Mexican Matchbox Wedding Favours

After eighteen months of planning, relaxed and intense all at the same time, our wedding went wonderfully. We tried to mix the Mexican details in with the very British setting of the grand but cosy Highbury Hall in Birmingham. These were some of my favourite parts – papel picado, tequila on every table, Mexican music and singing and dancing all night long!

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Mexican Lotería Matchbox Wedding Favours, with Muñequita

One of the first things we got excited about was the favours, little glittery matchboxes with Mexican lotería cards for decoration (a game a bit like Bingo). Daniel had seen them on Etsy and they were so lairy I loved them! Of course, in full-on money-saving mode I decided to make them myself. I took it slowly, starting them in July while I was off work, and finished them in February. By making them myself we paid about £40 for the eighty matchboxes. They were about £90 for 80 matchboxes so with postage from the US on top I basically saved a bomb. You could save even further by printing the lotería pictures out from Google Images onto card and filling them with sweets or little printed out notes.

Materials we bought :

  • Matchboxes – 50p for 20 from the Bullring Market
  • Glitter card – £1 per value brand pack from Hobbycraft, you’ll need maximum three for eighty matchboxes
  • Glitter glue – £1.50 per colour, I used five colours from Hobbycraft
  • Glue – £2.00 from Hobbycraft
  • Guillotine – £24.99 from Amazon

Materials we had sent from Mexico :

  • Muñequitas – 100 little dolls
  • Lotería – 3 packs
  • Measure your matchboxes and cut your glitter card with the guillotine. Our matchboxes were bright orange, so it was really important to get the sizing right so that it couldn’t be seen around any edges. You should also be able to measure the paper to get the best number of pieces out of it so there’s as little wastage as possible. As an exporter it reminded me of my CapePack days trying to work out the optimum cartons per pallet for transport. Also, cover your work surface with newspaper because the value card leaks glitter everywhere!
  • Cut your lotería cards with the guillotine. Filter out those you don’t want, for example we took out El Negrito, and the ones with boring pictures like La Campana and La Mano (the Black Man, the Bell and the Hand). I also tried to get a good mix, there will be more Estrellas than Ranas for example (Stars and Frogs), so I did a bit of sorting and counting to get more or less even numbers of each design.
  • Stick the glitter card to one face of the matchbox, once that side is dry glue a different colour to the other side and leave a couple of days to dry completely. Mine were left to dry next to a sunny window for about two days in the middle of Summer, then transferred to a Tupperware box with a sheet of kitchen roll between each layer. I checked them every three or four weeks to make sure that the glue was sticking and that they weren’t rolling up at the edges.
  • Glue the lotería pictures onto what will be the top of your matchboxes and leave to dry. I put my piles of pictures in order so that I used the most exciting pictures, like El Borracho and El Nopal (the Drunkard and the Cactus), and went along them in order. I also tried to get mine contrasting, I would not glue a picture with a yellow background on to a gold glitter side, or with pink background onto a red glitter side etc. These were left for two Wintry days to dry by my sunny window.
  • Glitter glue around the outside of the lotería picture to hide the edges, leave to dry. I left mine one week at the sunny window in January, to be completely sure they were dry. Again I used contrasting colours, eg., gold glitter side with blue picture background with pink glitter glue / blue glitter side with yellow picture background with green glitter glue.
  • Fill the matchboxes with all your goodies and enjoy your guests’ reaction to the colours and the little surprises inside!
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English Breakfast in Nörjske

Tucked away in leafy Edgbaston are three little restaurants that look like they should hardly get any footfall, and yet they stay open. They’re too near to drive, but I wouldn’t want to walk the 20 minutes home in the dark of midnight. The first is Simpson’s, one of Birmingham’s Michelin starred restaurants where Daniel and I celebrated our engagement and the Michelin star makes the trip worth it in a taxi. Next is the Highfield, Roz at TheFoodieCouple has reviewed it and it’s also lovely for a slightly special occasion, a true gastropub where we sometimes take the car to have a drink and a chat on weekday evenings. Finally is Nörjske, one of the strangest little bars there is in the city.

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Yummy breakfast

On Saturday, with the stress and emotion of the wedding six weeks behind us, life began again relatively stress-free, a normality that I haven’t had since last Summer. It was a sunny morning so we walked down to Nörjske for brunch. The whole place feels like it would be beautiful in the winter! Downstairs is a bright little rustic-style deli that’s perfect for the lunchtime take-away crowd, a big selection of British and Scandinavian themed sandwiches and paninis, with Scandinavian products for sale in woven baskets and wooden pallet shelves. An outdoor seating area is ready prepared with patio heating and blankets. Upstairs is very clean, floor to ceiling windows allow so much light in – the white wooden booths look so welcoming. Everywhere is white and bright, with faux-fur blankets and wintery woodland animal cushions.

The brunch menu is not altogether Scandinavian, we had an omelette and eggs benedict. My dish was two little halves of bread roll that were the perfect amount to mop up the two poached eggs, together with crumbled ham hock with a beautiful hollandaise sauce. The omelette was perfectly runny in the middle and looked enormous but tasted so light. It was an indulgence but with our wedding six weeks behind us we basked in the delight of knowing that we didn’t have to be anywhere or talk about anything specific, enjoying an hour and a half of delicious food, laid-back music and a lovely view over St George’s Church.

A Grown Man Crying

We bumped into some friends in one of the new vintage-style hipster bars in the city centre, three friends grew to five, and five to seven, laughing and chatting and enjoying the music and some continental beers on one of the first sunny afternoons of the year. The road is full of new little bars attracting the late 20s to early 30s crowd, a craft beer pub, a sheesha lounge, a Caribbean restaurant and our vintage café-cum-bar. but it still hasn’t quite shaken off the seedy reputation from just two or three years ago when all these places were strip clubs.

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One man catches my eye, in among all the men with perfectly kept beards chatting about the football savouring the newest craft beers in the rotation, the women in over-sized cardigans and miniskirts swapping tips for the newest baking fashions, and the stag party and the hen, I see a tall blond man in an Adidas tracksuit. He stands out with a short beard and a tiny sports bag. And he’s crying. I grab my purse and search out what coins I can find. I run out of the café using the open floor length window rather than the door, it’s too urgent for the door. But he’s gone. My friend follows – we find him standing slumped against the black-painted door of a disused office building, crying. I ask if he’s OK, he tells me that he’s just looking for something but everyone is refusing him. His accent and use ofrefusing rather than rejecting tells me he’s Eastern European. He reaches out with a dirty hand, his fingernails are yellow and brown and torn. I drop my three gold coins in his hand and go back to my friends and the beer and the music and the laughter, passing back through the café window again to my world.

A beggar is seen on a street in central AthensAs far as I remember I have believed that you shouldn’t give money to street beggars – they will only spend it on booze or drugs or something else that “doesn’t help them”, but this grown man is walking in the street and he is crying. Yes back in the boom years there were some people on the street who are there by choice, but since the economic crisis there are more and more people who are there by circumstance alone. I saw a documentary once that included a British business man who had been hugely profitable in Spain but made some bad decisions and left his family desolate, he scraped together the money for a flight to the UK, and returned with only the suit on his back and a small bag. He had nowhere to go, no family and no friends, I don’t remember if it was he or they that were too ashamed. And my friend told me about a father, left penniless through divorce, who was living on the streets begging for enough to buy his kids a McDonald’s every Saturday so they would never know his real situation. There’s a lady that reads a book outside the train station, I keep meaning to take her something but never think when I walk out of my house. Everyone on the street has their story and their own circumstances for being there.

coinAnd so what if they are going to buy booze? Their lives must be pretty tough if they’re on the streets in the first place, nowhere to sleep, being ignored in the street, people looking away, pretending they don’t see. If I what I give them buys two cans of lager, then for me that’s fine, it will either keep them a little bit warmer tonight, or they drink to forget their troubles for an hour or two. If what I give them buys a minuscule bag of poor-quality whatever, then that’s not really fine by me but once that money has left my hand I have no say, it becomes their decision and if that hit will make Sunday-afternoon-Adidas-man stop crying and feel better for a little bit then that’s fine by me.. If it brings them comfort in their hours, weeks, months of need, then so be it – I’d rather be the person that gives them that tiny comfort in a life of despair than the person that makes them feel like they don’t deserve to walk on this Earth. They deserve to be here just as much as me and that is why they are crying.

Birmingham : Europe’s No-Go Zone

This is the most hilarious thing on the internet in a long time, once I got over the shock. Steve Emerson of Fox News has stated that there are officially a number no-go zones in Europe, in particular – Birmingham. Apparently the non-Muslims that live in Birmingham are living their lives in fear. Well I tell you now from Europe’s no-go zone, that Fox News has broadcast complete and utter bollocks.

As a lot of my readers may have heard or seen this story I need to tell you, I feel more uneasy when the British National Party are out in force than when I see a student wearing a hijab, or a young man in a thobe on his way home from the mosque. There may be some areas, Small Heath or Spark Hill for instance where the Muslim population is much higher than other ethnicities, but it doesn’t make people avoid it. I was chatting with my Daniel about whether everyday Muslims (the non-extremists) are fearful now of people saying things in the street, I bristle when I think about it.

It’s true that when you leave your house you could be in uncountable states of danger, from falling down the stairs to a car accident to a random armed robbery. Now as a white woman – living and working in Birmingham – being a victim of Muslim extremism is more or less the last thing on my mind when I get in the car to go to work, or when I pop down to Tescoes for tomatoes.

I really fail to understand where this “terrorism expert” got his information – religious police patrolling some areas of London, areas of Western Europe are closed off completely due to Muslim extremism? Well, the Brummies and Brits of the internet have at least had some fun with it, and some of these are hilarious. All courtesy of Buzzfeed News, I especially love the cricket player guarding the gates!

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Apology from Steven Emerson

Silly Steve Emerson has since apologised very publically and he seems genuinely ashamed, and to make amends he is now planning to make a donation to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. But as there are a lot of people out there that will just blindly believe him, please feel free to sign this petition to ask him to put it right on TV :

https://www.change.org/p/fox-news-on-air-apology-to-the-people-of-birmingham-uk-for-saying-non-muslims-can-not-enter-our-beloved-multi-cultural-city?just_created=true

Back to School at 31

Running across the road in the dark in my red suede high heels I know I’m going to be late. I’ve started wearing high heels to work again, at least these are comfortable so I can run. I hurriedly swipe my card at the turnstile glancing at the clock above the canteen and realise I’m ok, the time in my car is wrong. I know it’s wrong but I’m one of these people that needs to be early – it’s a compulsion. Slowing to a confident walk I hop up the stairs to the corridor where my classroom is, a messy ponytail bobbing along behind me, and flicking the fringe out of my eyes as I see my classmates waiting at the end of the corridor. I’m still here before the tutor, the room is still locked.

We’ve both taken classes, after watching back-to-back episodes of the latest Modern Family box-set we realised that we watch a lot of TV. So we got out the Birmingham Adult Education Service catalogue that’s delivered to every house in the city at this time of year, and chose something to do to develop ourselves outside of work. Daniel is taking Italian in the city centre, he already speaks it a bit so it’s more of a revision to lose that rustiness that comes with lack of practice. I’ve chosen Creative Writing, it’s something I really enjoyed as a child and I thought it would be useful for my Chilanga experience.

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Student again…

 

There’s a big mix of ages and backgrounds in the class so it’s always interesting to hear people’s work, and their critiques on other people’s. For some people it comes easily, for others it’s hard to be creative on demand, they need a little longer to formulate an idea before committing it to paper. We’ve had stories about a lost guinea-pig, a woman running a circus single-handedly, and a man that severs his finger but ends up growing human limbs in the soil on an industrial scale. I seem to wave between two styles of writing, one of these is quite essay-based, the other is very much “train-of-thought”. In the creative challenge at the start of the class it’s “train of thought”, over a short space of time, a window into just a few minutes of someone’s life.

Winding back fifteen or even twenty years, at school we were put into different ability groups for the core subjects, I was in the top class for most of them. Spanish out of three, Science was five, and amazingly in Maths I was in Set 1 out of 10! The only fly in the ointment was English, I could never get up to that top set, stuck for five years in Set 2. I still enjoyed creating stories and curiously, they were mainly based in ghosts. I was really into the Point Horror series, the ghosty stories rather than the murder stories. I flirted with Point Romance, which fulfilled a teenage-discovering-myself-slash-romance-slash-physical-intimacy phase, but I always came back to the horror. Even now I can’t read a romancey chick-lit book, I need more substance than the good old will-they-won’t-they. Ghost stories always opened up a realm of impossibility where the impossible did happen. I like to think it was a precursor to my now enjoying more magical realism, or some other seemingly impossible crime or situation that seems completely normal in the novel.

Back to Thursday evenings, I’ve been told I write angrily – that it’s just ranting rather than an interesting story or succinct prose that follows a set formula. I tell myself that I’m out of practice, that years of writing factual essays and professional e-mails and reports have broken away my creativity. But Chilanga : Exported has been going for nearly two years, with a reasonable readership for what I want so there must be something left in my heart. I need to crack that anger, maybe the frustration of losing my creativity is manifesting itself in the very writing I’m creating. Crack it, Katherine…

Where do you draw your ideas for your posts? Are you naturally creative? How do you keep your mind creative?

Birmingham for Under a Tenner

Birmingham is full of little festivals and club nights or street entertainment that you’d never know are there unless you read the right blogs, knew the right people, or remembered that little sticker you saw on the back of the traffic lights as you crossed the Suffolk Street Queensway.  Here are some of the best that we’ve been to this year, all for under a tenner.

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South African fare at the Digbeth Dining Club

  1. Digbeth Dining Club – Every Friday night down at The Spotlight on Heath Mill Road there are street food stalls with a selection of world cuisines from South African springbok and vegan falafel to a New York hot dog and French crêpes covered in sugar. If you’re lucky enough to get down there on the First Friday of the month you’ll find more food and drinks stalls out the back and live music later on. We ate there quite often over the summer, it attracts all ages too, from families with young children, to a safe teenager’s night out and folks in their 50s looking for something different than a restaurant or the theatre. Cost: food costs around six pounds a pop so with a beer on top you’re still looking at under a tenner.
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    City of Colours Festival

    City of Colours / Summer in Southside / Outdoor TV – There are so many outdoor festivals during the Summer. The likes of Moseley Folk Festival and the Jazz festival cost upwards of £30.00 just for a day ticket, so we went on the lookout for some smaller, more unique festivals this year. The Outdoor TV in Brindley Place puts on children’s films for a matinée, and normally runs a theme for the evenings, it also shows the tennis from Wimbledon which had an amazing atmosphere last year when Andy Murray won! The Summer in Southside is an arts festival full of street performances and activities around the Hippodrome and Gay Village area, all completely free. City of Colours was without doubt the best, a one day festival around Digbeth centring on the Custard Factory, full of organised street art competitions and live spraypainting art in the streets. Complete with live music, BMX bike display, street dance competition, this was a complete surprise, we only intended to stay an hour or so but spent six hours exploring and watching the art grow as the day went on. The good news is that it should be back next year with a two-day programme. Cost : a tenner covers a couple of beers and an icecream.

  3. Quiz night at The Queen’s Arms – On a Thursday on Newhall Street, it gets ruthless. We went originally for the 2-for-1 pizza deal but then at 20h00 we discovered they had a quiz, after cajoling our friends, we joined in. A traditional pub with stained-glass windows and high bar stools, this quiz offers a picture round, a double or nothing, a conections round, it’s the perfect quiz package. Cost: a quid for the quiz, the pizza deal and a beers might just keep you under the £10.00 limit.
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    Quiz at The Queen’s Arms

    B-Town / International Dance Festival – In May the International Dance Festival descends onto Birmingham, with paying performances in the Symphony Hall, the Rep Theatre and so on. But there are also plenty of free shows in the street if you know where to look. One very cold night we went out to see B-Town, a  dance-based performance about a post-apocalyptic Birmingham as the sole-surviving city after flooding drowns the rest of the country. Queen Roxy must make the decision to let refugees into the city before the floodwaters rise further. This was simply… brilliant. A collaboration between several local dance schools this was a story that sucked you in despite the cold and the threat of rain. Cost : a fiver for a hot chocolate afterwards.

  5. Exhibitions at Birmingham Museums – All the museums in Birmingham are free, and there is so much going on! The Ikon gives a taste of modern art, the Museum and Art Gallery in Victoria Square houses the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard a rolling programme across the Gas Hall and Water Hall spaces. Out of town there’s Sarehole Mill where you can explore JRR Tolkein’s childhood, Soho House which was home to Lunar Society back in the day, and the beautiful Aston Hall. Cost: £5 maximum per museum.

Our information comes from a variety of sources, the Meetups are great because you get to see a lot of the mainstream festivals in the City like the International Dance Festival and the Colmore Business District Food Festival, and we have a few friends that are close to the artsy scenes in the City, but most of the time you just have to search the blogs (let me know if I’ve missed any!) : I CHOOSE Birmingham · Digbeth is Good · BMAG · Digbeth First Friday · Out in Brum · The Foodie Couple Blog · Brum Review · Brummed Out · Birmingham Student Foodie