Hannah Drake

What I Learned from Marie Kondo

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Yes, everybody and their mother is talking about Marie Kondo and her new Netflix series. I actually bought her second book back in August though, so I feel like I can say I’m not totally on the bandwagon. (Though I didn’t start it until this year when everyone was raving about her show.) Regardless, there’s a lot to learn from her and I am here for it. I feel like I’m on a decluttering, simplifying, organising hot streak and seriously have to stop myself from starting a new project when I get a second wind just before going to bed. (Why does that always happen?!)

I’m slowly but surely making my way through the house, trying to embrace her method of going by groups of items rather than room-by-room, but the goal remains the same: declutter, simplify, and organise every inch of our house, leaving behind only the things that spark joy.

IT’S MORE THAN JUST ORGANISATION

A friend shared this article from HuffPost on Facebook a few weeks ago that I found very interesting. From reading her book, I knew there was more than meets the eye with her technique. Her methods are deeply rooted in Japanese culture and the Shinto religion and it’s important to understand that before diving in. There’s a reason why she wants you to wake up your books by tapping on them or why she wants you to thank the things you don’t want to keep or why she greets the house before she even begins. Those things probably feel so foreign in western culture, but I’m so intrigued by this approach. It seems to foster a deeper connection to and gratitude for the things you do have, which is a far cry from the gross American materialisation that runs so rampant throughout the country and straight through my own life. I would rather have fewer things that I truly love—that spark joy—than a house cluttered with the latest trends and things I’ll never use or wear again.

THERE’S SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES

It probably goes without saying that if you’re going through your clothes and pulling things to donate or get rid of, you’re going to end up with more space. However, when you reorganise things in ways that make more sense or are more convenient for you and when you implement the Konmari folding method, there is just so much more space. Before I refolded my clothes using her techniques, I was cramming piles of tank tops into my under bed storage and shoving more and more socks into my sock drawer. It was a disaster. Clothes were getting caught in the back of the drawers and it seemed like there was no space for anything else. When I refolded my socks, there was space in the back of the drawer. When I refolded my shirts, I was able to put all of them into one drawer instead of spread out between two drawers. When I refolded my pants, I made use of the little bit of empty space that was unusable before. I ended up pulling a few things hanging in my wardrobe to donate and now it feels like I can see everything hanging in there. There’s room to push the clothes apart and slide the hangers on the rack instead of nothing being able to budge. It just feels great! The trick, however, is not seeing the empty space and feeling a need to fill it.

SOME THINGS SPARK JOY BECAUSE THEY SERVE A PURPOSE

In her book, she talks about getting rid of a screw driver because it didn’t spark joy for her. She was able to make do without one, but she realised after the fact that the screw driver did bring her joy because it served its purpose faithfully. This was so helpful to keep in mind when going through every category in our house. We all have clothes that aren’t for everyday wear, but useful to have when we have a special event that requires dressing up or wearing something specific. Other things around the house may serve a very specific purpose in your life or in your home and that might be enough to spark joy for you, even if you don’t feel warm and fuzzy about a screw driver.

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE

I was shocked by the number of days the families on the show took to complete everything in each episode. Sometime it was over a month! But then it occurred to me that I too was nearing a month and a half of organising (just not doing it so intensely as these families). It’s been helpful to take my time and really be in the right mindset to actually tidy up effectively.

But on that same note, it’s been a serious struggle for me to not just buy all the things. Not stuff to fill the space in our house where the things we’ve tossed and donated once were, but actually storage stuff. I’m dying to get new drawers for our bedroom. I would actually love to get drawers for either side of the bed to double as a bedside table, but that’s a story for another day. Having more drawers would definitely condense how our clothes are organised and also allow for more room. Right now, Luke’s trousers are too tall when folded in the Konmari Method for our drawers. My jumpers also won’t fit in our drawers, but fit nicely in the under bed storage we have. Anyway, I did buy a few storage baskets for the kitchen (to organise cleaning supplies, dish towels, glass bottles and jars, and vases), some vacuum storage bags, structured storage bags (for bedding and bags), and under bed storage (for out of season clothing). But other than that, I’m trying to make do with what we have. I know we’ll upgrade our drawers eventually after we move so it’s fine for now. And in the meantime, who cares if we’re using cardboard boxes to organise the drawers in our kitchen rather than getting cute storage boxes or bins?

Have you been watching Tidying Up or reading her book? Did you get hit with a bug to declutter and organise your whole house in the new year? (It’s okay if you didn’t!)

I just want to leave you with this tweet. Buzzfeed did like four articles featuring the best of Marie Kondo tweets, but this one is far and away the best.

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The Year of Alphabet Dates: B

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Find out more about the idea for alphabet dating on the first post, for the letter A.

I asked my Instagram followers to give us some suggestions for our B date night and they truly gave us some spectacular ideas! (I’ve included them in the lists below.) Bowling was far and away the most suggested activity and we were pretty sure that’s what we were going to do already. In the end, we decided on brunch then bowling, but we had no idea it would turn into a weekend long date!

After going to the cinema in the morning with a friend, I met Luke in town to visit our favourite brunch spot in the city: York’s. We ate there after we gave notice for our marriage, so it’s kind of a special place for us, but also they have the world’s best chicken and waffles. (It’s true, don’t @ me!)

The plan was to check out a new bowling spot nearby called Lane 7, suggested to us by Oli and Emily who did burgers and bowling for their B date. On our way, we stopped by The Body Shop so I could ask a few questions about their new skin care line. But when we got there, we found out that we should have booked in advance because, at 14:00, they didn’t have any openings until midnight.

We were a bit sad, but went home and booked a lane for two games the next afternoon. Instead, we stayed home on Saturday night and watched the latest episode of The Bachelor.

Lane 7 Birmingham

On Sunday afternoon, we went back to Lane 7 for our reservation and had the best time. It’s definitely the coolest bowling alley I’ve ever been to! I even told Luke I want to have my birthday party there!

We got a couple of drinks and then went head-to-head in two games. I had originally suggested we do three games in case we each win one, but what a joke that was. Luke out bowled me 141-80, then 116-87. And that was with a broken hip!

It was a really fun way to spend the afternoon and a great hang out spot. I loved all the little touches they had everywhere, like the balls looking like billiards balls, cool murals, and trendy decor. We even did the photo booth on the way out, which made them realise it hadn’t even been plugged in yet. Whoops! The only thing I would do differently at Lane 7 is book for a bit longer. Two games can go quickly when just two people are bowling, but we weren’t in any real rush. However, that meant at the end of our allotted time, there was another couple hovering by our lane waiting for us to finish.

And I’m serious about my birthday party, even though I’d be turning 29, not 9.

ACTIVITIES FOR THE B DATE NIGHT

  • go bowling

  • go to brunch or breakfast - Visit your favourite spot or try somewhere new.

  • do a bar crawl - Choose your favourite bars, plan a route, and maybe even pick a signature drink to have at each place.

  • go boating

  • visit a beach

  • take a bike ride

  • play bingo - Maybe you live in a place like my hometown that has a bingo alley. Maybe you live in the UK and can try Bongo’s Bingo because that is a freaking blast.

  • play billiards

  • have a bake off - Choose an ingredient and/or choose a type of bake. After our first bake off, we found that it works best if you make the same type of bake. Invite friends or family over to do a blind taste test and choose the winner.

  • do a beer tasting - Go to a bar, pub, or brewery that offers beer flights. Or make your own at home with your favourite beers.

  • go to a ballet

  • have breakfast in bed

  • play board games

  • go hot air ballooning - Or go to a hot air balloon festival. I’ve always wanted to go to one!

  • drive bumper cars - We did this at the arcade and it was a blast. I highly recommend it, but it was short for us since it wasn’t the main event.

  • have a James Bond movie marathon - You could start from the beginning and make a weekend out of it. You could just watch your favourite Bond actor.

  • take a bread making class

  • try base jumping

  • visit a botanical garden

  • visit a book store - Browse together or separately. Choose a book for each other. Sit and read in one of the comfy chairs around the store.

  • go to a baseball game

  • go to a basketball game

  • have a Batman movie marathon - There have been a lot of Batmans (Batmen?) over the last few decades. You could watch them all or you could just watch your favourite actor. (Always Christian Bale, right?)

  • try bungee jumping

  • break stuff - There was a date on The Bachelorette last season where they went to a warehouse and smashed a bunch of stuff with sledge hammers. Apparently that’s a thing now. You can pay to go break TVs and hit cars with sledge hammers. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that?

  • take ballroom dance lessons

  • visit a butterfly farm/pavilion

  • go on a brewery tour - Colorado is known for it’s microbreweries and some of them even offer tours (and tastings). Or maybe because you’re a Coloradan, you just know someone who works for a brewery who can give you a private tour.

  • play at a bounce house

  • warm up around a bonfire - bring s’mores, hot chocolate, and a cozy blanket

  • hit the batting cages

  • go bouldering

  • recreate a date from The Bachelor - The show is known for its wild and extravagant dates and maybe it’s within your budget. Recreate one of the best, like taking a helicopter ride, bungee jumping, take a dip in a secluded hot tub, or even just a candlelit dinner for two. (Just make sure you actually eat the food.) Don’t forget the red roses!

FOODS FOR THE B DATE NIGHT

  • brunch

  • BBQ

  • burgers

  • B restaurants/bars - Does your favourite restaurant or bar start with a B? Or what about a spot you’ve been dying to try, but just haven’t found the time yet?

DESTINATIONS FOR THE B DATE NIGHT

  • Birmingham, England

  • Bristol, England

  • Bath, England

  • Brighton, England

  • Boulder, Colorado

  • Beaver Creek, Colorado

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado)

  • Black Hawk, Colorado

  • Breckenridge, Colorado

  • The Broadmoor Hotel (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

  • Hotel Boulderado (Boulder, Colorado)

  • The Brown Palace Hotel (Denver, Colorado)

PIN FOR LATER!

Header Photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

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The Great British Drake Off: Red Velvet Week

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

In October, we decided to have our first Great British Drake Off. You can read all about Treacle Week and where the idea came from before we dive into our latest challenge. We had so much fun doing it the first time that we decided to do it every quarter with a different main ingredient.

Last time, we both baked with treacle, but it was unofficially ginger week. The only mistake we made was not baking the same type of dessert. Luke made a cake and I made cookies, which didn’t make for fair judging since most people prefer one over the other.

I won in the end, but our judges admitted they prefer cookies over cake. I honestly couldn’t believe it! Luke’s cake was so good. (You can find the recipe for Luke’s cake and my cookies on Treacle Week.)

THE CHALLENGE

It’s Red Velvet week at the Drake household and each baker will need to prepare a signature red velvet bake. The bakers will attempt to create a smooth and silky cake that perfectly captures the rich flavour in a traditional red velvet cake.

THE BAKERS

Luke is a professional construction site manager who has dabbled in baking. He insisted he has baked every type of dessert you can think of. Most people say he’s good at anything he does. Luke can eat a whole batch of chocolate chip cookie dough in one sitting, but he’ll probably regret it later. His favourite thing favourite treat to eat is whatever his wife has just baked. He had no problem wishing aloud that he had brownies for dessert on a random week night. He lives in Birmingham with his wife.

Hannah is an amateur baker who dabbles in construction. She has been baking for as long as she can remember. Hannah once had an order-based bakery from her own kitchen called Bananas that specialised in cupcakes, quick breads, and cookies. She once ate an entire banana cream pie on a dare from her cousin, but insists it was mostly pudding so it wasn’t that impressive. Her favourite thing to bake and eat is chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. She feels chocolate frosting is actual garbage and fiercely believes nothing pairs better than vanilla frosting on chocolate cake. She lives in Birmingham with her husband.

LUKE’S BAKE

Overnight Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls from Well Plated

INGREDIENTS

Cinnamon Rolls:

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons red food colouring

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Filling

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butte

Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 1/4 cup light cream cheese, softened

  • 3 tablespoons milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

DIRECTIONS

Begin the night before. If mixing by machine: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, butter, food dye, and vanilla extract. Add 2 cups flour, cocoa powder, yeast, and salt. Place buttermilk in a microwave safe measuring cup and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, until it reaches the temperature required for the yeast. (Refer to the package directions for the specific temperature—Red Star Platinum is 120 to 130 degrees F). If the buttermilk curdles when heated, simply whisk it back together. Pour the heated buttermilk into the mixing bowl and stir by hand or with the mixer’s paddle attachment until the ingredients are evenly moistened. Switch to the dough hook, then add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour. Knead dough on low speed for 6 minutes. The dough should be soft, moist, and tacky, but not excessively sticky. If dough is too wet, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until the correct texture is reached. Lightly spray a large, clean bowl with cooking spray, then transfer dough to the bowl, turning once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

If mixing by hand: Stir the ingredients together in the order above with a wooden spoon for several minutes, until the dough forms a wet, shaggy mass. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky and cling to the counter, but use as little flour as possible to prevent the dough from becoming tough. Once kneaded, scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise.

Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. Melt butter and set aside.

Shape the rolls: Butter a 9x13-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 18-inch by 12-inch rectangle, with the longest side closest to you. Brush the dough with melted butter, then sprinkle with the brown sugar-cocoa powder mixture. Starting with the long edge, roll the dough tightly into an 18-inch log. With a a sharp, serrated knife, gently saw the log into 12, 1 1/2-inch wide pieces. Arrange the buns in the prepared baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Bake the rolls: The next day 30 minutes prior to baking, remove rolls from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Place rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Bake rolls until they are puffed and darken slightly and the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F, about 30 minutes. Check the rolls 20 minutes into baking—if they appear to be browning too quickly, cover the pan with aluminum foil, return the rolls to the oven, and continue baking until complete. Remove the pan from oven, uncover if necessary, and place the pan on a wire rack to cool slightly.

Make the glaze: In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the milk and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Slowly mix in the sifted powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle over warm rolls and serve immediately.

HANNAH’S BAKE

Red Velvet Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction

INGREDIENTS

Red Velvet Cake

  • 3 cups cake flour (or 2 2/3 all-purpose flour + 1/3 cornstarch, sifted)

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature and separated

  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.

Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and vinegar and beat on high for 2 minutes. (Set the egg whites aside.) Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 2-3 additions alternating with the buttermilk. Beat in your desired amount of food coloring just until combined. I use 1-2 teaspoons gel food coloring. Vigorously whisk or beat the 4 egg whites on high speed until fluffy peaks form as pictured above, about 3 minutes. Gently fold into cake batter. The batter will be silky and slightly thick.

Divide batter between cake pans. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the cakes need a little longer as determined by wet crumbs on the toothpick, bake for longer. However, careful not to overbake as the cakes may dry out. Remove cakes from the oven and cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.

Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, cream/milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until completely combined and creamy. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more milk if frosting is too thick, or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.

Assemble and frost: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard or crumble over finished cake. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides.

Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.

THE JUDGES

This time, the judges were Hannah and Luke themselves, who promised to judge fairly.

THE WINNER

Luke was unanimously voted the winner after Hannah’s bake was a miserable fail and never even completed. However, Luke’s cinnamon rolls has a beautiful combination of classic cinnamon roll flavour while still capturing the rich silky flavour of classic red velvet cake.

Sally’s Baking Addiction has the most fantastic recipes and I’ve never had a problem before. I have no idea where I went wrong with this recipe, but it took about 45 minutes to bake, never got a rounded top, fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan, and the centre completely sunk. I’ll try it again someday.

NEXT ON THE GREAT BRITISH DRAKE OFF

For our spring edition, we’ll likely be trying something with lavender!