Alix in Wundergarten at The Other Room

The Other Room is doing something quite wonderful this Christmas, it’s brought a Christmas production to Cardiff designed for an older (15+) audience. I love everything about Christmas, and love taking my little ones to see as many Christmas shows as possible, offer me an excuse for a rare night out with friends over Christmas and I’m waving my hand in the air.Alix In Wundergarten - Louisa Marie Lorey, Arthur Hughes (photo credit - Aenne Pallasca)And Alix in Wundergarten is funny too. And that’s me saying that. I hate anyone telling me in advance that something’s going to be funny. It sets an expectation, and humour can be a random thing. And added to my random humour, I was having an absolutely shockingly bad day. The kind of day which makes you think you’d be doing everyone else a favour by going home and shutting the door on the world. But from the minute you’re asked to walk across the set to your seat, to navigate a deckchair gate, a litter tray of sorts, to be warmly greeted by two of the cast and not quite know where to put yourself, well the sense of randomness is wonderful, and the penny drops. You really are one of the radio drama competition winners joining the live audience and cast recording Alice in Wonderland. Where the acting begins and ends becomes unknown and The Other Room’s intimate setting is absolutely perfect along with Carl Davies’ design for creating this radio studio.

And everything gains an Alice in Wonderland sense of surreal. As Fabian the Director arrives and the cast are ‘formally’ introduced to us. An intricate tapestry is the best way to describe the characters which unfold, the cringeworthy and the sympathy entwining to give some of the best moments of laughter, and when I say moments, it’s a constant throughout, the kind which makes your jaw ache.

The four actors are fantastic. Such strong defined character they are incomparable. They leave their humour with you, I’ll never look at the name “Gael” and pronounce it “Gail” ever, I’ll not hear “2-4-6-0-1” and not think of Nick… there is so much packed into the 90 minutes. 

But it is the randomness which overlays everything, as the themes of the cold war overlay Alice in Wonderland, and you’re listening to a rewrite with German accents and Alice being reworked in favour of Alix.
Nothing really says “We’re all mad here” better.
Well, perhaps Fabian’s reaction to his actors did. Alix In Wundergarten - Francois Pandolfo (photo credit - Aenne Pallasca)There is no doubt of Angharad Lee’s strength of director, given the amount of improvisation which undoubtedly occurs, making a completely energised performance and even more laughter. The talent of François Pandolfo in creating such a bizarre script must need a nerve of steel to direct. And yes,  if you have a fear of performances with audience interaction, be a little cautious- and definitely don’t draw attention to yourself with any bright colours… just saying.

My office has a sign about all the best people being bonkers. I think it’s right.

Alix in Wundergarten is at The Other Room until 19th December 2015, with tickets available on the website.

Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All opinions and views contained are my own.

Christmas at Hamleys

Last week two excited little boys made their way to the place which always leaves them awestruck- Hamleys. An added buzz was in the air as they were aware they might be meeting Father Christmas. Trying to keep a promise of good behaviour with such levels of energy and wonder was a difficult one.Christmas at Hamleys CardiffWe arrived at Hamleys to find three elves welcoming the children and getting them involved in fun and games. With name badges came more laughter as spelling was muddled and names confuddled, the boys were immediately at ease and happy to get involved.

A ‘conga’ to the back of the store and some Christmas dust saw the doors open into the party room now transformed into Santa’s Grotto. A table laid out for the 16 children the room accommodates, within moments tea was served- breaded chicken, burgers and chips as well as vegetarian options. With the energy created by the elves and the excitement of gazing around the room this was one of the few times the boys didn’t hoover up the contents of their plate.

Fed and watered the singing began, and it seems the singing was loud enough for the big man to hear and he entered the room and began chatting to the children (handily helped by the name badges), chatting to them about how much they’d grown since he last saw them, so the sense of awe and wonder grew.
The children were welcomed to sit around Father Christmas’ chair and listen to a tale, and then a game of Santa’s Footsteps followed. All this allowed the children a little interaction with the man himself, and for the elves to transform the table with craft activities. The crafts were pitched at two different age groups which worked perfectly, and Father Christmas walked around talking to each child in turn, and so engrossed in the crafts they didn’t notice children being moved away from the table to take turns at having their own chat with Father Christmas and being offered a fantastic goody bag.Meeting Father Christmas at HamleysBecause whilst every moment building up to it is about Father Christmas, the cost of a visit to Hamleys is a little more than we would usually pay, at £25. You do get a lot more interaction than other events, but for me I was grateful that I was wowed by the goody bag. Containing crayons and a colouring book, a reindeer decoration, a chocolate bar and the most gorgeous teddy bear. The price with three children might make me gasp, but the experience and a great goody bag does justify the price tag. And I admit to being a little bit happy inside when the boys decided their big sister and I could have their bears as we didn’t get to talk to Father Christmas (admittedly by the time we got home they had taken the teddies back!).

I Met Father Christmas at Hamleys Teddy BearsWith time with say final goodbyes and collect a balloon, so the elves transported the children back to the front of the store.
As fast as an hour could pass, I went home with two little boys on cloud nine.


Disclosure: We were invited to Tea with Santa at Hamleys for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.

Baking Christmas Breads with Waitrose #recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

There is something about wintertime, the build up to Christmas. It’s the delicious scents and smells which go with the season. The wonderful recipes which are suddenly the most acceptable to feast on. And there is nothing as perfect as cwtching up on the sofa with my little family and a host of favourite breads, preferably with an accompanying hot chocolate.Waitrose selection of flour for baking funFor me, whenever bread baking is in store, a trip to Waitrose has to be in order, I love the range of flours they have and I always end up leaving with far more than on my shopping list. And of course there’s nothing like a food shop in the run up to Christmas to add a few more festive flavours to the kitchen cupboards.
And whilst we went in to stock up on bread flours, we ended up leaving with the ingredients for our favourite Christmas breads- Panettone and Stollen.Making stollen and panettoneAnd after a weekend of fun in the kitchen, controlling the excitement waiting to see if our breads rise, and then have patience in the baking process- of course, not quite achieving the full cooling process!

And so, for some really child-friendly recipes, for baking and for eating, these will definitely make your home a little bit more cosy.

And for an extra tip with Panettone, I find a really authentic bake can be obtained with a saucepan rather than adding another tin to the cupboard:
Baking cheat for Panettone
I’d love to hear about your festive recipes… and especially any cheats you might have!

Festive Stollen
Yields 1
A delicious marzipan filled bread- with lots of fruit to make it healthy!
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
4 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
4 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 500g strong white flour (a little more for dusting)
  2. 100g caster sugar
  3. 10g fast action yeast
  4. 10g salt
  5. 150g unsalted butter, softened
  6. 250ml milk
  7. ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  8. ½ tsp ground cloves
  9. ½ tsp vanilla extract
  10. 2 drops almond extract
  11. 55g blanched almonds, finely chopped
  12. 50g glace cherries, roughly chopped
  13. 100g raisins
  14. 125g sultanas
  15. 125g mixed peel
  16. 25g butter, melted
  17. 225g marzipan
  18. Icing sugar, for dusting
Instructions
  1. Put the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other.
  3. Add the softened butter and milk.
  4. Using a dough hook if using a mixer, mix for 10 minutes.
  5. If kneading, bring the mixture together gradually adding the milk to form a soft dough. Transfer to floured work surface and knead for 6-7 minutes, or until smooth and pliable.
  6. Mix the nutmeg, cloves, vanilla and almond extract, almonds, fruit and mixed peel together in a large bowl.
  7. Put the dough on top and knead from the outside into the centre incorporating the dried fruit and spices as you go.
  8. When everything has been fully incorporated, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place, or until doubled in size.
  9. Flatten the dough and roll out on a lightly floured work surface to a rectangle so the short side matches the longest side of your baking tray.
  10. Brush with the melted butter.
  11. Roll out the marzipan so the long side is approximately the width of the dough.
  12. Place on top of the dough in the middle.
  13. Roll the dough up to enclose the marzipan and transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
  14. Cover and leave to rise for about an hour, or until risen and doubled in size.
  15. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 (fan 170C).
  16. When the dough is risen, bake for an hour. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar.
  17. Serve cold.
An Organised Mess http://anorganisedmess.com/

Black Cherry, Pistachio and Chocolate Panattone
Yields 1
A delicious Christmas treat using favourite ingredients
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
  2. 10g salt
  3. 50g/2oz caster sugar
  4. 10g fast-action yeast
  5. 140ml/5fl oz warm milk
  6. 5 medium eggs
  7. 250g/9oz unsalted butter, softened
  8. 120g/4½oz dark cherries
  9. 120g/4½oz chocolate chips
  10. 120g/4½oz pistachios, chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, milk and the eggs into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. Mix slowly for two minutes, then increase the speed to medium and mix for a further 6-8 minutes until you have a soft dough.
  3. Add the softened butter and mix for another 5-8 minutes.
  4. Add the cherries, chocolate and pistachios, and combine.
  5. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for three hours.
  6. Line a tin/saucepan with baking parchment.
  7. Knock back the dough and place into the tin.
  8. Leave to prove at room temperature for an hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  10. Bake for about 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and bake for a further 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  11. Remove the panettone from the tin immediately and allow to cool.
An Organised Mess http://anorganisedmess.com/