Hannah Drake

The Year of Alphabet Dates: C

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

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

We decided to do a cocktail masterclass for our C date. It goes along with our shared interests and my personal goal to learn more about making cocktails this year. I found an option at a trendy bar I’ve been to in town, but their scheduling is really inefficient and they require a group booking, so it didn’t end up working out. (Though I think we’ll do it there with a group of friends this summer.) Instead, I found a different masterclass at a bar I’ve never even heard of that sold individual tickets and hosts them once a month. We signed up for the Gin Cocktail Masterclass at The Jekyll and Hyde and it lived up to all my expectations!

Gin Cocktail Masterclass - The Jekyll & Hyde Birmingham

The class basically walked us through a history of gin, allowed us to enjoy different gin cocktails, and even try making our own. We learned that gin didn’t actually originate in England like the British would have you believe. They actually got it from the Dutch (Dutch Courage, anyone?) who drank Genever, which is where the name gin comes from. We learned about Gin Alley, Old Tom Gin, and how in Victorian England, gin was safer to drink than water so basically everyone was drunk and people (including children) were paid in gin.

We learned that sailors in the British navy drank gin that had to be at least 57% alcohol since it was stored near the gunpowder and if the gin spilled, the gunpowder still needed to be able to light. (Sailors were allowed to drink 1 pint of gin per day since there wasn’t water available.) The term proof comes from proving that it was flammable and therefore could be transported by the sailors. Sailors also had limes to prevent scurvy, which is where the gimlet (gin and lime cordial) comes from. Tonic water came from India, as the quinine was used to repel mosquitos and prevent malaria. (Which is where Fever Tree tonic water gets its name.) And that’s why we drink gin & tonics with lime!

Throughout the evening, we had a cocktail made with genever with lime and sugar (I’m not sure what it’s called, but it kind of tasted like a margarita), a Tom Collins, a gimlet, and then a Bramble that we got to make. After the class was over, Luke had another Tom Collins and I tried a gin martini for the first time. (I now know that I prefer them with vodka even though gin has become my favourite spirit.)

We had a lot of fun in the gin parlour and I would absolutely recommend that particular class to anyone in Birmingham! (It’s only £25 per person and you get a ton of information and four cocktails.)

ACTIVITIES FOR THE C DATE NIGHT

  • take a cocktail making class

  • go camping

  • go out for coffee - How often do couples do this after the first couple of dates?

  • go to a concert

  • take a cooking class - Maybe one or both of you is a master chef, but try something new! We both really enjoyed the pasta making class and I’m all about taking more classes when we visit places known for their cuisine. (Though Luke said no to a cooking class in France. He said it’s just a lot of butter.)

  • visit a comedy club

  • take a candle-making class

  • drink at a cidery - One of my favourite spots near my hometown is a cidery. They do have some local beers, but they make their own cider and it’s the best. They also have the best BBQ pork pizza I’ve ever had. My goodness do I miss The Old Mine!

  • go clubbing - It’s perfect if you can stay up later than 10:00PM, unlike me!

  • visit a castle - You might have to be in Europe for this one.

  • gamble at a casino

  • bake cookies

  • go climbing - Rock climbing, mountain climbing, any kind of climbing

  • take a coffee art class - You know, go learn how to make latte art so you look like a total pro at home! (TBH, I’ve always wanted to do this, but I don’t drink coffee and you just can’t get the same effect with chai lattes.)

  • hang out at a cafe

  • do a corn maze - This is seasonal, but perfect around Halloween.

  • have a craft night - At home or at a place that does crafts. Whatever kind of crafts you like!

  • go cross-country skiing - Obviously it would need to be winter and you would need somewhere to go, but it’s a great active date! (If you’ve never been, do some research on what to wear. You don’t want to dress the same as you would for downhill skiing.)

  • go to a carnival or circus - Those still exist, right? Probably in the summertime?

  • visit a cat cafe

  • drink at a champagne bar - There’s a fantastic one in Larimer Square in Denver that Luke and I have visited both times we’ve seen The Nutcracker.

  • go to the cinema

  • make and share a cheese plate / charcuterie board - Get some of your favourite cheeses, pair them with meat and crackers (and fruit and olives) and enjoy. Don’t forget the wine!

  • play chess (or checkers)

  • go canoeing

  • go to church together - Or maybe get involved at church together.

  • decorate cakes - Take a class (Michael’s offers them regularly) or just do it at home together or as a competition.

FOODS FOR THE C DATE NIGHT

  • Chinese food

  • Cuban food/sandwiches

  • Canapés

  • Curry

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

DESTINATIONS FOR THE C DATE NIGHT

  • Cambridge, England

  • The Cotswolds (England)

  • Cornwall, England

  • Cardiff, Wales

  • Conwy, Wales

  • Colorado Springs, Colorado - Visit the Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods, The Broadmoor Hotel, and everything else the Springs has to offer!

PIN FOR LATER!

Header Photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

How We Meal Plan + 2 Weeks of Dinner Recipes

LifeHannah DrakeComment

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve talked about meal planning here, but it’s an ever changing process for us that we tweak as we see fit in order to best serve our needs.

I personally love meal planning because it gets me excited for the week ahead and it’s a great opportunity to talk about any upcoming plans we may have. I find that I crave the meals we have plan and it definitely helps curb cravings for ordering out or eating junk. (Don’t worry, we’re not perfect and sometimes we’ll scrap plans and order take out curry, or Chinese, or pizza or something.) We usually try at least one new recipe a week in order to expand the arsenal from which we choose and that’s been a really fun aspect of it too. Luke doesn’t enjoy meal planning as much as I do, but he’s still game for it every week.

Every Sunday morning, we sit on the couch and meal plan for the week ahead. We began following a template for the week in early 2018 so we could more easily see how often we’re eating things like rice, pasta, bread, etc. and try to eat fewer carb-heavy meals each week. This year, we’re trying to eat less meat, so we’re alternating vegetarian salads on Tuesdays and vegetarian soups on Wednesdays. We’re not great at it, but a goal of two meatless dinners a week is pretty good for us.

After we’ve planned our meals, we’ll go grocery shopping for most or all of the ingredients. (Because the UK doesn’t have as many preservatives and other stuff in the foods, produce doesn’t last quite as long as it does in the US, so we might do a smaller trip later in the week for the rest of the vegetables.) The only downside is that we organise our shopping list by recipe instead of by location in the grocery store. I need to create a template for a shopping list that groups things by location.

Our two week rotation looks like this:

WEEK ONE
Monday: fish & vegetables
Tuesday: salad
Wednesday: vegetarian soup or sandwiches
Thursday: vegetarian
Friday: Italian
Saturday: grain bowl
Sunday: Luke’s choice

WEEK TWO
Monday: meat & vegetables
Tuesday: vegetarian salad
Wednesday: soup or sandwiches
Thursday: vegetarian
Friday: courgetti (zoodles)
Saturday: Asian
Sunday: Hannah’s choice

Last summer, we decided to expand our options for Wednesday because who wants to be eating hot soup on a warm summer evening? We also included courgettie (or zoodles, for us Americans) because we found we were eating it about every other week anyway.

So what kind of foods do we cook? (And yes, I do mean we. We split the cooking about 50/50. It might even be 60/40 with the scales tipped to Luke if I’m being honest.) Here’s what a typical two-week menu looks like for us.

WEEK ONE

Salmon & Asparagus

SALMON, ASPARAGUS, & BROCCOLINI

We probably have this meal more often than anything else. The grocery store near our house as a great deal for packs of 2 salmon filets (3 for £10). It’s just too easy and too refreshing to resist. We cook the salmon at 200°C for about 20 minutes with lemon, salt, pepper, and sometimes dill. We do the vegetables on the stovetop with oil or butter, lemon, salt, and pepper. It’s great all year, but it’s also the perfect al fresco dinner in the summertime.

Chinese Spiced Duck Salad - Simply Cook

CHINESE SPICE DUCK SALAD

I’ve mentioned the meal subscription Simply Cook before. It’s different from Hello Fresh and Blue Apron in that it only sends you the flavour pots (sauces, spice mixes, etc.). It sounds lame, but we actually remake more of these recipes than what we’ve tried from Hello Fresh because the flavours are just out of this world! We always make the salad on spinach and always include the avocado. The recipe calls for “Szechuan Five Spice” and “Chinese Marinade”, but we’ve only found Chinese Five Spice and Szechuan marinade at our grocery store. It works well!

Thai Pumpkin Soup - Ayla Rianne

THAI PUMPKIN SOUP

We first tried this in the autumn and were seriously impressed. It’s so easy to make and we almost have all of the ingredients on hand. It would be really nice with some bread, but again, we’re trying to cut back on how much bread we have throughout the week.

BBQ Chickpea & Cauliflower Tacos - She Likes Food

BBQ CHICKPEA & CAULIFLOWER TACOS

This is easily one of our favourite options for vegetarian nights. We follow the recipe closely, but switch the jalapenos for avocado. Using a head of cauliflower and a tin of chickpeas makes a ton of food for us, so after 2 tacos each (they’re so filling), we have plenty for leftovers. Also, this is the slaw recipe I always use now.

Cacio e pepe

CACIO E PEPE

We were first introduced to cacio e pepe from Chrissy Tiegen in her Cravings cookbook. Her lemony arugula (rocket) version is heavenly. But when we took our cooking class in Rome, it totally changed the game. We learned that fettuccine alfredo is not a thing in Italy. Cacio e pepe (meaning cheese and pepper) is the real deal and a typical Roman dish. It’s so simple to make. All you need is noodles, butter or oil, pecorino cheese, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Cook your noodles as usual, saving some of the pasta water. Heat butter or oil in a pan. Add a ladle of the pasta water, add the cooked noodles, add the cheese and black pepper. Cook sauce down until it’s creamy. (It should only take a couple of minutes.) I haven’t made Chrissy’s version since we learned how to make it in Rome, but I would love to combine the two so her version is a bit cheesier.

Buddha Bowls

BUDDHA BOWLS

We used to have Buddha bowls a lot more frequently, but the truth is they can kind of be a big undertaking. However, the beauty is they can be whatever you want! We typically do it with quinoa or couscous, roasted chickpeas (love the crunch!), roasted veggies, spinach, avocado, and a poached egg. We’ve never added sauce because of the egg but I’m definitely curious about tahini dressing.

Creamy Chicken & Buttermilk Dumplings - How Sweet Eats

CREAMY CHICKEN & BUTTERMILK DUMPLINGS

Maybe this would be more of a treat on a Wednesday where the other days are a little lighter on the carbs and dairy, but as I’m writing this post, I’m craving this soup something fierce! I promise you it will be the best chicken and dumplings you’v ever had. (Sorry, Mom!)

WEEK TWO

Masala Lamb Chops - Simply Cook

MASALA LAMB CHOPS

It was another hit from Simply Cook and has become one of our go-to recipes when we host people for dinner. It’s easy to make and it always impresses our guests. We do the salad on spinach and always include the coriander. We haven’t been able to find the spice blend that came in the box, so we just go without it. It’s still delicious and flavourful.

Loaded Greek Salad - Halfbaked Harvest

LOADED GREEK SALAD

Halfbaked Harvest has quickly become one of my favourite food bloggers. All of the recipes I’ve tried, I’ve loved and this salad is no different. We first tried it in January while we were on a cleanse diet of sorts, so we decided not to add quinoa. It’s a lot of work to prep all the veggies, but it’s worth it. It’s actually become one of our go-to work lunches too because the recipe definitely makes six servings. Believe me. Don’t try to do four. It’s too much salad.

Hot Sausage & Pepper Soup - Ruled

SAUSAGE AND PEPPER SOUP

The original recipe is called “hot”, but we’ve adjusted it to not be so spicy. We don’t use the jalapenos or as much chili powder. There’s still a bit of a kick though. Or at least enough of a kick for me. It’s pretty easy to just toss in the slow cooker and will warm you right up on a chilly evening.

Veggie Burgers

VEGGIE BURGERS

We love Linda McCartney’s veggie burgers. They’re seriously delish. When we’re trying to be good, we’ll cook some portobello mushrooms to use as buns too. It’s insanely messy, but insanely good. We might have it with slaw, corn on the cob, or a salad depending on the season.

Pesto Courgetti

PESTO COURGETTI

Or zoodles for us Americans. Like I mentioned above, we found that we were eating courgetti about every other week anyway, so we decided to add it to balance out our pasta nights on the opposite weeks. We usually keep it simple with pesto and sausage, but we recently started making our own pesto. It’s easy. Blend 50g basil, 50g pine nuts, and 1 garlic clove in a food processor for two servings.

Motomaki Roll

MOTOMAKI BOWLS

Motomaki is one of my favourite restaurants in Boulder, but there’s nothing like it around here. It’s essentially Chipotle, but for sushi. You can get big rolls (wrapped in seaweed, not tortillas, don’t worry) or bowls. I always get the shrimp tempura and add sushi salmon and we’ve tried to recreate it a couple of times. We can get frozen shrimp tempura at the grocery store and now our store has a sushi bar that has salmon & tuna sashimi. You need rice, tempura asparagus (we make our own), slaw mix, cucumber, and mashed avocado. Add the shrimp tempura, diced salmon, and finely chopped tuna. Top with sriracha aioli and soy sauce.

Roast Chicken & Root Vegetables for 2 - Chef Cory Vitiello

ROAST CHICKEN & ROOT VEGETABLES

We tried this for the first time in January and it was easily one of the top five dinners we’ve ever made. Allegedly this is the dinner Meghan Markle cooked the night Prince Harry proposed, but the recipe is actually from her ex-boyfriend who is a chef in Canada. Who knows. What I know is that this is hands down the best chicken I’ve ever had. The first time we made it, we didn’t allow for enough time for the chicken to brine all 12 hours; we only did about 4. For the vegetables, we included a parsnip, a couple more potatoes than it calls for, and used a shallot instead of pearl onions because we couldn’t find any. We had left over veggies, so I probably wouldn’t use that many potatoes again.

Photos from the source recipes or of similar meals found via Google.

What I Learned from Marie Kondo

At HomeHannah Drake2 Comments

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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