Tag Archives: london

Thank Crunchie It’s Friday! – A Royal Easter Egg, Hot Cross Buns and a dose of nostalgia

crunchie

The other day I walked into my local supermarket and was immediately drawn to the chocolate section – no great change there – but this time I was hit by a wave of nostalgia as I spied the neatly stacked boxes of Cadbuy’s Crunchie Easter Eggs.

It’s not that I haven’t seen chocolate Easter Eggs over here in the US, although they certainly don’t seem to go in for them on the same scale as back home. Some years when Christmas was still a recent memory, whole supermarket aisles would be taken over, floor to ceiling, with as many varieties of Easter Egg as you could imagine. Some would fit into a teacup, and others could weigh as much as a small child. The standard package though was usually a hand-sized milk chocolate hollow egg, surrounded by two chocolate bars. And Crunchie was always my favourite.

As a child I couldn’t understand people who saved their Easter Eggs, making them last long into the summer months. My view was that if I didn’t eat the chocolate, someone else might, so by the evening of Easter Sunday I was always looking a little green and feeling sorry for myself.

These days, I have to rely on my sister sending me ‘Easter Egg care packages’ from the UK to satisfy my cravings, or just go without, which I know is the more sensible option. But, where’s the fun in that?

easter eggs

Talking of fun, I read an article recently about the Royal Easter Egg which is made by Nick Crean, the Royal Warrant Holder for fine chocolates, in his London factory. Made of dark chocolate, it weighs 4lbs and is filled with lots of goodies.

Photo: Andrew Crowley

Photo: Andrew Crowley

You can read the whole article on how they create the Royal Egg here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/9946679/An-Easter-egg-for-the-Queen.html

Finally, if after all that chocolate, you need some carbs to soak it all up…here is one of my favourite recipes for Hot Cross Buns. They’re really easy to make, and taste SO delicious!

I found the crosses a bit too much bother to make out of dough though, so I just use icing which works great.

http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/hot-cross-buns/

hot cross buns

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The Joys of Turning Two

Jelly and Ice-cream, chocolate cake with Cadbury’s chocolate buttons, numerous books and videos of Noddy’s adventures, and a super cool wooden car complete with hippy-looking driver. These are just a few things that go into making up the perfect two-year old’s birthday party.

The birthday boy in question this time was my gorgeous nephew, Noah.
Having just flown in from Nashville a couple of hours earlier, I was so pleased to be able to celebrate the day with him. I’m not sure how much he understood of the concept of birthdays – indicated by the fact that when my sister asked him who had brought all of his lovely presents his reply was “Santa”. Oh well.

But he certainly looked like he had fun with them, and nothing summed up the pure joy in the eyes of a two year old as when his giant chocolate cake was placed in front of him.

Priceless!

Turning two with birthday cake

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Back to Reality…An East Coast Tour, and a Live CD show

Callaghan East Coast Tour 2012

After taking 3 weeks off to visit friends and family in London, I am re-adjusting to life back in the US and getting straight back to my job of performing and making music.

I don’t often take breaks – partly because there are constantly too many things on my list to do! – but this one I think was well earned. After countless shows over the last few months to promote my album “Life in Full Colour” I was ready for some down time.

Touring, I find, is an interesting existence. Each day is carefully planned, so you know what time you have to get up, how many miles to the next venue, what time load in is, where you need to be for soundcheck, what time I’m on stage, meeting people after the show, and then driving to the hotel. Then it all repeats the next day, exactly the same routine, different place.

Assuming everything is going to plan it can be a relatively stress-free time, and getting to do what I love each night sharing my music with an audience gives me immense enjoyment.

But you can’t be on the road all the time, and it’s good to get some breaks from constantly performing to work on my playing, my voice, and to find the time to work on new song ideas.

So, after my mini break, I am very excited to be starting an East Coast tour in a few days with two other performers; Matthew Perryman-Jones and Matthew Mayfield. We’ll be starting the tour in Vienna, VA, and heading all the way up the coast hitting places such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Cleveland, Charlotte and finishing up in Asheville, NC.

You can see all of the dates and ticket details on my website www.callaghansongs.com/gigs

There’s also a very special show I’m currently working on for the end of October. On Saturday October 27th I’ll be performing a full band show at The Red Clay Theater just north of Atlanta, GA. It’s a fantastic 250-seat theater and the whole show is going to be recorded for a live CD that I plan to release before Christmas.

As much as I enjoy the acoustic shows I perform, getting to play with the full band is something else. The musicians are mostly from Shawn Mullins’ Band and mind-blowingly awesome! I love getting to experiment when I perform full band shows and do different versions of my songs, as well as some very surprising covers! You can find all the details about the show and get tickets from www.eddieowenpresents.com

Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

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Afternoon Tea at The Ritz – A perfect end to a perfect break

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

London Baby! I’ve been enjoying a couple of weeks rest and relaxation visiting friends and family in my old home town. It’s great being back in a city which never ceases to amaze me in its scale and diversity. It’s been a great time to be back – the feel good factor surrounding the games is still going strong!

London is a city of contrasts in all manner of things. One example would be the weather – you never know what you’re going to get. Last Thursday night I met with friends in a rooftop garden on the Southbank of the Thames – after 10 minutes braving the cold wind we had to go inside, and all agreed that Autumn had come. One week later we were enjoying drinks outside again in hot sunny weather – sometimes it only takes an hour to go from summer to winter, and you have to carry a range of layers to prepare for all eventualities.

I have had two contrasting experiences in the last couple of days doing two old school British things. On Wednesday night I went with friends to a night at the Bingo! A top prize of £20,000 was promised and I was amazed at how quickly experienced players could survey multiple cards, while I was struggling to check all the numbers on my single card. I didn’t get close to winning the big prize, but I enjoyed a good meal of ham, egg and chips! (that’s fries across the pond!)

On Thursday I enjoyed doing something which I think will seem quintessentially British, but which I had never done before – I went for afternoon tea at The Ritz. It was quite an experience.

We were first served champagne (my kind of afternoon tea!) followed by a fantastic range of delicate sandwiches varying from cheese with onion chutney, chicken and horseradish mayonnaise, smoked salmon, and of course the afternoon tea classic – cucumber.

There was a huge selection of different teas to choose from, as well as coffee and hot chocolate.

Then more food…freshly made warm raisin scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, as well as a variety of amazing cakes. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat one more crumb, a dessert trolley was wheeled by with two more cakes to choose from – a lemon drizzle cake and a strawberry pistachio cake.

All in all it was just as fantastically indulgent as I had imagined and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to go.

So I didn’t win £20,000 on Wednesday, but I might have gained 20 pounds on Thursday. Even though I may have to spend a few days working up a sweat in the gym once I’m back home, every bite was definitely worth it!

Callaghan with the Commissionaire at The Ritz London

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Becoming a tourist again in London

Callaghan on the Hungerford Bridge overlooking the Thames, London

Something odd happens when human beings get on planes and travel to different countries. People who were previously intelligent magically lose all ability to perform basic tasks like finding their way out of a train station, or buying the right travel ticket.

This is the situation I find myself in now that I’m back in London.

Despite having lived in the city for over 10 years, somehow when I come back as a tourist I lose all my previous knowledge and a journey that should take 5 minutes takes an hour, making one unnecessary diversion after another.

But, even with “tourist-brain”, I’m really enjoying being back in London. Seeing the sights and the changes that have been made since the Olympics and catching up with old friends is great fun.

Here are a few recent snaps I took…

Almost a Waterloo Sunset over the Thames in London

An art display as part of the London Paralympics

View of The London Eye

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It’s all about the family time

After a busy couple of months, and lots of travel including being in 7 airports in the last week alone, I have finally made it to the UK.

I’m really enjoying taking it easy and catching up with friends and family, and thankfully the weather is holding out so far too!

I have espcially loved seeing my gorgeous 18 month old nephew, Noah, who has so much personality and so much energy. The photo of him above was taken in Richmond Park in London by my sister Steph, who is a super talented film photographer. You can see more of her lovely photos on her website www.callaghansmithportraits.com

It’s just a short blog this week, but I wanted to wish everyone a fantastic weekend!

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Two years into my US adventure, I’m sending Love back to London!

London Olympic Decorations

Flags, flags, flags…The decorations are up for the London 2012 Olympics. Photo by Sharon Addison

Today is exactly two years since I moved to the US.

That time has flown by so fast, and looking back over the last 24 months makes me so pleased I took the plunge and got on the plane to follow my dream of doing music full time. The people I have met, places I have seen and experiences I have had have been amazing.

But there are inevitably things I miss out on from back home in the UK. Events that happen in the lives of friends and family that I’m not involved in like before, TV shows and new celebrities that come and go without me ever being aware of them, and I feel a lot of nostalgia for the streets, sights and sounds of London.

And this week is the start of something very exciting going on in my home town – The Olympics are coming to London.

This will be the third time London has hosted the Olympics – the first two in 1908 and 1948.

Photos have been all over my friends’ facebook pages and I have been scrolling through them all to get a sense of how the city is changing and what the atmosphere is like. Quite a few of my friends are volunteering during the games, and lots have been photographed with the Olympic torch.

The games were awarded back in July 2005 when I was still living in London. I don’t think anyone in the UK will forget that week because the elation of winning the bid on the 6th of July was immediately followed by the heartbreak of the terrorist bombings in the city on July 7th.

For all the stereotypes that exist of the British stiff upper lip and reserve, Londoners joined together to grieve when the bombings happened and are joining together now to  celebrate the huge festival that is the Olympics. I think coming together like that is part of what makes London such a fantastic city.

I’ll be watching the opening ceremonies as they’re streamed across the Atlantic tonight and I can’t wait to see what they have planned.

So, two years after leaving London to start my US adventure I am sending a wish that the sun shines on London and that all my friends in the UK love being a part of the games – and hoping they take lots of photos for me to enjoy too!

p.s. On a funny note, I heard a great story on a British radio programme recently about the “Chap Olympiad”. Held annually in London, the event describes itself as “a celebration of eccentricity and athletic ineptitude with the emphasis on panache and style over sporting prowess”. You can expect events such as the cucumber sandwich discus, umbrella jousting and butler racing. There was one particular event that really caught my eye – ‘The Hop, Skip and G&T’ where contestants leap into a sandpit holding a brimming gin and tonic and get points deducted for spillages. If I start training now, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to win the coveted “golden cravat” next time!

 

Butler racing at the Chap Olympiad

A competitor tries to throw his rival off course during the butler racing event at The Chap Olympiad, London. Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

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LIFE IN FULL COLOUR #5

Callaghan "Life in Full Colour"

# 5 – Close My Eyes

This is my mini blog about each of the songs that make up my debut album, “Life In Full Colour”, and the stories and inspirations behind them. “Life in Full Colour” is now available on iTunes, Amazon, or www.callaghansongs.com

Love reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age ~ John Dryden

I think that quote sums up the intention of this song quite well. Being apart from someone you love can be so difficult, especially when you don’t know the next time you’ll see them again, or if maybe you’ll never get to see them again.

I wrote this song back when I was living in London and when the idea of moving to the US was still only a passing thought. I always knew that moving across the ocean and thousands of miles from my friends and family would be challenging but even now, after nearly 2 years of living in the States, and with all the friends I have here,  missing some people never gets any easier.

But for all the moments of heartache it has made me a lot more aware of not taking people for granted and treasuring every second you have.

None of us knows how long we’ll be around or how long our loved ones will be a part of our lives and for all the things which weigh on our minds every day and take up all our time, we should never forget to let people know we love them. So close your eyes and think of someone who makes you happy.

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Pancake Day

 

Being a Brit living in America there are a few traditions from home that I like to try and keep going..one of them is Pancake Day which was the Tuesday of last week (21st Feb).

Also known as Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day in the UK falls 7 weeks before Easter, and comes before Ash Wednesday, the day before Lent. According to Wikipedia (the source of all reliable knowledge!) Pancake Day is also celebrated in the US, although I haven’t seen much evidence of it in the supermarkets. I saw something on the news about Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday on 28th Feb – is this the same thing? Maybe some American readers could fill me in and let me know if you also eat pancakes on that day?

From memory, Pancake Day in my house was not so much to do with religion as it was seeing how many pancakes you could eat. The way I liked them was cooked as thin as you possibly could, flipped over in the air if you dared, then rolled up and served with a generous heaping of sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. An even more insulin-busting version was spreading them with Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup. I think the closest thing to Golden Syrup here in the US would be Light Corn Syrup. There was something so magical as a small child about sticking a spoon into that big silver and green can of Golden Syrup and eating it (probably not something my older sister who is now a dentist would recommend!).

I don’t know whether all children have an innate love of sweet things but I certainly did. My dad told me that as a kid he used to eat sugar sandwiches – exactly what they sound like – 2 slices of bread with butter and sugar in between! So maybe I inherited it from him.

In my opinion, pancakes are good at any time of year. One fond memory from my years living in North London was the pancake van in Hampstead village called La Crêperie de Hampstead. It made the best pancakes I have ever tasted and always had a queue that stretched right down the road every day it was open.

And of course Pancake Day was only a few weeks away from Easter, when the shops would be filled to the ceilings with chocolate eggs. I still think there is something special about the taste of Easter Egg chocolate, and I would always, despite my parents yearly warnings, eat all of my eggs in one day and never fail to make myself sick.

 

As a self-confessed foodie, one of the interesting things about living in a different country is the variation of foods and the part it plays in that country’s customs. I recently discovered a couple of the big Farmers Markets in Atlanta and have had great fun exploring the aisles, all filled with food from different continents. My two latest discoveries were Alligator meat and sugar cane. I think on balance I preferred the sugar cane!

(photos from http://www.pigpigscorner.com/2009/06/la-creperie-de-hampstead-london.html)
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