January Newsletter

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What's coming next?

STONE OF FEAR, Book 2 Stones of Iona Series, and THISTLE IN THE MISLETOE, a bonus Christmas book to the series, are coming in 2024.

Holiday Scavenger Hunt

Remember to submit your answers to enter to win a

$25 Amazon Gift Card!

You can email the answers to info@margaretizardauthor.com

by Jan 1st midnight CST, USA.

Reminder of the hunt

Nov 6th: What is the first name of the main female character in Stone of Love?

Nov 13th: What is the first name of the main male character in Stone of Love?

Nov 20th: Why is the main female character at Dunstaffnage Castle?

Nov 27th: Jazz Band Concert Tonight – check out any of my social media for a pic of my son, Aaron, at the Jazz Band Concert on the evening of Nov 27, USA, CST.

Dec 4th: What is the title of my debut Christmas book, 2024?

Dec 11th: What plant is featured in my 2024 Christmas book?

Dec 18th: Share your favorite dish for Christmas dinner…

Dec 24: Share your favorite holiday tradition…


fill out this form!


Happy New Year to you and your family!

Scottish New Year Traditions

New Year's Eve, the 31st of December, is what they call Hogmanay, probably the most legendary bringing-in of the New Year in the world. All over Scotland, from Elgin to Edinburgh, from Skye to John O Groats, Scots will raise a glass to bring in the New Year in style, casting out the old and bringing in the New.

Here are six Scottish New Year Traditions and customs that the People of Scotland do when they “bring in the bells.”

“Redding the House” for the New Year

Traditional Scottish House needs a good “redding the house” session for the New Year.

Imagine a spring clean but even more tedious. Why would anyone need clean door frames or a tidy cupboard? It’s not as if the party was in the cabinet, and when was the last time someone complimented you on a shiny piece of wood around your door? Though, being Scottish, the “redding of the house” was as much a tradition as drinking whisky and eating Haggis on Burns night. According to traditions, this was a task that must be done, especially cleaning the old ashes from the fire. This was to ensure you start the year afresh, have a clean home, be organized, and be ready to tackle the year ahead. 

New Years Fire

The Fireball Festival in Stonehaven near Aberdeen has been celebrated every Hogmanay for over 100 years.

If you’ve visited Scotland, you’ll know from some of our stories that the Vikings played a big part in shaping Scotland. Some of their traditions and customs influenced the people of Scotland and are still practiced today. The Vikings loved fire, and starting long before their pre-Christian times, they used fire to ward off evil spirits and “burn the old year out.”

Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen, has one of the most impressive fire Hogmanay celebrations, which has been enjoyed for over 100 years. The Fireball parade has a piper-led procession of brave men and women swinging balls of fire above their heads. This fantastic Hogmanay event is not for the faint-hearted and is done as a cleansing ritual to burn off any evil spirits left from the previous year so that the New Year can start full of positivity.

Singing Auld Lang Syne to welcome in the New Year


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind? 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 

and Auld Lang Syne?


What a wonderful Song! A Scottish tradition that has spread worldwide, the singing of Auld Lang Syne has become a staple for people from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, the USA, and Canada.

Written by Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns, Auld Lang Syne, which he based on an old folk song, is a fitting song to bring in the New Year as it’s all about reflection, looking back, and being grateful for the year just past, as you also look to the year ahead.

So, you’ll also be asking why we now sing this Scottish Classic worldwide on New Year. That’s likely because many Scots emigrated globally, mainly due to the Highland clearances and Scots looking to prosper elsewhere. When they did, they took this wonderful song with them. Couple this with the fact that in 1929, a Canadian of Italian descent, Guy Lombardo, and his band performed Auld Lang Syne to millions of listeners across the USA on National Radio, and from that point on, Americans loved the song, and it became part of their tradition to sing it at New Years. So, get your best or worst singing voice on and have a singsong of Auld Lang Syne during your New Year's party. 

First Footing

The custom of first footing goes back 100’s years. Tradition says you should always bring a gift as the first footer. It used to be gifts like coal to represent warmth for the year ahead, black bun cake, Scottish Shortbread biscuit, salt, or whisky to express health, prosperity, and a full belly for the following year. In the city of Dundee, it was a New Year's tradition to bring a preserved herring fish dressed in a paper bonnet and skirt.

Once you enter, it’s also customary for the first footer to be offered a drink, usually whisky, though, nowadays, it could be anything from beer, cider, or vodka. It’s the thought that counts.

Then, you’d toast the year ahead with the word, Slainte! - Good Health

Traditional New Year Dinner in Scotland

Traditional New Year meal of Steak Pie enjoyed by Scottish people every January 1st

Steak Pie, mashed potatoes, and vegetables! Just Wow! More must be said that there are chunks of steak meat in a delicious gravy, flaky puff pastry, buttery mashed potatoes or chunky chips, and wholesome vegetables! If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend you start your New Year with a Steak Pie meal.

It is only partially known when the people of Scotland started eating steak pie for New Year's Day dinner. However, one of the most popular theories is that it’s because people were far too busy to make a big meal on New Year's Day as they still had to work, and going to the butcher for a Steak pie was easy. It wasn’t until 1871 that the people of Scotland were given the 1st of January off as a holiday day, though the tradition of eating Steak pie as your New Year's meal was firmly ingrained in the culture of Scotland by then. 

Tradition of an Extra Holiday Day

They enjoy an extra day’s holiday after a Hogmanay party to bring in the New Year.

The Scots love to celebrate Hogmanay and the coming of the New Year, so to stop everyone from going to work with a pounding headache after far too much whisky, the people of Scotland were granted an additional day’s holiday on the 2nd of January. 

Steak Pie Recipe

Rich, meaty, and delicious. This steak pie, filled with slow-cooked beef and is the ultimate comfort food for a winter dinner.

PREP TIME 15minutes mins

COOK TIME 2hours hrs 50minutes mins

TOTAL TIME 3hours hrs 5minutes mins

SERVINGS 4 -6 people


2 tbsp sunflower oil

2.2lbs beef shank, trimmed and diced

2 onions, sliced

3 sticks of celery, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups red wine

10 fl oz beef stock

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp chopped thyme

1 13.75oz jar pickled walnuts, drained and quartered

1 pre-made puff pastry

1 egg, beaten


Preheat the oven to 325F. You will need a 3-pint round or rectangle ovenproof dish.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan with a lid. Add the beef and sear in two batches, and set aside.

Add the onions and celery to the pan and fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Mix in the beef.

Add the flour into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the wine until you have a smooth consistency. Add the stock, wine mixture, tomato puree, and thyme to the pan. Stir and bring up to the boil. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 3 – 3.5 hours until the beef is tender.

Once the beef is tender, stir in the pickled walnuts.

Spoon the beef into the ovenproof dish and leave to cool. Invert a small teacup or pie funnel in the center of the dish. Increase the oven temperature to 390F.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a large rectangle, a little bigger than the surface of the dish. Slice four x 1cm strips from the pastry.

Wet the edges of the dish with water and stick the four strips of pastry along the edge. Wet the top of the strips and carefully lay the large sheet of pastry over the top, press around the edge so it sticks to the strips of pastry. Crimp on the edge of the pastry. Using a small sharp knife make two holes, one on either side of the cup to allow the steam to escape and prevent the pastry from being soggy.

Brush the pie with egg wash. Bake in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes until golden.

Irish Coffee With Clootie Dumpling

Why not skip dessert and sip this decadent Scottish coffee cocktail? You might be wondering where the ‘Scottish’ part of this Irish coffee comes into play. The answer lies in the deliciously moist, fragrantly spice pieces of clootie dumplings sprinkled on the cream! Who needs Christmas pudding with a cocktail recipe like this? If you want to be a true Scotsman, you could swap the Irish whiskey for a dash of smoky Laphroaig. The chewy spice of the clootie contrasted with the peaty depth of the Islay malt makes for an unusual and indulgent pairing of two Scottish classics.


50ml Irish whiskey

½ teaspoon of brown sugar

150ml freshly brewed black coffee

2 tablespoons of double cream

1 clootie dumpling (if you don’t have one, use leftover cookie or cake)


Pour freshly made coffee into a warmed mug or glass

Add whisky and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved

Lightly whip the cream until thick, then gently float the cream over the liquid

Sprinkle with pieces of clootie dumplings. 

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