Hannah Drake

Marriage

The Year of Alphabet Dates: A

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Inspired by our good friends Emily and Oli, we decided to shake things up in 2019 when it comes to date night. In 2018, we’ve devoted (almost) every Wednesday night to our marriage with a standing weekly date night. With both of us having unlimited cinema cards, we often went to see a movie and sneaked in popcorn we made at home. Sometimes we would have a movie night at our house, play games, or just simply unplug from all of our technology for a while. Occasionally we would step out of our routine and do something different. But this year, we’re determined to embrace some good old fashioned scheduled spontaneity!

The idea is so simple: Plan a date night that corresponds with each letter. It can be interpreted however you want and I think we’ll mix things up throughout the alphabet. What I mean is, you can choose an activity, a food, a city or other travel destination, a type of food, etc. that starts with that letter. Or you can even do all three! Our hope is to get through all 26 letters in order this year, but we’ll see how it goes. We'll do our best!

Each post, I’ll recap our date a bit and share other ideas for that letter just in case you’re not in to the same activities as us. I’ll include foods to eat and places in the UK and Colorado you can visit. (I thought about doing the whole of the US, but that’s just too big and I know Colorado a lot better.)

That brings us to date number one: A!


My first choice for this date was axe throwing, which is exactly copying our friends who did it for their first date as well, but Luke didn’t think it would be good for his hip, so we chose something else together.

Instead, we went to the arcade. Though Luke did suggest that we go to an arcade in Aberdeen and eat asparagus. We originally weren’t going to include any food on our date this month, but the arcade was right next to an American diner so what choice did we have?!

We went to a “leisure centre” in Birmingham that has a bunch of restaurants, a cinema, and some other activities like adventure golf, a kid’s party place, bowling, and probably more. There was an arcade in the bowling alley, but it didn’t offer tickets and Luke was disappointed that it wasn’t what he remembered. But before we started playing any games, I spotted one upstairs and when we went to check it out, it was exactly what he was thinking.

We each loaded a card with 80 tokens to use and we used them all within an hour. It was so much fun! I honestly think we both could have played another hour at least. They also had bumper cars in the back, which didn’t give tickets, but was a lot of fun. We were the only two driving at the time and it was intense. There were a couple of times when we just went to opposite sides and drove straight at each other for a head-on collision. By the end of it, I wasn’t even sitting on the correct (right) side of the car! Ha!

In the end, we won 902 tickets between the two of us. (We didn’t keep them separate to see who got more, which is surprising considering how competitive we are, but I would guess Luke.) We browsed the available prizes—and there were some good ones—but nothing for our winnings that we wanted. We’d definitely be back though! (We were able to load them all onto one card to use again.)

We weren’t originally going to eat as part of our date, but there was an American diner, Tinsletown, right next to the arcade so it seemed like kismet. Since it was lunchtime, we decided to indulge. We’ve been doing a bit of a cleanse—basically cutting alcohol, sweets, breads, and pasta—but we decided these dates don’t count. So a burger, shake, and fries for lunch it is!

Our friends keep track of their dates in a cute little notebook she found from Paperchase that has the alphabet on the cover in white letters. They fill in the letters as they go and then review each date inside. We might just need to steal all their ideas before our B date…

ACTIVITIES FOR THE A DATE NIGHT

  • go to an arcade - It’s even more fun if it’s one where you collect tickets!

  • try axe throwing

  • visit an art gallery or an art museum

  • take an art class

  • have afternoon tea - It can be expensive, but you can also make your own at home. You need scones (with clotted cream and jam), finger sandwiches, and little desserts.

  • stay at an Airbnb

  • go to an Arsenal game - Luke is a huge fan so I had to include it.

  • go apple picking - It’s definitely seasonal. September is the best time to go.

  • try archery

  • adopt a pet or visit/volunteer at an animal shelter - Usually you can’t do a one off volunteer, but it would be cool to start, right? If you’re not able to adopt at the time, you can at least visit.

  • visit an aquarium

  • play adventure golf - I would call it mini golf, but I’ve seen it called adventure golf plenty, so I’m including it.

FOODS FOR THE A DATE NIGHT

  • American food - I’m only including this because we did it. If you do it, you have to go for classic American food and not try to make pizza American. Think burgers or BBQ. Or save that for the next date.

  • Asian food - I was against this one because it seems to broad! You’ll see that I’ve included more specific break downs (like Chinese food, Thai food, etc.) later on.

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

DESTINATIONS FOR THE A DATE NIGHT

  • Aberdeen, Scotland

  • Aspen, Colorado

DIY Cozy Movie Night at Home

MarriageHannah Drake2 Comments

Maybe you know by now that at the Drake household, Wednesday is date night. We have made the commitment to block off that time each week for each other, no matter what. Sometimes we go big, sometimes we stay home, sometimes we’re somewhere in between, which usually involves a free trip to the cinema. One of our favourite at-home date night ideas is just hanging out in the living room watching a movie (or two). Since the idea is to step out of a routine, we watch a movie instead of whatever show we’re currently bingeing. And on special occasions, I even transform our living room into the coziest movie theatre we’ve ever been to.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Mattress (preferably off a bed since air mattresses can be noisy and uncomfortable)

  • Pillows (all of the pillows you have!)

  • Blanket(s)

  • Movie of Choice

  • Snacks + Drinks of Choice

  • Candles and/or Fairy Lights

WHAT YOU DO

It’s so simple:

  • Start with prepping your space. I move the coffee table into the kitchen and vacuum the living room.

  • Grab the mattress off your bed. I use our spare room mattress since it’s lighter and more convenient to move. If fits perfectly between the couch and fireplace.

  • Pile your mattress high with blankets and pillows. Seriously, all the pillows! I use all five from our bed plus the four throw pillows on the couch. You want it to be fluffy and comfy and heavenly! It’s up to you how many blankets you use. I usually use one to cover the mattress (so I don’t have to rewash the guest linens) and then add two more.

  • Light candles or string up fairy lights. Bonus points for both! Remember you’re going for the coziest space of all time!

  • Prepare your favourite movie snacks and beverages of choice. I could definitely live off popcorn, so I’ll make a big bowl and grab some candy if we have some. (We usually do since we import it in from the States.) For a themed evening, it would be fun to do a special drink, weather it’s a cocktail or something to warm you up.

  • Watch your movie and snuggle up!

See? So easy and totally doable without going out to buy new stuff. We chock it up as a free date night!

The first time I did it, I hustled to get it all ready for Luke before he got home. We watched Animal House. (Wow that movie really did not age well!) Recently, I did it again, watched some fall movies, and had homemade Chinese food for dinner too. This is why you need to get breakfast-in-bed trays. They always come in handy!

Shop Everything You Need for a Cozy Movie Night:

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The Great British Drake Off: Treacle Week

MarriageHannah Drake4 Comments

Have you heard of The Great British Bake Off? If you’re British, of course you have. If you’re American or Canadian, you probably know it by The Great British Baking Show and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they changed the name before airing it in North America.

If you’re unfamiliar, the idea is to get a group of amateur bakers together in a big tent in the south of England. Each week has a different theme, like spice week, bread week, vegan week, pastry week, etc. Bakers have to complete three bakes over the span of Saturday and Sunday: a signature bake, the technical challenge, and a showstopper. Every week, someone is awarded star baker and someone is sent home. They truly film it week by week so the bakers can go home to their families and jobs during the week, as well as practice their bakes for the week ahead. So it’s not like other reality TV where a “week” is actually 3 or 4 days.

I had never heard of it until last summer when Luke announced he wanted to watch it. Since the last series was my first time watching it, I’ve only known it to be presented by Noel and Sandi and judged by Paul and Prue. I was immediately hooked after seeing the first episode. I mean, duh, it’s fantastic and it’s about baking! In my opinion, it’s the most genuinely pure show on television. They’re not there to exploit people and create drama for ratings. I mean, doing chocolate week on the hottest day of the summer is enough drama! They’re just there to find the best amateur baker in the UK and bring the whole country together. It seems like everyone watches the show and some people, like my sister-in-law, even do Bake Off pools where they pick bakers at the beginning of the season and have to bring in baked goods to the office if their baker gets sent home. I’ve heard wonderful stories about the show as well, like if the bakers get upset and start crying, the presenters will go around them and start cursing or naming brands so they can’t use the footage on the show. And it just warms my heart when someone finishes earlier and starts to help their literal competition finish in time! That would NEVER happen on an American reality show.

One day, Luke and I were driving home and I randomly had an idea: we should do a Bake Off themed date night and obviously it should be called The Great British Drake Off. Luke was a bit hesitant at first, but even though I teased him for never having baked (he insisted he had, I just hadn’t seen it), he said it’s too much work to do on a work night. That brings us to a couple of Saturdays ago when The Great British Drake Off was finally ready to commence.

THE CHALLENGE

It’s Treacle week at the Drake household and each baker will need to prepare a signature bake with treacle. Other flavours should not overpower the treacle, but instead highlight the richness and depth of its flavour. Bakers may choose to bake anything they wish*.

*This was a mistake. You’ll see why. We should have both had to bake the same type of dessert, probably a cake. Going forward, we’ll definitely fix that.

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 and 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 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 anyway. Her favourite thing to bake and eat is chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. She lives in Birmingham with her husband.

LUKE’S BAKE

Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake from Thyme & Envy

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g plain flour

  • 3.5 tsp ground ginger

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice

  • 80g stem ginger, chopped

  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 125ml full fat milk

  • 85g black treacle

  • 85g golden syrup

  • 85g dark muscavado sugar

  • 85g salted butter

  • pinch salt

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 3 tbsp syrup from stem ginger jar

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Sift the flour and spices into a bowl. Add the stem ginger and toss to coat (to stop the pieces sinking to the bottom when you bake).

Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the milk in a separate bowl.

Heat the treacle, golden syrup, sugar, salt and butter over a low heat, stirring regularly, until melted.

Add this to the flour and beat vigorously until smooth. Beat in the egg and then whisk in the milk until you have a smooth batter.

Pour into a greased and lined 2lb (900g) loaf tin and bake for 1 hr - covering with foil for the last 30 minutes to prevent over browning.

Remove from the oven and brush with the ginger syrup to glaze.

Leave in the tin for 24hrs for the flavours to develop (optional).

HANNAH’S BAKE

Seriously Soft Molasses Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (280g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)

  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) unsulphured or dark molasses

  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup (67g) granulated or coarse sugar, for rolling

DIRECTIONS

Whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt together until combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until creamy and combined, about 2 minutes. Add the molasses and beat until combined. Then add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

On low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be slightly sticky. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour and up to 2-3 days.

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside.

Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. If the cookie dough chilled longer than 2 hours, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. The cookies may not spread in the oven if the dough is that cold. Roll cookie dough, 1 Tablespoon each, into balls. Roll each in granulated sugar and arrange 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until edges appear set and tops are cracking.

Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 1 week.

THE JUDGES

We invited our friends Adam and Esther to come over to judge our bakes. They are professional wedding guests, attending more weddings in 2018 alone than you have in your whole life! In between weddings, they are both teachers. They are proud parents to a beautiful cat named Bueno, who was named after chocolate rather than the Spanish word for “good”, even though the chocolate bar was named after the Spanish word for “good”. They prefer cookies over cakes.

THE WINNER

After a short deliberation via text message, Hannah was declared the winner because, while both bakes were delicious and treacle-licious, the judges both prefer cookies over cakes.

Again, going forward we’ll always make the same type of bake instead of using any recipe that incorporates the chosen ingredient.

NEXT ON THE GREAT BRITISH DRAKE OFF

We decided we would do it quarterly since it was a bit of an undertaking. Each quarter, we’ll choose a specific—probably seasonal—ingredient to incorporate into our bakes each time. We probably should have done pumpkin (duh) this time, but we’re rationing our remaining tins while contemplating whether or not to just buy an over-priced set of three off Amazon. (Or at least I am, Luke says no.) Treacle could have been a good January bake, so we need some ideas! I really want to do lavender for our April bake!