Friday, 22 August 2014

Young Marriage: 8 Common Questions.

The subject of marrying young is one I've meant to address in some form for a while now. It's one we get asked about a lot, and it often feels like people struggle to ask us about our wedding/marriage without our age slipping into the equation! As such, it's a topic I have a fair bit to say on. I'll often find myself jotting down my thoughts on my iPad, and I thought it was about time I made something of them. Whether you're another young couple considering marriage, or the idea of young marriage makes your toes curl, I hope this post can shed some light and provide a little food for thought.

Why didn't you wait until you were a bit older?

Grant proposed on my 19th birthday, and initially we intended to have a fairly long engagement. People expected us to wait until we'd graduated from university, settled into careers, put a deposit down on a house, etc, and we thought it best to oblige those social expectations. However, a year later we began to question what was holding us back. My family were in a position where they could afford to help pay for a wedding, our loved ones were all happy and healthy, and our long summer break from university would provide us with the perfect opportunity to plan a wedding. Everything lined up perfectly - the only thing holding us back was social expectation, which we realised was quite silly. We decided to seize the day and settled on a date in September.

Did you always want to get married young?
By no means! My parents married at 20 and 24 after only eight months together, but always taught me that their relationship was the exception, not the rule. I was the last in my friendship group at school to take an interest in boys, and rather fancied spending my adulthood living alone on top on an isolated hill, surrounded by cats, writing my novels, and chasing away any callers with a pointy stick. Even when Grant and I first started dating at 15, I didn't expect it to last forever. However, our relationship got better and better over the years, and by the time we were readying ourselves for university, I realised I couldn't picture a future without him in it.

What did you parents think?

My parents were surprised, that's for sure! As much as I love them, Grant rightly assumed that the tradition of asking for the father's blessing made me squirm, so it was as much a surprise for my parents as it was for me. However, they were happy for us; they trusted our judgment and knew we'd be sensible about it. When we first saw them after Grant proposed, they bought us a bottle of champagne and celebrated with us. They were our rock during wedding planning, and we wouldn't have been able to pull off such a memorable, magical day without their help.

Wasn't there so much more you wanted to do before settling down?
This is possibly the most infuriating question we get asked. Aside from seeing other people -which has absolutely no appeal to me considering I'm already utterly besotted with someone- there is nothing our relationship holds us back from. If anything, we encourage one another to live richer lives. As I mentioned earlier, before I got together with Grant I wanted nothing more than a solitary life of writing and cuddling cats. Nowadays, whenever an opportunity comes my way, Grant will kick me up the arse and make sure I damn well seize it. He's made my life so, so much better, and I'm doing far more now than I ever would have alone. Grant inspires me to live my life to the fullest, and yes, that includes doing things without him. If I ever wanted to go backpacking alone for a few months (unlikely as that is!) I know Grant would support me, and vice versa. We do a lot together, but we also know our differences keep our relationship interesting!

Are you planning on having children soon?
Ahhh, this old chestnut! If we had a pound for every time people presumptuously asked us about plans to start a family we'd be able to take a nice, long holiday. When we first got engaged, we discovered that a fair few people from our past had assumed I was pregnant. After all, why else would a couple under the age of 25 willingly tie the knot (/sarcasm)? Of course, they were all bitterly disappointed nine months later when my tummy was still flat and there wasn't a baby in sight. Grant and I have no plans to start a family in the near future - our choice to get married stemmed purely from our desire to spend our lives together, and to become our own little family unit.

Would you advocate getting married young?

Regardless of age, I think marriage is always something that should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. I'm not telling every 18-21 year old couple out there to get married, not by any means. I strongly believe that cases where marriage is the right path for young people are the exception, not the rule, however I do know it was the right path for us, my parents, and a number of our friends. Hopefully this post will help people who cringe at the thought of young marriage be a little more open minded and subjective; if your friend, child, or other family member gets engaged at a young age, just try and be respectful, even if you are a little dubious. By all means, ask questions, but use a little tact and grace. Chances are they know their decision will ruffle a few feathers, and they'll appreciate your honesty.

Isn't it weird being a married student?

In short, yes, it is a bit odd. I'm already a bit older than the other students in my seminars, but as soon as they spy the wedding ring on my finger I can hear their chairs shuffling away from mine. It doesn't take long for students to single you out as 'other', but I suppose it's an inevitability. On the whole, I don't mind. I've made a couple of incredible friends at university, but I met most of my friends nowadays through blogging and similar interests, so I don't feel I'm missing out. My social life is a fair bit different to that of a 'normal' uni student, but by no means does that mean it's inferior.

How has marriage changed your relationship?

Grant and I lived together, paid rent/bills together, bought groceries together and bickered over laundry before we got married, so in some ways our relationship hasn't really changed on the surface. I think that's the way for most couple's now; there are very few couples who don't live together and largely act like a traditional 'married couple' before they get married. Personally, I think it's wonderful, and puts couples in a far better position to decide if marriage is truly the right path for them. The biggest change for us has been a underlying sense of family and commitment. I decided not to change my name when we got married, however Grant decided to take my name so we would be Mr and Mrs McMinn, and I'm incredibly grateful he did. Being our own family unit is the most incredible feeling, and having the same surname really cements that for us.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cinnamon Bun Brioche.

I must admit, the idea of bread week scared me. I've little to no experience with bread, and savoury bakes have never excited me in the same way as sweet ones. Last Christmas Grant and I gave my dad a copy of Paul Hollywood's 'Bread', so I had a flick through and decided to make brioche in an attempt to appease my sweet tooth. My final recipe is based on his 'Satsuma and Dark Chocolate Brioche', however I decided to mix it up with my favourite cinnamon bun recipe. The result is downright yummy, and although the method is somewhat lengthy, it's technically very simple. It's the perfect treat to prepare in the afternoon/evening, then bake fresh for breakfast in the morning. When served warm it's beautiful on it's own, however once it's cooled it's delicious with a little butter.

The method -

Pop the flour in the mixer, then put the sugar on one side and the yeast on the other. Add the milk, eggs and cinnamon, combine with a dough hook on a slow speed for 1 minute, then mix on a medium speed for a further 4 minutes. Continue to beat for another 4 minutes, adding the butter bit by bit. The resulting mixture should be smooth, glossy, and elastic. Transfer the dough to a greased plastic bowl and pop it in the fridge for at least five hours to firm up.

Tip the chilled dough onto a floured surface and roll it out into a sausage. Cut it into eight equal sections, then roll them out a little so they can be rolled into spirals. Place them into a greased bread tin, two at each end, two in the middle, and one in each of the gaps (see below). Loosely cover the tin, and leave in a warm place to prove for at least two hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C.

Glaze the risen loaf with a mixture of egg and milk, sprinkle sparingly with a little spare caster sugar and cinnamon, and bake for 25 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool for 5 minutes before gently removing it from the tin. The final step is optional, but if you fancy some extra sweetness mix up a little icing sugar and water and drizzle it on top.