Hannah Drake

How to Host Afternoon Tea

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

My friend Taylor and I have been talking about hosting a garden party since probably early 2018. We wanted to do it for the first time last summer, but scheduling didn’t allow for it. This year, we were determined to make it a priority and we were able to find a date in early June that would work for both of us. We didn’t have any reason to do it other than we wanted to do something special and hang out with our friends, but an event like this would be perfect for a bridal shower, baby shower, or other special occasion.

Our original idea was to have a beautiful garden party in Taylor’s back garden with a prosecco bar, tea, and some light finger food. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas. And after all the hard work Taylor put into her garden leading up to the party, it wasn’t even an option to be outside anymore. It poured rain in the days leading up to the party and the morning of, it was grey, windy, raining, and cold. We were able to call an audible and make arrangements to host the party inside. Of course we were sad that people weren’t able to come, but it ended up being a good size group for the space we had in Taylor’s house.

We had a really clear vision of what we wanted the party to look like. It was girls only because we figured the men wouldn’t appreciate getting dressed up and using china quite as much as the ladies would. The dress code was “garden smart” with a hat or fascinator required. We were basically picturing horse race/ascot attire. We wanted to keep the decor to a minimum since Taylor’s garden is really green and lush, but with our plans to move it inside, we just picked up more flowers than we would have originally. We collected china from family (Luke’s mum gave us over a dozen cups, saucers, and small plates) and picked up some more from a nearby charity shop. We were able to rent a case of champagne flutes from Waitrose. It’s actually a fantastic party idea. Luke picked up a case of 48 (the smallest available) on Friday. They’re free to reserve and you only pay £1 per broken glass. We opted to make everything from scratch, so we researched recipes for typical afternoon tea foods to find the very best.

SET A THEME WITH THE INVITATIONS

You might know by now how much I value a good on-theme invitation and an afternoon tea or a garden party is no different. Since we wanted it to be slightly above a casual thing, we send out evites with plenty of time for people to plan ahead. We did have to follow up with some people and remind most people of the dress code, but we agreed that an evite would better fit the tone of the party more than a Facebook event or a group text.

KEEP THE DECORATIONS SIMPLE

Like I mentioned above, our original plans were to let the garden shine in its natural glory, but when we moved things inside, we decided to get more flowers than we would have otherwise. I got a few different prints and patterns of cardstock to use to make bunting that we planned to hang on Taylor’s hedges. Instead, we made three shorter strands to hang around her living room and dining room.

The day before the party, we went to a nearby florist to pick out flowers and greenery to use as centrepieces and around the room. We wanted to go with a light pink and cream colour scheme to match the bunting and the invitations, with different shades of greenery. I’m obsessed with the flowers we got and we divided up the six different arrangements (four on the long table, one on the drinks table, one on the food table) between us after the party. Taylor added extra greenery and baby’s breath to the wreaths she always has hanging in her living room and it looked so cute above the drinks table.

To save costs on flowers, I recommend loading up on greenery and more affordable flowers like baby’s breath and carnations. I’m usually not a carnations person, but Taylor pulled these cream coloured stems and I love how they looked in the bigger arrangements. We only got a few of the “statement” flowers, like snapdragons and peonies to save on costs and it made those flowers stand out even more. I really liked that not all the arrangements were exactly the same, but had similar elements across all six.

HAVE A MIMOSA BAR

For some reason, ever since I first got Pinterest, it’s been one of my dreams to have a mimosa bar at a party. I finally got to see that dream realised! We got three different types of juice (pink grapefruit, mango, and pineapple) and put them in these cute jugs that I got a while ago at our grocery store. Everyone could mix and match their own mimosa and add strawberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries. We had everyone bring a bottle of prosecco to share.

MAKE THE FOOD YOURSELF

When you go to afternoon tea at a fancy restaurant, they’ll bring you a three tiered stand with all the quintessential foods. You start on the bottom and work your way up the three tiers. The first course is finger sandwiches, which will include a variety of fillings and probably both wheat and white bread. This could be chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, cucumber, ham and brie, smoked salmon, or roast beef. When I hosted an afternoon tea for my friends after my senior year of high school (I know, I was so cool), my mom said we should have white (chicken salad), pink (tuna salad), yellow (egg salad), and green (cucumber). The second course is a traditional English scone with clotted cream and jam. The top tier is dessert. This will be little cakes, petit fours, macarons, etc. We also had mixed berries, which is a really simple thing to do to add more colour and flavour (and nutrients) to your spread.

Here’s exactly what we made:

How to Host Afternoon Tea - Chicken Salad Finger Sandwiches

CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES

Taylor made the chicken salad with grapes and walnuts. (The original recipe calls for pecans.) We made all of the sandwiches on both wheat and white bread. I recommend getting as close to rectangular loaves as possible, otherwise you’re cutting off a lot of top crust where it’s uneven. Tea sandwiches always have the crust removed and are cut into thirds or fourths. I cut an X into the sandwiches, which made for two different sized triangles. I wish I had just cut them all into three strips (from top to bottom).

How to Host Afternoon Tea - Cucumber Mint Finger Sandwiches

CUCUMBER MINT SANDWICHES

Taylor found a cucumber and mint recipe to use. Cucumber sandwiches are quintessential for a proper English tea, if you ask me. You can do cucumber with butter or cream cheese. You can do it with mint or dill. Or I suppose you could do something completely different. Like the other sandwiches, we made them on both wheat and white bread. I cut them into triangles, but again wish I had cut them into three strips.

How to Host Afternoon Tea - Egg Salad Finger Sandwiches

EGG SALAD SANDWICHES

I found a really simple egg salad recipe to use. I very easily tripled the recipe to account for us having a dozen people, which made enough for three full sandwiches, or 12 finger sandwiches. Again, we did both white and wheat. And actually, I really love how cute the little circular sandwiches look from the original recipe. I also skipped the parsley and used regular mayo instead of Japanese mayo.

How to Host Afternoon Tea - English Scones

SCONES

I only trusted a British site to give me a good recipe for proper English scones and BBC Good Food came through for me. They were really simple to make and when I forgot to put the sugar in the first batch, it was easy to whip up a second. I used my second smallest pastry cutter to cut them out and made 16 in each batch. I’m not sure if that’s double what the recipe says it serves or if one serving is two scones, but I also think I could have gone a little thicker on rolling the dough out. Since there’s so little sugar in the recipe, there wasn’t much of a difference between the two batches, especially when you had the cream and/or jam on as well. (I’m a cream only person.)

How to Host Afternoon Tea - Lavender Macarons

LAVENDER MACARONS

Taylor made gorgeous lavender macarons, completely from scratch. She was able to make the shells in advance and make the filling closer to the party. I think she wishes she had made the buttercream and filled the macarons on the same day though. Regardless, I think they turned out absolutely gorgeous and I love the dried lavender buds on the tops!

How to Host Afternoon Tea - Rose & Elderflower Petit Fours

ROSE & ELDERFLOWER PETIT FOURS

Of course I turned to Sally’s Baking Addiction for a simple petit fours recipe, though I did make some tweaks. Instead of making a lemon cake, I flavoured the batter with 1 tablespoon of rose water (this replaced the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in the recipe). Her step-by-step instructions and corresponding video were really helpful, but I decided to make the petit fours with just a single layer of filling, spreading rose and elderflower curd on one side and the vanilla buttercream from the recipe on the other side. I wish I had measured out the cuts I made so they were more uniform, but they turned out okay. I used her Perfect Vanilla Icing recipe for the icing, colouring it with just a touch of pink food colouring. I scaled up the recipe to use 5 cups of confectioner’s sugar and kept it vanilla so the rose wasn’t too overpowering. I let the first coating dry before adding a second to help the colour pop on the cakes more. I topped them with edible rose petals before the second coat of icing was dry.

How to Host Afternoon Tea - Lemon Petit Fours

LEMON PETIT FOURS

If I had had enough cream cheese let to make another batch of the original petit fours recipe, I would have. But I decided to try a different lemon cake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction when I thought it would be good to have a non-floral dessert option. I used her three layer lemon cake recipe, dividing it into two layers instead of three to make thicker cakes. I opted not to do a filling on this batch and keep it simple. I used my smallest pastry cutter to cut out ten small cakes from each layer. I then used the same icing recipe with a touch of yellow food colouring for a nice pastel shade. I garnished the cakes with fresh lemon zest, though I wish I had waited until the second coat of icing had hardened.

HAVE FAVOURS

We decided that instead of including decorated sugar cookies in the spread, we would have them as favours for everyone. We baked the cookies earlier than most of the food so the process of decorating them wouldn’t interfere much with making the rest of the food. The original idea was to write everyone’s name on their cookie, but Taylor, who did all the decorations on them, found that just a first initial would be a lot easier. They turned out really well, I think! And I finally got to use the little cellophane bags I’ve had in my baking supplies for ages.

Taylor’s Dress (in blue) | My Dress | My Fascinator

If you’re worried about making so many different recipes, I would recommend looking into local bakeries who can make some pastries affordably to take things off your plate. We found a bakery that sold scones for 55p each, but it was too far away to make it worth it for us. If you’re worried about some of the desserts, those are really easy to get from a bakery.

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24 Hours in Liverpool

TravelHannah DrakeComment

In April, we got to spend a quick weekend in Liverpool to go to the Everton v Arsenal game (and do our F date). I was so excited to go to Liverpool because it’s one of the places in England I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time. We had so much fun and I pretty much fell in love with the city, even though we were only there for about 24 hours. I would love the opportunity to go back for a bit longer someday. And it’s not so far away!

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the Adelphi Hotel, which had such a fantastic location. Everything was about a 15 minute walk away and it was right where all the action in town is. It’s a stones throw away from the train station and not much further from the bus station. It was crazy busy in Liverpool that Saturday because of The Grand National Weekend so it made the city have all that much more energy, especially at the pubs around the train station before the races. The hotel was massive and looks like it was once the place to be. But to be honest, it’s not my favourite place where we’ve stayed. The hotel didn’t have free wifi, which I don’t think I’ve even heard of in the last 10 years (yes, I know I sound like a snob over my #firstworldproblems), the room had a strange smell to it (I wanna say it was musty?), and the bed was really uncomfortable. Still, it wasn’t bad for one night and we spent most of our time outside of the hotel.

If we go back, I would look into places like The Shankly Hotel, The Nadler Liverpool, Titanic Hotel Liverpool, or Hard Days Night Hotel. I also really like the looks of these places on Airbnb: Super Luxury City Centre Apartment (sleeps 8), The Albert’s Studio 2 (sleeps 3), and Luxury Waterfront Apartment With Sunset Terrace (sleeps 4).

WHERE TO EAT

We got to Liverpool about lunchtime, so we just set out toward the docks looking for somewhere to eat when we stumbled upon Cat Cafe. It’s always been my dream to visit a Cat Cafe and at the time, I was still sad about having to say goodbye to our foster cat Jake. You check in when you arrive and they record your arrival time because you pay for the amount of time you’re in there. (£12 per hour per person.) That also includes unlimited hot and cold drinks. They have a decent menu. Luke and I both got a panini and crisps, which was good. Of course the fun is looking for all the cats. (They have a list of their cats on each table.)

The Fab 4 Cafe is connected to The Beatles Story, but there’s also another location further up the docs near the Beatles statue. We got a hot drink after going through the exhibit mostly because I wanted the super cute to go cup.

My #1 travel rule is don’t eat somewhere you can eat at at home. I love trying new restaurants when I’m travelling and, even though Red’s True BBQ is a UK chain, we don’t have a location in Birmingham so it fit all the criteria. We had chosen a different place for dinner on Saturday night, but passed Red’s on our way to the other restaurant and we had to go in. The vibe was awesome. The drinks were delicious. And it was hands down the best BBQ I’ve had in the UK. Luke and I split a tray with Smoked Cheese & Jalapeño Sausage, Baby Back Ribs, and Burnt Ends. We also got slaw, mac & cheese, and loaded fries. Oh my gosh it was so good! We both tried Grandma’s Louisiana Lemonade (with rum) and Luke had the Godfather Sour as well. Seriously, Red’s, you need to open a Birmingham location like yesterday. I would recommend booking a table because even though it’s big, it’s busy.

We found The Brunch Club on Sunday morning just by looking up breakfast restaurants near our hotel. Again, we were able to walk to it, which made everything so much easier. Luke and I both had the Full English, but their whole menu looked great and the place itself was really cool as well. We didn’t need to book a table, but shortly after we got there it started filling up with people who had attended the Grand National (I’m assuming, based on the luggage and garment bags), so it might be a good idea to book a table in advance.

On our way back from the Super Bananalama, we walked by Love Thy Neighbour. We had already had breakfast, but it looked really cool. If we go back, that’s definitely the first new place I want to try!

WHAT TO DO

The first thing we did when we arrived was set out for the Royal Albert Dock. It’s a fairly touristy place, but even if you’re just walking around, it’s a lot of fun. We wandered into a few of the shops and checked out a couple of the menus posted outside different restaurants, but we mostly just people watched and enjoyed the surroundings. There’s plenty do to in the area, including Tate Liverpool (an art gallery), the International Slave Museum, the Merseyside Maritime Museum (say that five times fast!), a carousel, the Magical Mystery Tour, and more! There are plenty of places to eat and shop, but do keep in mind it will likely be busy.

The main thing I wanted to do on Saturday was The Beatles Story. It’s a Beatles museum on the Albert Dock that will literally take you through their entire story. It’s £17 per person (£13 for seniors, £10 for children), which includes an audio guide and I feel like it’s well worth it, especially if you’re at all a Beatles fan. Inside the museum, they’ve recreated locations that were important in the group’s history, including the Cavern Club, the recording studio at Abbey Road, the White Room where John Lennon recorded “Imagine” and more. There are original set pieces, costumes, and props from their movies and videos. Each of the four Beatles has their own section covering their time after the band broke up. It’s all very well done and was a good way to spend the afternoon.

On Sunday morning, we walked down Matthew Street, which is where the Cavern Club was located once upon a time. There are some Beatles stores on the road now, but it’s cool to imagine what it was like when the Beatles were at their most popular in Liverpool.

The Bananalama was a series of street art sculptures around the city. I don’t know a lot about the history of them or when they were popular, but you can still find some dotted around the city in various sizes. Most notable is the Super Bananalama, which we walked over to see on Sunday morning since we had some time to kill before the Arsenal game. (Matthew Street was on the way.)

Have you been to Liverpool? There are so many places I still want to visit around England the the UK, but I would absolutely go back to Liverpool in a heartbeat! Hopefully for longer than 24 hours next time. Plus I’m still 100% game to go back next year over the Grand National Weekend and go to that as well!

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Self Care Is... Owning Your Emotions

Self CareHannah DrakeComment

In the last year or so, I’ve been trying to focus on self care and what it looks like in my life. I’ve decided to start a new (semi) regular blog series called Self Care Is, but I’m not entirely sure what it’s going to look like yet. Self care means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, many of whom know a whole hell of a lot more about it than I do. But I view it as a journey and since I’m inclined to share my life in this space, I figured I’d invite you along in the journey as well.

One of the most powerful self care tools I have in my arsenal is the idea of owning your emotions. It wasn’t taught to me in a self care context, but it has positively transformed my life from the jump. I learned about this idea at my church, first trying it at a weekend retreat here or there, then taking part in a weekly small group I was a member of, and eventually implementing it into my daily journaling routine.

The concept is quite simple. First you take a moment to explore what you’re feeling in your body. Are you feeling butterflies in your stomach or maybe tension in your shoulders? How are you carrying yourself today, even as you just sit with yourself, eyes closed? What follows is called a check in that you can do by yourself, with a partner, or with a group. You can check in with the following emotions: sadness, anger, fear, joy, excitement, tenderness, shame, peace, hope, gratitude. To check in, you say “I’m [Hannah] and I’m checking in X, Y, and Z.” Name every emotion you’re feeling and even name the reason, if you so choose. The only thing you can’t do is add a condition to it. You can’t say “I’m checking in a little angry today.” Instead, own your anger. Don’t minimise it by saying “I’m a little frustrated today.” Frustration falls under the category of anger. Own that. (By the way, I consider tenderness to be something like “my heart really goes out to this person/situation”. Like I’m tender to this person because they’re sick or I’m tender to these people because of this event.)

Learning it at church also included looking to the Bible for the times Jesus felt those emotions. And he did feel those core emotions, which means it’s okay for us to feel them too. All of those emotions are healthy and part of life and owning that you feel that way keeps them healthy. When you ignore your anger, you can lose control of it more easily. It’s like trying to hold a beach ball under water. You can’t control when it will pop out or what direction it will go. It’s an inevitability that it will come back up.

Owning my emotions has transformed so much in my life. Like I said, it became part of my daily journaling. I used to write out what I was feeling and why, but now I just track it on a colour-coded chart in my bullet journal. Luke and I would check in with each other over Skype and later over dinner when I moved, but that’s kind of fallen by the wayside. Still, I’m more careful with my words when I’m communicating my feelings to someone else, especially Luke. (I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I was.) I don’t have as much fear in telling Luke if I’m angry at him or about something. I don’t downplay it with a “little bit” or a “kind of” as much and I’m less likely to say “I’m irritated” or “I’m frustrated” because what’s irritation and frustration but a nicer way to say angry?

At the suggestion of my counselor earlier this year, I started tracking patterns in my check ins. I tally up how many times I month I felt each of the ten emotions and consider what was causing me to feel those things. I’ve noticed that I have one of two baselines: sadness or joy. On rather uneventful days especially, I usually check in one of the two. So I can note if I spent most of the last few weeks being sad or happy. (From November until about February it was more often sadness, but the last few months it’s been more often joy.) I also credit check ins to helping me discover more about my anxiety in the last year. I was able to pick up on a pattern of checking in scared and dive into what’s causing that and make moves to deal with it. Without a check in, it might have registered as a prolonged feeling of dread, but maybe nothing even notable enough to explore further.

It’s a powerful thing when you take ownership of your emotions. It teaches you a lot about yourself when you track the patterns of your emotions on a daily basis. It will bring things to the surface that you might not have known were there, but it might also empower you to make adjustments to be more in control of what you’re feeling as a baseline and how you’re reacting to the things around you.

What does self care look like to you? Let me know in the comments and remember there is no right or wrong answer!