Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Gift of Paper: An Anniversary Gift

We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in a little cottage in Dent and had a great few days away (you can read all about it here!). The first wedding anniversary is represented by paper in the UK and I thought I'd share my paper DIY. 

Full disclosure: This anniversary DIY isn't really complicated enough to showcase your crafty skills but you and the recipient both get get twelve fun days/nights out of it, so that earned it a gold star from me!
I picked up some sheets of recycled paper and 12 Kraft envelopes. Scrabble usually features in our weekend lineup and this Scrabble font was one of the fonts we used for our wedding day stationary. Each envelope contained a square of recycled paper with a printed 'voucher' which introduced the date for that month and said what was included. For some dates, I made little tickets and paper bits, too. I bundled the envelopes together, in date order, using a length of 'Admit One' ribbon bought on Etsy and put them inside a paper box filled with wedding day pictures and shredded recycled paper. Ta-da. Job done! 

The hardest, but also the most fun part was coming up with date ideas. I wanted the dates to be something we'd either talked about doing 'at some point' but never actually made a plan for, or something we do more regularly where the voucher would give us a good excuse to spend quality time together doing something which we love.

Here's what we got up to:
September - 'A Cozy Night In' (Clockwise from top left) Knowing we'd have a busy month, this one was a night where we'd switch of our phones, lock the door, put on PJs and just relax with each other. It's not that we'd not have done this at some point in the month anyway, but putting a date in the calendar for such a night made it feel more special. The voucher included a film of M's choice, popcorn, sweets, and a large American Pizza Slice pizza (best pizza ever). 

October - 'A Trip to Blackpool'  One of our first dates was a trip to Blackpool. We had taken a Kodak disposable camera. I sent it off to TruPrint and they lost it. Devastated! We've gone to see the illuminations, or what's left of them, almost every October since. I made little tickets for tram rides, made up a £2 bag of penny coins, and promised a fish and chip dinner.

November - 'Nando's and Cinema'  Both of us love Twilight fans (please don't judge!) so this one gave us an excuse to enjoy a Nando's meal, buy cinema tickets to see Breaking Dawn Part 2 and munch pick'n'mix.

January - A Night of Fine Dining, At Home  A three course dinner with wine - his choice of menu. I made homemade pasta, without a pasta machine. It was a disaster but we had a great night laughing at my attempt to make pasta. The thick slimy tagliatelle wasn't quite what I'd imagined - not so fine dining, as it turned out.

February - Spa Pampering for Two  A day of pampering at a local spa. We went to Rookery Hall and Spa and had a relaxed day around their pool area with sauna and steam room, and a heavenly massage.

March - Beer A tour around Cains Brewery and a few bottles of beer to take away. This one was thwarted, sadly, by our cat, Jacques', accident and then the brewery closed and tours were no longer available. Instead, I bought a supply of beers from different countries, made a beer quiz and created little tasting note cards. No complaints - he had a well stocked fridge for a good while after!

April - A Little Mini Break Again, this one was put on hold because it was very difficult to go away overnight after Jacques' accident. Not quite what I'd planned, but we splashed out on a lovely hotel in Buxton after my friends wedding.

May - An Indoor Picnic Not trusting the British weather, this included a new board game and a picnic blanket covered with tasty food from Delifonseca, our favourite Liverpool based deli. We have most of the more traditional board games at home already so M decided on Family Fortunes, which kept us amused for long enough (but hasn't been out of it's box since!

June - Museum Time  The original plan was to head to Eden Camp in Yorkshire. We'd worked out  that we'd both been there on a primary school visit within a month of each other. We agreed to go together but have never got round to it. Well, we still haven't! We couldn't get away overnight without paying for a vet nurse to sit, so we took advantage of living in such an amazing city and went to the Chagall exhibition at Liverpool Tate instead. We followed it up with a meal and drinks at Miller and Carter. 

July - 'Lions and Tigers and Bears' After talking about it for years, we finally made a date for Chester Zoo! This one included a packed lunch with peanut butter and jam sandwiches and all the sorts of naughty goodies you were never allowed in your packed lunch as a kid. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we had an amazing time.

August - Next Stop, Cotton I knew this would be a busier month and probably when we'd go on holiday. I planned a 'show and tell' night, where we looked through all the photos from the past 12 months of anniversary gift related dates with a good bottle of red, too much cheese and charcuterie. This one also included a photobook for us to store our favourite snaps.

That's it - our twelve paper anniversary dates. I'm sure there are lots of things that you could include, depending on how much money you want to spend, what you enjoy doing together and how far you're able to travel. Circumstances meant that not all of the later dates went quite as I'd planned but having at least one pre-planned date in the diary each month really encouraged us (forced us, at times) to stop and set 'proper' time aside for each other. We've got some great memories, a photobook to create and a lot of ticket stumps to help us to remember our second year of marriage. 

Doing things with the people I love, rather than having things, is becoming increasingly important. With Christmas coming up fast, I think this could easily be adapted for a friend or relative. Can this help you to cross anyone off your Christmas shopping list? I hope so!

Friday, 25 October 2013

"Autumn Days When the Grass is Jewelled"

Autumn is my favourite season, tied with Spring. Honestly, it's the trees that do it. I'm fairly certain I drive my lovely husband mad with constant chatter about the changing colours of leaves. The green to yellow, burned orange and reds. I love it! Last Autumn we visited Paris and I was in paradise strolling little back streets, bag of macrons in hand, staring up at trees and enjoing a crisp, Autumn weekend. 

Paris. October 2012.

Thinking back to this time last year made me think about what I'm most looking forward to this Autumn. Sadly, Paris 2013 isn't on the list, but there are lots of other things to get myself excited about!

  • Weekend walks crunching fallen leaves underfoot
  • Keeping snug in my new Massimo Dutti cape
  • Heading down to the annual firework display at Sefton Park on Bonfire Night, followed by a slice of gingercake and a mug of hot chocolate.
  • Baking (and eating) Autumn puds
  • Travelling to a research conference in New Orleans in November and eating pralines
  • Weekend walks crunching fallen leaves
  • Watching two very small and gorgeous kittens grow into little tigers
  • Curling up on the couch under a blanket catching up on brilliant Sky Atlantic dramas 
  • Making exciting festive plans for Christmas

What's in your diary this Autumn? I hope that there's something fun in there to look forward to!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Cotton Anniversary

Image by Christian Ward Photography
The photograph was taken on our wedding day in 2011 by our lovely photographers, Christian and Erica. This photo is one of my favourites from the day. I think I've clocked the camera here. I just remember feeling so lucky - walking into one of my favourite buildings, holding hands with my favourite person, to see all of our family and friends smiling back at us, ready to celebrate our marriage. 

On 27th August, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary on Koh Tao, Thailand. We spent the morning opening the backpack-able cotton gifts we'd bought for each other at Chatuchak market in Bangkok and talking about our wedding day, passed the afternoon diving together and lazing on the beach, had a lovely Thai meal at a little hillside restaurant overlooking the bay and finished with a £4 beachfront Thai massage and mojitos. It was a pretty good wedding anniversary!

Wedding anniversary sunset, Koh Tao
Two years isn't a very long time, I suppose, but they've been two good years and I'm excited to see what we get up to in year number three. Our Southeast Asia holiday was a fantastic start and I'm keen to fill up the next twelve months with lots more adventures! 

Monday, 21 October 2013

An Autumn Pud

I am a sweet toothed pudding kind of girl. I love a good serving of sponge cake. I adore a good blob of whipped cream. I'll even take a bit of single cream, if I have to. In the Summer months I happily take a lighter fruit salad, yogurt or ice pop but now that the cold is starting to creep back, a bowl of chopped fruit just doesn't do it for me. I need something warm, something tasty but, if possible, something that isn't guilt inducing. Well, I've found such a pud. A yummy, warm in your tummy kind of dessert that can be served up with ice cream, custard or, for the calorie conscious, fat free fromage frais. D-elicious! 

We bought a 500g bag of frozen Summer fruits and a small Warbutons cinnamon and raisin loaf, and used four tablespoons of demerera sugar from the cupboard and a slither of butter. Defrost the fruit and then put most of the bag into a medium sized baking dish. Use a blender to make a puree with the remaining quarter(ish) of bag and pour over the fruit. Depending of the size of your dish, butter six to eight slices of the loaf and cut each in half. Arrange them over the top of your fruit, just as you would a bread and butter pud. Sprinkle the sugar over and then oven bake for around 15 minutes until the sugar starts to caramelise. Serve with a dollop of fromage frais, or your choice of topping. Next best bit, you've got slices of loaf left over for breakfast!

Oh I do love a good pud. Enjoy!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Sorry. I'm Busy with Kittens!

A few things are keeping me busy at the moment. Work, in particular, is a very hectic. Now until Christmas is my busy teaching semester and we have a much larger first year cohort this year, which means more emails and generally more evening hours spent hunched over a laptop! I'm also trying to squeeze in some research in between and feeling guilty for not managing to get everything completed to plan. It's not all bad though. This photo was taken today while walking across campus and in November, I'll be taking photos while walking around New Orleans where I'm due to attend a research conference. I can hear the jazz beats calling out to me! 
The second thing(s) keeping me busy are these two little 'uns. Meet Lottie and Bruce (Wayne - just look at his little caped crusader mask!). Please excuse the poor quality phone picture! Two months was a very long time in a catless house and M was very keen for us to welcome a new cat into our home. These two 5 month old kittens arrived with us on Friday and most evenings are spent laughing at cat related antics, receiving lap cuddles (Bruce), or trying to coaxing Lottie out from under 'her' table. They're lovely, and I've quickly got used to having them around. It was a funny feeling - a mix of sadness and guilt, at first, having new kittens in the house. Jacques really was my little love and I spent so much of 2013 routing for Jacques' nervous system to recover. It's that tricky question of 'how soon is too soon?', but then I don't think that anyone is able to answer that but you. 
New roomies: Lottie and Bruce
Aside from that, I've been on a furniture restoration workshop at Liverpool's Baltic Creative, had a Wicked date with my mum in Manchester, attending my friend's beautiful wedding, saw a fantastic production of Crime and Punishment at Liverpool's Everyman Playhouse, started to whittle down holiday photographs, went to see the film Prisoners (brilliant) at Fact, tried on my bridesmaid dress and made hen do plans, went on a few sunny and some rather windy walks, enjoyed quite a lot of cake and drank quite a few hot chocolates to warm up colder Autumn nights. So, as you can see, it's been a fun but busy month or so since I returned home. Lets see what comes next...!
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