Friday, 21 December 2012

Smoking Bishop and Christmas Cards

“A merry Christmas, Bob! Said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken…I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!…” says the reformed Scrooge to Bob Cratchit at the end of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but did you ever wonder what Smoking Bishop was?

It's a warm mulled wine and port drink, sometimes known simply as 'Bishop', that was especially popular in Victorian times.  It's exact origins are obscure - Jonathan Swift mentions it in a poem in the late 1600s - but the name seems to have arisen from when church dignitaries were served spiced wine during visits, from the shape of the traditional punch bowl it was served in, shaped like a Bishop's Mitre, or possibly even the colour of a Bishop's robes.

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit sharing a glass of Smoking Bishop
There are several variations on the theme:

Smoking Archbisop - made with claret
Smoking Beadle - made with ginger wine and raisins
Smoking Cardinal - made with Champagne
Smoking Pope - made with burgundy

Glasses Of Smoking Bishop

Here's an original 1836 recipe from 'Tales of the Table, Kitchen, and Larder’, By Dick Humelbergius Secundus:


Among the ” Oxford night-caps,” bishop appears to be one of the oldest winter beverages on record, and to this very day is preferred to every other, not only by the youthful votary of Bacchus, at his evening revelry, but also by the grave Don by way of a nightcap. It is not improbable that this celebrated drink, equally known to our continental neighbours under the somewhat similar name of bischof, derived its name from the circumstance of ancient dignitaries of the church, when they honoured the university with a visit, being regaled with spiced wine.

Glasses Of Smoking Bishop


Make several incisions into the rind of a lemon; stick cloves in these incisions, and roast the said lemon by the fire. Put small but equal quantities of cinnamon, mace, cloves, and allspice, and a race of ginger, into a saucepan, with half a pint of water; let it boil until it be reduced one half. Boil one bottle of port wine ; burn a portion of the spirit out of it, by applying a lighted taper to the saucepan which contains it. Put the roasted lemons and spice into the wine; stir it up well, and let it stand near the fire ten minutes. Rub a few nobs of sugar on the rind of a lemon; put the sugar into a bowl or jug, with the juice of half a lemon, (not roasted) pour the wine upon it, sweeten it to your taste, and serve it up with the lemon and spice floating in it.

Oranges, although not used in bishop, at Oxford, are, as will appear by the following lines, written by Swift [in the late 1600s] sometimes introduced into that beverage :—
“Fine oranges,
Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup,
They’ll make a sweet bishop when gentlefolks sup.”

When this is put upon the table, there are few, we imagine, who would be found to say, “Nolo episcopari,” not even the Bishop of London himself.



 Eliza Acton's 1845 recipe from her Modern Cookery is similar but she recommends using oranges...

“Make several incisions in the rind of a lemon,* stick cloves in these, and roast the lemon by a slow fire. Put small but equal quantities of cinnamon, cloves, mace, and allspice, with a race of ginger, into a saucepan with half a pint of water : let it boil until it is reduced one half. Boil one bottle of port wine, burn a portion of the spirit out of it
by applying a lighted paper to the saucepan. 

Put the roasted lemons and spice into the wine; stir it up well, and let it stand near the fire ten minutes. Rub a few knobs of sugar on the rind of a lemon, put the sugar into a bowl or jug, with the juice of half a lemon (not roasted), pour the wine into it, grate in some nutmeg, sweeten it to your taste, and serve it up with the lemon and spice floating in it.”

  * A Seville orange stuck with cloves, to many tastes imparts a finer flavour than the lemon.

Mitre-shaped punchbowl, from Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery


And here's a modern version which will serve around 10 people - great for entertaining!

Christmas Cards

Did you know that the first Christmas cards were sent by Sir Henry Cole, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in 1843.  He wanted to remind his friends that they should give to charity at Christmas but didn't have the time to sit down and write letters to them all, so he commissioned painter John Collcott Horsley to create a design that he could have printed.

Now, in the UK, we send more than 700 million Christmas cards a year!

Sir Henry Cole's first Christmas card


Christmas Card, printed in Germany and sent from Pittsburg, 
Pennsylvania  to Beaver County, PA in 1909

Card posted in Detroit , Michigan to an address in Fort Street, Detroit in Dec 1911. Another card that was printed in Germany

   (early 20th century card images courtesy of Lindsay/C19)


And that's it - no time for more posts in 2012 as I have to get on with making some Smoking Bishop! :D

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy and Healthy 2013!




Friday, 14 December 2012

Meg Mims - Santa Paws

Today's guest blogger is another fellow Astraea Press author Meg Mims.  Meg's latest release is a Christmas novella, Santa Paws. 

I'll let Meg describe how a rescue dog inspired her to write Santa Paws ;0) ...


I was working on a non-fiction article when a friend called. He said he was taking a dog to the pound, and since I'd mentioned possibly getting a second dog to keep my first one company, did I want to see him?

He brought over Benji, whose sweet scared face was too hard to resist! Would my dog get along with him, though? They hit it off like "best buds" and despite my husband's misgivings, I "rescued" Benji from being a "reject" who'd bitten a child and would have lingered in the pound, who couldn't be trusted - I doubted any family would have taken him.

So far, he's held down the couch pretty well, helped my other dog learn to walk better and is fairly quiet. He does have his "quirks" (loves tearing up cardboard) but it's so much fun to see him chasing the squirrels in the back yard!! I am willing to keep him. And when it came time for me to write a Christmas novella, I thought "write what you know" - only exaggerated quite a bit. That's why it's fiction!! ;-D

The last thing Lacey Gordon — divorced with a teen daughter and two cats — needs is a rescue dog coming into her life. To top it off, she’s rooked into a “Get Under the Mistletoe by Christmas Eve” dating contest. Since Buddy the dog prefers to be the only “new guy” in Lacey’s life, will Santa Claws ruin her holiday for good?


Lacey could go grocery shopping Saturday—uh oh. She’d promised to think about attending the ‘dating contest’ at Fresh Grounds. She did love their mocha lattes. Hm. She hurried through the rest of the paperwork piled on her desk, turned off her lamp and computer, then ran into April on the way out to the parking garage. The elevator’s chill set them both shivering.

“I’ve got you down for noon at Fresh Grounds.”

“Why so early? I thought you had the whole afternoon reserved.”

“You’re quality, remember.” April dashed to her truck.

Lacey clutched the top of her coat together to shield against the bitter wind. She hurried to her car in the growing dusk, grateful to see the sunset courtesy of Daylight Savings. Lacey drove toward home, half-listening to the news, hoping Todd wouldn’t ruin her evening or get stuck in traffic. Pure luck she zipped home in half an hour.

And nearly ran down a burly man in a Sherpa jacket and baseball cap, walking a dog across the street. Not just any dog, but a beige and white pit bull. Lacey shivered. She pulled into the condo complex in relief. Home, sweet home. Even if it was a bit cramped compared to a house in the ‘burbs where she’d spent her marriage. The frame and brick condominiums, surrounded by tall oaks and maples, had four two-story units joined together with a one-story ranch on the side. Most neighbors here were retired, walking their dogs through the narrow streets and parking lots to the woodier paths beyond the complex.

But she cursed aloud seeing Todd’s car in her sheltered parking spot. Lacey warned him the last time not to do that. He never listened. Not now, not back when they’d been married—until she dangled a satin thong in his face. Lacey had found them stuffed in his jacket pocket, and refused to listen to his half-hearted, lame excuses. He hadn’t fought the divorce. Perhaps he preferred running around, since he’d been doing just that since high school. Why hadn’t she realized that long ago? Trust was important to her.

Not to him.

She slung her briefcase over one shoulder and walked around her condo to the front door. Lacey fumbled for her keys in her purse. Her briefcase slipped off her shoulder, its hefty weight dragging her down, and her feet burned inside her new pumps. She heard an odd scratching sound. That couldn’t be the cats. They weren’t at the window as usual, watching for birds.

“Deena? Is that you?”

Lacey unlocked the door. Once she opened it, a hairy beige dog barreled into her, knocking her onto her bottom, spilling her briefcase and purse into the snow. She shrieked, her backside aching, one shoe on and one shoe off. Lacey stared in horror when the dog lifted his leg and piddled in an arc over her leg. A few warm wet drops dribbled on her pantyhose.

Deena appeared in the doorway and clapped a hand over her mouth. “Buddy! Bad dog—oh, Mom, he’s really very sweet. Just wait till you—no, Buddy!”

Lacey watched the dog snatch her purse and duck between her daughter’s legs, then race inside the house and up the carpeted steps. Leaving a trail of muddy footprints.

End of excerpt

Award-winning author and artist Meg Mims lives in Southeastern Michigan with her husband, a drooling black cat and a 'Make My Day' Malti-poo dog. She's loved reading mystery, western, historical, romance and other genre fiction since first grade's adventures of Spot, Dick and Jane. She's a staff writer at Lake Effect Living, an on-line magazine and has published hundreds of freelance articles. Meg enjoys gardening, crafts, watercolor painting - anything but housework.

Find out more about Meg and her books at her website, blog, Twitter and Facebook author page.  You can also visit the Facebook page for Santa Paws here.

Buy links for Santa Paws:   Amazon UK   B&N Nook    Kobo   Smashwords


Thanks so much for being my guest today, Meg, and best of luck with Santa Paws!!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Patricia Kiyono - The Partridge and the Peartree

Continuing with my Christmas-themed guest blogs from fellow Astraea Press authors, I'm delighted to welcome Patricia Kiyono to the blog today to talk about her Christmas Regency story, The Partridge and the Peartree   :)


Though I've always loved to write, I didn't really start writing with a goal of being published until fairly recently. After Astraea Press accepted my story in June of 2011, I started writing in earnest. I'd been working on various manuscripts for about ten years but never completed any. So when the publication of the Legacy gave me the validation as an author, I went back to finish several others and got them on the docket. But I worried that I might soon run out of story ideas.

That notion was challenged when Astraea Press came out with a Christmas call for stories set in Regency period, specifically 1812. The story had to include a duke, as well as a reference to the Christmas Eve Ball at Holly Hall given by Lord and Lady Kringle. The requirements were simple enough. I started brainstorming plot ideas with my critique partners and my family. And then I started to write.

But even though I'd read many romances set during this time period, I was soon caught in a snag. Being an American, the concept of nobility, though definitely fascinating, is quite foreign. Here, no one is born into a title. It was a steep learning curve for me, learning about how one person addresses another depending on the speaker's position as well as the listener's.

It seemed like every other sentence I would have to stop and wonder, "How would this person talk to that person?" I found several websites that helped. But I got discouraged and nearly didn't finish the story. Thanks to some urging and last-minute help from my critique partner, I submitted The Partridge and the Peartree and to my utter surprise it's been far more successful than I ever dreamed it would be!

There is one thing I would do differently. Though I had three people proofread the manuscript before it was submitted, and two different editors approved the story, reviewers' comments show that I should have consulted a Regency expert. There are events in my storyline that would not have happened during this period, and someone well versed in this era would have caught them. Thankfully, most of the reviewers were kind enough to say that despite the inaccuracies, they liked my characters. If I ever venture into this genre again, I would definitely consult one of those people — maybe one of the reviewers!

Phillip Peartree, Duke of Bartlett, dreamed of a peaceful life with a suitable mate until a hunting accident left him scarred and nearly deaf. Resigned to spending the rest of his days alone, Phillip has devoted himself to rebuilding his family estate. But, a chance encounter with a lovely young woman in a dusty bookstore rekindles his almost-forgotten hopes and dreams.

Lady Amelia Partridge has no time for the frivolity of the London social scene. She is much too busy. In addition to her work with the Ladies Literary Society, she has a mission – educating poor children in the city. She also has a secret life, one she fears might drive away the young duke who has become increasingly important to her.

The Partridge and the Peartree is available at Astraea Press, Amazon, AmazonUK, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Patricia Kiyono can be found on facebook, her blog, and twitter (@PatriciaKiyono).


Thanks for being a guest on my blog, Patricia - The Partridge and the Peartree sounds an intriguing read and I love the way you have worked in the names/title!  It has a great cover too :)

Friday, 30 November 2012

Sherry Gloag - Vidal's Honor

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Sherry Gloag to my blog.  Sherry's latest release is a Christmas Regency romance, Vidal's Honorand here she talks about the 'silent witness' in her story:


The Silent Witness.

Do you ever wonder how there can be an influential silent witness, or an unnamed character, in a story?
Is it possible? 

Yes it’s possible, and in some cases essential. The reality first hit home when I read Nora Robert’s Northern Lights many years ago.

This story takes place in Alaska, and a couple of mountain ranges are named and mentioned throughout the tale.  A murder takes place on one many years before the opening of Northern Lights, while missing boys found on the mountain are the catalyst that reveals past events that impact directly on the present in this story. In strategic spots the mountains are mentioned and become true characters that, while passive in their presence, influence almost every facet of the tale. So in this instant the mountains in this case are the ‘silent witness’s.

In Vidal’s Honor, released by Astraea Press this November, the weather became the unnamed and passive character in my Christmas Regency romance.  Ask any Brit, and you will soon learn the weather is an abiding passion with them.  It is not unheard of for certain places in the UK to experience five different weather conditions in one day, so it offers a topic ripe for discussion. 

But what if the weather in question in a story are those of 1812?  How can you possibly have an accurate discussion about the state of the weather conditions two hundred years ago?

Well, it will be no surprise to research buffs that you can.  It was more in hope than expectation that I googled ‘weather conditions from July to October in the Spanish Pyrenees’, and again the same in France, and over several weeks while my hero and heroine travelled across a war-torn Europe in their attempt to reach England before Christmas.  I admit I became fascinated with the information, so much so that one scene was written completely round the weather conditions on the French and English Channel coastlines on a certain day. There’s nothing like a good storm to keep your main characters on their toes.  Almost at every stage of Vidal’s Honor the weather has an impact on unfolding events, if not specifically, certainly indirectly.  

The weather, therefore, became my ‘silent witness,’ and had many faces, and appeared in many guises, but its influence is revealed at the beginning and is still in evidence during the final stages of Vidal’s Honor.

When you are reading a story, do you take note of the silent witness in the tale? And for authors, how do you maximise the use of ‘silent witness’s’ to move your story forward?


Multi-published author Sherry Gloag is a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countryside of Norfolk, England.  She considers the surrounding countryside as extension of her own garden, to which she escapes when she needs "thinking time" and solitude to work out the plots for her next novel.  While out walking she enjoys talking to her characters, as long as there are no other walkers close by.

Apart from writing, Sherry enjoys gardening, walking, reading and cheerfully admits her books tend to take over most of the shelf and floor space in her workroom-cum-office.  She also finds crystal craft work therapeutic.

Vidal's Honor

When plunged into a world of spies, agents and espionage during the Peninsula wars, Honor, Lady Beaumont, flees for her life when the French capture her husband at Salamanca, and relies on his batman to arrange her safe passage back to England.

Viscount Charles Vidal is ordered by Robert Dumas, the First Lord of the Admiralty, to travel to Spain and escort the only woman he’s ever loved, Lord Devlin Beaumont’s widow back home before the French discover her whereabouts.

Their journey is fraught by danger, least of all knowing whether they are surrounded by friends or foe. Will they survive long enough to explore the possibility of a future together or will whispers of treason be enough to see Honor dispatched to Tyburn first?


While Vidal joked with his cousin, the viscount scanned the room. The smell of fine wine, whiskey and cigar smoke blended into a rich aroma that was as much a part of Whites as the card games, the background chatter, and outbreaks of lewd laughter from the younger members of the club. 

One member in particular interested Vidal tonight, and he watched Robert Dundas, second Viscount Melville, and First Lord of the Admiralty, take leave of his friends and head in his direction.He wondered why the man spent the best part of the night watching his every move, and paused in the act of fobbing his snuff box while he waited for the viscount to join him. 

“Take a walk with me?” Although couched as a question, Vidal noted the quiet steel of command in the other man’s voice. Dundas laid a hand on his arm; a companionable gesture for anyone interested enough to observe the two men leaving the club together. “I believe I live not far beyond your own house. I’d appreciate your company, and this is not the place for such a discussion. ” 

With an indolent twist of the wrist Vidal returned the modish lacquered box, unopened, to his pocket and nodded agreement. A man’s club was no setting for private conversation, and it was plain the man wanted to talk about something away from flapping ears. 

Together they strolled across the room stopping to take leave of several mutual friends.


Vidal's Honor is available now from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Bookstrand, Kobo, AllRomance ebooks