14 alternative date ideas for couples on Valentine’s Day

15018392488_59306af6c0_kIf you’ve got someone to share the annual day of love with (wahoo!), you’ll want to make the night memorable. Picking one of these alternatives to the traditional wine-and-dine dinner date will ensure you both have lots of fun, get to spend quality time together and have something to look back on in the future. There’s no expiry on these ideas, by the way, so even if it’s not February 14th you can still win hearts in a creative and thoughtful way that beats the norm.

1. Complete a jigsaw puzzle

indoorAs a society, we have forgotten the joy of connecting oddly shaped pieces of cardboard together to create a picture. Yes, jigsaw puzzles are still as fun as they were when you first assembled those 25-piece pre-school masterpieces. Allow your date the honour of putting the magical final piece in place and watch their heart melt.

2. Buy tickets for a band you’ve never heard before

Discovering something new together is always memorable. Seek out a hotly-tipped band that neither of you have listened to and buy a pair of tickets. If the band’s great, you can show off your best (or worst) dance moves, pretend to know all the words and listen to their album together next time you hang out. If they suck, you can chill by the bar and discuss your superior music tastes over rounds of shots.

3. Borrow a dog

Dog walkies on lead - credit to amtaylorphotographyIf you and your date both love dogs but aren’t able to have one due to other life commitments, Borrow My Doggy is for you. The website links up dog owners with eager animal lovers, hosting a massive network of pooches that need someone to play with. It’s a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and do something different together while bonding over a shared love of puppies.

4. Host a themed movie night

Cuddling up on the sofa and sticking on a DVD is cosy, but we know you can do better. Take your movie night to another level by preparing themed drinks and snack foods to nibble on while you watch. For example, a viewing of The Big Lebowski can be accompanied with a pair of classy White Russians, while Tarantino fans can knock up their own version of the infamous ‘Five Dollar Shake’ or build a tasty ‘Big Kahuna Burger’ while watching Pulp Fiction. Bonus points if you wear fancy dress.

5. Enrol in a class

Watercolours and brushEven if you have completed your formal education, that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Plenty of extra-curricular classes are out there to teach you skills and help you to find new hobbies. It can be nerve-wracking going alone, but invite a date along and you’ll have a great opportunity to reveal a different side of your personality.

6. Volunteer for a cause you both support

Doing good for somebody else is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. If you don’t have a lot of money to spare for charities, volunteering can be a great way to support a cause you care about. If you and your date are passionate about the same issues, helping to make the world a better place while spending time together is an absolute win-win.

7. Play board games together

7366181556_9201aa0f3d_kDust off those classic board games in the cupboard (or find some treasures in a charity shop) and prepare to get competitive. If you want to get really geeky with it, draw up a league table and invite other couples along for regular board game nights. Plenty of pubs and bars keep a collection of games for punters to play with if you fancy getting out of the house – our favourites in Cardiff are Brewdog and Porter’s.

8. Watch live action sport at a local arena

It doesn’t matter if neither of you are hardcore followers of your regional wrestling team or even whether you know the rules; it’s the taking part (in the crowd) that counts. Buy last minute tickets on the cheap, pick a side and shout along with the devout fans around you. We tried this at a Tiger Bay Brawlers roller derby bout. I had no idea what was going on but had an absolute blast.

9. Venture somewhere new

338796_10150984867020270_496608346_oGrab a map of the local area and pick somewhere at random to walk or drive to. Treat the excursion as a mini-adventure, taking photos of landmarks along the way and any funny incidents that happen. One of my favourite pictures of Matt is one of him cleaning cow dung off his shoe, partly because it was hilarious (sorry, Matt) and also because it was taken on a lovely walk we did (mostly the first point).

10. Seek out something neither of you care about

Here’s the logic: by going to something neither of you would ordinarily opt to go to, you’re both starting on the same clueless and neutral footing. Pick a film at the cinema that sounds like something you’d usually ignore, watch a play by the local am-dram circuit or wander around a random exhibition at an art gallery. You may both love it, both hate it or have different opinions. Whatever the reaction, it’ll get you talking and experiencing something new together.

11. Complete a computer game together

crash3Video games are not just for boys. Game-fearing girls, now is your chance to impress. Grab the second controller, speed-read the manual and let your other half guide you through the imaginary pixel world that stole his heart years before you were on the scene. Once you know what you’re doing (or even just kind-of get it), kick digital butt together. You’ll probably find you have your own special role in the tag team. I like collecting things and running away from the baddies on platform games (pacifist/sucker for animated trinkets).

12. Visit an animal sanctuary

2604954713_9c0859548d_b“So cute!” “So cuddly!” “Awh, look at his face!” You too could find yourself cooing over fluffy friends with your other half. Feel the fuzzy excitement and mushiness that comes from perusing corridors of big-eyed pets calling out for an owner. A word of advice: leave your bags at home, or else risk the urge to sneak off with a kitten on your way out.

13. Get crafty for each other

Gather some crafty bits from your old art cupboard (or some items with crafty potential out of the recycling bin, like cardboard or bottles), Google an easy craft project and follow the tutorial together. Your lucky partner will be the proud owner of your masterpiece and vice versa, so even if it’s ugly as roadkill it doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts, right?

14. Set up camp

marshmallowIt’s relatively easy to book an overnight stay in a nice hotel, but it’s also costly and somewhat traditional. Go off the beaten track to a luxurious campsite – one with running water and hot showers. Here you can bond while putting up your tent, heating a hearty meal on the fire and snuggling up under the stars. Bring plenty of yummy food and travel games to keep it fun, and lots of wet wipes so that you both feel fresh.

If you find success with any of these, or if you have your own recommendation for a humdrum-free date, share it with a comment below or tweet @Creative_Hacks. Spread the love!

Amy sig

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15 films you should definitely watch at the cinema in 2015

It’s too easy these days to stay in and watch a film or box set online, instead of taking the opportunity to get out and visit a local cinema.

Watching a film on the big screen is much more memorable, and this year there are plenty of good ones to choose from. Take a scroll through this list and let us know which ones you’ll be gorging on popcorn in front of.

Birdman

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It’s already been released, but strong reviews suggest that Birdman going to be one of 2015’s best. The cast includes Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton and Michael Keaton – the ex-Batman reclaims the role of a masked vigilante, but this time he’s a washed up film star trying to redefine himself from his time as a superhero. (Release date: 1st January)

Whiplash

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This one has me gripped from the trailer alone. A young jazz drummer thinks he’s about to become one of the greats when he gets into America’s top music school, but faces a serious test in the form of a borderline psychotic tutor. J.K. Simmons’ character is mercilessly cruel to anyone achieving less than perfection. (Release date: 16th January)

Inherent Vice

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Any new film from Paul Thomas Anderson is worth watching at the cinema – he remains one of modern film’s most revered directors, especially since 2013’s The Master. That film’s star, Joaquin Phoenix, is present here as PI Doc Sportello, who is investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend. (Release date: 30th January)

Fifty Shades of Grey

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Not proud of this one, but we both have to admit that we’re intrigued. The UK’s fastest selling paperback (which also happens to prominently feature BDSM) is becoming a film, so naturally we want to see it. We doubt it will be very good, but it will definitely be one of the year’s most talked about. (Release date: 13th February)

White God

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A Hungarian film about an abandoned dog leading a canine army to rise up against the oppression of humans. The pack of pooches in this foreign indie flick appears to be comprised of real dogs. Angry ones. We sincerely hope this won’t put us off our dream of getting a pup of our own some day. (Release date: 27th February)

Chappie

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Chappie will be the third film from sci fi visionary Neil Blomkamp, whose previous titles District 9 and Elysium have already established him as a director with a unique eye for futuristic realism. This tale of an experimental emotion-capable robot being kidnapped by immoral gangsters looks likely to reinforce his identity as a modern auteur. (Release date: 6th March)

Dior and I

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This documentary gives audiences a rare insight into the fashion house of Christian Dior. It will undoubtedly be intriguing to get a glimpse behind the scenes of the high pressure powerhouse designer, and fascinating to take a haute couture stroll through the iconic brand’s past. (Release date: 27th March)

Lost River

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This caught our attention mainly because it’s Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut (Amy likes him so much she got this colouring book for Christmas). The cast is decent, featuring Eva Mendes, Christina Hendricks and Matt Smith – yeah, Doctor Who. Tipped to be a fantasy neo-noir that features both gritty suburban realism and an underwater utopia. (Release date: 24th April)

Jurassic World

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You shouldn’t have to ask about this one. The long awaited sequel will feature dinosaurs, Chris Pratt and dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that have been genetically mixed up in the worst kind of way. Oh, and THAT theme tune. And dinosaurs. (Release date: 12th June)

Entourage

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One of my guilty pleasures during my year as a fresher at university was spending hungover days avoiding essays and watching Jeremy Piven shout obscenities at movie stars. He and the rest of the Entourage cast will reunite for one last decadent hoorah in this big screen spin-off of the HBO series. (Release date: 19th June)

Inside Out

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Apart from Cars, pretty much everything Pixar puts out is universally appealing. Their last few outings have been sequels and prequels, but Inside Out is a whole new concept for the world’s best animation studio. This time the main characters are emotions – Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness – all living inside the head of a young girl. (Release date: 24th July)

Straight Outta Compton

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Rappers usually make for interesting character studies – just look at 2009’s Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious. West Coast hip-hop legends NWA have one of the greatest stories of all. As such, we’re banking on this being a good ‘un. (Release date: 14th August)

The Walk

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Back To The Future director Robert Zemeckis has taken on the story of French high-wire daredevil Phillipe Petit, who famously tiptoed across a rope between the Twin Towers like it was no big thing. The 2008 documentary Man on Wire, also about Petit’s iconic walk, was excellent. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play him in this biopic, but his stunt double should surely get the main credit. (Release date: 2nd October)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

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It’s impressive how well Susanne Collins’ dystopian trilogy has been adapted so far. Part 1 of Mockingjay was gripping, despite the fact that most of it happened in a giant underground bunker. The second half of the book sees the destruction reach its peak, and so this final film will naturally be a gut-wrenching crescendo to the tale. (Release date: 20th November)

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

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I was as cynical as the rest of the space nerds about this… then the trailer came out, and I became a child again. Rolling R2 units, ethnic minority stormtroopers and yes, that oddly designed lightsaber in the picture. If any film was made to be seen at the cinema, it’s unarguably Star Wars. (Release date: 18th December)

Which films are you psyched to see this year? Drop us a comment or tweet us @Creative_Hacks.

Matt

Eight classic retro video games that make great Christmas presents

IMG_7184Retro video games make thoughtful and nostalgic Christmas presents. Get them pre-owned and they’re also more affordable than the next gen games that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo want you to splurge on.

Have a scroll through this list of timeless titles; you’re bound to find one that will make a killer stocking filler for the gamer in your life.

1. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped

crash3Travelling through time, Crash rides dinosaurs and battles giant space robots, encountering iconic bosses like Dingodile and Dr N. Gin along the way.

2. Mario Kart 64

mariokart64The spiny blue shell: a blessing when you’re in last place, a curse when you’re winning.

3. Pokémon Red and Blue

pokemonscreenshot1Beating the heck out of Gym Leader Brock with your newly acquired Squirtle never gets old.

4. Rayman

raymanaltOne of the first games everyone had for Playstation, and one of hardest games to complete without cheating.

5. Croc: Legend of the Gobbos

crocHelp to save the pompom-like race of Gobbos from sadistic green-skinned baddie Baron Dante and his annoying underlings. How? By storing everything in a tardis-like backpack and smacking everyone in the face with your tail.

6. Lylat Wars

rsz_1lylatwarsOr Starfox 64 if you’re American. Choose your path through the solar system to stop the evil monkey overlord Andross from taking over. Your teammates are a sassy falcon, a reckless toad and a repetitive rabbit. DO A BARREL ROLL!

7. Spyro The Dragon

rsz_spyro-artisanMy all time favourite game! Spyro’s mission is to save 80 other dragons who have been trapped in crystal by Gnasty Gnorc, a gnome/orc hybrid with a bad attitude.

8. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Zelda2Widely considered the best Nintendo game ever, take control of Link and travel around the enchanting kingdom of Hyrule, learning songs on a magical ocarina to change the course of time and defeat the evil Ganondorf.

I know I’ve missed loads of incredible old games off this list, so if there’s one you think deserves to be on here, be sure to leave a comment below or tweet us @Creative_Hacks!

Matt

Five ingenious uses for empty toilet paper rolls

IMG_7001If you’re anything like me, you spent a good portion your childhood awestruck at the potential for fun that an empty toilet paper roll can offer.

From taping a couple together to make a nifty pair of ‘binoculars’ to fantasising about the lofty loo roll spires of a home crafted castle, there seemed to be an almost endless list of things that I could do with those unassuming tubes. Don’t even get me started on the even more magnificent empty kitchen roll… double the length means double the fun, am I right?

With so much resourceful joy to be had, it still feels like a sin to chuck away empty toilet rolls. And while building Tracey Island from cardboard cylinders isn’t my top priority as a busy adult, it has recently come to my attention that you can still get a lot of use out of these little beauties. Here are five examples.

1. Make an advent calendar

DIY-Advent-CalendarThe John Lewis advert is on TV, so it’s officially nearly Christmas (damn, that penguin’s cute). Prepare for December by making your nearest and dearest an advent calendar – toilet roll tubes happen to be the perfect size and shape for hiding festive treats like chocolates, sweets and small gifts. Here’s a neat tutorial courtesy of creative blog Northstory.

2. Grow a plant

how_to_make_seed_starter_pots_using_toilet_paper_rolls_p1smfPlanting a seed and watching it grow is a timeless and satisfying thing. You can be both economical and ecological by using old toilet rolls as mini planters. Once your seed is ready to be replanted outdoors, you can conveniently bury it along with the biodegradable roll, safe in the knowledge that it will decompose without harming the plant or the local environment. GardeningClan.com has all the instructions you need to make a loo roll seed starter.

3. Develop your own photos

Digital photography is great and all, but sometimes you need to take it back to the old school. For a truly analogue insight into how photography works, make yourself a pinhole camera, also known as a camera obscura. Empty toilet rolls make ideal developing chambers. You don’t need much else, but this pleasingly retro blog has the full details.

4. Have a cracking Christmas

christmas_crackers_09Shop bought crackers are overpriced and underwhelming. It’s way more fun to make your own from empty toilet rolls. Fill them with personalised party hats to really blow the Christmas socks off your friends and family. Just follow this 10-step guide by the clever people at Mookychick.com.

5. Sell them!

You read that right. You can actually sell empty toilet rolls to make extra pocket money. Crafty people who need cardboard tubes but don’t want to channel their inner Andrex puppy on shop-bought paper will regularly purchase them from eBay. The going rate seems to be around five pounds per twenty rolls – not bad for bathroom rubbish!

If you have any more ideas for upcycling household junk, let us know in the comments below or drop us a tweet @Creative_Hacks.

Matt

Halloween zombie make-up from everyday items

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Halloween comes once a year. Unlike most other fancy dress opportunities, it is an occasion where you can get away with looking hideous, frightening and socially unacceptable.

Joke shops and fancy dress stores stock make-up kits for wannabe spooks, but these are usually overpriced and poor in quality. You don’t need any liquid glucose, white face powder or stick-on plastic sores from these guys – we’ll show you how to make grizzly, realistic zombie wounds out of household items for a fraction of the price, resulting in a super-fun dress-up sesh with a horribly realistic result. You have been warned.

Gather these household items:

An old magazine or newspaper
Flour (plain, self-raising, whatever you can get your mitts on)
A cup of tap water
A pinch of porridge oats
A plate
PVA glue
Kitchen roll
An old towel
Cocktail sticks, skewers or something similarly pointy
Wet wipes (useful if you have them, but if not, it’s no biggie)

Raid an old make-up collection or bargain shop for:

A generic, no frills black eyeshadow
A cheap black liquid eyeliner
An old make up brush (an eyeshadow brush is ideal)
An old brush with a small tip (like a lipstick brush, or a fine paintbrush)
Fake blood (a very red lip stain/gloss/stick also works)
Liquid foundation
The remains of an old powder compact

The prep

Protect the workstation by covering it with loose magazine or newspaper pages. Make your artist’s palette by scooping up a handful of flour and putting it on one quarter of your plate, then add your oats to another quarter of the plate. Squeeze a blob of fake blood onto the third quarter, away from the flour and oats. Lastly, hold your black eyeshadow above the final empty quarter of the plate and scratch it so that little dust-like flecks of the eyeshadow fall onto the plate.

2Add a small amount of water to the flour and work it into a dry dough in the palm of your hand. Congratulations – you have just made your zombie skin!

Let it sit for a minute while you prep your face. With the black eyeshadow, add shading to the darker bits of your face to make yourself look worn and hungry for human meat (your inner eye sockets, your jawline, the caverns of your neck and collar, plus your temples). If you have particularly oily skin or you want to make yourself look a bit paler, pat a thin layer of flour onto wider parts of your face using the old powder compact. Your face is now ready for a pain-free beating.

Grazes and flaky skin

1To make simple grazes, add a tiny amount of water and a drop of foundation to a small amount of flour on your plate and mix – it should be crumbly. Dip your finger in the black eyeshadow dust and pat onto the area. Follow with a patting of fake blood. Lightly wet the area of skin that you want to graze (use water or, if you can take it, PVA glue) and apply the floury mix (fake flaky skin) to the patch of your face. Dab the flaky skin with some black eyeliner and fake blood to make it look grazed. You can make realistic scabs by adding some oats to the area – use the same foundation/ black/ blood method to get them looking gross.

grazeSmall scrapes like this are great for adding subtle and realistic detail

Flesh wounds and blisters

3To make a big wound like a slash or a blister, take your previously made ball of zombie skin (flour and water dough) and rip off a section the size that you want your gory wound to be – we chose to rip off a size that would fit onto Matt’s cheek area. Holding the piece, massage in foundation and a small amount of black eyeshadow dust, aiming to recreate pallid, ashy zombie skin colour. Once it looks suitably fleshy, wet the area of skin you want to apply it to (again, use water or PVA glue) and stick the flesh piece onto your skin. Press it down around the edges, trying to make it look as seamless as possible by dragging the edges outwards slightly. It’s okay for it to look quite thick at the moment.

4Carve some lines into the piece using a cocktail stick, the deeper the better. Mix together some fake blood and eyeliner, then paint the dark colour right into the deepest parts of the slashes you’ve made. Around the slashes, dab fake blood and black eyeshadow dust so that it layers up into a dirty-looking bloody mess. It is good to leave some bits flesh toned for contrast and realism. As with the grazes, you can experiment with oats (or ‘blood clots’) and different application techniques, such as dribbling diluted blood out from the wound. Once complete, spray with hairspray to achieve a glossiness to the blood and hold it in place.

5Urgh… how’s that for gore? We did warn you!

Bullet wounds

6To make a bullet wound, take a generous pinch of the zombie skin (flour and water dough), put it into the palm of your hand with a dot of foundation and black eyeshadow dust then roll into a fleshy ball. As before, wet the area of skin you want to apply it to and push the ball onto your skin, crafting it into a dome shape with your fingers.

Dig the end of your brush into the centre of the skin dome, creating a pit (or ‘bullet hole’). Mix some fake blood  and a generous amount of eyeliner together and paint them into the pit to create the illusion of depth. Trickle and splatter some fake blood and black eyeshadow dust around the area so that it looks like it has been marked by the impact of a bullet. Feel free to get gross with it – for example, you could create some globules out of oats or small bits of the zombie skin to create blood clots, warts or flaps of skin. Once you’ve finished grossing yourself out, spray with hairspray to hold in place.

6bA bullet wound in the neck gives your undead character a gruesome back story

Take a look in the mirror at the overall monster you have created. Add black eyeshadow to anywhere that needs a bit more definition and pat some fake blood here and there, just for the hell of it. If you feel a bit sick looking at yourself, you’ve done a great job. Now go scare!

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Have you given yourself a horror make-under? Share your photos with us on @Creative_Hacks so that we can be terrifying together! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Amy sig