Image by Holly Bell
I want to talk about marriage. I know, I know. You just want me for my coconut buttercream recipe - just scroll down, go on, do it. But just in case you're intrigued, well, I got to thinking recently about what makes a marriage. Look, it's not like I'm some expert. I've only been married for seven years and I reckon we've argued for a good year of it. What do I know? I guess my observations are more aimed at those who are looking for a partner, or about to get married. Or those who are thinking about what marriage means. And if you've been happily married for many, many years then why not leave a comment with your advice? Share! Happy marriages by the power of crowd sourcing? I like the sound of that almost as much as I like coconut buttercream.
- A marriage is not a wedding day. When you've had your first massive married row you really won't care about whether you had live goldfish on the tables (yep, I used to work at a wedding venue as a waitress, I have seen it all, including bridesmaids and grooms doing unmentionable things behind the bins. Choose your bridesmaids wisely, and your spouse too).
- Don't save your best for best. What I mean is, wear the wedding shoes on a Monday, smile your most dazzling smile, be the best version of yourself - and for me this includes keeping an eye on my weight. 'Save' your best self for every day and for your partner. Positivity is infectious.
- Get the money stuff right early. Before you get married ideally. Discuss your views on spending, how you will divide costs, will you have a joint account, what will happen if/when one of you stops working for whatever reason, what kind of purchases should be discussed mutually before making them etc. Finances are a deal breaker. Not having money sucks. We have been there and it was pretty awful.
- Housework. Discuss. Agree. Keep an eye on it. There's always one person who's more lazy. Poor division of labour = deep unhappiness, resentment and less physical affection.
- Kindness is underrated. When it's tough and you don't agree, a kind person is a clean arguer. Playing dirty makes for tears; argue fair and apologise when you know you should.
- Marry for love. No really. I'm constantly surprised by how many people don't. (Though my late grandmother used to say 'marry for love, but love where there's money'!)
- Sex is important. It's binding. Even the church agrees. So - do it. Do it now! (Sorry to my father who reads this blog, though I do have three kids and they weren't found behind a mulberry bush). Oh and never stop kissing.
- Turn the TV off. Watching life is not living a life. Talk. Sit opposite each other and eat. The best five months of our marriage to date were when the TV ariel was down due to a rampant passion-flower.
- You can have a bad week in a marriage. You can have a bad month, hell you can have a bad year. (I once heard a man in his 80's describe 'the seventies' as a bad period in his marriage!) Keep trying. It's not always easy being married. Remember why your heart first skipped and your stomach flipped. And don't score points.
- On that stomach flipping, it rarely lasts. Get over it. Don't seek it elsewhere. It's a chemical thing. See point 16.
- The power of surprise is immense. From the grand surprise holiday to a cup of tea on a Monday night. Doing nice stuff without being asked is A Good Thing. Do it.
- Your partner is not a vessel to receive the battering that was your day. If you are an off loader type then mentally limit yourself. Talking all night about how much you hated your day is not making anyone happy. Yourself included.
- Being tired makes everyone hyper sensitive, you see, hear and feel the world acutely. When tiredness is a constant state is can drive you to the point of insanity. So if a baby comes along, remember you are not yourself, neither is he/she. This too shall pass.
- As much as I hate the term 'date night' I do think taking the time to go out together and do things as a couple is a tonic. If you have kids and there's no baby sitter then do a homemade date night. DVD, take away, bottle of wine and well...
- Even when they're driving you mad, be careful who you discuss them with. Bitching leaves a hangover which can infect your primary relationship, even if only in your head. You're a team; protect your team-mate.
- The grass is rarely greener and affairs can be non-physical. If you find yourself emailing/texting/acting in a way you wouldn't in front of your partner, stop now. Even if you feel things with your partner aren't going to last the distance. Leave on good terms. If the other new person is truly 'the one' you should be with, they'll wait and they'll respect you waiting.
- Honestly is not always the best policy. I truly believe this. Be kind.
- Put the phone down. Your phone is not a substitute relationship. You will never regret spending less time on your phone, you could well regret not spending enough time on your marriage.
- Those people on Facebook who talk about how perfect their marriage is? They're lying. Don't be jealous. Empty vessels make most noise.
- Go to bed early. Really. See points 7 and 13.
Lots of great recipes like this in my books, Recipes from a Normal Mum, (available on Amazon, at The Works, Waterstones, WHSmith, The Book Depository and many smaller outlets) and The Power of Frozen (available exclusively in Iceland stores and through their website).
For the cakes:
- 175g castor sugar
- 175g soft, salted butter
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 175g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 30mls milk
For the drizzle:
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 30g icing sugar
For the icing and decoration:
- 100g Bounty spread
- 65g soft salted butter
- 80g icing sugar
- 50g desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and line a 12 hole cupcake tray with cases. Beat together the castor sugar, butter and lemon zest in a mixer or with a wooden spoon until light and creamy looking. Takes about 4 minutes with an electric mixer or about double by hand. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork and add dribble by dribble, beating well after each addition until really well combined. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the bowl and fold in with a large metal spoon using a cutting motion. Lastly fold in the milk. (You can add this at the egg stage but your mixture is more likely to curdle).
Divide equally between the cases and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until well risen, lightly brown and a toothpick comes out of the central cupcakes clean. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Make the drizzle by heating the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and after poking about 15 holes into each cupcake, brush the hot drizzle over the top. You can also pour or spoon it but it is difficult to control that way.
Whilst the cakes are cooling make the icing by beating together the Bounty spread, butter and icing sugar for a few minutes until well combined. Make the toasted coconut by heating the desiccated coconut in a dry frying pan over a low heat. Use a spoon to keep moving the coconut as it can burn in seconds. As soon as you're happy with the colour (I went for a light brown), tip into a bowl to cool.
Pipe or use a knife to ice each cake (there's enough icing for about a tablespoon of icing per cake) and then dip into a small bowl holding the toasted coconut. Don't push down too hard, just enough to stick the coconut on with.
Holly blogs at Recipes from a Normal Mum