christmas I think!

EvonneIdeally when I’m boarding the train, boat or plane that will take me somewhere sunny until it is all over. But as that is not going to happen, the concert of nine lessons and carols on the radio on Xmas Eve.

Chris – When I start playing Christmas music. ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born’, from Handel’s Messiah and ‘Gloria in Excelsis’ from Vivaldi’s Gloria are synonymous with Christmas morning. Then I like to wheel out the cheesy old crooners like Dean Martin singing, ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow’!

Linda complete with Christmas tree earrings and this year's cache of prezzies

Linda complete with Christmas tree earrings and this year's cache of prezzies

LindaThe gun to the side of my head to seriously get into Christmas starts when my dear friend, Cee, rings up suggesting possible dates for us to meet for a pre-Christmas lunch and exchange of prezzies. This call usually comes in early December and means I have to think about presents, go out and buy them, wrap them. And that’s when the magic of Christmas starts for me – the thinking of that one person for whom I’m buying or wrapping the present at the time I’m doing it. Without Cee and that early call I’d be rushing around like a headless chicken on Christmas Eve. Cee lives in North Devon and I live in the south of the county so we meet half way for lunch. I always wear my Christmas tree earrings and Cee wears enough flashing brooches to illuminate Wookey Hole – huge fun and it gets us in the spirit, especially if the weather is grotty on our journeys to the meet-up.

Liz – It starts the moment that I finish writing my Christmas cards – that’s a real bore, and the second it’s done – which this year was on 15th December – I treat myself to some chocolate and let Christmas begin.

JulietGetting the Christmas tree. We go to a local farm which is run by friends, so it’s one of the least stressful Christmas shopping trips! Normally it’s the weekend before Christmas, but this year we were early – so Christmas will probably seem longer than usual!

Henriette – In my home we celebrate Christmas on the 24th, and for me it truly starts in the afternoon on that day when we bring in the tree and decorate it, accompanied by my favourite piece of Christmas music, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. That sets the festive mood before dinner.

Well, it seems Christmas has well and truly started now for all of us – how about you? When do you think it all begins? Do you agree with any of us? The best comment will win you a copy of Turning the Tide by Chris Stovell (competition ends midnight on Christmas Day).

Please come back tomorrow and we’ll tell you about our favourite Christmas traditions (some more “traditional” than others)!