Category Archives: Christmas

Talk In Colour – debut gig at Ginglik (or is it?)

Ginglik
When is a debut gig not a debut gig? Although our gig at Ginglik last weekend was technically our debut gig as Talk In Colour, we’re still the same lineup as the Shadow Orchestra, and still have the same tunes. But in a nod to the brave new world we’re in, we did have a completely new order for our set, which was more than a little confusing.

It was great to be back at Ginglik – somewhere we played a long time ago in a much earlier incarnation – so thanks to Colin for booking us. We were also really happy to get a nice long, unpressured soundcheck, and (more importantly) it sounded really good too. Then it was time to kick back in the club with some drinks and food, and wait for showtime.

IMG_2455

Because it was our Christmas party, we had homemade mince pies, tinsel and even a mascot:

IMG_2456

Though I think Nick’s tinsel halo looked a lot better than Chris’ tinsel pubes – you be the judge:

IMG_2458

IMG_2459

It was bloody freezing in the place, and I ended up keeping my vest on under my stage outfit. That’s rock and roll glamour for you.

The only thing we were missing was an audience. Showtime came and went, and there was still only a handful of people in the place. We held out for a whole hour, and eventually went on stage to a sparse audience. Clearly, booking a gig on one of the big Christmas party nights wasn’t a good idea.

Regardless, we really went for it and played a great gig. I started to feel a tiny bit self-conscious during the last track, as I realised I had been leaping around like an idiot in front of a half-empty room. Still, it went well and we should be going back next year – hopefully to a much bigger crowd.

Cookie wreaths

Love CookieI got the idea for these fabulous cookies from Sweetopia – a wonderfully inspiring sugarcraft blog – and thought I’d make some as a belated Christmas gift for the nearly-in-laws.

I used circular gingerbread cookies about 4 inches in diameter, made according to the recipe in Peggy Porschen’s Pretty Party Cakes. I’ve never tried her gingerbread recipe before – made with honey rather than the usual golden syrup – and the cookies are absolutely delicious. A rather large number of them never made it to the decorating stage, purely in the name of quality control you understand…

Here’s how I made them. For an explanation of how to make royal icing, and the different consistencies, have a look at Louise from CakeJournal’s helpful blog post. NB: I’m lazy and make my royal icing using a Silver Spoon box mix.  Frankly, my life is too short to be buggering about with egg whites on top of everything else.

Outline the cookies in soft peak white royal icing using a number 2 writing tip or piping bag with the tip cut off. Leave to dry briefly.

Cookie outlines

My circles leave rather a lot to be desired.

Flood with runny white royal icing, using a toothpick to push the icing out to the borders. I usually make the mistale of not making my flooding icing runny enough but this time the icing I used was quite runny, if you can tell from this picture:

Cookie flooding

I'm afraid it is rather runny, sir... (insert Monty Python joke here)

I slightly lost my nerve when filling the cookies as I started to worry I didn’t have enough icing to do them all and that it was going to leak over the edge, so I didn’t fully flood them. Leave the cookies to dry overnight somewhere where the mice/slugs/housemates can’t get them.

Mix up some soft peak royal icing and colour it red – I use Squires Kitchen colouring pastes for this. Using a number 2 writing tip, pipe happy words on the cookies. Next time I make these I’m going to do rude words (obviously not for the in-laws. Maybe for my parents…)

Next, mix up some stiff peak icing and colour it dark green using food colouring paste. Using a star tip (mine says “31” on it), roughly pipe rosettes around the cookies to look like a wreath.

Using the red writing icing, pipe little dots to look like holly berries. Leave to dry for several days.

Christmas cookies 1

Christmas cookies 2

In retrospect, I wish I’d made a little bit more flooding icing and had the nerve to flood them all the way to the ege. Once the leafy border is on, you can’t really tell I cut the corners, but a couple of them look a bit scruffy round the edges. Bloody typical.

Our Christmas video

Ricky and I took advantage of the beautiful snowy scenery and sunshine on Boxing day to run around in the snow and take some photos and videos. I made them into a little video, backed by possibly the least Christmassy Christmas song ever (but one of my favourites) – Little Girl Blue by Nina Simone. Enjoy.

 

 

Crafty Christmas

Just a quick roundup of some of the crafty gifts I gave this year at a lovely dinner party hosted by our friends Paul and Megumi.  So much absolutely amazing home-cooked Japanese food (and plum wine) that we practically rolled onto the bus home.

Socks for Amy:

Socks for Amy

Socks for Naomi. These were knitted right down to the wire – I was literally out the door to catch the bus the second I had weaved in the ends:

Socks for Naomi(possibly not the socks’ – or Naomi’s – most flattering angle. Really need  blocking too. Naomi, not the socks.)

A cute crochet hat for Megumi:

Megumi and Naomi

Marzipan moons (marzipan discs dipped in melted Maya Gold chocolate):

marzipan moons

Apologies for the slightly fuzzy pics. I blame the surfeit of Japanese plum wine and hot sake…

Like a Christmas pizza…

…Deep pan, crisp and even. Ho ho ho!

I went home to see my parents for Christmas. Because of the fire they had in their house back in the autumn, they’re currently staying in a cottage in the next village.

On the minus side, this made the holidays quite fraught as my mum valiantly wrestled with an oven and kitchen half the size she’s used to in order to produce a delicious feast for us. But on plus side, the place backs directly on to rolling hills and beautiful countryside.

The sun gloriously came out just before lunch on Christmas day, lighting up the whole landscape and turning the sky a beautiful colour. So I escaped sprout duty and nipped out in my wellies to take some snaps. I’ve never seen snow like this in my living memory, let alone at Christmas.

Ivinghoe winter scene 1

Ivinghoe hills

Icicles

May all your Christmases be white (unless you’re actually trying to get anywhere by road, rail or air…)

Christmas brownies

It’s a testament to the tastiness of these festive brownies that I only just managed to grab a photo of the last two before they vanished completely.

They were amazing. Not just “Ooh, nice with a cup of coffee” good, but good enough to cause a worrying outbreak of orgasmic noises across the office.

Christmas brownies

You too can be the bringer of chocolatey joy – and use up that leftover mincemeat. Here’s the recipe.

Christmas Truffle Brownies

Adapted from the Popina Book of Baking

Ingredients:

  • 100g Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate
  • 140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 100g butter
  • 3 eggs (large)
  • 135g caster sugar
  • 55g plain flour
  • 2-3 “knobs” of stem ginger in syrup (drained, chopped finely)
  • Approx 1/3 jar of Waitrose Cranberry and Port mincemeat

Method:

  • Get your eggs and butter out of the fridge and go and do something else for a bit.
  • Preheat the oven to 150C (300F, gas 2).  Line an 18x18cm square pan with greaseproof or a re-usable baking liner.
  • Break the chocolate into pieces. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Take this bit slowly – avoid keeping the heat on the saucepan all the time. You could probably do it in the microwave too. Stir until melted, and leave to cool down a bit.
  • Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, and whisk in the caster sugar with an electric whisk until pale and creamy. Or use a hand whisk and firm muscles.
  • Fold in the flour.
  • Fold in the choc/butter mixture carefully.
  • Stir in the chopped stem ginger and the mincemeat.
  • Pour it into the tin. Lick the bowl and spoon.
  • Into the over. The book suggests 15mins, but mine were still very wobbly in the middle, so I gave them 5 mins longer. Avoid over-cooking though. Nobody likes an overcooked brownie.
  • Leave to cool completely in the tin. I left mine in the fridge once they’d cooled to room temperature before slicing them up.
  • Makes 1 enormous greedy slab, 9 coronary-inducing size, 16 or 25 bite-sized (I usually make 25).

Wishing you a joyful Christmas

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas full of happiness and cheer. For me, it’s summed up by this year’s cake, which I nearly forgot to decorate at all in the run-up to the festivities.

Christmas cake 2010

Tech spec:

Cake made according to the Delicious magazine recipe here. Decorated with a layer of marzipan stuck on with agave syrup, as I didn’t have any apricot jam. Coated with 2 layers of royal icing. Still a bit uneven but better than last year’s attempt (and not helped by my housemmate dropping a Mars bar on it…). Sugar-paste ivy leaves, dropping-shaped holly berries and wonky piping are all my own work. The flowers are shop-bought.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas, however you celebrate it. Here’s one of my favourite Christmas songs. It’s not cheerful at all, but it is utterly beautiful.

It’s going to be an awkward Christmas, Darling – Helen Arney and Paul Richards

Imagine if Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood had made a Christmas album together… Lo and behold:
AwkwardXmas

My sister Helen is the actual properly talented one in the family, and she and Paul have put together a brilliant Christmas album full of charm, wit, and true Christmas spirit – namely arguments about the telly, breakups, humiliation at the office party, and malevolent snowmen.

And as if that wasn’t enough incentive for you to go and buy one right now, they’re also donating £1 from every sale before Christmas Eve to the charities Shelter and Cancer Research UK.

Buy yours now, and then buy some more as presents! You can download from iTunes, or buy a limited edition CD that comes with all kinds of extra festive tat like tree decorations, a party hat and some chocolate.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s Going to be an Awkward Christmas, Darling by Helen Arney & Paul Richards, with Martin Randle and special guests Terry SaundersTom McDonnell & Kat Arney*

One family’s uncomfortably suburban December 25th, perfectly captured in 11 original songs. Stories of holiday disasters, endless games of Monopoly, traditional family arguments and an irrational fear of snowmen all conspire to make your Winterval sound wonderful.

Out now on iTunesPlay.com and limited edition CD: http://helenarney.com/awkward-christmas 

Watch a specially made video by Terry Saunders, with more added throughout December: http://youtube.com/awkwardchristmas

Listen to tracks online at: http://reverbnation.com/awkwardchristmas

Live album party 20th Dec in London, with Robin Ince and more: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/94728

*Yes, of course I’m playing on it. But remember, harps are for life, not just for Christmas…