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…)

Northern discoveries

I made a couple of amazing discoveries up north this weekend.

1. You can buy simply gorgeous cocktails for under £5. [Truly a revelation for a London resident where such beauties are easily £10+.] In fact, another discovery (though not an amazing one) is that I can actually tire of drinking cocktails – only managing three before I longed for a Diet Coke to cleanse my pallet.

An elderflower mojito, something containing Earl Grey tea & tequila and my utterly delicious Bourbon Cookie with an actual bourbon biscuit on top…

2. Pubs, restaurants and other such establishments have slightly odd facilities in their ladies’ toilets. [Actually, they might have them in the men’s toilets, but I didn’t check.] Witness:

Yes, those are hair straighteners…in a toilet…in a venue where people drink. Any possible health and safety issues there?

Oh, and just in case you think I’m generalising, here’s another – so at least two separate establishments had them:

Clearly having poker-straight hair is of immense importance to ladies in the north-east – I wonder if it’ll catch on down here?

3. You can’t buy black opaque tights there, or any tights in fact. At least, it would appear that one can’t, given that I saw no one wearing any while out on Saturday night. But I think I’m going to return to that topic tomorrow…

Happy Sundays

Something I learned very early on in my child-caring days is that small people and hangovers do not mix. Little people just don’t understand the need to lie in a dark room in order to die slowly and their favourite form of communication involves loud noises and sudden movements, which is less than ideal if you’re of a sensitive disposition.

Once a month I work with the under 6’s at church, thus once a month a Saturday night is pretty much written off. Only a couple of times have I forgotten the golden rule that happy Sunday mornings follow sober Saturday nights and it hasn’t been pleasant.

This weekend I accidentally overdid it. I say ‘accidentally’ – the equation went something like this:
Last minute invitation to picnic + cider + limited food intake [despite ‘picnic’] + champagne + pepsi & rum = not fully compus mentus Lizzy

A large quantity of water, some paracetamol and a decent night’s sleep helped repair the damage, but yesterday morning was still a bit of a struggle. I sat on the tube trying to get my head round Jesus healing a man of leprosy (the designated story of the day) and wondering if the moral of the tale (‘Jesus can heal us’) couldn’t be applied to me as soon as possible.

Despite my fragility, my morning turned out to be rather lovely in a warm and fuzzy way. A good start was the free bacon sandwich I landed on arrival at church (pleasingly was also virtually perfect in crispiness). Even lovelier was when a small child informed me (whilst wearing a Christmas dress from Tesco – in June) that when she grew up she wanted to be Santa. But the crowning moment was when a nearly three-year old boy kissed my feet…

I probably should expand upon that last one.
The boy in question is an absolute sweetie and, though I don’t have favourites, on a hypothetical list he’d be near the top. During news time (a round-up of who’s been swimming or gone to parties) this child was attacking his big sister with kisses and licks – to the extent that she referred to him as a ‘lickosaurus’.

In trying to encourage him to stop, another adult said that if he wanted to kiss people he could kiss her. He then went round all the grown-ups and kissed the nearest bit of anatomy he could get to.  Unfortunately, his height now reaches the top of my legs, which meant that when he kissed me he ended up pretty much on my crotch. We won’t dwell on that…

A few minutes later, I was sat on a small chair intended for very small people, minus my shoes, whilst the children attentively listened to a story. Kissing child was not listening, instead he crawled around on his hands and knees. Reaching me, he approached my feet, slathering my toes with very wet kisses – it was rather reminiscent of a phase the family labrador went through. The other adults noticed and struggled to keep a straight face, I kept quiet so as not to distract the other, perfectly behaved children, but when he came round for a second go, the giggles were hard to smother.

Not only did I feel loved (albeit in a slightly worrying/gross way) but I also had the joy of informing our esteemed worship leader that his son’s developed a foot fetish…

Sitting uncomfortably

I am in pain – physically and emotionally.
Every time I shift my position at my desk, either my back, shoulders or thighs scream out in protest.
It would be fine if this was the after-affect of extreme pilates (an Avatar themed class is scheduled for tonight, that could be extreme…) or an intense run, but it’s not.

It is in fact, the result of an initial foray into the world of pole dancing. Actually, ‘world of’ is a little too grand. There was a bar, downstairs it had a pole, where for about 10 minutes I attempted to swing on it – failing to complete a single 360° revolution. The shame.

I therefore have a whole new level of respect for pole dancers. Turns out it’s quite a physically demanding occupation – you need thighs of steel and fantastic upper body strength. Perhaps the campaign to have it as an Olympic sport isn’t so far-fetched after all.

Just in case any of you were a little concerned as to the direction my interests seem to be heading (a friend at church last night wondered if I was having my teenage rebellion a little late in life), I’m solely interested in its artistic and physical fitness merits – the scantily cladness and seduction techniques not so much.

Simply attempting the pole lands me with another 2010 first. Taking it a step further and signing up for the pole dancing fitness class at the gym would see me tick ‘take a dance class’ off the list, though it’s not at all what I had in mind at the time.

Saturday night was educational in other ways – I learnt new things about my camera (relating to the mysterious ISO count – very useful), discovered several things about the birthday girl that I didn’t already know (apparently I also declared her best friend to be my new best friend on the basis of some story she told), and realised that it is never, ever, a good idea to press ‘send’ on that text message at the end of a night…

[Oh, and in case you’re disappointed that this post doesn’t come complete with photo of my efforts on the pole, unfortunately, despite my camera getting passed round the group for most of the evening, it was in my pocket at that precise moment. Of course, I ensured I got shots of the others, wouldn’t want to miss that Facebook opportunity…]

Don’t judge me, please!

Today, Annabelle and I experienced a joyous, heart-warming moment in the midst of chaos, children and Christmas shoppers. The exact location was McDonalds in Brent Cross (please don’t judge me on the location – I’ll explain in a sec…), where every seat was taken and we were loitering with intent, looking to swoop in on a table as soon as it looked like it was being vacated.

What we didn’t realise was that a member of staff was also on the look out for a table for us too. This particular owner of a McJob was (in the words of Annabelle) the oldest person she’d ever seen in a McDonalds, let alone working in one. We’d spied a possible table, and this lady helpfully asked if she could clear away their rubbish, giving them the hint to move on. Then she set about making sure it was clean and tidy for us, took our trays out of our hands and placed them on the table as well as (I think) pulling Ann’s chair out for her. I’ve had worse service in supposedly swanky restaurants! Bless her.

Please don’t judge our choice of eatery. Both of us were suffering from the after-effects of a rather entertaining night out and were therefore desperately in need of the restorative power of salty fries and a strawberry milkshake. We also needed sustenance to get us through the hell on earth that is Brent Cross on a December Saturday. It’s quite a trek from the wilds of South London – but it’s also the location of the only Lakeland shop in the whole city, so a trip was essential to purchase a particular gift for Annabelle’s sister. I was persuaded to join in on the basis that I’d finally be able to obtain some mini-cupcake cases for my mini-cupcake pan.

Also, please don’t judge us for our hangovers. (I’ve decided it’s officially my worst since November 21st 2008 – I think it says a lot for my usually decorous behaviour that I can actually date bad hangovers!) It was an entirely accidental surfeit of pink wine, resulting in the kind of evening whose events slowly reappeared in my memory over the course of the morning.

You know it’s been an interesting night out when you wake and realise your hair’s still full of (uncomfortable) hair pins, but before you can take them off you have to check that you didn’t send the deeply unwise text you suddenly remember writing the evening before!