Hannah Drake

Life

The Best of March 2019

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I’m back with some of my favourite things from the last month! This is such a fun post to put together because I’m able to reflect back on the last four weeks in regards to what I’m blogging, what I’m buying, what I’m reading, what I’m listening to, and more.

7 Game of Thrones Inspired Cocktails

I could have only dreamed this would have been my most popular post this month. You are truly my people! We’re closer than ever to the season eight premiere, so make sure you have your Game of Thrones cocktails planned and ready to go!

Homemade Vanilla

Last month, we decided to try to make our own vanilla extract because vanilla is actually expensive AF and it’s in pretty much every baking recipe to ever exist. We followed a recipe from The Larson Lingo (one of my favourite bloggers, but now she’s retired and solely on Instagram) and started in early February. We only made two 250ml bottles, because we simply don’t need that much vanilla, but in the end, it cost us £17/500ml to make versus £41/500ml to buy. (That doesn’t include the bottles, which were an additional £6 for the pair.)

Binge Mode Game of Thrones

My friend Taylor has been telling me about this podcast, Binge Mode, for a while and I finally got around to listen to it this month. I’ll be honest, I sometimes find the hosts to be a bit irritating, but the content is really fascinating. In season one, they do a deep dive into all 67 episodes of Game of Thrones, summarising the episodes, offering context from the books and other Westerosi cannon, and pointing out things you might have missed. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a giant spoiler, but it’s been fun to listen to and reminisce about the days when everyone was alive. Season 3 covers the Harry Potter books so count me in for that one too!

Rediscovering The Joy of Cooking That Diet Culture Took Away - Minding My Soul

I can’t remember exactly when I started following Megan on Instagram, but I’m so glad I did. She posts from such a real and honest place and has the best tips for living a sustainable and mindful life, probably my biggest goal for 2019. She shares recipes, DIYs, and has a beautiful Etsy shop. On top of all of that, I especially love this recent blog post from her, talking about how diet culture changed her relationship with food and how she’s fighting to get back to a place of balance and joy. You gotta check it out.

You Caroline Kepnes

In January, I binged You on Netflix in two days flat. I was obsessed! So imagine my surprise when I found out that it was actually based on a novel of the same name. Luke and I walked by a store one day and it was displayed in the window, so I immediately ran in to buy it for £3 (even though it has the actors’ faces on it, which always annoys me). Much like the show, I couldn’t put the book down! I felt like it was a lot creepier than the show because you’re constantly in Joe’s head and it’s s c a r y. I also have some different feelings about Beck, but I won’t spoil anything.

Jaime Lannister

Have you noticed I’m obsessed with Game of Thrones yet? Truly, the last month has been spent rewatching season 7, diving into predictions and theories on Reddit, watching YouTube breakdowns of the trailer, reading as many articles from the press tour as I can, blogging about all of it, and planning our watch party for the finale. It’s pretty much all I think about these days. One of my favourite theories is about one of my favourite characters, Jaime Lannister. The theory is that HE is the Prince that was Promised. Check out the YouTube video with all the evidence. (FYI, it’s 20 minutes long.)

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes from Halfbaked Harvest

We made these lemon ricotta pancakes early this month for Pancake Day and boy were they good! (We left out both the blueberries and blueberry jam because blueberries in pancakes just aren’t my…jam.) We made them again one weekend for breakfast in bed and it was so lovely. Pancakes on the weekends seriously take me back to my childhood. I’ve never been the biggest fan of pancakes (#TeamWaffles), but these are a game changer and I’d make them any day of the week!

Ille De Cocos Cashmere Comb

As you may know, one of my goals this year is to become more sustainable and environmentally conscious, especially when it comes to how I spend my money. One of the ways I’m doing that is by trying to take better care of the clothes I already have so they last longer. This month, I bought a cashmere comb for my jumpers made of natural fibres. (This is an option for fabric blends.) It removes pills from the fabric, but it also strengthens the fabric, ensuring its longevity. It’s a really simple and cheap way to make sure I’m getting more bang for my buck!

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All About Jake

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I wanted to dedicate a whole post to our foster kitten Jake because he has truly become part of our little family. Our time with him is nearing its end and it will be just about impossible to give him up even though we’ll have to. But let’s start at the beginning.

WHY I FOSTER KITTENS

I started fostering kittens in 2009 back in Colorado. I did it through the local Humane Society for about five years, fostering over 60 kittens and 2 puppies during that time. When I first started, I already had two cats, Bagheera and Hurley (who live with my mom in Colorado), but I wanted another kitten around. Fostering was a great alternative to adopting another cat. We got to help kittens in need, socialise them, play with them, and send them off to a loving home. Of course it’s difficult to say goodbye to them, but often I would drop off one litter and go home with another. We got them when they were quite young (usually between 6 and 12 weeks) and had them for a month or two, in which case they would often outgrow us, which made it slightly easier to say goodbye. There are quite a few that I had over the years that I still wish I had been able to keep and all I can do is hope they’re somewhere across the ocean living their best lives.

Fostering animals is an underrated way to volunteer. Often shelters don’t have enough space or a big enough staff to take care of all the animals they receive. It gives the animals an opportunity to spend time in a home rather than a “cage”. It gives the animals time to get used to people and home life. It’s such a benefit to everyone: the shelter, the animals, and the volunteers. From my experience, you’re able to take animals when you’re able, but you can also go long stretches without any animals if you have too much on your plate. The process is quite simple. At the Humane Society, I applied, did a two hour training one evening, and passed a home inspection. For the charity we work with in the UK, Furbabies Cat Rescue, I applied and passed a home inspection.

WORKING WITH FURBABIES CAT RESCUE

A friend told us about the charity in Birmingham back in October. He was just about to start fostering kittens for them and I had been searching for an organisation to work with ever since I moved in the summer of 2017. (That friend has since adopted one of his foster kittens!) I applied in the fall and passed a home inspection at the end of November. We decided to wait until 2019 to take any fosters since we were headed back to Colorado over the holidays. Earlier this year, we were contacted about a potential foster, which we were able and happy to take, but they ended up not needed placement for that cat after all.

In February, we were contacted again about Jake. They said they had an older kitten (about 7 months) who had been living with his sister, but now needed foster placement before adoption. They said he was quite shy and scared, but trusted my past experience with fosters to be able to take him as our first placement with them.

FOSTERING JAKE

We picked up Jake in the evening of 16 February. He was clearly scared and confused and I don’t blame him! We brought him home and set him up in our living room. Luke had blocked off the spaces behind and under the furniture and we’re able to close both doors in the living room, so it was a good space for him to start in. We let him explore his new space on his own time and get comfortable with his new surroundings. But despite their cautions, Jake was really happy to be with us within a few hours. It was astonishing how quickly he warmed up to us and became comfortable with us.

He’s been with us for over a month now and I’ve loved seeing him grow into his personality. It took a long time for him to not default to hiding if given the opportunity (He would spend huge chunks of the day under the bed or behind the couch if he was able to figure out a way in there.), and now he practically runs the house.

He’s been a lap cat since the night we brought him home, he just needed some time to learn that was a more enjoyable way to live than hiding and being stressed out behind the couch. He’s gone from jumping at our every movement to bravely exploring on his own and watching us from his favourite spots in the house. He cuddles with us on the couch and he sleeps between us at night. He watches us in the kitchen from the warmth of the carpet across the threshold. He eats dinner with us every evening (meaning we feed him at the same time and then he comes up and waits for us to be done) and wakes us up around 6:00 every morning for his breakfast.

He has become almost exactly what we both want out of a cat. I love that he wants to be around us because as much as I love Bagheera, she’s an independent woman 95% of the time. Luke loves that he often sits in the front window waiting for us and always greets us at the door when we come home. He has great manners and the sweetest personality. I’ve especially grown to love our slow mornings on my days at home. On Thursdays and Fridays, I open the curtains and make a cup of tea before climbing back in bed to read for a while. Jake always curls up right next to me and naps in the sunshine pouring in. He’s truly one of the best cats I’ve ever been around and it’s a shame that his personality wasn’t able to shine through in his previous life.

(Isn’t it crazy how much he looks like a full grown adult cat when he’s sat up and attentive, but he looks like a little kitten when he’s all curdled up and getting cozy?!)

GOING FORWARD

So with all that gushing about him, you’re probably wondering why we’re even considering parting with him at all. Because he’s an older kitten, he already has his vaccinations and he’s already been fixed. All he needs now is a microchip. At this point, we’ve given Furbabies a write up about him and sent over lots of photos. We’re kind of just waiting for the day they tell us he’s been adopted so we can bring him in. It’s hard not knowing how much time we have left with him, but we’re soaking up every minute while we can.

We’ve had lots of discussions about whether or not to adopt Jake and many times one of us has just proclaimed we’re keeping him forever. He’s made a lot of progress in the six weeks we’ve had him, but it would be a gamble for us to assume he would make enough progress to be able to adapt to where we want our lives to go. We feel Jake would be best served in a quiet home without children or any other pets and we simply can’t commit to not having children or getting a dog within Jake’s lifetime. It would be my worst nightmare to introduce a puppy or a baby into his space and stress him out. He might come around and get comfortable again, but he might also revert to his old ways and spend his days hiding and clearly tense and stressed.

We’re of course going to continue to foster kittens after Jake and hopefully after we get our own pets, but Jake is simply a lone wolf when it comes to other animals. Right now, since we live like to 80 year olds, padding around our house in slippers and house cardigans holding a cup of tea, he fits in perfectly in our lives and home. We both feel like that’s the kind of life Jake deserves to live if that’s what he likes and what he wants.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

I’m always happy to shout out both organisations, the Humane Society and Furbabies Cat Rescue because both organisations need donations and volunteers. You can donate money of course, but they also accept food, litter, toys, blankets, etc. They provide everything for their foster families on top of caring for the animals that are physically in the shelter. There are also plenty of ways to volunteer. When I first started fostering for the Humane Society, I also volunteered in the shelter on Saturday mornings, cleaning the enclosures and playing with the kittens that were waiting to be placed in foster homes. I loved doing that! The Humane Society also had volunteers on the adoption floor for cats, dogs, and other small animals. Not to mention the dog walkers! And Furbabies definitely needs more foster families.

Even if you’re not in Longmont, Colorado or Birmingham, England, there are likely organisation near you that need your help. Do some research about what’s nearby and how you can get involved. It’s seriously the best volunteer work I’ve ever done!

UPDATE ON JAKE AS OF 2 APRIL

Well, you guys. The day has come. We took Jake back to the cattery this evening because he’s officially been adopted! I was hoping we would get to meet with his new family, but he’s spending the night at the cattery and will be picked up tomorrow. They assured us that they are a lovely couple. She has experience with shy cats in the past, don’t have children or other pets, will keep him as an indoor cat, and plan to build a cat sanctuary for him. It sounds like it will be a really great situation for him, which helped ease the pain of saying goodbye.

We really enjoyed our last few days with him and are so glad we got to be a part of his life. We helped him get acclimated to home life and find out what kind of forever home would best suit his needs. A few days before he left, I was talking to our neighbours and they mentioned that their own cat had passed away in February. She said, “The soul of the house is gone.” (I would have tried to convince them to adopt Jake, but they said they feel they’re too old to get another cat.) What she said has really resonated with me in the last 24 hours since he’s been gone.

I can’t figure out if it’s because he’s the only single cat I’ve fostered or maybe because he’s the oldest cat I’ve fostered, but it often didn’t feel like a fostering situation. When I had four or five kittens living in my bathroom, it felt more like a temporary situation for everyone involved. But when Jake was taking part in our family dinners (both in eating his food at the same time as us and in licking our plates clean after we were done), he felt like family. When he would curl up between us in bed every night, he felt like family. I’ve found myself looking for him in the window when I’ve gone into the house the handful of times I have since he’s left. I’ve found myself looking over the edge of our bed for his little ears. I’ve caught myself almost calling his name.

This is probably the hardest goodbye with a foster kitten I’ve had, but I know he’s going to a fantastic home that will love him so well and give him the life he deserves. If we felt we could have give him that, we definitely would have kept him. I think it’s even harder than saying goodbye to my own cats in Colorado because at least I get updates about them from my mom and get to see them when I’m back.

We’re looking forward to fostering again soon, but for now, we’re just really grateful for our time with Jakey Jakerson.

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 15

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In my last edition of The Expat Diaries, I talked about how quickly the last two months had gone by, but this time, it feels like it’s been quite a slow two months.

The biggest change in my life abroad since early January has been that we finally got our first foster kitten. When I lived in Colorado, I fostered over 60 kittens and 2 puppies from 2009. After I moved, I tried to find a charity that would allow me to do the same type of volunteer work, but I never found anything until last autumn when our friend mentioned he was going to start fostering with a cat charity in town. I applied and got approved at the end of November, but we didn’t want any kittens before the holidays and we’ve been waiting ever so impatiently since the new year to get the call that there was one available.

In mid-January, they asked if we could take two kittens who were a bit older than what we wanted, but we wanted to get our foot in the door so we said yes. Almost immediately, they said they no longer needed them placed. In February, we got another offer to take in one kitten who was even older still, at seven months. Again, we were eager to get any four legged friend, so we said yes. I was a bit worried about his temperament because they said he was brought to the charity because the family who also had his sister didn’t want him any more because of his personality. They said he was timid and skittish and wanted us to socialise him the best we could and help them with a recommendation for what type of home he should be placed in when he gets adopted.

We picked him up on the 16th of February and we could immediately see that he was in fact scared and shy. We decided to keep him in the living room, where he could have plenty of space, a big window, and where we spend most of our time. It would give him the opportunity to get used to our usual traffic through the living room but also spend time with us on his own terms. Within a few hours of him getting to our house, we could see what a cuddly sweetheart he is. He curled up between us on the couch as we watched Game of Thrones and by the end of the night, he was purring loudly. He made strides quickly to get more comfortable with us and the space, but if he has the opportunity to hide under the bed or behind the couch (which we tried to prevent, but sometimes he was quicker than us or knocked down the barriers we put up), he takes it. Even now. Basically we spend our time with him trying to convince him that being with us was a lot more enjoyable and less stressful than hiding. He did great when we had people over this last weekend and he seemed comfortable enough to be around them in our front room, even though we don’t normally hang out in there and aren’t normally that loud. He also likes eating people food, especially if it’s salty. But he also has an affinity for pumpkin apparently. Luke was not happy to find that he had eaten his pumpkin muffin off his bedside table the other night, especially because it was the last one. After that, he was going crazy trying to get into the bin for the wrapper off mine that I had thrown away earlier!

Over the last week, he has started sleeping on our bed throughout the entire night. It started with him curled up between our feet, but now he gets up after a little while to curl up between our bodies. Luke said he even caught him under the covers first thing in the morning on Sunday! A couple of times, I’ve woken up on my back in the middle of the night to find him asleep on my chest with his little head nearly on my pillow. It’s my actual kitten dream come true!

In a lot of ways, February 2019 was one of the hardest months I’ve spent abroad. Within a week, we lost my great-grandmother, my stepmom’s grandmother, and my dad celebrated his 70th birthday. GG was the first person to pass away in my family since I moved and it was strange not being there with the family or not being at the memorial. Then my dad had this milestone birthday that I wasn’t able to take part in, like I did for his 60th birthday. It certainly made me homesick and probably more than I care to admit. I’ve missed a family wedding and I know I’ll miss more this year, but this month was a clear realisation that things are different and I’m not able to be there for family stuff I used to be able to take part in, the good and the bad.

To not end on a total down note, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the weather, one of the Brits favourite topics! We had quite a warm final week in February. Like people out in the parks or in their back garden enjoying the sunshine kind of warm! In fact, if it had been light out later, we probably would have even had dinner in the back garden a few times last week! It’s since become a bit more stereotypical for England with gloomy skies and lots of rain, but I just have to show these two photos taken almost exactly a year apart on walks around the park near our house.