Hannah Drake

Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

I’m so glad I remembered these cookies last year! I first made them years ago totally forgot about them in all of my pumpkin craze. I’m not sure what sparked my memory, but I had my mom include a box of instant apple cider mix in my autumn care package (I say that like it’s a regular thing…nope, I just need one in the autumn!) along with a carton of Trader Joe’s chewy caramels, which are THE BEST. (For this recipe, I cut each caramel in half while still wrapped.)

I love making homemade apple cider when the weather starts to turn. It’s become one of my regular autumn activities. I mean, all those apples from the apple orchard aren’t going to eat themselves! We’ve turned warm apple cider into a delicious seasonal cocktail. But I’d actually pair these cookies with pumpkin juice (a la Harry Potter). Though, whatever your preference is, these are a fantastic autumn treat and they’ll definitely earn you some points with whomever you share them.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 10 packets instant apple cider

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 eggs, room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 24-30 chewy caramels

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (This is necessary for any caramel that might leak out.)

In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt cinnamon, and apple cider powder.

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and mix to combine.

Slowly add flour mixture to butter/egg mixture. Mix until just combined.

Scoop out 2 Tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball.

Flatten the ball of dough slightly in the palm of your hand. Press the unwrapped caramel into the middle of your dough and seal the dough around it, covering it completely. Shape it back into a ball.

Place on parchment or baking match covered cookie sheets about 3 inches apart.

Bake 11-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges. They may not look quite done in the centre, but you want a chewy centre.

Allow the cookies to cool on the parchment or mat (slide it off of the tray, if needed) so the caramel is hardened and the cookie will not fall apart when you pick it up. You’ll know it’s ready when you can twist the cookie off the parchment or mat and it comes off clean. Allow them to finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Once the cookies are done, carefully slide the parchment off of the baking sheet right out onto the counter.

I was seriously impressed with how they turned out and I have to say they’re probably the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made. So of course I had to do a little photo shoot with them (last year). Sadly, I’m somehow missing 100ish photos from my hard drive that include my cookie photoshoot, so I had to scour my blog and social media for any photos that I had already shared before deleting them.

For another apple cider baked treat, try these apple cider donuts, which use actual apple cider, which might be easier to find—and certainly easier to make!

Marriage: Year Two

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

Today is our second marriage anniversary! [Insert cliche about how quickly time goes here.] The second year of our marriage has been comfortable, exciting, and brought about some of the biggest changes in our lives! We’ve been incredibly blessed in our marriage that it’s been quite easy thus far. We haven’t had major curve balls thrown our way and we find that we’re truly two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together.

Last year, I talked about how communication, gratitude, silliness, and alone time contributed to a good first year for us. And those four things continue to be pillars in our relationship. Communication is probably even more important now that we’re home owners and taking care of our dog and cat. Gratitude is still a nightly practice for us, telling each other everything that we’re grateful for throughout the day before going to sleep. Silliness is like the essence of our entire relationship. We always joke that our kids are going to be insanely embarrassed by how ridiculously silly we are pretty much all the time. And of course alone time, both alone and alone together, is key for us getting the time we need as individuals and as a couple.

Of course, no matter how fun and easy our relationship can feel at times, it’s still something that we need to take care of every single day. We both still have areas we need to work on as individuals and we have areas we need to work on together. Yet every day we make a choice to do just that. We make the choice to love and respect one another, to dream together, to support each other.

So as we move into our third year as Mr. and Mrs. Drake, here are three things that I want to focus on to continue to build a strong relationship, especially amidst everything we have going on in our lives.

QUALITY TIME

This has always been something we need to be better at. We spend so much time together and we’re actually really good about having a weekly date night. But we’re getting increasingly worse at spending quality time together, if we’re being honest. While we used to spend Saturday mornings playing board games or spending our evenings playing card games, we more often than not flip on the TV and sit on the couch for hours, both of us with our phones in our hands. Over the summer, we had a phone curfew and would put our phones away at 7:00PM every night, but we’ve gotten lazy with that habit in recent weeks. We’ve also found that asking each other out-of-the-box type questions is a great way to connect, whether it be over dinner or breakfast at the weekend, or even a long car ride.

GRACE

I guess when I think of grace, I think of being forgiving and understanding. In understanding, it’s important to try to see someone else’s perspective in the situation. In forgiving, it’s important to let go, to not carry something with you forever—even in the back of your mind—and to not keep score. Grace goes such a long way to make a relationship not only last, but to keep a relationship strong. In fact, I can’t really picture a long and loving marriage without grace at the centre.

PATIENCE

Patience is always something that I need to work on. It’s 100% one of my “blind spots”, if you will. But patience is also going to be key going forward in our relationship together. We just bought a house and things aren’t going to be exactly how we want them straight away. We need to be patient when working on our house, holding out for things we really want rather than settling for something that’s “okay” just to make some type of progress. We need patience searching for furniture or materials and even if Luke is going to build things for our new house. We’ll need patience as we help cultivate a relationship between Eggs and Benedict, who are doing okay together, but certainly not the best of friends already. We need patience as we navigate life in general together, whether that’s with work or relationships outside of our own.

Header photo & dancing photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

I'm Hannah and I'm an Immigrant

CommentaryHannah DrakeComment

Normally, around the 8th of every other month, I share the next instalment of The Expat Diaries. A LOT has happened in the last two months, since my 17th instalment of the series. This summer was absolutely lovely, but it was certainly a lot more hectic than last summer, especially in August.

Of course, you’ll have seen the posts already that we bought a house, we adopted a kitten, and we got a puppy and those are major life things for us! Unsurprisingly, we’re still settling in to our new normal. And things are not going to slow down the rest of the year. We have more trips planned (big and small), we have a long term house guest on the way (next week!) and that’s not even to mention the usual hustle and bustle of the end of the year.

But today, instead of talking about life updates, I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about being an immigrant.

Last month, I took my birthday off work because, well, who wants to work on their birthday if they don’t have to? I had booked in the kittens second round of vaccines for that morning and Luke said he wouldn’t be leaving work for it, so I would just take an Uber there and back with the kittens. This was the Tuesday after the deadly weekend in the US with the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

Sometimes I chat with Uber drivers, sometimes I just put my headphones in and catch up on the next podcast in my feed. On that particular day, I was very apologetic about having cats in the car (but he didn’t mind and I hope it goes without saying they were in their carrier) and I think I got all tangled up in the seat belt and my headphones. By the time we reached the end of our street, we were doing the usual British chit chat about the weather (it was pouring rain), but clearly neither of us were British. He asked me where I was from originally and whether or not I like it better here or in the US.

Then I asked him where he was from originally and he told me Turkey. He said that he’s Kurdish and he left Turkey 15 years ago because he didn’t feel that it was safe to be there anymore. He said, “What would you do if the government wouldn’t even let you name your child what you wanted?” I don’t know a lot about the Kurds, but I had heard mention of them in regards to Syria and told him so. He said that that area of the world is a very dangerous place for Kurds to be. He told me a bit more about his background and his choice to flee. He shared some of his feelings about the US and the UK in regards to how they’ve helped or haven’t helped his people.

It was a really powerful experience to have a conversation with someone who comes from such different circumstances, from such a different place in the world, and yet we both find ourselves living in Birmingham, England now.

The next day, I started thinking about the conversation and it dawned on me that I, too, am an immigrant. It’s truthfully something that I occasionally forget. It’s also probably something that people wouldn’t think about me walking down the street in Birmingham. I couldn’t help but contrast that to what some people might think about this Uber driver when they first see him, including my own prejudgement of where he might be from. I couldn’t help but contrast that to what some Brits and some Americans think about brown people they see in their day-to-day lives. I couldn’t help but contrast that to how people would see my British husband if we moved back to the States. I guess the main reason that I forget I’m an immigrant is that I have the privileged of identifying as an ex-patriot being from a wealthy and predominately white country.

I’m not at all equating my situation to anyone who has been forced to flee their home country to escape violence, oppression, or persecution. I chose to “move abroad” to the UK. Before Luke and I were even engaged, we had many conversations about where we would settle together. In fact, we get to “joke” about being each other’s back up plan for the Brexit vote and the 2016 election. I had the privilege of choice when the candidate I didn’t vote for was elected. I even get to use more positive sounding words and phrases when I talk about it, like “expat” and “move abroad”. Sure, it was scary to apply for my two visas, especially the first one, but at the end of the day, are they really going to turn down a middle-class white couple with no red flags with one person emigrating from the United States?

I met Luke on a mission trip to the UK. What if I had gone on a mission trip to another country my church partnered with—in the Middle East or Africa—and met a man there? What if he lived in one of the countries included on Trump’s travel ban?

The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto to 8Chan before he opened fire in the Wal-Mart. There is no doubt that his motives were racist and xenophobic (and it’s worth noting that many of the rhetoric he used came from Trump’s own Twitter feed). He later stated plainly that he purposefully targeted Mexicans in the attack. Nobody has ever implied or explicitly stated that I “invaded” the UK. If Luke moved to Colorado to be with me, no one would ever say that he’s an “infestation” or that he’s just having babies with me to get his own US citizenship. That’s the privilege we have of being white and middle class and unfortunately that’s the battle that people migrating from Central and South America to the US or from the Middle East and Africa to the UK face every day. I mean, the reality is that ICE has already detained actual US citizens and not a single one of them was white. How can there even be a question that these attacks (verbally and physically) on immigrants aren’t based in racism? Trump himself said he’d rather get immigrants from Norway and Sweden, two of the whitest countries on the planet. And his policies are backing that up. Just last month, his administration announced that it would start considering education, household income, and health to determine whether or not to grant legal status to someone seeking a green card. That policy is absolutely intended to favour people like my husband, should he ever seek a green card, and his brother who currently lives in the US with a green card and discriminate against the people coming from countries other than Trump’s preferred Scandinavia. Later, the Trump Administration announced that babies born to US soldiers oversees will not automatically get citizenship. They will still be able to, but there will be more hoops to jump through. And throughout his entire administration, Trump has questioned birthright citizenship, which is a part of the US Constitution.

The day before that Uber ride, I was sitting at my desk in the afternoon when all of a sudden a conversation broke out in my office about how terrible Pakistani people are. The rhetoric they were using didn’t sound all that different from the rhetoric that’s being used to talk about Latinos in the US. It was obviously racist. I’m not going to repeat any of what was said here. It was awful. And I’m ashamed that I didn’t speak up. My blood was boiling. I felt paralysed at my laptop. I wanted to say something but I never found the courage to do so and I truly wish that I had. I’ve worked with this people for almost two years and unfortunately it’s not the first time there has been racist, xenophobic, sexist, or homophobic comments or conversations. And while I have been the subject of at least two outright sexist remarks, not a single one of them has ever said anything negative about the fact that I’ve emigrated to England. None of them say that I’m stealing their resources, that I’m not deserving of access to the NHS, that I took a hardworking Brit’s job, or stole a young eligible British bachelor so I could have anchor babies in another country. The fact of the matter is that it’s perfectly acceptable to them and many other people for me to be here and they don’t extend that same welcome to people who don’t look like them.

I don’t know if I want to continue to identify as an expat. But I also don’t know if it’s okay for me to outwardly identify as an immigrant. I’m torn between not wanting to equate myself with people who truly go through hell to give themselves and their families a new and better life, who leave no stone unturned to get there, who are the victims of racist and xenophobic attacks both in the US and the UK (and other countries) and wanting to draw attention to the fact that I, too, emigrated from another country and, guess what, that was perfectly okay with you. Does speaking up about my immigration status detract from the plight of people who feel they have no other choice or does it draw attention to the racial biases that white Americans and white Brits have towards the people who are coming into their countries? I honestly don’t know what the line is.

But I do know that I need to speak up next time a conversation like that breaks out around me, not because I’m an immigrant but because I’m a human. I do know that I need to spend more time listening to other people’s stories and finding more human connection, not because I’m an immigrant but because I’m human. And I do know that something needs to change in the countries these people are leaving and in the countries they’re fleeing to, because we’re all just human.