Category Archives: Holidays

Merry Christmas!

I’m well behind in my Christmas preparations, shopping, cooking, decorating. The only thing I believe I managed to get done on time was my cards written and mailed to the folks on this side of the pond as well as the other. And since the opposite side has an earlier mailing deadline, fingers crossed everyone received theirs in time for tomorrow.

During the ice storm this past weekend, I finally got around to putting my tree up and decorating it. I started Saturday and finished on Sunday.

christmas tree (2013)I love the fur-trimmed, red outfit my angel wears. It reminds me of the gowns in the movie White Christmas. And no Christmas would be complete without my nutcrackers putting in an appearance.

nutcrackers in front of tree (2013)This isn’t all of them either. I have two 42″ ones that I didn’t get out this year. And I believe there’s another 12″ one tucked away somewhere, too. You’d almost get the impression I like nutcrackers. I even think I have enough nutcracker ornaments that I could do my tree in nothing but them. As it is there are some of them that didn’t make it to the tree. I have other ones that need to go up – the pairs of hockey skates, figure skates, the photo frame ornaments, Santa ornaments, train, rocking horse, gingerbread men… the only one that doesn’t go on the tree is the one that used to be on my grandmother’s every year that she gave to me when I was a little girl. I used to put it on the tree (usually up high where a wagging tail wouldn’t knock it off) but after getting more old-fashioned looking ornaments, I decided I liked the look better than with the glass baubles.

I can’t believe that today is Christmas Eve. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. We’re going to have a  white Christmas this year, albeit with a crust of ice on top of the snow. Most of our trees have half an inch of ice on them and two of my evergreens are bent way over.

ice crusted treesThe deciduous trees look beautiful coated in ice when they’re backlit by the sun. And at minus double-digit temperatures, they’ll stay that way for quite some time. At least the winds haven’t picked up – like predicted – so we shouldn’t have to worry about limbs coming down.

The poor evergreens, on the other hand, while they still look beautiful, they’ve lost their fullness – their branches weighted down under a layer of snow and ice. And in some cases, the entire tree is bent over from the weight like my juniper that stands at the back corner of our garage.

bent juniper tree Dec 24 2013Wherever you are this holiday season, I wish you warmth and safety. If you’re without power as many people in parts of Ontario and the US are from this storm, I hope you get it restored quickly.

All the best to you and your families for the remainder of 2013 and for the years to come.

From all of us here at The House of King,


Happy St Andrew’s Day!

It’s St Andrew’s Day!

To all my Scottish friends and family whether you’re in the Auld Country or scattered to the wind around the world, I wish you a happy St Andrew’s Day!

How do you celebrate? Will you eat haggis? Will you go to The Scotsman’s Haggis Hunt and see if you can “bag” a few there? Have a dram or two? Or just spend a quiet evening in front of the fire?

Now, I’m turning things over to my Scottish-born author friend, Ali Bacon, to share what St Andrews Day means to her.

Take it away, Ali…

What St. Andrew did for me…

Well actually, I don’t know that St. Andrew and I have had much of a connection over the years. We did call our second son Andrew, but more because I thought it was a good ‘match’ for our firstborn Stephen (both names of Greek derivation) than for patriotic reasons. And even in my Scottish childhood, St Andrew was far less of a cultural icon than Rabbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott or Billy Connolly!

But hang on a minute. I did spend four of the best years of my life at St. Andrews University (600 years old this year) where I also met my husband to be – I think that means quite a lot!

castle(Ed note… I’ve been to both St Andrews Castle and Cathedral and remember this dramatic view)

kkdaySt. Andrews these days is best known for being the place where the Prince William met his princess and in the year they married (I knew we were starting a trend!) I started a blog of my own reminiscences of a place (town and university) which is totally unique in so many ways. I only add to it from time to time but if you are interested it’s here.

Surprisingly I don’t remember St. Andrew was celebrated much in the university that bears his name, but there were all kinds of other traditions, some, like Raisin Monday (Ed note… I saw those pics on BBC and it looked like everyone had great fun getting covered in foam) madder than others. Kate Kennedy Day, named after an apocryphal Bishop’s daughter, is a slightly more serious affair with a procession of historical figures which takes place in the spring. I’m glad to say St. Andrew does get to appear, so here he is in his 1970s guise.

Of course it’s many a year since I was in St. Andrews but the town did creep into my novel A Kettle of Fish which is set in my home county of Fife (I just couldn’t leave it out) and in a weird way it has turned up in the novel I’m writing now which is about (amongst other things) the development of photography in Victorian times. (Ed note… I love the Victorian times and use that era extensively in my writing) What does that have to do with St Andrews?  You’re going to have to wait to find out, but I think you’ll be surprised.

Thanks Melanie for having me here while my own website software is having a meltdown – and I hope I can repay the favour some time soon. (Ed note… having issues on this side of the pond with my stats/publicity plugin so I can understand your angst)

About Ali:

Ali BaconAli Bacon was born in Dunfermline in Scotland and graduated from St Andrews University. She now lives near Bristol. Her writing has been published in Scribble, The Yellow Room and a number of online magazines as well as the Unchained Anthology.

A Kettle of FishA Kettle of Fish (Scottish Contemporary Fiction) and are both available in paperback and e-book formats via major online retailers.

A Kettle of Fish on Facebook!/AKettleOfFish

Website and blog:

Unchained Anthology

Twitter @AliBacon



I don’t have time to be sick…

This was an Easter weekend that won’t soon be forgotten. Being sick at the best of times stinks. Being sick on a holiday is even worse. So while other families were sitting down to turkey or ham and trimmings, the menfolk here had to make due with whatever was in the freezer since I was down for the count. Over the entire weekend, I had about half a bowl of chicken soup (and not all in one sitting) and a slice of toast and couldn’t even eat all of it.

When I was growing up, tea and toast were my go-to food and drink when I wasn’t feeling well. How about you? Do you have a favourite food or drink when you’re sick?


Robbie Burns Day

burns portrait
Scots around the world celebrate the country’s national bard today. Celebrations include a feast of soup (cock-a-leekie – fancy name for chicken and leek), haggis, mashed potatoes, turnips and trifle. Of course most is washed down with Scotland’s national drink – whisky!

For those who take part in The Scotsman’s annual Haggis Hunt, the season ends today (sniff…)

The Haggis

Today, I’m celebrating Robbie Burns Day with Scottish author, Ali Bacon, over at her blog.

It promises to be great fun so drop over and celebrate with us.

Suggested tweets:

#burnsnight with @alibacon and @RobertsoKing Traditional Burns celebration in the virtual world. Haste ye back!

Traditional Burns celebration in the virtual world with @alibacon & @RobertsoKing Haste ye back! #burnsnight #lahe

The stockings were hung…

fireplace with candles… by the chimney with care…

waiting for the arrival of the man with flair

not to mention his long, curly white hair

champagne santaShh… he’s arrived, sat on a barrel as his chair

Sneak in and see what what he has, if your dare

But remember, t’is the season to share…

And now my poem is over (thankfully, you say)

But before I bid my final adieu, if I may…

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Things are starting to look festive at the House of King…

Dare I say, “It’s beginning to look like Christmas…?” Well here at the House of King it is. It took two  days but the tree is up and in its full glory.

This was as far as I got yesterday. The tree assembled, the branches fluffed and the angel on top. I felt like a walking pincushion by the time I got this far. My arms were scratched and pricked by the “needles”. Whoever said artificial trees were soft and don’t shed were telling a huge untruth.

IMG-20121212-00074However, after reading Living Doll by Famous Five Plus author Serena Fairfax, I’m not so sure I want her on top of my tree. If you read the story, I think you might agree.

Today after getting some more shopping done, including warm white, mini LED lights, the tree took on its full beauty. Things are taking shape – burgundy ribbon and lights (200 of them).

IMG-20121213-00076Add some ornaments… including loads of nutcrackers. What can I say, I love them. I’d do the entire tree in nothing but nutcracker ornaments IMG-20121213-00077And still some more…

IMG-20121213-00078And finally one special one… IMG-20121213-00082Hmm… it looks like my book cover there in the middle of the picture. Made that this afternoon and it has pride of place on the front of my tree.


Yesterday, the local writers’ group I belong to held their annual Christmas tea, hosted by one of the members in her lovely home on the river.

Every month, as a group, we write something to the same prompt, which has to be exactly 250 words in length. The theme for Sunday was about Christmas – one particular one that stood out or just memories. I went with the memories and this is the piece I wrote (dedicated to my grandmother and my father).


For Minnie (1892-1971) and my Dad (1913-1969)

As a child, spending time at my Grandmother Minnie’s farmhouse east of Athens was something I always looked forward to. Christmas Day was even more special because all the aunts, uncles and cousins were there, too. No matter how horrendous the weather or long the journey, everyone always made it. Without fail, the Petawawa faction was always last to arrive, leaving the rest of us chomping at the bit so that Christmas could begin!

You have to picture the scene – nine kids, six parents, Minnie and my Uncle Winston cheek and jowl in the two rooms downstairs and without benefit of indoor plumbing until 1970. Dishes were washed and rinsed in two large galvanized washtubs that were hauled up onto the table and filled with hot water from the kettle on the woodstove and cold from the buckets on the counter brought over from the well on the other side of the road. And if you had to go, it was either make the long trek to the outhouse or use the thunder-mug upstairs in Minnie’s room or the one on the stairs.

My love of reading began during those Christmases at Minnie’s. My cousin from Toronto gave me a book every year from the time I turned ten.

1970 was the last year for family Christmas at Minnie’s and the first with indoor plumbing. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but to us it was. With how commercial the holidays have become, I long for those simpler times.


I still have most of those books (I think I only ever parted with one – a book of fairy tales).

What are some of your favourite Christmas memories?

A Special St Andrews Celebration!

For those of you who don’t know, St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. He is celebrated on this day with feasts and ceilidhs and good friends coming together. Something else that you might not know about November 30th, is that it’s the opening day of haggis hunting season but we’ll save that for another St Andrews Day post.

But, there something even better than that happening at Celtic Connexions today. I’m thrilled to welcome, Dumfermline, Scotland native, author Ali Bacon to my blog today. Oh, and look, she’s got a paperback copy of her novel – A Kettle of Fish with her.

You’re looking very “Scottish” today, Ali, all decked out in your tartan. I take it you’re ready for a good old-fashioned ceilidh – Canadian style. Here come sit by the fire, take the chill off (escorts my esteemed guest to one of the tartan wing-back chairs facing the crackling fire). I’ll summon my manservant, Donald, to bring us some refreshments. Would you care for a wee dram? Perhaps Glengoyne – Scotland’s only un-peated single malt? (rings bell and gives manservant instructions)

I think you’ll like what I have in store for you at the ceilidh tonight, Ali. I tried to get the Old Blind Dogs but they weren’t available. However, I did manage to secure their tribute band, the Senior, Sight Challenged Hounds.
(swish of swinging door as the manservant returns with a tray carrying a decanter of whisky, two glasses and water). “Your whisky, my lady,” he says as he places it on the table.

“Thank you.”

As the manservant straightens to leave, I cry out… “Donald, where’s your trousers?” because so unlike him, he’s wearing a kilt!

Overcome by the shock of seeing him dressed in that fashion, it takes me a moment to regain my composure. (fans self with copy of Leopard Magazine).

Well, while we wait for our meal to be ready, Ali, let’s chat about your novel. I’m really interested to find out more about it and your creative process. I know A Kettle of Fish is a coming of age story. Is it YA or YA Crossover or another genre?

Believe it or not, I wrote the novel as adult fiction and it was only during the writing that Ailsa – my eighteen-year-old heroine – took over the central role. To be honest I think it still belongs in the adult genre and none of my readers (so far!) has quarrelled with that, but I think books about young people will often attract a young readership and so if pushed (go on, push me!)  I suppose I’d say it’s adult with YA crossover – but maybe not for under 15s in view of some of the steamier scenes.

What made you choose that title? Or did the publisher suggest it?

Previous titles were ‘The Water’s Edge’ – too bland, I thought, and ‘The Treatment Room’ – too grisly!  When I chose ‘A Kettle of fish’ I was looking for something a bit quirky that reflected the themes of the sea and fishing. I was very pleased when the publisher wanted to  keep it.

Your cover is really intriguing with the foot dipping in the water. Did you have any input into its design?

Oh yes! Before being taken on by Thornberry I was about to self-publish and had already asked my daughter – a graphic designer who is now working freelance – if she would take on the design. Thornberry allowed us to carry on with this although they of course had the final say. After some discussion I hit on the rock pool as the image to go with because I wanted to convey something ‘lurking’ in the waters of Ailsa’s past. Ellie took it from there – it was fun to be involved and to see how the design process works. Luckily we all agreed on the end result!

Your novel is set in Fife and Edinburgh. Did you have to do a lot of research to get the two areas right?

Well the book is set in Dunfermline, where I grew up but that was (ahem) a while ago. My memories were refreshed by a trip north a few years ago, but I did pick my sister’s brains quite a lot and spent lots of time with Google maps. Edinburghwas a bit easier as the city centre is so well known, but another trip in 2011 was a real help in remembering the feel of the place.

I have to ask this one… how did you come up with the names for your characters? I loved the name Tom Robertson. I had an Uncle Tommie Robertson (my dad’s oldest brother).

Funny you should ask! I have to admit I put names in my first drafts pretty much by pulling them out of the air and they usually stick. I think I choose the Christian name first and that is pure instinct. The last name is added afterwards just to sound right and to go with the picture I have of the character in my head. I have just discovered there was a real Scottish artist called Tom Robertson although long before ‘my’ Tom’s time, and my sister says she remembers a teacher of this name too, but I have no conscious memory of him. Who knows, maybe I bumped into your uncle somewhere too!

What’s your next project? Do you have another novel started?

Oh dear, I do and I don’t! While writing Kettle I stumbled on a (real) Scottish Victorian artist with an amazing life story and connections to Dunfermline. Since then I’ve been working on a historical novel inspired by him, but there’s a lot of research involved and at the moment doing things like visiting Canada for St. Andrews night is so much more fun. Fingers crossed for progress in the New Year!  

The manservant returns and tells us that dinner is served… so we pick up our drinks  and at the first skirl of the pipes, wait for him to enter the room and we get piped in to the formal dining room (I wish I had one of them, too) to the strains of The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie for a feast of Cullen Skink, Roast Lamb and Potatoes, served with a rose wine (red is too much and white is too light so I’m splitting the difference) and fall fruit with vanilla rice pudding for our sweet afterwards.

Wow this is my kind of menu, especially the rice pud! Best not eat too much though or I won’t be up to the dancing. There is dancing, isn’t there?

Oh, plenty of dancing. The band will be arriving shortly and will set up in the ballroom. The rest of the guests will be along shortly after that.

And don’t forget you are invited back to for a return visit on Burns Night 2013 where we’ll be addressing the haggis as well as the world.

Strip the Willow, anyone?

A Kettle of Fish is a rollercoaster family drama set inScotland and published by Thornberry Publishing

Buy it from
Amazon UK (Kindle and paperback)

Amazon USA(Kindle only)

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Christmas Open House

November 29 is the date for this years DBIA Christmas Open House in downtown Brockville. Stores will be staying open until 10:00 p.m. to offer a selection of Christmas shopping opportunities for that special gift for the hard to buy for person on your list.

There will be carolers to listen to, horse and wagon rides and tasty goodies to sample, too.

Participating business include Leeds County Books, 73 King Street West, Brockville,  on Thursday evening where I’ll be signing copies of my novel, A Shadow in the Past.

You’ll find books by local authors, international best-sellers, and in every genre from childrens’ picture books to dark, gritty crime novels, to non-fiction titles.

My novel’s cover created by Aidana WillowRaven

I’ll be in the store from 7:00-9:00 p.m. signing copies of my debut novel – A Shadow in the Past.

So come on out on Thursday night. Support the downtown merchants.

Give the gift of reading this Christmas… to the avid reader on your list, or get that reluctant reader hooked.