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Things to do this Bank Holiday: Gypsy at the Savoy

It’s Easter. You’ve gouged yourself on chocolate, taken a customary walk, maybe popped into church to celebrate and to get you away from the chocolate… Now what to do on the Monday?

I’ve got just the (actual) ticket! Head to the Savoy. Not for an extortionate cocktail, or even tea, but for the Theatre. The Savoy theatre next to the famous hotel on the Strand is currently playing host to Gypsy! Staring Imelda Staunton (Prof Umbridge from Harry Potter) and Lara Pulver (‘The Woman’ from Sherlock).

Gypsy is loosely based on the Memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee the famous striptease artist and her mother the formidable Rose played by Imelda Staunton. It follows Gypsy Rose Lee AKA Baby Louise and her sister Baby June as they are pushed into Vaudeville act after Vaudeville act across America by their mother who is determined to make them ‘Stars’ to compensate for her own mother abandoning her as a child.

The Musical takes us along Louise’s journey, pushed to the side in favour of her sister at ‘Kiddie’ shows and then becoming the sole focus of all her mother’s ambitions once June has run away with a beautiful dancer to escape. It’s a musical about trust, love and motherhood as well as a warning for overly pushy mothers!

Gypsy also has some amazingly good songs, many of which are so much part of the everyday we have forgotten where they came from… the best examples of which are: Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and Let Me Entertain You (Better than the Robbie Williams version)

So, heave yourself off the sofa and head to the Savoy, and hey, why not grab some afternoon tea before the show? It’s a bank holiday after all!

– Helen

Are You Feeling Fruity?! Easter Weekend Hot Cross Buns

There was something of a revelation in the office this week when the lovely Helen (who’s been helping us on work experience) dared to suggest that the best thing about Easter, the heavenly Hot Cross Bun, was actually better without dried fruit?!!!

Anyway we haven’t been able to stop thinking of those buns since, so we’re spending our Easter weekend baking a batch of these doughy pillows of deliciousness. To fruit or not to fruit, that is the question.  

*We’ve named the chick Paul.

 

Hot Cross Buns 

  • 450g Bread Flour (Strong white- not wholemeal or they turn into little bullets)
  • 2 x 7g Sachets of Easy Blend Yeast
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 150ml Warm Milk (Semi- Skimmed or Full Fat)
  • 1 Egg Beaten
  • 50g Butter (Unsalted)
  • 1tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 50-100g mixed peel (to taste)
  • 50-100g The dreaded fruit (optional)

To Decorate:

  • 5 tbsp Plain Flour
  • 2 tbsp water

Method:

  • Put all the dry ingredients including the spices, peel (and fruit) into a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter and make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour the butter, milk and the beaten egg into the well and mix with wooden spoon till it forms a dough- add more flour if too wet, or add more milk of too dry.
  • Flour the work surface and knead the dough for about 3 minutes then put the dough back in the bowl. Place a tea towel over thee bowl and put it above a radiator or in the airing cupboard for about an hour till the dough has doubled in size.
  • Then take the dough out of the bowl need a for a moment then divide your dough into 12 equal balls and place them on two greased baking trays leaving plenty of room around each one. Pop the baking trays back on top of the radiator covered with a tea towel and leave for another 20 mins till they have doubled in size again.
  • Heat the oven to GM 6/180c Fan. Mix plain flour and water into a thick paste and put it into a piping bag and draw a cross across each bun.
  • Bake for 12-14mins until they sound hollow when tapped and look golden, and enjoy!

 

The Truth Is Still Out There by Angela Campbell #XFiles2015

It was only Tuesday and I was having a bad week, overwhelmed at the day job, suffering from seasonal allergies, and worried how much the veterinarian was going to charge for my cat’s annual visit that afternoon.

XFilesPosterThen I heard the news. You know, the news that Fox was officially bringing The X-FILES back for a limited six-episode run with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their roles and Mulder and Scully, and a miraculous thing happened. All of the chaos around me faded away. I spent the rest of the day in an absurdly good mood, grinning like an idiot, completely worthless at the day job because I was too busy exchanging emails with friends who were fellow X-Philes. When the vet receptionist handed me the bill that afternoon, I smiled, said, “Thanks!” and didn’t cringe at the cost. Well, maybe I cringed a little, but still.

I know. It’s ridiculous that a TV show, for heaven’s sake, could turn my frown upside down so quickly. Especially when that TV show has been off the air for 13-plus years.

But you only have to look at the type of books I write to understand this is THE X-FILES and it had a profound effect on me. I still remember the night the first episode aired live on television. I had just started college and was starting a new journey, one I was uncertain about, one that both terrified and excited me, and one that made me feel more like an outsider than I already did. I had always been a bit of a geek, interested in the paranormal and science fiction, quiet and kind of a loner, too. Suddenly, there was a guy named Mulder who had an “I Want to Believe” poster in his office who ran around investigating UFOs, monsters and conspiracy theories. He was smart, funny, and sexy. And there was a woman named Scully who was skeptical, but she was intelligent, witty, badass and was right there at Mulder’s side no matter how harrowing things got.

I look at THE X-FILES as the birth of the modern day cool nerds. I made friends in college because of Mulder and Scully. People who already seemed really cool loved THE X-FILES as much as I did and didn’t judge me for all of the geeky things I liked. It gave us something to talk about when ordinarily we wouldn’t have said a word to each other. We discussed the possibilities of Bigfoot, aliens and the Loch Ness Monster between classes. We all admired the heck out of Scully and wanted to date Mulder — or vice versa, depending on your orientation. I wasn’t such an outsider anymore.

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Not to mention, THE X-FILES became a cult hit, and suddenly paranormal romance books became a thing. Like, a really big thing. Other paranormal-centric TV shows followed — SUPERNATURAL, FRINGE, LOST — but none have lived up to THE X-FILES in my eyes. When I met Gillian Anderson at DragonCon a few years ago, I could barely say a word to the woman because I was so nervous, and I don’t get nervous around celebrities. I remember simply saying “Thank you” because how do you express gratitude to an actress for bringing to life a character who feels like one of your best friends, who was there to help you through good times and bad without even realizing it?  You know, without sounding like some whacko stalker? So I just said “Thank you” and probably mumbled some other nonsense that embarrassed me, but whatever. I MET SCULLY! Ha!

The revived series might suck — you can’t be a true X-Phile without admitting some episodes were sloppy at best and the theatrical movies didn’t turn out too well and you either love or hate Chris Carter as a writer — but until I see it, I remain hopefully optimistic. And excited!

I bought a replica poster of Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster at an X-FILES convention once, many, many years ago. I assume it’s in storage now, but hearing the news that Mulder and Scully will be back on TV again has made me want to search for it and hang it up. I think it’d be a nice complement to my book covers.

Come to think of it, I think every book I’ve written has had at least one brief reference to Mulder and Scully in it somewhere. It’s the least I can do for those two.

So tell me: Are you excited to see the show return?

***

Learn more about Angela Campbell’s books at www.AngelaCampbellOnline.com.

Cocktails on My Mind… by Nikki Moore

It’s almost time for the weekend and we were looking for some cocktail inspiration. So we asked Nikki Moore, author of the coveted #LoveLondon series, for some help!

COCKTAILS_CHELSEA

It’s no secret that I’ve loved the research trips I’ve been on for The Ritz Mary Pickfordmy#LoveLondon series, and drinking cocktails at The Ritz and trying different ones back home in Bournemouth has been no exception. So withCocktails in Chelsea released on Thursday 19th March, I thought it would be remiss of me not share some of those cocktails with you… plus a few recipes! Enjoy…

 

A lovely summery drink (a traditional with a bitof a fruity twist) is the Strawberry Margarita; really refreshing on a hot, sunny day.

Recipe

1.5 cups of strawberries Strawberry Margarita

1 x cup crushed ice

1/2 cup tequila

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

0.25 cup of sugar

3 tablespoons Cointreau

 

Use a blender to blend until smooth, pour into glasses and garnish with lime or strawberries.

 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a cocktail that has five different types of alcohol in it, so the Long Island Iced Tea is a firm favourite!

Recipe

1.5 cl TequilaLong Island Iced Tea

1.5 cl Vodka

1.5 cl White Rum

1.5 cl Triple Sec

1.5 cl Gin

2.5 cl Lemon juice

3.0 cl Gomme syrup

1 dash of coke

 

Serve in a highball glass over ice, stir gently and drink!

Both Cosmo’s (Cosmopolitan) and Mojito’s feature in Cocktails in Chelsea, probably because they’re two of my favourites. Cosmo’s are perfectly balanced with vodka offset against juicy cranberry and a splash of lime; while zingy Cuban minty Mojito’s are great for sipping while lying on a beach (I’ve done this in a deckchair, overlooking the Med on the French Riviera…)

Recipe

4 cl Vodka Citron

1.5 cl Cointreau

1.5 cl Fresh lime juice

3 cl Cranberry juice

 

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake well and strain twice into a glass, garnish with a slice of lime.

 

Recipe

 Cosmo and Mojito

4 cl (4 parts) Bacardi (or other white rum)

3 cl (3 parts) Fresh lime juice

6 mint leaves

2 teaspoons sugar

Soda water

 

Muddle the mint leaves with the sugar and lime juice, add the rum and top up with soda water. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a straw.

 

The trip to The Ritz was a definite highlight, and being served cocktails in the gorgeous art-deco bar was no exception. I was brave and tried something new, the Mary Pickford, according to The Ritz, ‘ A prohibition classic created in the 1920’s at the Hotel National De Cuba for the silent movie star who was in Cuba filming a movie with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.’ I can’t give you the full recipe but it contains Rum, lime cordial, pineapple cordial, cherry liquor and pomegranate syrup….

Happy St Patrick’s Day! from Carmel Harrington

Whether you are Irish or simply Irish at heart, it’s likely that on St. pretendPatrick’s Day, you will wear something green and partake in some form of celebration to mark the day. Parades are held worldwide, with people celebrating Irish culture with floats, dancing, food, drink and of course wearing fifty shades of green.

 

 

 

Icarmel’ll be marching this year with my family in the Enniscorthy Parade with Focal – Wexford Literary Festival. Our parades are a celebration of local clubs and organisations in our county, where football and hurling teams proudly wear their club colours with pride, alongside hip hop dance groups. Our floats are on a much smaller scale than in many countries worldwide. You know, it was this time last year, that I was on a  mini book tour for Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, for it’s US release. My timing was perfect, because I was invited to participate in the Chicago Parade on the 16th March, feeling like a prom queen as I stood waving to all atop a white and green float. Then I flew into New York, to march in their famous parade down fifth avenue. Wearing a purple and gold sash no less, I was a proud Wexford gal!

 

 

I was gobsmacked by how seriously the US takCarmelHe this holiday. I’ve never seen so much green worn by so many people, from every corner of the globe. At one of my book signings, a lovely Italian womanarrived, dressed head to toe in green. When I questioned her about her Irish heritage (assumptions, assumptions!), she told me that she had none. She’d simply worn green in honour of me!

 

I know that for many, St Patrick’s Day is an excuse to go drinking. It’s been reported that over 13 million pints of guinness is drank worldwide every year on this day. But did you know that up until 1970, you couldn’t get a drink in Ireland on St. Patricks day? All pubs were closed for religious purposes. If you wanted a jar, you had to attend the annual Crufts dog show, the only event where alcohol was allowed. It’s been reported that many a person suddenly became interested in cocker spaniels and Irish wolfhounds, on this one day a year.

carmel2

Now thankfully, if you fancy a pint of the black stuff you can raise a glass with us all to your hearts content. Black stuff is one of the nicknames for guinness, but if you prefer you can run with a pint of plain, or a scoop or jar. All acceptable.

 

We love how much our national holiday has spread throughout the world. It’s like a green epidemic. But be warned, there are a few things that you must never do, if you want to avoid upsetting us!

 

First of all, in the name of all that is green, remember thisliamstpattys. You never, ever, call it St. Patty’s Day. We’ll let you away with St. Paddy’s, but utter the word Patty and you can expect a strong reaction. It’s just wrong.And speaking of no-no’s, here’s another. Enough already with the Paddy Irishman jokes. They’re not funny.To us at least. Poor old Paddy has done his time being the fall guy.

 

Another thing that drives us mad,is random people shouting phrases like ‘Top of the morning to ya!’ and uttering begorra’s and begod’s in their dozens. Well I’ll let you into a secret. I’ve never once, ever, heard an actual Irish person say any of that. I reckon John Wayne in The Quiet Man has a lot to answer to. So if you feel the urge to shout that to one of us, take a sip of your guinness and resist it! Oh and by the way, hate to break this to you, but there are no such thing as leprachauns. Sorry to all the fans of Darby O’Gill. But fact’s are facts.

 

With Irish living all over the world, no matter where you are, it’s near impossible now to avoid the celebrations. And that’s pretty cool if you ask me. Celebrate with us, don your green, slap some shamrock on your lapel, raise your glass, read a book by an Irish fiction author (ahem….) and have   craic agus ceol in abundance.

 

And remember, “There are only two kinds of people in the world. The Irish and those who wish they were.” – Irish Saying

 

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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