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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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When searching for a perfect dessert, it’s hard to beat the good British Pud

While some people are addicted to reading the latest fashion magazine or finding out the gossip on the Hollywood grapevine, there is nothing I find more relaxing than sitting down with a good cookery book and reading it cover to cover.

Although I enjoy looking at lots of food related books, it’s really the desserts that get me going. For me, combining a few simple ingredients to create the most heavenly treats is one of life’s purest pleasures.

While I don’t usually need an excuse to start flicking through the brightly illustrated pages, this time there is a definite reason. The friend who owns the house I’m currently staying in is having a dinner party and I volunteered to make dessert. And this particular friend also happens to have been a food writer in years gone by so is not easy to impress!

For our last little gathering I made a variation on the British recipe for Eton Mess, adding some caramelised peaches and spun sugar pieces, and it went down a storm. So the pressure for a repeat success is on!

When I last visited the UK I brought back a cookbook that looked like it would stand me in good stead for some culinary reminders of home – Jamie’s Great Britain. It has some fantastically British sounding recipes in it like “Bubble and Squeak”, “Wee Scotch Eggs”, “Queen Victoria Sponge”, and “Humble Pea & Ham Soup with Fluffy Dumplings”.

That last dish is so British in fact that when the Capital was at its smoggiest, Londoners used to refer to a low visibility day as a “real Pea Souper”.

And of course the book wouldn’t be complete without a recipe for the dish loved by children and adults alike, and the very first thing I ever learnt to cook myself – Jam Tarts.

But I think this dinner party might call for something slightly more sophisticated than a plate of Jam Tarts, so the search continues.

The good thing about a task of this nature is the almost mandatory sampling of many kinds of puddings. Incidentally, one of the many interesting “lost in translation” moments since moving to America was finding out that “pudding” in the US refers to a smooth custardy dish, not simply as another name for any dessert as it does in the UK.

I found a trip to the Nashville Famers‘ Market was the inspiration that I needed, and with all the fresh and tasty looking apples that were in season, I decided to go with one of my favourite British recipes, Apple Crumble.

I usually serve apple crumble with hot custard or cream, but an even more perfect accompaniment I found was a recently discovered ice-cream by Talenti, called Sea Salt Caramel. I think this particular ice-cream goes perfectly with just a spoon, but on apple crumble it’s also fantastic. It’s a pretty decadent treat.

If you like the sound of Apple Crumble, there are loads of great recipes for it online. You can’t go far wrong with Delia Smith’s though, which you can find here, and she even has a handy conversion table on her site for measuring in cups: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/galleries/delia-waitrose-recipes/best-ever-apple-crumble.html

NB: The photo I used is not actually a picture of my apple crumble, due to it being so delicious that it all got eaten before I remembered to take a photo! So this one is borrowed from http://pincurlmag.com/tag/apple-crumble

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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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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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Fish and Chips, Pints of Beer, S’Mores and Grits – A Transatlantic Feast

 

Traveling, seeing new places and having adventures is great fun, but sometimes there’s nothing that feels better than home. Familiar surroundings, friendly faces and the ease and comfort of many things that you know.

It has been 9 months since I’ve been back to the UK and so the next 3 weeks are a long awaited treat. I won’t be doing any gigs while I’m back, just catching up with friends and family and seeing how my hometown of London has changed after the recent Olympic celebrations. I can’t wait!

One thing I miss while living abroad is certain foods that I never even realised I liked that much when I was in the UK, but suddenly when they’re not available, strange cravings appear.

For those of you in the USA interested in sampling some British favourites, most Publix and Kroger supermarkets have some in their “Ethnic Food” Aisle (an amusement in itself!). You can pick up things like Jammie Dodgers, Heinz Baked Beans, Marmite, and even tins of Spotted Dick which, although sounds like an unfortunate condition, is a type of boiled fruit cake, and actually very tasty with icecream or custard.

   

The foods I’m most looking forward to when I go back are fish and chips drenched in salt and vinegar, a pint of beer in a British pub, and the biggest bar of Cadbury’s chocolate I can find.

And I thought it was about time I introduced the UK to some great American classics, so I’m taking back in my luggage some grits, graham crackers and marshmallows to make S’Mores, and I need more suggestions!

What is your favourite American food that you think I should take back to introduce to my British friends and family? It can be anything, as long as it travels well.

Leave your suggestions below and I’ll let you know how they go down across the pond!

 

 

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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 #6 – Sweet Surrender

Callaghan "Life in Full Colour"

Blog # 6 – Sweet Surrender

I recently read a review of my album which described Sweet Surrender as a “woe is me” song. It has always interested me the ways people interpret songs and how different they can be from my original intention.

I have no problem with people taking whatever interpretation they feel when listening to one of my songs, in fact I’m just happy they’re listening! I always try and write in a way that isn’t so personal that it excludes someone else’s experience and ability to connect to a song.

Having said that, I found the review I mentioned earlier particularly interesting since it was the exact opposite of what I had intended the song to be about. For me, Sweet Surrender’s message is more ‘woe is you, I’m outta here!’

I’m sure a lot of people who have been in a less-than-ideal relationship can relate to the moment when you realise you’re not going to put up with it anymore and make the decision to walk away. Sometimes it can take quite a bit of determination to leave a bad relationship when there could be so many factors making you want to stay, but once you are free and clear you can gain a new feeling of strength and self-confidence.

I think the last verse of the song sums up the feeling for me:

Waking up alone in this silent motel room
Can’t believe you ever talked me into loving you
But there’s no use trying to turn back
All the time I gave to you
Cos it made me who I am 
Somehow I found the strength to walk away

Life is about taking chances, and a life in full colour has it’s highs and lows all of which contribute to who we are.

I’m happy with that reviewer or any other listener making up their own mind about what the song means to them. I think that’s all part of the power and enjoyment of music.

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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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The Countdown to Life in Full Colour #4

Callaghan "Life in Full Colour"

# 4 – It Was Meant To Be

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 released on iTunes May 1st.

In my last blog I mentioned co-writing, and this song “It Was Meant To Be”, happens to be another one of the co-writes on my album. Written with two other writers, one of whom was John Peppard (who also co-wrote the Grammy-winning song “In Another’s Eyes” by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood).

This song seems to be quite an audience favourite – both at live shows and people telling me it has been played at their wedding, which I think is so cool!

“It Was Meant To Be” is an unadulterated, simple, straight-from-the-heart love song about the moment when you feel all the stars align and everything falls into place.

The song was written several years ago and has been recorded a few times in various different ways – stripped back and slowed right down on the piano (as on my EP “Nothing You Say”) to the full band version on the album. I really love the album recording and had great fun experimenting in the studio with new sounds like mellotron.

I’m sometimes asked what it’s like to sing the same song over and over again. I have no idea how many times I have sung “It Was Meant To Be” but it’s probably in the thousands. There must be something special about this song though because I get something different from it each time I perform it. I have a feeling I’m still going to be singing it years from now and I hope it continues to connect with the people who hear it.

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Countdown to “Life in full colour” #3

Callaghan-banner Life in Full Colour

# 3 – Nothing You Say

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 released on iTunes May 1st.

“Nothing You Say” is one of the older songs on the album. It was written several years back with a friend and very talented keyboard player called Luke Juby.

Luke and I wrote quite a few songs together – another co-write “If only for tonight” is also on this album.

Although I write a lot of songs on my own, I really enjoy co-writing because of the different places it can take you to. When you’re working with someone else or even several co-writers at once, ideas, stories, outlooks on life, opinions, emotions can all be multiplied. Of course, you don’t want to have too many writers on one song – the old “too many cooks…” saying probably applies quite well. But whenever I co-write I usually end up with a song that is definitely different than it would have been if I had written it completely solo.

One thing that’s interesting on this particular song is the piano part. The piano track that you hear on the finished album track is actually the very same one that was on the original demo for this song. And it’s pretty much because at the time of recording the album I wasn’t able to find any keyboard player that could play Luke’s part! When I perform the song live I do my own version on the piano, there’s no way I’d attempt what Luke plays. He has a style all his own and it’s part of what brings such an interesting feel to this song.

“Nothing You Say” was also the title track of an earlier EP I released on iTunes a few years back. But it was such a special song I knew I had to give it its rightful place on the album.

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