Christmas Fun.

I’ve been trawling the net looking for fun things to do with Christmas… Here’s a few!

Fancy checking out how close Father Christmas is to you at the moment? Try the Santa Tracker over at Norad! http://www.noradsanta.org/en/track3d.html

Want to say “Happy Christmas” in a different way? http://www.santas.net/howmerrychristmasissaid.htm will help you with that!

And here’s a traditional Christmas song… in the UK anyway!

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Need to send out a last minute Christmas card? Well emailing is your only hope… http://www.123greetings.com/events/christmas/merry_christmas/ do some brilliant free ones!

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Here’s a wonderful Christmas story for you to enjoy…

WINTERLESSON
Terry Kroenung

“Is he going to be all right?” the wan woman asked, biting her lower lip.

Joshua Paxon shrugged and kept working on his patient’s bleeding
head. “I don’t know,” he sighed. With a hand cracked from cold and hard
work he pulled the blanket up to the sleeping stranger’s bearded chin.

His wife’s brow furrowed. “Are you still going out?”

“Have to.” Paxon started pulling on his insulated boots. “Did you find any
ID on him?”

She still held the old man’s scorched parka. “No. Not a thing in
his pockets except a piece of a cookie. Oatmeal raisin.” Shuffling her
nervous feet, she returned to her earlier plea. “Listen, why don’t you
wait until morning? It’s Christmas Eve, for heaven’s sake.”

“I’m sorry, hon’. But if that was a plane crash we heard, there may be
more people hurt. Maybe some who couldn’t crawl away like he did.”

Mrs. Paxon touched her husband’s worn face and smiled a little. “You’re
right,” she whispered. “Let’s go.”

He looked up, less surprised than she probably expected. “Riding
shotgun, hmm? Who’ll watch our patient?”

Squirming into her blaze-orange jumpsuit, Mary told him, “He’ll be out for
hours. Others may freeze to death by then. Besides, those big
fumble-fingers of yours won’t be much good if we have to do some
serious first aid.”

Josh stood and gave her a peck on her thin warm lips. “If this turns out
to be nothing, I’ll bring you back here and show you who has
fumble-fingers.”

A corner of her mouth turned up. “Oh, so we’re playing doctor either way,
huh?”

They were bundled up now. Josh had their big medical kit in one hand
and a Maglite in the other. His wife grabbed blankets and an Army
surplus five-gallon water can.

“Well, here we go,” Paxon announced, heading for the cabin door.

“Wait, Joshua. You must take me with you.”

Paxon turned back to ask Mary what she was talking about. Then it
struck him that it hadn’t been her voice he’d heard.

Wobbly but upright, the pudgy old man struggled into the burnt and
torn parka. At the same time he pushed wide feet into what remained
of his old black boots. Despite the head injury, his blue eyes glittered
with a clear fire. When he moved, tiny pale flames seemed to crawl
through his white hair and beard.

“Mister,” cried the alarmed Paxon,” you really shouldn’t be out of bed.”

The benign stranger stared back at him. “No, we must hurry to the
crash site,” he insisted, pleasant but firm. His voice sounded like
dozens of crystal bells set to ancient music.

Josh’s will melted and flowed out of him like spring snow from a roof.
He found himself following the odd little fellow outside as if he were
being led on an invisible leash. Mary appeared at his elbow, a bemused
smile on her face usually seen on small children at magic shows. A
moment later they sledded north through the Alaskan night behind
the couple’s eight yelping dogs.

Paxon kept trying to ask the stranger questions, such as how he’d
known his name when he’d been unconscious ever since they’d found
him. But every time the opened his mouth, the desire to know
left him, as if the question itself were being gently nudged
from his mind. Mary, tucked into the sled behind their visitor, merely kept
gazing at him as if she were seeing a shooting star.

Twenty minutes of peaceful sledding ended as cruel lights and a harsh command to
identify themselves ripped apart the darkness. The dogs snarled and snapped at a pair of huge helmeted figures, which blocked their way, brandishing assault weapons. Both soldiers seemed very young and clearly scared. Beyond the men Paxon could make out some sort of commotion of men and metal.

From under the rugs in the sled came that marvelous sound of
melodious bells. “We’re friends, son. We have business here. Stand
aside, please.”

Astonishingly, both sentries moved away and waved them forward.
Paxon urged the dogs along again. No one challenged them again as
they glided into a substantial clearing surrounded by burnt and
broken trees. Stopping the rig at an improvised rope barrier, Paxon
and Mary stared in horrified amazement.

Several olive-green trucks squatted at the edge of the open space,
banks of lights in their beds pouring harsh illumination into the
cordoned-off area. Behind them sat half a dozen helicopters-mostly
Blackhawks, but also a pair of fully-armed Apaches. At least a hundred
shivering infantrymen, their breaths clouding the icy air, crowded against
the ropes. They murmured, shook their heads, and pointed at the clearing. Inside the barrier a clump of dazed officers gathered around a piece of still-steaming wreckage. Although it was shattered, and scarred by fire, Paxon could still recognize it. He felt
Mary’s sharp intake of breath beside him as she also recognized it.

A large red sleigh.

Scattered all around it were countless toys: dump trucks, dolls,
chemistry sets, football helmets, books…all the trappings of childhood
dreams. It saddened Joshua, of course, to see so much potential
happiness lying in ruins. But they were merely things. Replaceable
things. Their loss wasn’t what horrified him about the awful scene.

No, it was the eight dead reindeer that made his flesh crawl.

They lay in twisted, broken lumps, silver antlers shattered from when
they had ploughed into the frozen ground. The once-glittering golden
harness now dulled by snow and mud… and blood. No glee rang
from the grim silent bells now. Paxon shook his head in disbelief. He
blinked as he tried to absorb the scene. While Mary’s trembling arm slid
into his and gripped him tightly, he tried to remember the names of the
reindeer. When he’d got as far as ‘Cupid’ he dared to look over at
the old man he’d rescued.

Tears were frozen on both their cheeks.

Stepping across the ropes, the stranger limped toward the corpse of the
sleigh. No one moved to stop him. He halted near one of the dead deer
and stroked its cold, still flank. Now he looked very old, indeed–as
ancient as all fear and grief. With a sigh he stooped, stiff and sore, to thrust his
hand at what looked like a bloodstain in the snow. When he brought his
trembling hand back up, Josh felt Mary clutch him with a tiny gasp.

A red velvet cap, trimmed in ermine.

A wail of frustrated rage rose from the clearing, a keening cry that drove
Paxon to his knees in empathy. Mary fell with him. The American
soldiers seemed to be frozen to the ground where they stood,
powerless to do anything but watch. Their leaders turned toward the
tortured sound but made no other move.

To Joshua they all looked ashamed…the same feeling that choked him.
Slowly the snow-haired man turned a complete circle, meeting the eyes
of every one of them…at least, those who weren’t staring at their boots.
No sound could be heard but the crumping of his boots in the snow.

He glared at the officers now, the wound on his head livid. It seemed
as if he dared them to try to explain away their crime. No one
seemed up to the challenge. The bulk of the huddle eventually turned
their eyes to gaze toward one man in particular. The one with the black
stars on his helmet.

“We…We thought it was…an incoming missile.” His whisper felt weak,
sounding like a dead leaf brushing ahead of a breeze.
“That was its radar signature.” The general managed to meet the old
man’s cold stare for a quivering instant. “We had to shoot it down.” Then
his eyes fell to the bloody snow.

A snort of contempt greeted this. The frozen tears shattered from his
cheeks as the stranger cried, “When will you learn?!” He received only
ashamed silence in answer. “Tell me! Is this going to go on forever, this
madness?” His voice broke a little. “Have you learned nothing from me
at all?”

Shaking his head, he turned away from them with a growl of disgust. He
held his hands out. All the trembling that had been there before had gone.
Crystalline magic leapt from them and swirled round the clearing in a
blue-white rush. Paxon and Mary squinted at the overwhelming lovely
light. The sound felt like a billion children smiling. Josh
smelled brownies baking. He turned away from the agonizing goodness
to look at his wife. Mary still stared at their former patient. In her
wide eyes he saw an enchanted three year-old. It had his face.

With a sound of sadness leaving a sickroom the magic returned to the
old man. Paxon turned back toward him, blinking. He caught his breath.
The lights in the trucks had been blown out, but he could still see
everything in the clearing as if it were noon. The sleigh stood whole and
full of toys once more, proud lively reindeer dancing, impatient in their
glittering harness. Antlers caught the moonlight like gemstones in
a chandelier. Their master’s broad forehead shined, clear and
unwounded. His parka was a shining new crimson and his boots
gleamed as if waxed. He hopped nimbly onto the sleigh and grabbed
the reins.

“I don’t bring you toys, my children,” he said in a clear young voice. “I
bring you love.” He smiled, but with sad eyes. “May you someday learn to accept the
gift.”

The sleigh rose slowly and silently from the ground. Mary’s hand slid
into Joshua’s. She held a warm oatmeal raisin cookie out to him. Her
husband raised an eyebrow, but she just smiled and shrugged.
Nickolas winked at them, then let out a laugh that they felt, oven-warm,
on their chilled faces. The reindeer shook their heads and pulled him
aloft. Long after they were out of sight, Joshua and Mary could still feel
those harness bells laughing.

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Christmas is for the children really, and I’ve discovered that it’s only by acting like a child (no, I don’t mean being selfish and having temper tantrums)  when you are an adult that you regain the fun of Christmas.

I’ve concentrated on making this christmas fun for my kids – we’ve watched Christmas Movies like Muppets Christmas Carol and The Grinch, we’ve been to Carol Concerts and Pantomimes… The EAS Elves that FC sends out to check on the houses on the 23rd Dec left them some chocolate coins for being good and we’re currently tracking  Mr. FC across the world using the NORAD Santa Tracker.

Suddenly I’m enjoying Christmas again and smiling, feeling happy about the season – a few days ago I was very depressed about it and didn’t want the holiday to happen – now, I’m happy.

*smiles*

PT is frankly bouncing off the walls in her excitement. NOS is trying to look all grown up about it, but you can see the little boy inside that is trying to get out! TOH is avoiding Christmas – I know he tries hard to not let his Mother’s absence affect him, but he never does a good job of it at Christmas Time.  He’ll brighten up tomorrow – especially when the kids are opening their presents!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas with their Friends and Family!

RFL Training Week One

Theoretically I should have started my Race For Life Training this week. I’d added the date to my phone and set up an alert. I wrote ‘RFL Training Start’  in red on my wall chart and in my diaries…

This is theTraining Route I had decided on –

So. What have I done so far?

Um…

I had a brisk 20m walk down to the village school last night. That’s approx. 1/3 of my training route…  roughly 2k. I was so puffed out by the time I got to the school, that it took me a good five minutes to recover!

Hmm… I think this is going to take a while. My aim you see, is to run the 5k Race For Life next year.  Sadly, I’ve spent the last year or so mostly sat on my butt at the PC with the odd gentle walk or bike ride into the village and back.

I have all sorts of Wii based fitness games (Wii Fit, Zumba Fitness, EA Sports…), I have Yoga DVD’s, a PIlates DVD, Aerobics DVD’s, as well as an Abtech, hand weights, a gymball, a mini trampoline, a mountain bike and some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain a stones throw away.  I usually find that I’ll do one session with something  that I have and then life gets in the way!

Well, no more.

I shall be blogging weekly about my training efforts and I’m going to review each of my Training Equipment / Devices for effectiveness in the Webzine, so that should give me a motivation boost – especially as I need to use them for a decent amount of time to gauge the effectiveness of such Home Gym Equipment.

What’s up first… Well the Zumba Fitness game is the latest addition (Zumba sounds like so much fun!) to my Home Gym Collection, so we’ll go with that first!

Everyone has been raving on about the classes and I don’t have the spare cash to go at the moment (this was a present), so this should be the next best thing…

I’ll tell you how I get on!

>Christmas Present Book List – Part Two…

>Time for the next set of books on my Father Christmas list… oops, I mean my recommendations for your gift buying…


looks around to see if anyone has noticed…

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Poking a gentle stick in the eye of traditional fantasy, “The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire” by Raven Dane, is a hilarious romp around the stereotypes.

Morven, the Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire, is the on duty seer.  She’s been on duty since Angharad, the Extremely Knowledgeable Unless it was Questions about the Weather, retired from the trade to go and live with her sister.  Then the feast of St. Epiligia, patron saint of pointless journeys and voles dawns and Morven finds herself inundated with pilgrims.  Demonica, daughter of the ruler of distant Darkness and Despair, is bored and looking to cause some hellish Havoc. Can Morven assemble a team to stop her?

“The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire” is one of the funniest books I have read recently. Its gentle satiric humour and stunning writing remind me of Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett. Suitable for adults and older teenagers, this is one book that is on my Christmas wish list… um, I mean, my highly recommended gift choice list…


Available in Print from Endaxi Press

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Do you like Dragons? There have been plenty of films and books about dragons recently (How to Train your Dragon immediately pops into mind) but none of them are quite like “Dragon Academy” by Diane Nelson.
The last greywings on the planet have been sent to New Jersey, along with Nick in an effort to conserve them. Nick has to contend with the other trainers Keith and Maxie as well as the female students of his aunt and uncle’s riding academy, not to mention the overwhelming egos of the dragons themselves. Nikita and Michael are not going to make things easy.
Diane has a smooth writing style that blends fantasy and reality into a believable story. By the end of Chapter One, you really do believe that dragons exist and are flying around the countryside.  Dialogue, descriptions, and humour all bound into the story making it highly entertaining, funny and action packed.
“Dragon Academy” would make a great film. It would also make a wonderful present for anyone who likes Harry Potter or Eragon… like me… Did I say that out loud?




Available in Digital Format at ireadiwrite Publishing and Amazon. Soon to be available in Print


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Matty and the Computer Crooks by Annabelle Page is a wonderfully fun book that makes the reader feel that you are really there with Matty and his friends, as they work their way through the adventure that ensues after Matty overhears two crooks discussing how to steal the computer’s from Matty’s school.

Aimed at children from the ages of seven and up, Annabelle’s writing style doesn’t talk down to kids, but “Matty and the Computer Crooks” is easy to read and highly enjoyable. A perfect present to encourage your younger gift receivers to read!
Available in Print from Endaxi Press
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Well, that’s the end of part two… part three will be around later I should imagine… Toodles!