Tag Archives: Christmas

AMMC: The Little Mouse

My third and final tale for AMMC, a Christmas Anthology.

Genre: Traditional/Religious
Author: Lisa Shambrook
eBook: Yes
Dedication: To all who dream and believe…
The Little Mouse
Food was scarce, and the little mouse scampered hurriedly across the straw avoiding hooves and scavenging poultry. A chicken screeched in his ear and he skidded aside, ducking quickly beneath the manger’s wooden leg. He dragged a fresh piece of barley caught between his teeth and a couple of lost grains filled his swollen cheeks.
He peered out from behind the manger, chaos had broken out over the last few weeks and finding food had become a chore. His home was overrun with creatures of all kinds and his daily route for food was constantly obstructed.
His bright, black eyes stared with disbelief as yet more shouting rang out as another crude shelter was erected outside the livestock caves. A rough-hewn branch crashed down, its hollow thud resounding through the bedlam as it bounced and rolled. More yells and hasty footsteps followed before the makeshift roof was assembled, roped together above the temporary pens. He watched as more sheep and goats were crammed into the pens, and chickens flapped their irritated wings throwing dust into his eyes.  He retreated into the pungent, dank straw, longing for peace and quiet.
The little mouse awoke from his nap as light began to fade and streaks of red filled the sky. He noted with relief that the busy footfall had diminished moving into the streets rather than the livestock stalls. Music and chat poured from the buildings and the sounds and the spices of evening meals curled up into the sky, along with spirals of smoke and fire, but it was quiet in his little neighbourhood. The chickens slept, roosting upon beams and clustered in corners, the sheep cried out every now and then, and the goats had fallen silent. The donkeys in the stalls brayed softly, but these were familiar noises and the little mouse was calm.
As darkness fell, the little mouse scurried to and fro collecting food and grains, and preparing for night.
His tranquillity was rudely interrupted by footsteps, tired voices and the weary drag of hooves on the dusty ground outside, and he scuttled back to his hole.
He squinted in annoyance as a donkey clumsily stepped into the cave and a woman slipped off, steadied by the man at her side. Another man dropped the donkey’s rope, spoke quickly, and handed them an oil lamp before disappearing, leaving the couple alone in the dark stable. The lamp flickered, throwing dancing beams across the shadows and the man helped his wife settle into the straw. He dropped down beside her and wiped away the dust-stained tear that rolled down her cheek. A sheep bleated as a chill breeze wafted in and the man took his weeping wife with her swollen belly into his arms. Her soft moans echoed and the mouse withdrew.
It was very dark when the mouse woke again and moonlight tried to gain entry through the front of the cave. The little mouse ventured out, scampering across the floor, but was stopped by the sudden cry that echoed in the gloom. He lifted his head and rose onto his hind legs, and stared into the shadows. The cry wasn’t a lamb’s mewling call, or the soft bray of a donkey, or even a goat’s bleat, and the chickens were quiet…it was an unfamiliar cry and he stared harder.
Lit only by glimmering lamp light, the corner threw oddly shaped shadows as the couple quickly wrapped a parcel in their arms. The mouse crept closer, every fibre of his tiny being both fascinated and fearful of the soft cries that emanated through the night. At the foot of the couple, the mouse stopped and gazed, and as he beheld, so did every other animal in the cave.
The young mother wiped tears from her face with her threadbare sleeve and kissed her newborn, and the little mouse climbed up onto the man’s scruffy, leather sandal. The little mouse could not take his eyes off the tiny babe and leaned closer. The man felt the scratch of tiny claws on his raw, weary feet and glanced down. He moved his hand and the mouse flinched, but the man took the mouse in his large, rough hand and brought him up, cradling the tiny creature against his chest. His heart thudded and he whispered softly, “And his name shall be Jesus, and you, little mouse, shall be the first to see him…”
The little mouse relaxed and peeped over the man’s fingers, gazing in fascination and curiosity.
The noise from the late night streets had subsided, and from the fields round about came an altogether different refrain. His large ears heard music vibrating in the air, strains of glory and joy, and shivers reverberated through the little mouse.
A glinting moonbeam sought out the child in its mother’s arms and cast a halo around the babe, and the little mouse remained serene as the new dawn arrived…
(819 Words)

AMMC: The Star Shone Brightly

My second Christmas tale for AMMC:

Photograph and painting by Lisa Shambrook (please do not use)
 
Genre: Traditional/Religious
Author: Lisa Shambrook
eBook: Yes
Dedication: With love to all who learn they can and should shine brightly…
 
The Star Shone Brightly
Orion stretched languidly across the sky, winking at Danica or anyone else who might be admiring him, as he adjusted his sword and hitched his belt. Danica’s eyes darted away as her luminosity flared in sudden embarrassment. She curled her lip and her shimmer dulled as she slouched in melancholy.
Far below, the earth all green and blue, slowly spun, swathed in cotton-wool clouds, and Danica sighed. She was surrounded by twinkling stars, huge constellations of them, but she felt invisible.
She didn’t stretch across the night like Orion, was nobody’s first point of reference like the North Star, and didn’t hang glittering like the Southern Cross. She had no vast reach like the Great Bear and failed to shine like Sirius.
Danica’s gleam dulled and her sparkle was lost. The only thing that glistened was the tear that rolled down her cheek.
She didn’t notice the kerfuffle that arose with the entrance of Virgo.  She just moped behind Little Bear, until Little Bear whispered excitedly. “Virgo’s looking for a new star…Spica and her sisters are exploring the Galaxy!”
“What for?” asked Danica, peering forward as glitter erupted in showers across the sky.
Little Bear shrugged. “They’re not saying…”
Danica eased slowly out of her hiding place and strained her ears to listen.
“I’ll go,” boomed Orion, “I’m courageous and I’ll mark your place for you!”
“We’re good!” chorused Castor and Pollux, “Two for the price of one!”
Below them Draco roared. “If you want a real star…”
Spica twirled, shimmering in her sapphire robes, and shook her head. “It won’t work, you’re all too recognisable. No Hercules, it’s just not going to happen! We don’t need arrogance; we need humility, something new…”
Spica and her sisters sparkled and dazzled Danica as they swept across the blanket of indigo, dancing in and out of constellations, leaving a trail of glitter and restlessness in their wake. Danica stared after them, watching their effervescent cascade with eyes of envy.
The heavens stretched far and wide and the little star gazed as Virgo searched, hunting out the lesser known stars. She had no grand ideas and tucked herself back behind Little Bear, out of the way.
“I wonder what they’re looking for then?” wondered Little Bear, “Something new, something new’s happening. Look Danica, they’re coming back this way…you should show yourself…”
“I can’t,” protested the little star, “I’m nothing.”
Virgo swooped past Cassiopeia and as Spica swung by she noticed Little Bear kick a little star from behind him. Spica turned her head, sprinkling sparks as she came to a stop, and the little star tumbled down towards her. Danica sprawled before the beauty and her cheeks flushed again with hot, white light. She crawled backwards whilst offering apologies, until Spica leaned down and smiled. “And who are you?” she asked.
Danica gulped, her iridescence dancing in an aura of pure light. “I’m no one,” she whispered.
“No one?” Spica smiled softly, “You’re not no one, you’re the one we’re looking for.”
Little Bear grinned as his shy friend straightened her sparkling skirts and stared in wonder at the majestic constellation surrounding her. The sisters gathered Danica in their celestial arms and swept her off her feet.  “You’re the one,” Spica whispered in her ear, “the one who can change the world. Now hurry away with us.”
Several days later, a new star hung in the sky dressed in lustrous shimmering robes, only she wasn’t a new star and she didn’t have any new clothes. Danica sparkled and scintillated lighting a dark, inky sky, and three wise travellers used instruments to plot and follow her glowing trail. Whilst they journeyed, she shone with effulgence and guided both angels and shepherds, and glistened with everything she’d got, as a newborn cry rose from the stable heralding change in the world below.
And all around stars twinkled and gleamed, but none shone as brightly and as joyfully as she.
(654 Words)

AMMC: Winter Hope

This is for AMMC a Christmas Anthology set up by Laura, Missy and Nick.

Winter Hope © Lisa Shambrook

Winter Hope

Gossamer threads hung, decorated with frozen diamonds, and beneath the lacy webs Winter rested her head on the stony floor. Swirls of vapour rose from her nostrils and tiny blue flames licked across her tongue. She sighed.

An amber glow suffused the sky with light, banishing the indigo skyline over the horizon, and the vista smouldered beneath an ethereal haze. Snow clothed the valleys, and ice clung to every rock and ridge. Icing-sugared trees blended the woods together, evergreens bathed in a blanket of white and leafless trees stood dipped in sherbet. A cotton-wool carpet covered the grass before the cave and red berries shone like rubies peeping through earth’s crystal mantle. Lakes shone like glass, and early-rising village folk danced across the sheets of ice.

Winter yawned…

 

Symphony_of_Dragons_L_Shambrook_FC_WEB
This is a preview to the story that can be found within A Symphony of Dragons. It has become one part of my symphony, a composition, of A Symphony of Seasons… You can find this enchanting book of short stories in many outlets in both paperback and eBook or at my publisher BHC Press.

Read previews to Spring’s and Autumn’s tales: Spring Symphony and Autumn Flame.

Monday Mixer: Scent

Scent

As she ran all she could hear was the susurrus of the murmuring leaves as they swirled about her, and she quickened her pace. She slowed stepping carefully through winding vines and convolvulus, still decorated with scattered diamonds of dew.  She paused, one foot still aloft, and flared her nostrils. Heavy petrichor rose from the forest floor masking the scent she tracked.  Her foot dropped and she stood silent, listening.
The breeze still whispered, and her mind whirled as scents mingled. Flora’s fragrance intermingled with fungi and soil’s pungent aroma, and different odours emanated from the undergrowth, confusing her and sending her into a tailspin.
She raised her nose, but the scent had vanished.
Just mere months since Christmas and here she was lost and abandoned. Her meretricious collar, now studded with dull zircona, had long since snapped…and she settled in the leaf mulch with a maudlin whine, to wait.

(150 Words)

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without permission)
Written for Monday Mixer over at Jeff’s Latinum Vault. A challenge which requires only 150 words and the use of three or more word prompts. As this has five prompts, it fits for Overachiever, if so desired. Go and read all the other 150 word tales! 

12 Days of Christmas: Love

Photograph by Sarah Hall, manipulated by Lisa Shambrook
(Please do not use without permission)
Love
He’d never tell, but Kryos was jealous of his friends’ bond, something he could only ever dream of.  Within his devastated race he was the last surviving Krystallos. 
The vision he’d followed through the fog, last night, still haunted him… She was comparable to his race, but she wasn’t Krystallos. She was white, but she’d shimmered translucent green. Other details were hazy, and he’d really only caught a glimpse of her long, swishing tail as she’d vanished into the mist.
He had to find her…
Salt laced the air as the waves crashed against the mountain. The sea breeze revitalised him and as he soared around the eastern peak his mouth dropped. There she was, his ethereal vision, floating on the prevailing wind.
She whirled and spiralled through the air, flying without inhibition or fear. She was a lone creature dancing, above the ocean, dancing to her own song. 
He hung back watching in amazement and she twisted taking on an iridescent hue, the kind of green trapped within an opal, destined to shine with effulgence whenever a stray ray of brilliant light caught it.
Without a doubt it was her. Kryos beheld his ghost, and couldn’t move. He stared transfixed as she wheeled like a lost jewel against the clear blue sky.
He pressed into the mountainside, fearful of being seen, though he blended perfectly against the snow-bleached rocks. His heart thumped almost audibly against his tightened chest, and he watched as the wind carried her across the ocean. He fought the urge to leap into the sky, proud and majestic, and race to meet her. There was no way he was going to scare her off this time. Again, he melted into the frozen rock and couldn’t take his eyes off the mysterious dragon that thawed his heart.
(300 Words)

Day Two: February – Love
Go read the others! 

12 Days of Christmas: Snow

This is written for the 12 Days Of Christmas Blog Hop with Rowanwolf over at A Jar of Fireflies. The theme is Gifts and each of the twelve days represents a month: January – Snow:

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without permission)
Snow
As the snow fell, swirling and eddying, Cerys danced around her parents. She pirouetted and twirled, and leaped and flew around the garden, circling her mum and dad. 
The snow slipped through her fingers, its glitter coating everything else it touched, and she tilted her head, raising her face to the blizzard, trying to absorb the flakes that fell. 
Mum and dad stood oblivious to anything but themselves, their arms wrapped tightly around each other. Nothing Cerys did caught their attention, so she became wilder, twirling like a tornado, her arms outstretched, and flurries of snow spinning around her like a cyclone. 
Still nothing impacted her parents.
They stood in silence, her mother’s head resting upon her husband’s shoulder. Her eyes were closed and her nose was red, and the grey tracks of mascara upon her cheeks now tainted his cream fleece.  His eyes were as red as her nose and his arms ached as he held his wife as close as he could, and they stood amid the squall oblivious to their daughter’s efforts.  
Cerys danced and frolicked in the snowfall, and dressed in white, decorated with a million tiny, silver snowflakes, and fur-lined, white boots, she was a sight they could not behold.
She moved as gracefully and as invisible as the wind, but she was there, dancing her heart out…
Their grief and loss blinded them, but she danced still…she danced and danced until her mother’s freezing breath finally gasped, as tiny childlike footprints emerged in the snow. Footprints that danced and danced, and then were gone…
(260 words)

Melting Snowmen Christmas Cake…

So, it’s Christmas again…and the challenge of decorating the cake came around…
Private Photo (Do Not Use)
We have a tradition in our family, where Dad makes the cake with the help of the children. See above for 2001 photograph, many years ago, now it’s pretty much Caitlin who helps (she’s the baby in this one!) 
After the cake is made, it’s left to me to marzipan and decorate. Up until a few years ago the cake was always roughly marzipaned and then slathered with stiff, peaky royal icing and then I plonked a couple of Christmas cake winter ornaments on top and that was it! We were happy, but a couple of years ago I was inspired by Kirsty Allsopp and used her idea of polar bears on the cake. 
Not knowing if I could duplicate the said polar bears, I disappeared into the kitchen on my own and created… it worked! See here for the result! 
Last year I made Penguins…
Ever since I have cordoned of the kitchen during the decorating process and banned anyone from seeing anything until it’s finished.
It’s even turned into a competition to see if anyone can guess what I might do each year!
This year it was melted snowmen…inspired by trulycustomcakery cake’s Pinterest pic of melting snowmen cookies, and I decided to use her marshmallow technique to put them on top of my Christmas cake! 
Photo by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without crediting)
The cake was covered in marzipan and iced with fondant icing, then I put a layer of stiff royal icing to make snow. I added more water to the royal icing to make three icing snowman puddles on top, which I loved as it ran down the sides of the cake! 
Then came the marshmallows…that was the experimental bit…
Place a marshmallow on a piece of silicone or greaseproof paper and place it in the mircrowave. The instructions are not to walk away and watch at all times, as it swells (puffs up) take it out…somewhere between 8 and 15 seconds. Do not let it double it’s size or it’ll just be a gooey puddle. 
Taking them off the paper wasn’t easy either. The original poster recommended covered your fingers with grease to take them off. I covered a palette knife with oil and tried, I did get sticky and I did use way more than three marshmallows, have plenty spare! 
Then I made chocolate fondant arms, orange fondant noses and black fondant eyes, and obviously sugar silver balls became buttons…and there you have it a melting snowmen Christmas cake! 
Photo by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without crediting)
How do you decorate yours?

Steampunk Christmas Tree Bauble

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook & Instagram 
(If you use these pictures please link back to this post, thank you.)

Still enjoying a writing hiatus and catching up with some crafting ideas… Rather consumed with Steampunk right now, and wanted a steampunk bauble for the Christmas tree, but couldn’t find one, so made my own:

1. Find (or buy) a single Christmas Bauble. Mine was 49p for 3 at my local garden centre. Stick with gold, silver, chrome, brown or neutral colours.

2. Using tweezers and superglue or another strong glue (Glue gun is too messy) add cogs, gears etc. I bought a small packet of old watch mechanisms for a couple of pounds on Ebay.
3. It helps with precision to place the bauble in an egg cup as you work.
4. Add a ribbon to hang it with.
All Photos by Lisa Shambrook 
(If you use these pictures please link back to this post, thank you)

And there you are, a Steampunk Christmas Tree bauble…

So Here It Is…

Having just decorated the cake, it now feels like Christmas! It’s been the same over the last few years…my cakes used to be standard, just rough iced, but after watching Kirsty Allsopp a couple of years ago I became more adventurous!

The first year I put polar bears on my cake and I haven’t looked back since…this year I attempted penguins. Not all plain sailing…couldn’t buy black fondant icing anywhere, so had to make it with food colouring. Advice is to use gel paste colourings, but couldn’t find a black one, so it was liquid colours…and that didn’t help. You need a lot to make white fondant black, though I made it a day before and it darkened from steel-grey to black overnight. The icing became softer and stickier with each drop of black…which added to my frustration as I tried to mould penguins. It turned out to be easier to keep the icing in the fridge and only bring it out each time I moulded or added something (eyes, feet etc), was a long drawn out operation and several penguins were violently sacrificed during this process!
The iced-over pond was made by melting four glace mints in a tiny cake tin on grease-proof paper (at a low temperature for about 15 mins) then cooling in the fridge. The bubbles made as the mint heats makes the ‘ice’ you’re left with look pretty authentic! The pond sits on top of very stiff royal icing (I add as little water as I can get away with when making my royal icing, I like the peaks!) and I lightly coloured the icing below the pond with the palest blue (food colouring). Finished with a few snow-covered rocks of white fondant and the penguins surrounded by ‘snowballs’ (sugar decorations) and silver balls.
The rest of my cake is a standard rich fruit Christmas cake and traditional marzipan. My husband makes the cake with the children, I marzipan it…then make decisions about decorating it myself in secret and we all enjoy the big reveal when it’s finished!

So, yes, now it’s Christmas! We’ve decorated the tree…I love that my tree is covered with individual decorations, which I add to each year with anything unique I can find. I love homemade decorations too, the children’s school efforts…Bekah’s robin, Dan’s star and angel and Cait’s snowflake… Almost nothing is repeated, and this year I made my own Button Snowflake and Button icicle (similar to the snowflake, but buttons on one white lollipop stick, both sides, big buttons at the top and small at the bottom…)

I’ve had my face painted, cute snowflake on my cheek. Bekah is starting up a Face Painting business http://littlemasterpiecefp.blogspot.com/ and she painted faces at our local church Christmas party…some excited little tigers! See her Facebook Page for some more great pictures: http://www.facebook.com/LittleMasterpieceFacepainting

Along with the cake we’ve made our Christmas pudding, lovely recipe, which makes our main pudding and several mini ones too! Takes ten hours in the oven, but oh boy, the house smells good that day!
We’ve even been carol singing…granted, people find it strange that a large group can go carol singing and not expect payment, but being out in the dark singing carols and wandering down a street of twinkling Christmas lights is magic!
Since Caitlin moved to High School, I’ve missed the infants/junior school concerts and nativities…what’s not to love about little boys with gold cardboard crowns, tea-towel shepherds, grumpy inn-keepers who forget to open the door, reindeer with runny noses and angels with wonky halos..? I miss the innocence and enthusiasm!

So what’s left? I must finish the present wrapping (before school’s out!), Santa’s done all his! We’ve got our Santa hats, the holly and the ivy…what more?

Perhaps just the time to take a moment and remind myself of the reason for it all…

‘And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped himin swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger…’ (Luke 2:7)