Hannah Drake

Date Night

The Year of Alphabet Dates: I

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We were feeling less than creative for our I date and struggling to come up with something other than “go for ice cream”. It seemed like so many of our ideas had to do with ice and that’s not very helpful in July! I asked my Instagram for suggestions and they came through with just enough spark and inspiration. We decided to tackle FOUR things on the lists below to turn it into a three-part date.

We went to see a movie in IMAX. I’m glad for the suggestion from my friend Taylor because I never would have thought of that! We were hoping to see Spider-Man Far From Home in IMAX, but it was only in 3D IMAX and 3D just isn’t our thing. (We saw Black Panther in 4DX last year and it was not as enjoyable as it was in 2D.) Instead, we waited until The Lion King came out. Unfortunately, there were only two 2D IMAX showings per day, so we had to choose between 10:40 and 13:40, which ruled out a week day. We went with the first showing and I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie in IMAX. I know my parents took me to a couple of documentaries (Everest) or shows (Cirque de Soleil) in IMAX at the museum in Denver, but I think that’s it. It was cool to see it in IMAX because it really is breathtaking. We marvelled at just how big the screen actually is!

There’s a little Italian place near our cinema that we’ve always wanted to try, but have never gotten around to until now. We were really excited to find out that it was included on our newly purchased Independent Birmingham cards, which offer discounts at local independent businesses. Laghi’s Deli offers two offers for IB members, one that’s only valid Monday through Thursday, but they offer 20% off take out pizza every day. So after the movie, we walked across the road to check them out. It was a nice day, so we ate outside. Wait no, let me rephrase, it was nice for about a half hour between rain and wind, so we ate outside. It was almost like being back in Naples!

Finally, we crossed the street to get some ice cream. One thing I miss about the States (or maybe just about where I’m from specifically) is how easy it is to go out for ice cream (or froyo). Growing up, it was always such a treat when we got to have TCBY when we went out to pick out our movies at Blockbuster on Friday nights. (Hello 90’s!) In high school, my friends and I would hang out at Dairy Queen during the summer like they were paying us for all those Blizzards! I guess I just wish we lived near an ice cream shop. The UK needs to step up their ice cream game from just reselling ice cream popsicle things or soft serve with a stick of chocolate. We technically got gelato, which is just Italian ice cream, so it counts. It was nice and refreshing even though the vibe in the place was nothing like any of the gelato shops we visited in Italy last year. (And we had to wait a surprisingly long time for our scoops!)

ACTIVITIES FOR THE I DATE NIGHT

  • support independent businesses - Find a locally owned restaurant, cafe, or shop to support. Do some research to find out if there’s a programme in your city that supports local and independent businesses like Independent Birmingham.

  • see something in IMAX

  • go for ice cream

  • make homemade ice cream

  • go ice skating

  • go to IKEA - Whether you need to go or not, it’s fun to wander around the show room and plan your dream house. Don’t forget to stop for meatballs before you leave!

  • have an indie movie night

  • try indoor skydiving

  • go inline skating

  • see an improv show or take an improv class

  • stay in an ice hotel - They’re popping up in some of the colder countries and look so cool! No pun intended.

  • build an igloo - Weather permitting, of course.

FOODS FOR THE I DATE NIGHT

  • Italian food

  • Indian food

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

DESTINATIONS FOR THE I DATE NIGHT

  • Inverness, Scotland

Header Photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

The Year of Alphabet Dates: H

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We had a bit of a tough time coming up with an idea for H. For the longest time, nothing that we came up with really jumped out at us. Eventually, I got really excited at the thought of a Harry Potter date and Luke got really excited about making hors d'oeuvres. So we did the natural thing and combined the two.

We planned to watch a few Harry Potter movies (6, 7, and 8) in one sitting since the weather had been particularly crummy. It was the perfect time to have a lazy day and a movie marathon! I decided to make a few Harry Potter treats, like I did with my sister in 2011 before the final movie came out. It wasn’t as intricate as our Harry Potter feast back then, but I did make pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and cauldron cakes. I also got some black liquorice (my favourite!) for liquorice wands.

Harry Potter Pumpkin Juice

PUMPKIN JUICE

Pumpkin Juice, to me, is the quintessential Harry Potter drink. Even more so than butterbeer! One, it sounds a lot more appetising to me. Two, they drink it a lot more frequently since they drink it with meals, especially at Hogwarts. I used the recipe linked below, but only made a half batch. We could only find peach nectar and it was still really good. And as I do with most pumpkin recipes, I upped the spices and added cloves, which isn’t listed in the recipe, but is mentioned elsewhere in the blog post. Most pumpkin juice recipes that I found were essentially these ingredients, but the method of warming it all up on the hob before chilling it intrigued me the most.

Harry Potter Cauldron Cakes

CAULDRON CAKES

There seems to be a lot of debate on what cauldron cakes actually are since they’re never described in detail in the books. The only mentions of them describes them being purchased in “stacks”, like from the trolley on the Hogwarts Express. I’ve seen recipes that basically make little funnel cakes or hole-less doughnut looking things. In my imagination, cauldron cakes are chocolate cakes that look like cauldrons. I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe and baked them without liners in a muffin tin. (Make sure you grease the pan really well.) I made custard, doubling this recipe, and divided it into four equal parts to dye each batch a different colour: purple, blue, green, and yellow to represent different potions. Once the cakes were cool and the custard was firm, I scooped out the middle of the cake (while they’re upside down) and filled it with custard.

Harry Potter Butterbeer - Alcoholic Recipe

BUTTERBEER

There are a lot of butterbeer recipes out there and, unlike pumpkin juice, the ingredients vary so much recipe to recipe. I decided to recreate the alcoholic butterbeer recipe my sister and I made in 2011 with a few simple ingredients:

1 oz butterscotch liqueur or schnapps
cream soda
soda water (I topped it up with soda water to cut some of the sweetness)
whipped cream

I envisioned drizzling it with caramel sauce, but the sauce we got wasn’t exactly drizzleable, so I settled for a dollop.

For dinner that night, we planned to make a selection of hors d'oeuvres from scratch. I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant at this idea. I thought we would end up with a ton of food that we couldn’t finish and that wouldn’t keep very well as leftovers. But we managed to plan it well and make a small portion of a few things. We made Korean BBQ chicken bites, grilled cheese dippers and tomato soup shooters (I’m totally making up the name here), caprese and prosciutto skewers, cucumbers rounds with cream cheese and salmon, and stuffed mushrooms. Luke also made shortbread sandwiches with cream and strawberries.

Caprese Prosciutto Skewers

CAPRESE & PROSCIUTTO SKEWERS

These are simple. You need mozzarella, basil, prosciutto, and cherry tomatoes. Just assemble them onto toothpicks or small skewers. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar.

Cucumber Salmon Rounds

CUCUMBER SALMON ROUNDS

We didn’t really follow a recipe for these either. We just sliced some cucumber, added a dollop of cream cheese (you could use another soft cheese with herbs or something), a sliver of smoked salmon, and dill.

Stuffed Mushrooms

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

I didn’t measure anything for these because all the recipes I found were for a large batch. I sauteed spinach until wilted and then added 2 garlic cloves, minced, and cooked for about 1 more minute. I mixed mozzarella, Parmesan, cheddar, and cream cheese with salt and pepper. I added the spinach and garlic to the cheese mixture and then spooned into the mushroom caps. I baked at 180C (400F) for 12 minutes.

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Dippers

GRILLED CHEESE & TOMATO SOUP DIPPERS

We made one grilled cheese sandwich as usual and then cut off the crusts and cut into four strips. We also warmed up some tomato soup (from a tin) with salt and pepper and spooned into 2oz shot glasses and topped with fresh basil.

Korean BBQ Chicken Bites

KOREAN BBQ CHICKEN BITES

These were the main event and probably the most involved to make, though they didn’t actually take a ton of time. These would be great as a meal on some rice or something, but they were also really good just as chicken bites.

Strawberries & Cream Shortbread Sandwiches

STRAWBERRIES & CREAM SHORTBREAD SANDWICHES

Luke whipped up these little shortbread cookies with this own 3-2-1 recipe of flour, butter, and sugar. (He used 150g of flour.) He filled them with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. They were delicious and so cute!

ACTIVITIES FOR THE H DATE NIGHT

  • have a Harry Potter themed date - Interpret this how you wish, but I was thinking you should at least gorge yourself on Harry Potter sweets while watching the movies.

  • go hiking

  • go out for happy hour

  • go horseback riding

  • take a helicopter tour - Maybe that’s a usual price range for a date with you, but maybe you just want to splurge, especially if you live or are visiting some place that would look amazing from a helicopter. (I’m looking at you, Hawaiians!)

  • do a hop on/hop off tour - Some major cities offer these now and it’s actually my #1 recommendation for seeing London, especially if you’re short on time.

  • watch a horror movie - You could go vintage, classic, or current. (If horror isn’t quite your taste, like me, but you’re trying to get into the Halloween spirit, try something a bit more mild like Cabin in the Woods, The Village, or Get Out. They have a few scares, but I actually enjoyed all three.)

  • take a hot air balloon ride or go to a hot air balloon festival

  • go to a hockey game

  • go hot tubbing

  • tour a haunted house

  • tour your hometown - Show of where you grew up by hitting all your favourite spots.

  • go hang gliding

  • go house hunting - Maybe you’re not actually house hunting, but it sure is fun to pretend like it, especially if you get to see houses way out of your price range!

FOODS FOR THE H DATE NIGHT

  • Hors d'oeuvres - Make your own—it’s easier than you think to make a few in small batches—or go out for some. I suppose you could even go to (or crash) a fancy event and treat yourself to some professional hors d’oeuvres.

  • Hibachi

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

DESTINATIONS FOR THE H DATE NIGHT

  • The Highlands - One of the coolest neighbourhoods in Denver

  • The Scottish Highlands

  • Hardwick Hall

Header Photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

The Year of Alphabet Dates: G

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We were a bit stuck for what to do for our G date. We kicked around the idea of Ghetto Golf, but we went at the beginning of May with work, so we weren’t particularly excited about that. In the end, our G activity came to us a bit last minute.

A few weeks ago, our internet cut out on a Friday morning while I was home. They told Luke later that day that something was wrong with the telephone line or something like that, so we wouldn’t have internet for four working days. It made me embarrassingly grumpy at first, but it was actually so nice to go offline for the weekend, even though it was forced. I think by the end of the weekend, we had watched 2 episodes of a Netflix show when Luke tethered the Xbox to his phone, but otherwise, we talked more, we played games, we read books, we played with our foster kittens. It was actually so nice! I need to unplug—literally the router from the wall—more often.

On Friday night, I ordered Pandemic Legacy Season 1 on Amazon Prime. It was delivered Saturday afternoon and we spent the rest of the day playing the board game. We had previously played season 1 with our friends, but Luke started the game with them before I moved, so I wasn’t there for the first three “months”. (You play 12 months, but you might replay a month once if you lose the first time. You move on even if you lose the second time. Obviously you don’t have to play that month in that actual month.) If I remember correctly, we finished the game on New Years Day 2018, so it had been a while since we played that version, which was great because we had forgotten about some of the major plot points. We’re currently playing Pandemic Legacy Season 2 with the same couple. And there are rumours season 3 comes out later this year.

Legacy games are really fun. You’ll want to play with the same people and Pandemic is great as it’s 2-4 players. (We thought about getting a different legacy game for our date, but the other one I wanted—Risk—needed a minimum of three players.) The game will evolve as you play. You might uncover new information and you might destroy—yes, literally destroy—pieces of the game. You can really only play once, even if you don’t destroy the cards and remember where everything goes, since you also update the board with stickers as you go.

When are they going to make a Legacy Settlers of Catan?!

We absolutely crushed the game. We won all 12 months on the first attempt and in the end, only failed to do 2 things that would have gotten us a perfect game. No doubt we lucked when drawing cards a lot of the time, but the two characters we chose and the game end upgrades we added seemed to have been played flawlessly! And while we love playing with the other couple, it’s a lot more difficult to schedule a full day of marathon game play, so it was interesting to try it all in one sitting and not have to set up everything and relearn some of the rules each time.

Sadly we didn’t get too creative for G foods. Although I did invent what might be my new favourite snack: Ritz crackers, Brie, and a blackberry. Holy cow it’s delicious! And I don’t usually like Brie. I guess technically you could say we had greasy takeaway for dinner. Luke went out between games to pick up dinner from Rooster House, a super cheap (though not as cheap as it once was) fried chicken place in our neighbourhood. We usually bring it home, eat it with Chick-Fil-A sauce we bring back whenever we visit the States. I call it Chick-Faux-Le.

ACTIVITIES FOR THE G DATE NIGHT

  • play games - Board games, card games, drinking games, all the games!

  • go off the grid - Maybe that just means get offline (unplug your wifi router for the day—or the weekend) or maybe that means heading out somewhere rustic and roughing it for a few days without the digital luxuries we all love.

  • race go-karts

  • play golf

  • go glamping - Maybe roughing it isn’t quite your style, but you still want to spend time in the great outdoors. There are a lot of cool glamping spots set up all over the place and you don’t even have to try to pitch your own tent.

  • do a gin tasting - If there’s gin distillery nearby, they might do tastings. Maybe a local bar does gin tastings or pairings. But you could set one up for yourselves, whether that’s at home or your favourite bar.

  • go to Ghetto Golf - It’s a Birmingham & Liverpool thing that’s basically black light mini golf inside.

  • have a Game of Thrones theme - Binge your favourite season or a handful of your favourite episodes. Eat and drink themed food.

  • build a gingerbread house - If it’s that time of year, why not?! Do it together or separately. Make a village or just a classic house. Start from scratch or use a kit.

  • try gardening - Whether you have a green thumb or not, spending the day gardening sounds pretty nice. (Okay, maybe more enjoyable if you’re good at it and know what you’re doing. Just do some research first.)

  • go geocaching - I only heard about this recently, but it sounds awesome. It sounds like a massive scavenger hunt using GPS. Check out the website for more information.

  • have a getaway - Go away together for a night or a weekend.

  • take a ghost tour

  • shop garage sales - Check Craigslist, local Facebook groups, or even your local newspaper and spend the morning shopping all the garage sales around town. You might end up with some pretty awesome new treasures.

  • do a genetics test - It’s not much of an actual date, but it would be something cool to do together.

  • go to the gym

FOODS FOR THE G DATE NIGHT

  • Greek food/gyros

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

DESTINATIONS FOR THE G DATE NIGHT

  • Glasgow, Scotland

Header Photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

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