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With This Ferrero Rocher Advert You Are Really Spoiling Us

It’s New Year’s Eve. People all over the world are going to be celebrating, partying, guzzling Champagne, and generally having a good time as is customary all over the world. So I thought it would be very appropriate to share one of my favourite television adverts. It’s the Ferrero Rocher ad where the ambassador (not sure of which country) is throwing a lavish reception and has invited guests from all over the world. Despite their numerous languages, they all understand the language of fine chocolate – and Ferrero Rocher was definitely considered top quality confectionary back in the day. And let’s face it – during the festive season, there would always be at least one box of Ferrero Rocher among the tins of Roses and Quality Street.

Even though this advert is more than two decades old, it is still very well remembered. It’s the cheesy piano music along with that classic line, “Monsieur, with Ferrero Rocher you are really spoiling us.” It’s a line I still use when I want to be sarcastic – and of course everyone instantly knows where it came from!

 
 

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Bad Boys Inc. Had Us Walking On Air

Writing about The Perfect Year sung by the beautiful Dina Carroll reminded me of another song that was also released in December 1993 in the hope of becoming the Christmas number one (wasn’t that the case with all November/December single releases?) It’s by blink-and-you’ll-miss them boy band Bad Boys Inc. and it was a delightfully schmaltzy (nothing wrong with that!) ballad which I really liked at the time, and listening to it now, I’m transported back to the early nineties and my teen years. And like The Perfect Year, it reminds me of a really fab Christmas and New Year with my family.

Check out the video for Walking On Air, and look out for the post about the gorgeous Bad Boys Inc. who I think were one of the best British Boy bands – too bad they didn’t stick around for long enough!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in The Sound Of Our Youth

 

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The Perfect Year Makes The Perfect New Year’s Eve

No matter where I am, who I’m with or how I’m celebrating, there are some traditions that I have to adhere to for New Year’s Eve every year: I must have a glass of something sparkling; I must make sure Hubby’s nearby for me to kiss on the stroke of midnight, and I always see the New Year in – so no getting an early night! And another New Year’s Eve must have: a listen to Dina Carroll’s The Perfect Year, which I think is the perfect song to play at the end of the year, just before we see in the new one.

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Those who are familiar with the song will also know that it’s from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard but Dina recorded her own version of it which was released towards then end of 1993. I was a teenager at the time she released The Perfect Year and I’ve always loved her version of the song. There’s something about the power of her vocals and the emotion in her voice that really adds to the song and Dina really makes the it her own. This song played a huge part in me taking voice lessons and wanting to be involved in musical theatre. Furthermore 1993 was something of a great year for me and the festive season of that year was probably one of the most memorable we’ve ever celebrated, and The Perfect Year naturally reminds me of this wonderful time and the fab early nineties. Oh how those years passed by so very quickly!

 

The beautiful Dina Carroll

The beautiful Dina Carroll

 

1993 could also be described as the perfect year for Dina Carroll too – the only British singer to have had a natural American accent! She’s worked with David Cole and Robert Clivillés of C&C Music Factory. Her album So Close, released that year, entered the Top Ten of the UK Album Charts. Her hit Don’t Be A Stranger – wonderfully soulful ballad – reached number three in the charts becoming Dina’s biggest hit. Not only that but when The Perfect Year entered the UK singles chart, Dina became the only British female singer in the 1990s to have had two singles simultaneously in the Top Ten, along with  Don’t Be a Stranger. And in February of the following year, Dina topped off her phenomenal success with a much deserved Brit award.

 

Unfortunately even though Dina had accomplished a lot and still had the potential to go much further in her career, she gradually faded from the music scene. Sure she was still in the music industry and she made a couple of comebacks, with her last release was back in 2003 but since then very little has been heard about her. It’s a shame because she was a stunning lady with a stunning voice, and vocally, she was right up there with Whitney and Mariah. Dina also acted with a great deal of grace and class – something we don’t always see from celebrities nowadays. I still remember how apologetic she was when accepting her Brit award, and a couple of semi-rude words accidentally escaped her lips. How times have changed!

I do hope that Dina will return to the music scene soon but in the meanwhile, I will forever be thankful to her for recording the most beautifully sentimental track that makes New Year complete.

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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in The Sound Of Our Youth

 

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Merry Christmas

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Christmas Day is almost over and I still haven’t gotten around to wishing you all a merry Christmas! That tells you just how busy we’ve been. But I hope you’ve all been having fun and enjoying the festivities with family and friends.

I get all nostalgic and Christmas. Even though I’m very happy to be sharing the festive season with my wonderful husband, I often think about what Christmas was like when we were growing up. Those were fun times, and we used to have massive family get togethers. Now everyone’s older and moved away and it’s not always possible for the whole family to spend Christmas under the same roof. But Christmas is what you make it, and we always try to make it a magical time.

So merry Christmas everyone. I hope you’re all having a beautiful, wonderful time with family and friends, and that in years to come you’ll have fond memories of this special day.

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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in This, That and the Other!

 

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I Know Its Christmas When I Hear These Pop Tunes!

Christmas is so around the corner, I know I’ll hear it knocking on my door any second now. But we’ve all known that Christmas was about to descend upon us from the moment we heard Christmas songs being blared from the radio. I know a lot of people complain about Christmas songs – and quite frankly I think there might be something wrong with them – but I absolutely love them. It doesn’t matter whether they’re hymns, carols, or pop songs – if it’s Christmassy, I’m bound to love it!

Thinking back to the days of Top Of The Pops, discovering who was at the top of the charts with the Christmas number one was one of the highlights of the festive season. I’d say that within the last twenty years or so, the Christmas number one didn’t always have a Christmassy theme but nonetheless, they still bring back memories of Christmas.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I don’t really follow mainstream chart music anymore. It’s just not as good as it used to be in my opinion (and I’ve been told that my views indicate that I’m most definitely getting old!)

Old or not, there are some pop songs that to me just scream Christmas and bring back a lot of childhood memories. The festive season just wouldn’t be the same without these songs. If you came over to my house on Christmas morning, these songs would be played on repeat. So in no particular order:

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid

The brainchild of Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in order to raise money for the victims of the Ethiopian famine, the original version in 1984 featured a whole host of stars which read like a list of who’s who in British pop. It was the first time I’d ever seen a huge number of pop stars collaborate together like this, so I was totally in awe. Of course, I was too young to understand that it was a charity single and thought that the likes of Bananarama, Paul Young, Wham!, Culture Club, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Weller and a whole host of famous faces had formed a massive band – and would be putting out singles as a collective. So naturally I was confused when they went back to working as individual acts.

So far, four versions of this song have been released with the most recent one being this year, thirty years after the original was released, featuring among others Bono, Seal, Paloma Faith, One Direction, and Chris Martin. However the original along with the second version from 1989 which featured Kylie Minogue, Lisa Stansfield, Sonia, Chris Rea, Cliff Richard and Bros.

But whichever version I listen to, it never fails to make me feel incredibly emotional.

2. Last Christmas, Wham

I really do think this could be my ultimate Christmas song. But then I probably say that about all Christmas songs. Nonetheless there’s some very special about this Wham! track from 1984. My aunts were massive Wham! fans back in the day and would buy every record on the day it was available to buy in the shops, so to say we grew up with the sounds of Wham! is an understatement and probably explains why we love this track so much. However, Wham! duo George Michael and Andrew Ridgely were kept off the top spot by Band Aid but thirty years later this song is till played every Christmas without fail on radio stations, shops and households everywhere.

I also love the sentimental video in which gorgeous George experiences the pain of a lost love – and furthermore has to see ‘lost love’ flirting with a only too happy to oblige Andrew! Every time I watch that video I think ‘Damn, I live the eighties!’ – and laugh at George’s tumble in the snow!

3. I Still Believe In Santa Claus, New Kids On The Block

I first heard this track when our music teacher played this track in class in order for us to answer questions on it: time signature; what instruments can be heard etc.

To be honest I wasn’t really bothered with answering the questions as I was totally taken with the song – and not just because it was by New Kids On The Block. True, Joey, Jordan, Donnie, Danny and Jon can do no wrong in my eyes but it was such an emotive, meaningful song and little Joey’s vocal’s sounded so cute on it. Taken from their platinum selling Christmas album from 1989, Merry, Merry Christmas, I Still Believe In Santa Claus wasn’t released in the UK as a single. The equally amazing This One’s For The Children taken from the same album was released here instead, but for me, there’s something super special about I Still Believe In Santa Claus.

4. The Power Of Love, Frankie Goes To Hollywood

I absolutely love this song from 1984 (what is it with me and Christmas tracks from 1984???)  and I adore the video even more. There’s something so poignant about this  song and I get very emotional listening to it – and I positively blub when I watch the highly evocative video. As far as I know, the video for The Power Of Love is the only one to illustrate the real meaning of Christmas  (sorry people, it’s not all about trees, Christmas shopping stampedes and the Queen’s speech) and it’s so beautifully depicted. Well done Frankie Goes To Hollywood!

I remember when I first heard the song being announced on TOTP, I thought Frankie Goes To Hollywood were doing a Jennifer Rush song! But as fantastic as her song was, I’m so glad they did this one instead.

5. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, Wizzard

This song from 1973 was a bit before my time, but from the moment I first heard it aged eleven, I loved it. It’s exactly the kind of song to get the family dancing around to on Christmas morning. You cannot sit down to I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day! It’s more than forty years old but it could beat more current Christmas tunes hands down. It seems hard to believe but the band, led by Roy Wood, who looks like Santa’s free-love, hippy dippy, younger brother were kept off the top spot that year by Slade and their equally fab Merry Xmas Everybody.

Typical. You wait for one good Christmas tune to come along…

6. Step Into Christmas, Elton John

This is another song from 1973 which I first heard when I was about eleven (again) and I thought it was great. Before I heard this track, most of the Christmas songs I’d heard and that were played at home were the ones you’d sing around the piano. Too bad we didn’t have a piano at home – we always had keyboards but it’s not quite the same! Anyway the man with the piano and the big glasses, Elton John (or Sir Elton John as he is called now) proved that you could play songs at a piano and get people grooving. And groove we did to this fantastic Christmas song.

7. Mistletoe And Wine, Cliff Richard

Mistletoe and Wine is a 1988 Christmas classic from the legendary Cliff Richard, and he clocked up his twelfth UK number one with this hit. My mum absolutely loves this song, and thinks she’s at karaoke every time  she hears this song. But then she is a massive Cliff fan.

A beautiful and meaningful song, it’s so evocative of Christmas. I can’t remember how many weeks this song was at the top spot for, but it seemed as though Cliff was never off TOTP!

8. Merry Xmas Everybody, Slade

I think this song is definitely a family favourite. I still have memories of my aunt singing this song so loud, I’m sure the neighbours who lived at the end of the street could hear her. British glam rockers, Slade released this in 1973 and it went to the top of the charts, giving the band, fronted by Noddy Holder their sixth UK number one – and preventing Wizzard from hitting the top spot.

9. 8 Days Of Christmas, Destiny’s Child

I was a huge Destiny’s Child fan and I loved the girls’ take on the Twelve Days Of Christmas carol. I know this song came in for a lot of criticism, (but then what song doesn’t) and I don’t think it’s gone down as a Christmas masterpiece, but I like this song and it reminds me of my entrance into adulthood. Plus there’s the mention of ‘dirty denim’ in the song lyrics, which really takes me back!

10. I’ll Be Missing You Come Christmas, New Kids On The Block

OK, OK, you get it, I’m a huge New Kids fan. But that’s not the only reason why two New Kids On The Block songs have made this list. This is another Christmas song that I just have to hear during the festive season each year. It’s slushy and sentimental and just perfect for Christmas. Also love Jordan’s falsetto!

 

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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in The Sound Of Our Youth

 

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Comfort Food #15: Cherry Cake

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

 

This Comfort Food post is a little bit of a strange choice for me because although I love cake, I am not a fan of glacè cherries at all. Furthermore, because there is a Christmas element to this post, I suppose it would have been more ideal for December, but watching Mary Berry show viewers how to make the perfect cherry cake has inspired me. So cherry cake it is!

 

Image from deliaonline.com

Image from deliaonline.com

A cherry cake is traditionally a sponge that contains halved or quartered red glace cherries, which is then topped with icing, flaked almonds and more glacè cherries. Even though a freshly baked cherry cake is not my idea of bliss due to the use of ghastly glacè cherries, they most definitely do take me bake to childhood Christmases back in the 1980s. When my sister and I were younger – before we were joined by our two other siblings – Mum used to bake an array of baked goodies every Christmas. In fact she used to bake so much, there must have been more than enough for the entire neighbourhood! Of course one of these bakes included cherry cake which was one of Mum’s favourites.

Image from bbcgoodfood.com

Image from bbcgoodfood.com

 

Even though I’ve disliked glace cherries since I was a very young child, I did like Mum’s cakes, so I would always have a slice – and just picked out the cherries. But what was most memorable about these cakes was that, we always had a slice of cherry cake after we got home from midnight mass. So cherry cake -offending glace cherries or not – always bring back happy memories of Christmas, midnight mass, and Mum’s large-scale baking!

Image from nigella.com

Image from nigella.com

But even though I have mixed feelings about cherry cake, I know that most people, like Mum, absolutely love it! It is a very old-fashioned, very traditional English cake which I’ve been told is usually linked to Easter. It’s a very versatile cake and fits the bill for just everything: picnics, afternoon tea, lunch boxes, bake sales and it is the mainstay of traditional tearooms, not to mention one of the most popular cakes to be baked among the Women’s Institute. And although it may sound simple to make, quite often it isn’t as the cherries are notorious for sinking to the bottom of the cake. However people have their own methods for preventing this from happening. One of them being to rinse of the sticky syrup from the cherries before dusting them with flour. Delia Smith believes n mixing two-thirds of the cherries into the cake mixture before poking the remaining third through the top of the cake just before it goes into the oven.

Image from goodtoknow.com

Image from goodtoknow.com

 

Don’t get me wrong, I do love cherries just not glace cherries. But I’m wondering if I can substitute the glace cherries in the cake for dried, fresh or tinned cherries. I’d definitely have no problems with eating it then! But despite my reservations regarding cherry cake, nothing can take away the fact that cherry cake is a very memorable part of my childhood and evokes memories of Christmases gone by…

So here’s a recipe for cherry cake from Mary Berry for a traditional cherry cake. Try it and enjoy!

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Ingredients

200g/7oz glacé cherries
225g/8oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz softened butter, plus extra for greasing
175g/6oz caster sugar
1 lemon, finely grated zest only
50g/1¾oz ground almonds
3 large free-range eggs
For the decoration
175g/6oz icing sugar
1 lemon, juice only
15g/½oz flaked almonds, toasted
5 glacé cherries, quartered

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Grease a 23cm/9in bundt tin or savarin mould with butter.
  3. Cut the cherries into quarters.
  4. Set aside five of the quartered cherries for the decoration later.
  5. Put the rest of the quartered cherries in a sieve and rinse under running water.
  6. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper and toss in two tablespoons of the flour.
  7. Measure all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and beat well for two minutes to mix thoroughly.
  8. Lightly fold in the cherries.
  9. Turn into the prepared tin.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen, golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.
  12. For the icing, mix the icing sugar together with the lemon juice to a thick paste.
  13. Drizzle over the cooled cake using the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the toasted almonds and reserved cherries.

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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Nostalgia Tastes Like This!, Recipes

 

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Not So Rosey On Quality Street

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Christmas is over, the decorations have long been taken down, and we’re all heaving a sigh of relief that we won’t have to look at another turkey until the end of the year. However not all traces of Christmas have completely disappeared as we’re still surrounded by a huge mountain of chocolate that we couldn’t manage to get through during the festive season – even though we had been dutifully stuffing our faces with the stuff!

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Among the stash which is going to take us another year to finish – I won’t need to bother buying chocs this Christmas – is a plastic tub of Heroes which is now half full of miniature chocolates, which I don’t mind but I’m not over the top crazy about, so I’m contemplating turning them into a scrummy, yummy fondue or a brownie so that they’ll be fully appreciated and not sit lingering in the tub for the best part of a year.

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But despite consuming an amount of chocolate that would make an oompa loompa very happy (actually my brother often calls me an oompa loompa but we won’t talk about that!) what was missing this year was the mammoth tin of Roses or Quality Street we used to receive every year since we were knee-high to… an oompa loompa! To us, those tins of chocolate are as synonymous with Christmas as tinsel covered trees and nativity cribs – Christmas just isn’t Christmas without them!

I remember these!!! image from timeplan.com

I remember these!!! image from timeplan.com

 

One of the highlights of our Christmas involved working our way through a tin, tub or glass jar of either Roses or Quality Street (if we were extraordinarily lucky – both!) We couldn’t wait to take the lid off the tin and get stuck in. Even though Roses and Quality Street are available all year round in their standard box form, there’s something about seeing those beautifully wrapped sweets in bright jewel tones at Christmas that makes them very apt for that festive time of year. Opening a tin of Roses or Quality Street was like entering Aladdin’s cave; all those interesting colours, shapes, sizes and textures… no wonder it was such a huge hit with young children.

I still have one of these - minus the lid and label sadly. Image from ebay.com

I still have one of these – minus the lid and label sadly. Image from ebay.com

 

The chocolate tin was the equivalent of the Olympic gold medal in our house – it was regarded as something special that everyone wanted to get their hands on. And it was ideal, no, a necessity for Christmas telly viewing. All six of us would be gathered together in the living room. Dad would be sprawled out on the sofa, rummaging through the tin and gobbling up chocolate as though his life depended on it. Chocolate wrappers would be scattered on the floor much to Mum’s annoyance and our amusement. This would soon be followed by a surprised cry of “Oh! It’s all gone! Who finished it?” Er, you did, Dad but I suppose we should thank you for having the decency to finish the orange fondants and coffee creams. We may love our Roses and Quality Street but I seriously do not know anyone who actually likes these.

As Quality Street tubs appear today.

As Quality Street tubs appear today.

Now that I’m married, I wanted to continue the tradition. Buying a special Christmas edition tin of Roses or Quality Street that is, not having Dad scoff the lot. As Hubby is from the States, he’s never had either before, so he left it up to me to decide which one to get. As it was our first Christmas together in the UK, I thought I’d go all out and get both. However, I was soon left sorely disappointed.

First of all, they now come in a plastic tub not a lovely metal tin as in years gone by which was ideal for storing biscuits or if you’re like my mum – rice! Then I discovered that for both types of chocolate collections, many of my favourites had been discontinued. The selection of chocolates available were greatly reduced and if I’m being brutally honest, I didn’t like most of them. What have they done to my beloved Roses and Quality Street?

A quick look at reviews and forums indicate that I’m not alone. There have been many complaints regarding both quantity and quality of the chocolates. Many have noticed that the flavours have changed and that the chocolates tastes sickly sweet. Some have put the change down to takeovers by different companies while others believe that it’s due to having to be economical in times of financial crisis. But whatever the changes may be it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not the chocolate assortments that we once knew and loved.

And although it’s a more minor issue, I can’t say I’m too thrilled with the new look designs. Although they disappeared fourteen years ago, I wish that Nestle had not got rid of the image of the two characters Major Quality and Miss Sweetly – who incidentally were inspired by the knowledge that people in the 1930s craved nostalgia. And as for what’s supposed to be an abstract rose which features as part of the Roses design, well it just looks more like a child’s scribble. The design on my mum’s old tin has a beautiful design from either the late 70s or early 80s. I know things have to change as years go by but I thought change was supposed to be for the better.

With Major Quality and Miss Sweetly

With Major Quality and Miss Sweetly

Roses and Quality Street appeared in the 1930s; a time when boxed chocolates could only be afforded by the wealthy. These assortments were reasonably priced and nicely presented, low-cost packaging thus making it available to most working people. And over the years it has been a massive hit. Christmas aside, we knew we were in for a real treat if someone gave us a box of Roses or Quality Street as we were growing up. I also bought into the slogan “Say ‘Thank You’ with Cadbury’s Roses” and it would always be my go-to box of chocolates if I ever wanted to give a small token of appreciation.

Sadly, it’s not something I would do now. And unless the quality of these chocolates improve, I think it’s safe to say that it will be another tub of Heroes again this Christmas.

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