Festively baking & boozing

It really isn’t Christmas without a party, and without a party there is no (real) excuse for festive baking or, more importantly, festive boozing. Our flat’s having one such party tomorrow night, courtesy of our Germanic part-planner who sadly leaves the Big Smoke next week. In preparation, I spent last night trying out a new Christmas cookie recipe [baked while watching Love, Actually to get me in the mood]. Having sampled some of the results I can testify that it’s worth sharing, so here it is:

Discovered via googling ‘cinnamon biscuits’ and landing here, I amended slightly to suit my cinnamon fetish tendencies…

Christmas in biscuit form

150g (5 oz) self-rising flour
150g (5 oz) plain flour
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
125g (4 ½ oz) butter
100g (3 ¾ oz) sugar
1 egg beaten
Caster Sugar & cinnamon – for sprinkling
1. Set oven at 160 degrees C (Gas Mark 3).
2. Sift flours and cinnamon into a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, mix butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and mix well.
4. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix into firm dough. Lift on to a lightly floured board, knead until smooth.
5. Roll to 5mm thickness and cut into shapes.
6. Sprinkle sugar & cinnamon onto a plate and coat biscuits before placing on baking sheet.
7. Bake in the preheated oven until light golden colour, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool and harden.

As an afterthought, this morning I decided to add a drizzling of cinnamon icing – not too much, just enough to make them even sweeter and even more cinnamony [as I said, it’s an obsession].

For all parties, it is obligatory to have booze. At Christmas, this is often of a spiced, mulled and hot variety, but why not branch out and go cold? So cold, that it actually involves ice cream. You may recall that at my first ever Thanksgiving the other week, I had my first ever egg nog – I now have the recipe, so I’ll share it with you: 
D’s Holiday Egg Nog
(It’s an American holiday so obvs, it’s an American recipe.)
(Also, it sounds lethal, but it’s yummy – honest!)

12 eggs – separated
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. Salt
2 tbsp. Nutmeg
2 cups bourbon
2 oz. Rum (The Booze is optional! Most of the time he makes a mixture of bourbon, rum, and brandy.)
½ c. powdered sugar
4 cups heavy cream
4 cups milk
½ gallon vanilla ice cream

1. Beat egg yolks until creamy; beat in sugar, salt, vanilla , and nutmeg. Beat in bourbon and rum slowly.
2. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form, beating in powdered sugar. Add cream and milk to yolk mixture; fold in egg whites. 
3. Then use beater as you add ice cream. (The ice cream makes it cold and frothy). 
[The mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated for several hours – then add in the ice cream.]
Pour it into a classy glass, grate some nutmeg – et voila!!
Did you know that nutmeg is a hallucinogenic? 
(Turns out you’d need to eat an awful lot before it took effect though…)

Some alcoholic, childish Friday Fun

First up is something that isn’t fun of itself, but that in the right hands and filled with the right liquid could be a huge amount of fun – I love handbags and I love wine, so these would be simply awesome:

That is the ‘Baggy Winecoat’ – a bag in which you can tote a box of wine. I’m assuming everyone’s been in a situation where they’ve thought to themselves “gosh, life would be so much easier if I had a bag for my wine box”, I know I have. It comes in a variety of colours, but sadly you have to provide the win yourself. Actually, over the summer I was thinking that in my future life as a vicar, a hipflask might be an important accessory – you know, just for those emergency, alcohol involving pastoral situations? But perhaps the wine bag would be easier to get away with? Something to ponder…

Try-hard segue time: you know who liked lots of wine and probably would have invested in their own Baggy Winecoat? Ally McBeal. Ages ago I found something which I added to my Friday Fun file, but hadn’t so far found a suitable outlet for – now, given what will be book-ending this feature, I feel it’s finally appropriate. I appreciate that not everyone will remember the great late 1990s TV series as fondly as I do, but the fact that someone had captured her facial expressions so perfectly made me chuckle a lot:

More Ally McBeal faces here. You know what else Ally McBeal liked, besides wine and making weird faces? Dancing babies. You know what I spent a not inconsiderate amount of time watching last night? Videos of dancing children (they’re pre-schoolers, so not strictly babies, but it’s still cute as). 
Who isn’t going to have their morning brightened by watching super cute twins dancing (and doing a bit of singing) in front of their TV? A hard-hearted mean person, that’s who! 

Keep your eyes on the boy on the right – he’s a right little mover and is definitely the one with rhythm. If you’re really in need of cheeriness, I highly recommend also watching Who Let The Dogs Out and Kung Fu Fighting – super cute! Watching these has also reminded me that I’ve got a copy of Just Dance for the Wii knocking around that I’ve never played with, so if anyone fancies emulating the twins, let me know…

Also, just to warn devoted readers that blogging may be light/non-existent for the next week as I’m off to France. No, not to play with scaffolding (sadly), but to have vicar school en Francais for a week. I don’t go to France for fourteen years and the I end up going three times in four months – typical!

Amusing anecdotes about absinthe

1. Absinthe was banned in the UK until 1998.
2. Absinthe was banned across the world in the early 20th century – Belgium in 1906, Switzerland in 1908, USA in 1912 & France in 1915.
3. It will not make you go mad (well, no more so than any other spirit).
4. It could be an aphrodisiac, but then so are most alcoholic beverages in sufficient quantities.
5. It tastes revolting – both in its original aniseed flavour and mint version.
6. An afternoon of absinthe drinking will inevitably lead to to an awesome karaoke evening.

Ok, actually, none of those were particularly amusing – I was just looking for an alliterative title. I’m not usually given to drinking absinthe, in fact, I’m almost certain that I’ve not tried it before – probably fearing that it would provoke the same reaction in me that its aniseed cousin sambucca does. [It makes me very, very angry – I now try and avoid it where possible.]

Don’t get ideas, drinking spirits is also not something I’d generally do mid-afternoon either, but this was a special occasion. Another 30th – this time a wine tour of Vinopolis (mecca of alcoholic facts and refreshment in London Bridge) that actually included gin, rum, whisky, beer and the aforementioned absinthe. It started at 2pm and it’s a miracle I was able to find my way the short distance home at three and a half hours later.

I’d love to say that I learned a lot – I probably did, but the units of alcohol consumed made the information fall out of my brain. Instead of answering the (many) questions in my wine tasting notebook, I simply wrote down whether I liked them and any amusing tidbits from the wine labels. Thus I can share that the Casa Filgueria Tannet (a red wine from Uruguay) is known for its ‘silky attack’ and its ‘persistent finish’. [I liked it a lot.]

Also in my notebook are the following quotes:
“Can I have a glass of red?” [To a waitress behind a table full of a variety of Southern Hemisphere reds.]
“I was going to wear pants tonight – girl boxer style ones – but they were a bit obvious so I’ll just go without…”
I probably should clarify that these were snippets gleaned from a nearby hen party – a group of girls that actually wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible “because they were on a hen”. Clearly the wine tour just equalled a piss up in their eyes!

A Bombay Sapphire cocktail’s shadow in the Bombay Sapphire Gin Experience

Unsurprisingly, this afternoon of merry entertainment ensured that when I got to that evening’s karaoke party (with a completely different group of people) I was more than willing to step up and sing the dreaded first song of the night. [It was All That She Wants – Ace of Base – in case you’re wondering and it wasn’t my choice…]

Sherry & Schwartz

Sherry – as in the alcoholic beverage usually served pre-dinner. Never drunk it myself, being more of a Gin and Slim kind of girl.

Schwartz – the award-winning composer of fabulous musicals, most specifically Wicked.

Neither, if I’m honest, are things I’d expect to find at church on a Sunday morning.

This month, I’ve got to spend my Sundays visiting a church that’s somewhat different to my usual place of worship. The Church of England is a spectrum of worship styles and theological traditions – my church exists at one end of it. Therefore I’ve been tasked with exploring a church that’s towards the opposite end of the spectrum.

There was nothing particularly alien about the church – it was harvest festival, there were small children dressed up as vegetables (don’t get me started on the child wearing a pumpkin mask…), there were smells but no bells and lots of robes.

Browsing through the order of service while waiting for it to kick off, I made a surprising discovery. The anthem (during which the harvest gifts would be brought forward) was written by Stephen Schwartz. What on earth was a piece by a musical theatre legend doing in the middle of a High Church service?

Ok, so it was from Godspell and it was a version of the harvest classic ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ – so it possibly was apt, but let’s just also say that it was perhaps indicative of the inclusive nature of the church.

The order of service also mentioned the post-service refreshments. Regular church attenders will be familiar with the standard of beverage usually available – over-brewed tea, coffee of a dubious nature and intensely strong squash. There’ll usually be some biscuits, but the zealous children of the parish will have swiped the plate as soon as it appears.

It’s not often that there’s booze on offer. Wine at the abbey last Easter – fair enough; post-evening service welcome drinks seem logical; and carol services wouldn’t be complete without mulled wine. But sherry, at 11am? That’s a new one on me – oh, and there were two varieties (sweet or dry) on offer.

Still, that’s notched up another 2010 First. Not sure that sherry will become a regular fixture on my alcoholic beverages list, but who knows – maybe I’ll grow accustomed to it over the next three Sundays? 

Of handbags and gladrags

Yesterday, my handbag (of the huge variety) told quite a story. Its contents (usual handbag stuff plus: folder of music, spare tights, make-up, glittery shoes & a bottle of red wine) spoke of performance, glamour and possible alcoholism – especially when a second bottle was added later on.

And what of my clothes?

At 8am, hurrying to the tube station the dressed-upness of my carol service outfit seemed totally out of place. In fact, the glances I got made me realise that I looked as though I was doing the walk of shame – albeit with fresher make-up and hair. It’s like when you have to leave early to get to a wedding and the rest of the world is in jeans whilst you’re clad in a pink cocktail dress…

Lunch was an amazing example of how to do Christmas dinner for 25 (and brilliant organisational skills in delegating tasks to the guests), but quite frankly, I was over-dressed. I’m self-conscious at the best of times, but put me in a dress (and blue tights – what was I thinking??), much sparkly eye make-up with curled hair and place me in a room full of people in ‘normal’ clothes – awkward. Do I want the people I met for the first time to think I’m the kind of girl who regularly wears a diamante headband in her hair? [Because I’m not – honest!]

In context, the clothes were perfect. It’s the rule for the carol services that you dress up, put on the bling – to quote the e-mail instructions: “And of course girls, bling bling bling – either silver, gold, blue or green!”. So dress up we did, and got our groove on…

As an aside, do you know what else makes me feel self-conscious?
Dancing.
Being filmed.

What happens when the two things happen to coincide?
One rather uncomfortable Liz, who grins and bears it for over four hours. Think I got away with it though – apparently I was one very smiley alto and the restricted stage space perhaps concealed my lack of moves. I’m going to try not to think about my face, on a large screen, for a long period of time…