Tag Archives: christmas

Christmas at Happy Life – Day 5 – Midwife, Geese and Swimming

One of the highlights of this trip has been meeting Erin, one of the daughters in the group from Dubai. Erin is thirteen and wants to be a midwife and has been helping out at the Jesse Kay Children’s hospital (part of Happy Life Kasarani) during the trip. We caught up with her on the ward.




Visiting projects like Happy Life is a wonderful life experience for teenagers to give them a sense of perspective and appreciation for how fortunate they are in their lives in the West.

We were at a bit of a loss as to where to take Leah and Teresiah for the last day here and took a chance on visiting Idyllic Mistley Gardens as they claimed to have a swimming pool which is a real treat for the kids.


It turned out to be a wonderful peaceful place with only a few people (the staff tell us its extremely busy normally at the weekends). We had another lemon and ginger tea which has become our go to drink this trip. The only slightly noisy residents were the geese but only for a few minutes.

Once again Leah looked after Teresiah. Great to see in a teenager.


Trip there and back in our $3 Ubers were uneventful (the smaller Ubers are called ‘Chap Chap’) until the last stretch on the way back when what I thought was a goat ran straight out in front of the car – we hit it pretty hard but it jumped up and ran off. “Tough goat” I said. “No. Sheep are stupid, so that was a sheep. Goats are too clever to run out in front of cars” said our driver Kamau. Can’t argue with that.


Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized


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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 3 – Local Community, Zen and Thunderstorms

One of the highlights of visiting Happy Life is definitely the infant feeding but as Steve has a head cold whilst Sharon has the angelic babies, he has the challenging toddlers. Whatever clothes you wear to feed the toddlers (about fifteen) will end up in the washing pile. Try as he might Steve couldn’t get Melissa to smile for the camera (she smiled plenty during feeding of course….).

Over Christmas there are lots of local families that come to donate food in particular and its wonderful to see how three generations of this family came long to visit Happy Life (grandmother took the picture).

The weather has finally turned into the thunderstorms that the weather app was promising. Rain plays havoc with the roads that haven’t been tarmacked making getting around a muddy affair.

So the visit to Karura forest was out but we jumped in an Uber and headed down with Leah for lunch at a place called the Zen Garden. You don’t have to go far in Nairobi to find amazing trees.

New to us but one of the team had recommended it and it didn’t disappoint with very tranquil gardens in amongst the hustle and bustle of the Westlands area – not too far from Karura in fact. They have their own flower shop from the amazing range they have in the gardens – our personal favourite too ‘Birds of Paradise’.

Leah had her second milkshake of the week and was very pleased that both our Uber drivers – James and Perez – had pink/black seat covers in the car matching her tracksuit she’d asked us to bring from the UK. Uber drivers are a huge font of knowledge of what’s going on in the country and the thirty minutes each way to Zen Garden were a great chance to catch up on the latest news. One big subject was the $3bn railway project from Nairobi to Mombasa on the coast. Many government officials have been arrested over allegations they bought land along the route which they knew would receive large compensation – a story big enough for even the NY Times covered it.

More time with the babies and toddlers and then Leah’s choice of evening movie was Jumanji. Slightly surreal sitting in the children’s home with the kids watching ‘The Rock’ running around a mysterious island but the kids enjoyed it.


Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

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Posted by on December 28, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized


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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 2 – Planning and Milkshakes

Another hot and humid day in Kasarani and a morning of meetings with the key people at Happy Life. First up is the wonderful Sarah who is the head administrator. One of the favourite tasks of the year is sitting with Sarah and handing over all the donations. This year this included proceeds from events, donations from several authors and friends and family.

We then had a great hour with Bishop Peter and his wife Faith to get an update on the latest plans for Happy Life in 2020. The main goals are surrounding the new high school. Happy Life has managed to buy a plot of land near Juja Farm (about 5km away) that will be the site of the new school. For the first year, the new school block at Juja Farm will house the high school and the team have already recruited four teachers ready to start in January.

(Right – Peter & Faith from Nairobi, Left Jim and Sharon from Delaware)

The evolution of Happy Life can partly be charted by the age of the children that have not been adopted and stayed with the home. Founded in 2002, the initial priorities were housing, health, food, and clothing. Within ten years a big focus became education and prompted the building of the school. Now the project is 17 years old (and so are the oldest children) a high school is needed.

We discussed a lot of great fundraising ideas for 2020 and we wanted to share one here – a very nice idea from one of our authors Tim Symonds. Tim has written many Sherlock Holmes books and also lived for many years in Kenya. He’s been one of the most active supporters of Happy Life donating items and funds each year. He wondered if Happy Life would like to create a plant-a-tree project that the children can get involved with. The timing is perfect and Peter and Faith loved the idea. So, from January we’ll be launching a new programme where for every book bought on the site we’ll plant a tree at the new Happy Life location. More about the other ideas soon.

Lunchtime and a chance to get involved with feeding the younger kids. Sharon headed to the infants for baby feeding – Steve to the toddlers as with a head cold not allowed in with the infants.


(Pepper Pig features heavily amongst the cuddly toys this year for some reason)

The afternoon was spent with our sponsored kid, Leah. We first met Leah at the age of six when she inspired us so much we chose her to be on the front cover of The Happy Life Story Book. At that tender age she was already behaving like a big sister to the younger kids and spending much of her free time helping the mamas and feeding the babies. Now at thirteen one of the pastors describes her perfectly as ‘a future leader’ working hard at school and supporting the other children. She’s transferred over here to spend time with us and will head back home to Juja Farm with us when we visit there on the 30th.



For the last two years Leah tends to bring one of her friends with her on our days out. Today Nelly came along for milkshakes, the entertainment area of the mall and a trip around the large supermarket (popcorn and crisps a once a year treat). Leah is on the left in the picture.



Tomorrow we hope to get further afield but it will depend on the weather – thunderstorms are possible.


Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

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Posted by on December 27, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized


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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 1 – Christmas Day

We arrived in Nairobi just before midnight after the 8 hour flight from London and awoke to the humid and noisy neighbourhood of Kasarani where Happy Life Children’s Home is based.

For those new to Happy Life you can read more here – Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

The children’s home is always busy and vibrant – with sixty children under the age of four, twenty of them infants below six months – there’s always something happening. For three of our seven years coming here we had been the only volunteers over Christmas, but this year we were in for a pleasant surprise. There are eleven volunteers over from Dubai from a church called the Fellowship – all ex-pat British. Two families from a group of thirty-six that visited Happy Life back in April coming back for another visit.

Their visit had proved very timely. A week before we arrived the library at Juja Farm burnt down (electrical fault) and the kids faced Christmas with a very depressing sight.

The team from Dubai leapt into action and not only renovated the damaged library but also overhauled one of the classrooms as well.

The end results were so good that the kids have asked that when the team comes back next year they’d like the other classrooms done!

To give the ‘mamas’ (the affectionate term for the female staff at the home) a break, the goal for the afternoon was to occupy the older toddlers.

What to do with fifteen toddlers on Christmas Day? Well, one of the Dubai team suggested taking them for ice cream – which may sound simple, but the mall is a substantial walk along the pedestrian unfriendly roads of Kasarani. We all took charge of one or two kids (I had Gideon and Emma) and headed out. Things went ok but we didn’t go down too well with the security guards at the mall when we staged an impromptu sit-in with the kids to eat their ice creams.

One particular complication was that for most of the kids this was the first time they had eaten ice-cream which for some, as they wrestled with the cold vs sweet taste, ended up being very messy. Thankfully one of the team made a dash to the supermarket for cleansing wipes and we returned back to Happy Life with the correct number of children ( we think they were the right ones!) – some needed carrying down the last stretch.

(Gideon has fun with his ice cream)

The most regular job for volunteers is the baby feeding. Happy Life is ‘full’ – ie. every bed and cot is taken so its going to be a busy visit in terms of feeding. However, Christmas Day is one of the most popular days for visitors from the local community to come along and donate – which means plenty of extra pairs of hands for feeding time.

We lasted through until about 9.30pm hoping for a quieter night in the 25C humidity.


Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

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Posted by on December 27, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized


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What’s New in 2018: Top Holmes Gifts for Sherlockians

What’s New in 2018: Top Holmes Gifts for Sherlockians – by The Best of Sherlock Holmes

2018 Sherlock Holmes Books – Fiction

The year’s best fictional Holmes books published in 2018.

A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper

Jack the Ripper struck less than a year after Holmes’s debut, and many pastiches put Holmes on the Ripper case.  In a twist reminiscent of Murder Rooms, Harper has Conan Doyle and Joseph Bell investigate the Ripper murders.  They team up with socialist/feminist Margaret Harkness, who displays aspects of Irene Adler.  This mashup of real historical figures in fictionalized roles works pretty well, although Harper pushes the limits when he includes Mark Twain.  Harkness ends up as the most interesting character, and the fast pace should please thriller readers and Ripper fanatics.  ($15.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $10.97) 

Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities by James Lovegrove

With rather more than a wink and a nod to the reader, Lovegrove mixes Holmes with H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. While more of a supernatural adventure than a mystery, Holmes does make some good deductions.  It includes many references to the original Holmes tales, and we learn those are actually based on more macabre events in this alternate universe.  Like A Study in Scarlet, the second part of this book tells a separate backstory.  You don’t have to read the first book in this series to enjoy this one, and a third volume arrives on November 27.  However, it certainly helps to have a basic background on Cthulhu.  ($14.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $10.37) 

The Irregular by H.B. Lyle

Wiggins, the former head of Holmes’s band of street-urchin assistants, is a British Army veteran who reluctantly becomes a secret agent investigating a terrorist conspiracy.  Grittier than the Holmes tales, this fast-paced spy thriller offers a compelling blend of action and deduction, with vivid characters and excellent descriptions of 1909 London.  Holmes makes a brief appearance.  The book should appeal to Sherlockians as well as fans of historical mystery or espionage.  A fine start for what promises to be a fascinating series, the sequel The Red Ribbon will be released in mid-November.  ($16.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $11.55) 

Holmes Entangled by Gordon McAlpine

Conan Doyle knows that someone is trying to kill him, and turns to Sherlock Holmes for help.  By no means a traditional Holmes mystery or pastiche, this work of metafiction is imaginative with clever insights and speculations on the Canon and its characters.  It is mostly narrated by Holmes with a sophisticated style and a dry sense of humor.  Featuring a story within a story, as well as aspects of quantum physics and the multiverse, you’re more likely to enjoy this tale if you have some wider knowledge of literature and/or science.  ($13.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $10.23)

The Further Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes (Vol. 1 & 2) by Denis O. Smith

You simply cannot beat Denis O. Smith for traditional Holmes stories that capture the style and characters of Conan Doyle.  Several of the tales in this collection are excellent, and all the rest are very good.  If you’ve never read Smith, get this collection now!  You’ll also want to consider his New Chronicles and Lost Chronicles.  Smith fans should note that 6 of the 12 stories in the Further Chronicles have appeared in other books.  The paperback version  of Further Chronicles (also in Kindle format) is split into two books, with Volume 2 perhaps slightly better.  ($34.95 SRP; Amazon US listing; or $14.95 paperback Volume 1 and Volume 2.)

2018 Books About Holmes & Conan Doyle

The year’s best books about Holmes or Conan Doyle published in 2018.

The Serpentine Muse on CD-ROM 

Old issues of Sherlockian journals are often difficult to find, and even if you own copies, they typically lack cumulative indexes.  A few, such as the eBSJ v2, have been scanned, and this new CD-ROM from the archives of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes is a most welcome addition. It contains the complete run of 134 issues of The Serpentine Muse from its inception in April 1975 through Spring 2017.  The scanned PDFs feature searchable text provided via good-quality OCR, and it includes a searchable Acrobat index.  This mix of scholarly articles and fun reading at a great price is a must-buy!  ($15 and free shipping; not on Amazon, see ASH website)

Conan Doyle For The Defense by Margalit Fox 

Conan Doyle intervened in a number of real-life crimes, including the case of Oscar Slater.   Fox excels at providing context and background for American readers, and goes well beyond the Slater affair to discuss the evolution of detection and forensics.  Even if you don’t care about Slater, people interested in history or true-crime should find this a fascinating read.  Its main weakness is an overemphasis on police bias, given later allegations that the police knew the actual murderer and covered it up.  But Fox tells this history very well indeed, and holds your interest through the entire book.  ($27.00 SRP; Amazon US listing $18.36)

Trenches by Robert Katz and Andrew Solberg (eds.)

While Conan Doyle once said that Holmes was too old to serve in WWI, he did involve Holmes as a secret agent in “His Last Bow.”  This volume examines Holmes and Conan Doyle in the First World War.  It reproduces the extant manuscript for “His Last Bow,” five original drawings by Frederic Dorr Steele for the story, and Conan Doyle’s manuscript of a poem about the war.  Transcriptions, annotations, and discussions of the origins of these items provide context for the creations.  A fine collection of essays, both historical and playing “the game,” explore many related topics.  ($39.95 SRP; not on Amazon; see BSI website)

A Chronology of the Life of Arthur Conan Doyle by Brian W. Pugh (fourth edition, 2018)

When writing about Conan Doyle, or fact-checking someone’s claim about him, Pugh’s Chronology is the place to start.  It provides a master index to more than 2,000 books, articles and select primary sources about Sir Arthur.  The chronological listing of events includes the sources for dating each event.  This 2018 edition expands the book’s main entries by 40 pages, offers citations with more detail than prior editions, and has an improved index.  Online stores might carry older editions, so be sure to get the book with “2018” in the upper right corner, as linked here.  ($34.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $34.95)

Click here for more Sherlock Holmes gifts.

best of sh gifts


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Review of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part V

Despite their common Christmas season setting, the 30 stories in this latest collection of traditional pastiches are not lacking in variety. For connoisseurs of pure deduction, tales by Mike Chinn, Jan Edwards, Arthur Hall, Roger Riccard, and S. Subramanian show Holmes at his most brilliant. (A future MX volume will feature more “untold” cases from the Canon like Mr. Subramanian’s.) Several pairs of stories revolve around a single theme. Jealousy motivates the crimes recorded by Bob Byrne and Denis O. Smith; Queen Victoria figures in offerings from Derrick Belanger and Julie McKuras; S.F. Bennett and Marcia Wilson tell similarly gruesome Christmas stories, the former redeemed by an unexpected heroine. In selections by James Lovegrove and Vincent Wright, Holmes and Watson concoct Christmas entertainments for each other, with rather mixed results. Most enjoyable of all, perhaps, are tales that cast new light on the personalities and relationship of our two heroes. C.H. Dye paints a delightful portrait of their second Christmas as young bachelors, while David Marcum illuminates Holmes’ religious beliefs in an even earlier story. Two fine concluding works by Hugh Ashton and Mark Mower, set in and after World War I, show that the long friendship between our detective and his Boswell has only deepened through the years. As Marcum notes in his introduction, Conan Doyle’s London was only a generation removed from Charles Dickens’. The Dickensian spirit of Christmas shines through many of these tales, notably John Hall’s, Tracy Revels’, and Amy Thomas’s. Ms. Revels’ moving story, in particular, proves that those who consider Holmes as much a misogynist as Scrooge are very much in error. Happily, the quality of this ongoing MX anthology remains as high as ever, with four new volumes set to appear within the next two years. Surely that news, for Sherlockians, is the nicest Christmas gift of all.

Reviewed by Thomas A. Turley

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part V: Christmas Adventures is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).



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Sherlock Holmes: Have Yourself a Chaotic Little Christmas

It’s that time of year again on Baker Street. That time when trees are trimmed, snow is falling, and… Mycroft is helping Watson to play out an old carol? Well, take one obsessive Sherlockian and give her a flood of ideas from wildly-imaginative fellow fans… and you get one wacky advent calendar of Sherlockian short stories. A picnic in a graveyard, a snowball fight, a violinist on the roof, a vampire or two, Jack the Ripper, Professor Moriarty, and the Baker Street Irregulars all combine to make this one unforgettable Christmas collection.

Sherlock Holmes: Have Yourself a Chaotic Little Christmas is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine,  Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Amazon KindleKobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).



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Out today – The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part V: Christmas Adventures

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part V: Christmas Adventures features contributions by: Bob Byrne, Derrick Belanger, Amy Thomas, David Marcum, Denis O. Smith, C.H. Dye, Marcia Wilson, Julie McKuras, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bert Coules, John Hall, Jim French, S.F. Bennett, Narrelle M. Harris, William Patrick Maynard, Vincent W. Wright, James Lovegrove, Arthur Hall, Nicholas Utechin, Mike Chinn, Tracy J. Revels, Roger Riccard, Wendy C. Fries, Paul D. Gilbert, Jan Edwards, Molly Carr, S. Subramanian, Peter K. Andersson, Matthew J. Elliott, Hugh Ashton, and Mark Mower,  with a poem by Ashley D. Polasek and forewords by Jonathan Kellerman, Roger Johnson, Steve Emecz, Melissa Farnham, and David Marcum.

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part V: Christmas Adventures is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UK,Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.



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Sherlock Holmes and The Missing Snowman

A young girl’s snowman has gone missing. Where can it have gone? There is only one man who can help. Sherlock Holmes, the most famous detective in the world.

A heart-warming Christmas tale featuring Sherlock Holmes and a certain ‘missing person’. His five year old client is distraught, Watson is indignant, Holmes to the rescue. Lovingly illustrated with a realistic Baker Street sitting-room and a fine looking Holmes and Watson, this is a slight, but endearing story which should appeal to not only younger children, but to those of us who still like to nurture our inner child. Delightful.” – The Baker Street Society

Sherlock Holmes and The Missing Snowman is available from all good bookshops including in the USA Barnes and Noble and Amazon , in the UK Amazon and Waterstones. For elsewhere Book Depository who offer free delivery worldwide. In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iPad.

missing snowman


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Philip K. Jones reviews Holmes in Time for Christmas by Ross K. Foad

“This is the first Sherlockian fiction by Mr. Foad that I know of.  It is a short novel that takes place during “The Great Hiatus.”

This is a lively, amusing tale that occurs while Sherlock is touring England as an actor.  He and “The Woman” have been touring together, he as Mr. Sigerson and she as Miss Adler. They seem to enjoy one another’s company but also do not seem to be romantically tangled.  Both are taking a rest from their regular lives, using acting to keep themselves occupied.

Holmes receives a small package in the mail which sends him into a depressed state.  On December 24th of 1899, Watson queries him about the package and Holmes agrees to explain it as his Christmas present to Watson.  Holmes tells Watson to come along and he calls for a cab that takes them to the Diogenes Club.  It appears that Mycroft is involved in the events represented by the package.

The package contained a small book which is a piece of Irene Adler Norton’s diary. Together, Sherlock and Mycroft, with the help of the diary, tell the story of a trio of Christmas murders that all three of them investigated in December, 1893.

The story is well-told and enthralling and the characters all act in ways consistent with their personae as revealed in the Canon.  The editing is relatively good, with only a sprinkling of neologisms and misplaced apostrophes and commas.  The author will, however have to overcome a tendency to drop surreptitious puns like small landmines along the way.  Many readers who are not addicted punsters may find them distracting or even corrupting.  He must remember why Socrates was condemned, “…for corrupting the minds of the young.” Creating a taste for sneaky puns is definitely a step down that slippery slide.”

Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, October, 2013

Published in “The Beggar’s cap, [V10, # 01, 09/2013]

Holmes in Time for Christmas is available from all good bookstores including  Amazon USABarnes and Noble USA, Amazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

holmes in time for christmas


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