Hannah Drake

Christmas 2018 Highlights

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I’m baaaaaack! I intended to take some time off from the blog over the holiday season, but it was a bit longer than I intended due to some technical issues while we were in the States. I’ve been having problems with my laptop battery and charger since we were in Italy in September (which is also why I have yet to post about our trip) and my charger just completely died when we got to Colorado. I attempted to borrow one, but my laptop is older than my sister’s and of course Apple has changed the plug since I got my computer. Then it took a while for the right one to come in. By then, I was supposed to be on my self-proclaimed break and honestly I didn’t even open my blog until a couple of weeks ago, but I just didn’t have the stamina to keep it up after a couple of posts. Anyway, I’m hoping to be back on a roll.

So now that I’m back, let’s start with a recap the Christmas season, including how I did on my 2018 Christmas Bucket List:

SEE THE DECORATIONS IN LONDON

It seems like going down to London to see the decor has become a first weekend in December kind of tradition. This year, Luke and I took the coach down to London and had a serious plan. We ended up seeing a lot more than we did last year and London did not disappoint. (Does it ever?) I think we ended up doing over 20k steps by the afternoon when we took a break to watch a football match at a pub. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to Chipotle between stops!

Christmas Bucket List - Visit the Christmas Market, Blenheim Palace

VISIT THE CHRISTMAS MARKET

While we didn’t spend much time at the local Christmas market in Birmingham, we did visit the Christmas market outside of Blenheim Palace and in Nottingham. Because we only had about two weeks in Birmingham during December, we just didn’t have time to go to ours other than when we went for drinks after Luke’s birthday dinner with some friends. It was kind of a bummer after splitting making foot long sausages last year, but we did get our fix at Blenheim. Both markets we did visit were a lot better than Birmingham’s market anyway. In Birmingham, the stalls all seem to repeat rather than being unique and local vendors. And at Blenheim Palace, many of the vendors were food and alcohol with plenty of samples!

GO TO THE NUTCRACKER

We continued our annual tradition in Colorado this year, dressing to the nines and going downtown for the ballet. Because my brother flew in to Denver that evening, it worked out for my mom to be our chauffeur since we didn’t want to spend money on a hotel downtown. This year, we went to Torchy’s Tacos for a quick dinner beforehand—and we were definitely the best dressed people in the restaurant. We also sat in a box for the first time, which was an interesting vantage point. It was weird being able to see everyone in the audience and we had to lean to see the side of the stage we were on. After the show, we went to Corridor 44, a champagne bar in Larimer Square in Denver. We split oysters, truffle fries, and a bottle of champagne, just like we did in 2016. It was an absolute blast!

This year, like in 2016, I rented a gown from Rent the Runway. If you haven’t ever used the site, I highly recommend it for any occasion. I rented a gown for The Nutcracker in 2016 and 2018, as well as renting two dresses for my brother’s wedding last summer. Click here to get $30 off your first order!

MAKE CREAM CHEESE BREADS (WITH MY MOM)

Well, this didn’t exactly go as planned. I did help my mom make the dough on Christmas Eve, but I didn’t help on Christmas morning when she was assembling them, which was the part I really wanted to help with! She did teach me a trick for the filling though. And I got my vengeance on my sister when I noticed the recipe is titled braids, not breads. (That was a whole thing last year.) My mom was also kind enough to make another batch so we could take home two loaves for our own Christmas. Sadly, half of one got burnt to a crisp in the oven while I was making hot chocolate, but thank goodness there was another!

(I didn’t get a photo of them this year, so I’m using a photo from last year. Maybe next Christmas I’ll actually share the recipe!)

GO CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING & ICE SKATING

We went cross-country skiing with my family on Christmas Eve Eve at our usual spot. I always look forward to going to Devil’s Thumb Ranch during the Colorado winter and it was a lot of fun to incorporate it into our family Christmas. Unfortunately, the group got split up for most of the morning since my siblings wanted to go down (well, first up) a steep hill that I don’t enjoy. My sister-in-law and I spent the morning with my dad and my stepmom, which was really lovely. But I had this nagging feeling that something bad had happened to Luke the whole time we were out. We never ended up finding them on the trail, so we eventually just went in for lunch. When my sister came in a little while later, she said someone fell and got hurt, but I didn’t catch the name she said. I asked who and sure enough, it was Luke. He went to A&E (the ER) when we got back to England and it turns out he likely has a hairline fracture in his hip. Because it had already been about a week, he’s just been prescribed an anti-inflammatory and encouraged to rest it.

We went ice skating with my sisters and brother-in-law on Boxing Day. Despite Luke’s injury (and not yet knowing what it was), he did a few laps with us on the ice. It was pretty fun, even though the rink was packed, but it was a bummer to not be able to ice skate in the mountains. I was picturing a pond at DTR with ice skating, but it turns out their rink was a tiny thing near the start of the cross-country trails and it seriously looked like we wouldn’t all fit. We tried to skate at the nearby Fraser Winter Sports Complex on both the 23rd and the 24th, but the open skate times didn’t quite fit our timeline. Still, we got to go and it was fun!

MAKE HOLIDAY TREATS FOR THE NEIGHBOURS

I had off the week before we went to Colorado because I still had some holiday I needed to use before the end of the year. I had promised my co-workers that I would send Luke in with some holiday treats by Wednesday, so I spent most of Tuesday baking. I made molasses cookies, cardamom sugar cookies, chai sugar cookies with white chocolate buttercream, gingerbread cookies, caramel stuff chocolate pecan cookies, cinnamon roll cookies, and iced sugar cookies. It was a little different than what I had intended earlier this month, but they all turned out delicious and I’m glad I tried new recipes. My favourite were the caramel stuffed chocolate pecan cookies, a family recipe my friend Rachel sent me. They are amazing!

While it was kind of stressful to cram all that baking into one day, I did have a lot of fun and watched a ton of Hallmark Christmas movies. Luke delivered two trays of cookies to both my office and his, we took some to our neighbours, and had quite a bit left over to take to some friends. In Colorado, my stepmom made the chai sugar cookies and Luke and I went over to help her frost them. She had much better luck with the frosting than I did, but it made a bit more than was needed so Luke went overboard on one cookie and made a 3D Santa. He could barely take a second bite because it was so rich!

When we got back to England and had our own Christmas, I opened Luke’s gift to me, which was a Kitchen Aid Mixer. It definitely would have come in handy that week and he did offer to let me open it early (since I knew what it was, just not what colour), but I’m glad I waited. Too bad we’re on a cleanse diet right now so I can’t make any other fun treats, including croissants!

SET UP A HOT COCOA STATION

This year, I upgraded from a boring green tray to a three-tiered stand with all the bells and whistles. I set up the station when we decorated for Christmas, toward the end of November, and we made good use of it throughout the season. I’ve done this for years, but only ever included some mini mallows and candy canes with two shakers of cinnamon and nutmeg, but this year I added a lot more. I had caramels, chocolate chunks, mini and jumbo mallows, two different types/sizes of candy canes, Bailey’s, Amaretto, peppermint sticks, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. You could do pretty much anything your heart desired. We also had whipped cream in the fridge and in Colorado, I made a gingerbread simple syrup that we had in hot cocoa (and Kentucky mules) that was delicious!

BUY NEW CHRISTMAS PJs

Instead of opting for our usual pajama bottoms and Christmas socks, we both got something we wanted to add to our nighttime wardrobe. Luke got a pair of slippers in addition to his Christmas socks, and I got a fleece robe that is seriously the coziest, comfiest thing I’ve ever owned in addition to my socks.

MAKE HOMEMADE EGGNOG

This was the only one that I didn’t complete, despite both my mom and my sister offering to teach me while we were in Colorado. We thought we had a ton of free time, but our trip got a lot busier than we had planned. So, I’ll try again next year!

HOST A CRAFT NIGHT

Early in the month, I had a few friends over to do some crafts. I continued our wreath-making trend, making our fourth wreath of the season out of some leftover baubles that didn’t fit onto the tree. It was super simple, but made for a good craft to still talk to my friends and watch John Legend’s Christmas special, A Legendary Christmas. It was a lot of fun!


OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

On the 1st, we drove down to Oxfordshire to visit Blenheim Palace and see all of their decorations both inside the palace and on the grounds. It was so much fun. I wrote a whole blog post about it, here.

To celebrate my younger sister’s 21st birthday (in October), we went to a Christmas pop up bar. It was a long wait, but it was a lot of fun. The cocktail that I had inspired me to make a gingerbread mule later during some other holiday celebrations.

This year, both sides of my family decided not to do gifts and instead focus on making memories and having awesome experiences together. My dad and stepmom booked a cabin near our cross-country skiing spot for the night before Christmas Eve. We all drove up in the morning to go skiing, then headed to the cabin that afternoon to more festivities. We decided to do an ugly sweater party, which my brother turned into a competition, complete with a catwalk fashion show. It was so much fun. We all voted on best sweater and best performance. My brother-in-law Travis handily won best performance, but there was a three way tie for best sweater, which came down to number of votes for best performance as a a tie breaker. Luke ended up winning! Pretty good for buying his sweater at the store the night before we flew to Colorado. My stepmom made her famous chicken pot pie (actually, three for the nine of us!), which is a usual Christmastime activity on another night, complete with some kind of outrageous game, like Cards Against Humanity, What Do You Meme, or—this year—Relative Insanity. She also had a game that Luke called Pass the Parcel. She had wrapped a box three or four times with packaging tape and the goal was to try to unwrap the box and get it open while wearing oven mitts before the person next to you rolled doubles on the dice. It got so crazy, but Sam ended up winning when she got the Amazon gift card out of the box after I had torn it open. Then, I had set up a gingerbread house competition. My stepmom bought two mini gingerbread village kits from Target and I stocked up on some extra candies. We decided that each person would have 15 minutes to decorate their house once it was properly assembled. We had split into two groups since there wasn’t much room around the table at the cabin and Luke and Travis seemed hellbent on using the icing bag from the first kit that was almost empty, so Luke’s house ended up completely collapsing just as he applied the finishing touches. Pretty hysterical for the only engineer in the place! Since there were only 8 houses, my dad and stepmom teamed up, which promised a winner in voting. Everyone got one vote, except Travis who won with two for his upside-down house. It was such a fun time and I’ll definitely remember all that fun longer than I’ll remember what I got for Christmas any other year!

For our family fun on my mom’s side, we had a murder mystery over Christmas dinner. Luke and I helped her set up the game the week before, including assigning characters and figuring out logistics. We had thought about doing it as a separate thing on Boxing Day, but the game seemed to work best over a long meal, so we combined it with the big meal she was already planning for Christmas. It was different than the murder mysteries Luke and I have done in the past, but it was still fun. (And it’ll be easier to play again because there isn’t a set murderer.) My sister Sam ended up being the killer and only two people voted for her. (I thought for sure it was Luke and I wasn’t going to not guess him again when he turned out to be the killer at our 2017 New Year’s Eve party where no one guessed him!) Even my grandma and grandpa who were a bit hesitant said they liked it. However, the real star was the Christmas feast. I just love Christmas dinner so much! My mom always makes a delicious roast dinner and this year I made the White Christmas Sparkle Cake from How Sweet Eats for dessert.

Luke and I celebrated our Christmas the morning of the 30th, after we got back from the States. We didn’t take any of our gifts to the States simply because it didn’t make sense. Also, they were big. I got Luke his whole list of tools he wants for woodworking. Luke got me a Kitchen Aid Mixer! Neither of us were surprised this year—although I didn’t know the colour of the mixer because I gave him about five options—but we both got exactly what we wanted.

I’m going to include New Year’s Eve in this post too because once again, I didn’t take any photos. Luke and I hosted another murder mystery party this year. (Last year we hosted a 1920’s themed murder mystery.) This year, the theme was Murder in Sin City, so we turned our house into a little casino. Luke played the casino owner and I played…the murderer! Only two people guessed it was me; I couldn’t believe it! It was a lot of fun, but I gotta say, if we host another party next year, I hope our house is a bit better for entertaining because it felt small with all our friends in it!


BINGO UPDATE

After having so much fun playing bingo throughout the autumn with all the basic things us gals do for the Insta, I teamed up with my friend Blythe to bring you a holiday themed bingo. You know, with all the basic things us gals do for the Insta! We both shared the boards on our Instagram Stories and loving seeing everyone else play along. It was even more popular than the fall version!

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 14

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It feels like it’s been about six months since my last Expat Diaries, not the usual two months. We’ve been busy in those two months, but so has everyone, right? It’s the busiest time of year for most people and having a trip back to the States didn’t necessarily slow anything down.

A lot of what we’ve been up to over the last two months, I’ve already covered on my blog (or have plans to cover soon), so today might be shorter than usual. You’ll have to forgive me.

Mainly, jet lag has been kicking my butt for the first time ever. I don’t think I’ve ever been this exhausted from travelling, no matter which way I was going. We thought it was great that we were able to sleep in later than 4:00AM when we first got to Colorado. We were just getting up between 6:00 and 7:00 for the day, rather than waking up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours. Eventually we adjusted and were able to sleep in to a usual holiday time.

Then, just as we were happily adjusted, we flew back to England at 11:59PM MST on the 28th. We were both able to get some sleep on the first flight to DC, which landed before 6:00AM EST. At the airport, I was able to sleep for a couple more hours, and a bit more comfortably, thanks to my Bedtime Bliss Sleep Mask. I didn’t intend to sleep on the second flight from DC to London, but I think we both ended up sleeping for most of it. When we landed in London just after 9:30PM, my body was definitely confused. We stopped for a late dinner on the way home and went to bed almost as soon as we got home.

Since then, I haven’t been able to comfortably get on a usual sleep schedule. Since waking up on the morning of the 30th at home, the only days I’ve been able to stay awake for a full day have been the days I’ve been at work. And even then it’s a struggle. The morning before I went back to work for a half day on the 2nd, I woke up at 1:00AM and dozed for a few hours until my alarm went off at 6:00. The next day, I was awake for probably about 6 hours in total. On Monday evening, I fell asleep in Mary Poppins Returns at the cinema! The struggle has been so, so real that I can hardly think about anything, let alone actually do anything.

So needless to say, 2019 has gotten off to a slow start. I’ve been nothing but a lurker on social media in recent weeks and I’ve been seeing everyone’s posts about how excited they are for the new year, how they’re setting their intentions for the year, resolving to be better than the last, purging their home of stuff they don’t want to take into the new year, etc. It’s been a little discouraging because I’ve spent 95% of the new year on my couch or in my bed.

But guess what. That’s fine. I got sick around Thanksgiving and ended up having a cold for over 2 weeks because I just didn’t have the time to rest. Our December was absolutely non-stop between trying to squeeze in everything we wanted to do in England before the 15th and squeeze in everything we wanted to do in Colorado during the two weeks we were there. A lot of things fell through the cracks. We didn’t get to see a lot of the people we wanted to. We barely had any nights at home to just sit by the tree and watch a Christmas movie. It was a truly great holiday season and I’m so grateful we got to be in Colorado, but it was also exhausting. It feels like now that everything has slowed down, my mind and my body are like woah, I wanna hang out here in this stillness for a while, please.

I’ll eventually get back on my feet. I’ll eventually watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo like everyone else and purge our house of all the junk we don’t want or need.

Eventually.

Can I just say, if your new year has been off to a slow start, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s perfectly fine to not have spent a great deal of time reflecting on 2018 or to not share your intentions or your word of the year with everyone you know on social media. It really is okay. Give yourself a break if that’s what you need. Prioritise what’s important to you as we move into 2019 and try to get those things done at your own pace. And if you just need to leave 2018 behind and not look back, do that too!

2018 in Review

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JANUARY

We had New Year's Day off, but it was back to the grind on the 2nd, which was a harsh reality after over a week off. We set some new goals for ourselves to try to get into better habits, like everybody does this time of year. January meant our wedding was about 4 months away and we needed to really get the ball rolling with some of the planning we had put off. We attended an open house at our venue the first weekend of the month, which helped us find some of the vendors we had been missing. We basically spent the majority of every weekend in January doing wedding stuff, meeting with vendors, setting up our registry, crafting, planning, etc. Work continued to be much of the same for me--boring, monotonous, and unenjoyable--which managed to make me unusually excited when the days started getting longer and we had some daylight after we got home from work. I also started looking for other jobs toward the end of the month. We managed to conquer another escape room with friends, once again making it out with time to spare! At the end of the month, we started a new group through church that we helped our friends lead, centred around board games, one of our favourite activities to do together and with friends. On the 31st, I had my first meeting of a book club with some women who live near me, accomplishing my life-long dream of being in a book club!

My Favourite Post of the Month: How to Shift from Self-Hate to Self-Love
The Most Popular Post of the Month: How to Shift from Self-Hate to Self-Love

FEBRUARY

It's always great when a month starts off on a high note, isn't it? I feel like I got hit with a new wave of inspiration and motivation for so many things in my life: my blog, my career, our wedding. And the cherry on top of an already good start was sneaking off to Paris for a long weekend with our friends Tom and Luke to go to Disneyland Paris after Tom scored some tickets. We had a full day at Magic Kingdom and then spent the next morning at Walt Disney Studios. It was fun to be back on Disney property and experience what it was like in another country, language, and even culture. We marked our second Valentine's Day together with a super low-key evening at home with some left over soup and me ducking out early for book club. A few days later, we marked a year of engagement, reminiscing about our trip to Denmark and Sweden when Luke proposed. We celebrated with friends' on their birthdays and spent a weekend away to visit Luke's family. We started a 30 day yoga challenge that we had been talking about for quite some time and made it a part of our everyday life. At the end of the month, I got a job offer for what I thought would be an amazing opportunity, but sadly, it was later rescinded as they had jumped the gun a bit on expanding their team.

My Favourite Post of the Month: 5 Changes to Make If You're Unhappy Where You're At
The Most Popular Post of the Month: 25 Things to Do in London

MARCH

Because I was staying at my job that wasn't my favourite, I spoke to my boss early in March and decided to go part-time since the job just wasn't keeping me busy. I found that I enjoyed it a bit more after that since it didn't feel like such a waste of my time and our conversation also prompted him to train me on some other things that I was responsible for in order to keep me a bit busier. I took the entire month of March off from my blog in order to hone in on my focus and create some content for the coming months in the hopes that I would have a head start on things and not put out lame posts just because I felt obligated to blog. At times, I really missed sharing my posts with the world because there was so much I was excited about, but it was nice to be able to do some behind the scenes work that would hopefully pay off. We really got a lot done in terms of wedding crafting in March. We had some final appointments (some of which were moved because of a massive blizzard we got during the first weekend of the month) and we finished making our paper flowers at last! It felt like things were really under way and we were making lots of progress with just two months to go until the wedding. We also played tourist in our own city one day, which was so much fun. We completed our 30 day yoga challenge on the 20th, having woken up every weekday morning at 6:00 and doing yoga first thing every day but 3 of those days. It felt amazing to have accomplished that and created a routine we could continue without the challenge. We had lots of fun with friends during our board games small group through church, dinner parties, and brunching! Luke went to Colorado for a men's retreat with my old church one weekend, which made me really jealous, to be honest. He made it up to me by bringing back some goodies from the States that I can't get here.

APRIL

We kicked off April like everyone else with Easter, but in the UK, that means a four-day weekend! We had a quiet Easter, going to church in the morning (which has been the key to our new church rhythm), having a potluck lunch at the ministry where our friends work, and hanging out with friends. Also in April, we visited the Black Country Living Museum, which was a fantastic local day trip. Most of the month was spent finishing wedding plans--and paying all the balances, yikes!--and trying to find some time to ourselves outside of wedding planning. We went to London to visit Luke's grandma for her birthday and had a lovely time with family and exploring the city and enjoying the perfect weather! We did a pre-wedding cleanse that didn't go exactly as planned, but was fairly successful and helped me rethink how I approach my relationship with my weight. Believe me when I say that it was a quiet month, albeit an important one for us as we prepared for our wedding and tried not to let it take over our lives.

My Favourite Post of the Month: 10 Things to Do in Birmingham
The Most Popular Post of the Month: Home Tour, Part I

MAY

Wedding month! I started the month working the last two days I was scheduled before taking about 2 and a half weeks off for the wedding, mostly thanks to working part time. On the 2nd, I got a notification that I had won the Hamilton lottery for the next day, so Luke immediately cancelled his plans to watch the Arsenal game and requested to leave work a few hours early the next day so we could drive down to London for the show. We both loved it--it was even better than we expected--and would love to see it again, from another vantage point. I spent the next few days trying to finish up everything before the wedding. Our goal was to finish everything by Thursday, the 11th before Luke headed off to his stag weekend and I headed down to London to surprise my family. We were up late that night, but we did it! I should also mention that we decided to upcycle an old chest of drawers from Freecycle into a bar cabinet that same week, which was actually the reason we were up late that night. In London, I was able to surprise my dad and younger sister with the help of my step mom, before spending the day sightseeing with them. The next day, I went over to my mom's hotel to surprise my older sister, before spending the day sightseeing with them. It was so much fun to get to do touristy things with them, especially since none of them except my mom had been to the UK. When I got back to Birmingham, it was the kick off of wedding week. I had my hen do the Monday before the wedding so my family and friends from Colorado could be there. We did an afternoon tea, followed by a sushi dinner and drinks out at a trendy bar. It was a lot of fun. On Tuesday, we set up the venue, hung out with family, napped, and had a welcome dinner before saying goodnight. The next day was the wedding and it was absolutely perfect! We got the rest of the week to chill out, but ended up going to Oxford with some of my family and friends and celebrated birthdays with our friends. It was a long, exhausting, and absolutely wonderful week. After a half week back at work, I planned an impromptu trip down to London to see Chelsea in Bloom and all the floral displays around the city. It was such a lovely day! We booked our honeymoon to Italy, swooned over our own wedding photos, and ended the month with our first joint illness. That was fun.

My Favourite Post of the Month: 9 Affirmations to Tell Yourself Right Now
The Most Popular Post of the Month: Introducing Shop Joy42

JUNE

We started the month still feeling ill, albeit better than how we ended May. That weekend, we drove up to see Luke's parents and got to spend time with Luke's aunt and uncle as well. We stopped by Hardwick Hall on the way home and I visited my first English manor house. I was impressed by the grounds and gardens, but underwhelmed by the interior of the house. (Except the original portrait of Queen Elizabeth I!) I marked one year living abroad on 8 June and we went out for tapas and drinks to celebrate! After two public figures committed suicide the week before, I opened up about my struggles with mental health here on the blog and was greeted with so much love. A number of people reached out to me thanking me for sharing part of my story and even shared a bit of theirs with me. It was a powerful experience for me and exactly what I had hoped for in sharing my story. To me, if sharing my story will help even just one person, save just one life, it's more than worth it. Towards the end of the month, my younger sister arrived to spend an extended weekend with us! We spent time in Birmingham, and took her to Oxfords and the Cotswolds. It was a lot of fun, to say the least. On the last day of the month, we finally received the gifts from our wedding registry, which made for a great day.

My Favourite Post of the Month: My Struggle with Mental Health
The Most Popular Post of the Month: DIY Bar Cabinet

 JULY

We kicked off July by hosting a First of the July BBQ for some of our friends. I tried my hardest to make it a classic American BBQ, but those Brits just don't believe me that baked beans are meant to be eaten with burgers! Still, it was a lot of fun and we were blessed with a beautiful day. A few days later, we jetted off to Colorado for a week and a half stay. While we were there, we were super busy catching up with people, eating at all our favourite spots, and even doing a bit of travelling. We spent one day in Colorado Springs with our friends Jason and Tia and later drove to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a very brief holiday-in-a-holiday. But the main reason we were there was to celebrate my younger brother's wedding! It was a great party and really nice to see some friends and family that we hadn't seen at our wedding two months prior. Our time in Colorado was short, but full. We were sort of excited to get back to our boring lives in England, to get back in our routine and certainly to get back in our kitchen. We spent most of July in a heatwave in England. It barely rained and our plants didn't fair too well while we were gone. And while England was in a drought, I was longing for autumn. By the time we got back from Colorado, I was kind of over our summer evenings in the back garden enjoying the long light and warm sun. I won the Harry Potter Friday Forty, so we went down to London one day toward the end of the month to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It was just as magical as I had imagined.

My Favourite Post of the Month: How We Made Our Wedding Incredibly Personal
The Most Popular Post of the Month: You Can't Go Home Again

AUGUST

The first weekend in August, we drove up to Scotland for a bit of a Drake Family Reunion. Luke's aunt had rented a beautiful country house for the week, but we were only able to make it for the weekend. It was a lovely time with family and exploring everything nearby. Not to mention the house was incredible! When we got back, we celebrated my 28th birthday by going out to dinner at a sushi place in town and then eating chocolate cake in bed with Parks & Rec. I took a quick trip to London to meet up with my former boss and meet a new friend from Instagram. Even though it was short and rainy, and also the first time I've ever missed a train in Europe, it was a nice morning in the Big Smoke. We went to our friends' wedding near Liverpool, which was the first British wedding I've been to. The whole thing was beautiful and it was so fun to be there to celebrate with Mark and Chantal. (And to wear a hat!) The last Monday of the month was a bank holiday, so we--along with thousands of other people--decided to visit Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. It was a nice day trip, we explored a lot more than we did the first time, and our annual passes are good through next June so we immediately started planning our next visit. In between our busy weekends, we made good use of our unlimited cinema pass, had some really awesome at-home date nights, started walking in the evenings sometimes, and even had a few BBQs with friends.

My Favourite Post of the Month: Jackson Hole & The Grand Tetons
The Most Popular Post of the Month: 20 Questions to Ask Your Spouse on Date Night

SEPTEMBER

After living in England for about twenty months and having experienced two British Septembers, I think I can say September is my favourite month in England. Unless you’re brand new around here, you probably know I love autumn and my mind shift from summer to autumn as the calendar moves from August to September. England is one of those places that actively participates in that shift (weather wise) and I’m all about it. We started the month by driving to Manchester with some friends to do The Crystal Maze, which is a British game show that everyone in the group loves. I’ve only ever seen one episode, but it was such a cool experience, even if I didn’t have the added 90’s nostalgia as well. We also dog sat for our friends, which made us even more determined to get a dog sooner rather than later! I dove right in to doing all the autumn things, like going apple picking in Worcester one weekend with Luke and bringing home p o u n d s of apples, forcing me to make a huge batch of apple cider and a couple of apple crisps. (What a problem to have, right?!) I helped a friend photograph another friend’s wedding, which was fun and stressful and exciting and eye-opening. We made a decent team and managed to do a decent job even though it was a first for both of us. Nothing much happened over the next week except that we prepared to head to Italy for our belated honeymoon and first anniversary trip. The day before we left it was our actual anniversary, so we went out for breakfast (a rare occasion for us) and later drove to London to stay near the airport since our flight was so early the next morning. We had an unbelievable time in Italy, visiting Naples, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome. We ate more pizza and pasta than in our whole lives, I’m pretty sure. We learned how to make our own fresh pasta. We explored the little villages and experienced the history of the country. It was absolutely marvellous, even though it was like a second summer down there! When we got back, we did laundry for the next four days (the joys of not having a dryer) and eased back into life over a long weekend. We played games with friends, starting a new continuous game called Near & Far with a couple with whom we played Pandemic Legacy in 2017. Before we knew it, was time to go back to work and time to welcome October.

My Favourite Post of the Month: Marriage: Year One
The Most Popular Post of the Month: 2018 Autumn Bucket List

OCTOBER

October was a bit of a rough month for me. It was probably the most difficult month since moving to be away from the States and that became a huge stressor for me leading up to the midterm elections. It probably seemed like I went WAY over the top with fall, but it was silly things like pumpkins and Hallmark movies that helped me keep my sanity. So I was more than happy to indulge. The month started out slow for us, but soon we found our social calendars filled with birthday celebrations, game nights, and more. We did our inaugural Great British Drake Off, which will surely become a quarterly feature in our lives. We spent a weekend with Luke’s parents while his brother and family were visiting from Ireland. We taught our friends how to make fresh pasta like we learned in Italy. And I even started a small ladies’ group every other week while Luke was at his own small group. I decided to head down to London one day toward the end of the month to see London in all its fall glory. We soaked up the remaining days of October with all the fall staples: hot soup and warm pumpkin treats, Hocus Pocus and other autumnal movie nights, carving pumpkins, and just cozying up at home.

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NOVEMBER

November 1st brought on my first Bonfire Night celebration in the UK. (We missed it last year.) While Luke was hanging out with a friend, I met up with some people for a BBQ around the fire pit before walking to the university for the fireworks display. It was a lot of fun, but it’s definitely different from the Fourth of July! We mostly had a low key month in the middle weeks. We did our usual weekly routine of date nights, small groups, cinema trips, but also made some Christmas wreaths and I had a number of tests done by my cardiologist. (I’m fine, it’s just usual check ups.) We marked Thanksgiving by helping out at Canvas’s annual dinner that was bigger than ever. (Well, Luke helped serve but I was under the weather so I stayed away from the food. I did bake cookies though. And washed my hands plenty, don’t worry.) It was so busy that we weren’t sure we were going to get dinner, so we dipped out early to get some pizza. We found out later that they had somewhat of a bread & loaves miracle and ended up feeding about 40 more people than they had planned for! The next day, we had a home check with a charity that fosters kittens. We got approved to start fostering in early 2019! The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we hosted our second Thanksgiving together, this time with even more food! We had some friends over for left overs the following Monday since they couldn’t make it over the weekend, but set up for Christmas the Sunday after the holiday. We got so much extra Christmas this year!

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DECEMBER

We didn’t waste any time with the Christmas activities. The first weekend in December, we visited Blenheim Palace for their Christmas events and the next day we did 21,000 steps seeing all of the decorations in London. It was so much fun. I hosted a craft night and made yet another wreath, we hosted some friends for game night, we celebrated Luke’s birthday early, once with friends and once with his twin sister in Nottingham. Due to some unused holiday, I got to start my “Christmas break” on December 5th, which was awesome. I did so much holiday baking you wouldn’t even believe it. We tried to make the most of our nights at home, watching Christmas movies and sipping hot cocoa before we flew back to Colorado for two weeks. We toured the Harry Potter studios in London for my birthday gift and went to a few Christmas parties. On Luke’s birthday, we flew to Colorado for a whirlwind two weeks. It was jam-packed with family time, festivities, and even managed to see a few friends while we were there. We celebrated Luke’s birthday properly, I went to a Christmas pop up bar with my little sister who is 21 (what?!), I got to take a new class at Pure Barre (but didn’t get to take the other new class after I severely injured my toe when I dropped a stocking holder on it.) We got dressed up for The Nutcracker, as tradition dictates, we decorated cookies, we went to my old church for Christmas services, we cross-country skied (and Luke fractured his hip), we celebrated Christmas many times and usually without gifts, we helped my mom host a murder mystery over Christmas dinner, we got to go to cinema a couple of times in the States which means we got delicious American movie theatre popcorn, we ice skated, played games, did a brewery tour in my home town, and so much more. It was such a great trip home, but it just always feels like there’s never enough time! The morning after we got back, we had our own little Christmas morning (five days late) and opened our gifts to each other. I got Luke a ton of tools he had asked for and he got me a Kitchen Aid Mixer! On the 31st, we hosted our second New Year’s Eve party, another murder mystery (Murder in Sin City), and we carried on the tradition of having a Drake be the killer. This time it was me! It was a fantastic end to a pretty great year if I do say so myself.

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