Hannah Drake

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The Best of January 2019

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This year I think I’m going to try out something new. I used to do Friday Five on the blog back in 2017, but it eventually became too much of a hassle even just doing it once a month. This year, I want to introduce a new series, Best Of, for each month.

With this series, I want to share some of my favourite things from the month. What I’m reading, watching, or playing, what I’m eating or cooking, my favourite blog posts or articles from around the web, recent purchases, etc. If there’s something you’d like to see in these posts, just let me know.

Most Popular Post - The Year of Alphabet Dates: A

The most popular post on the blog this month was far and away the first of our Alphabet Date Night posts. We’ve committed to getting a little more creative with our weekly date nights this year by doing an alphabet date every other week. In January, we did A and B, both of which included activities that Luke and I have never done together! Plus, if you’re interested in doing it yourself—or even just want some out-of-the-box date night ideas—I’ve got a ton that start with A for you at the end of the post!

LEGO Harry Potter Xbox

Luke got me the LEGO Harry Potter collection for our Xbox for Christmas and I have seriously been obsessed. I understand the life of a gamer now. One weekend, we literally forgot to eat dinner until about 3 hours after we normally eat and the next day when I mixed up our cinema time and we got there an hour early, we both were just wishing we were at home playing. (Though it was a good opportunity to unplug and dream about what we would do if we won the lottery.

Wild Hearts with Gennean

My friend Gennean launched her podcast at the end of December and I’m so proud of her! I can’t recommend it enough. You should definitely give it a listen, especially if you consider yourself a Wild Heart too. This podcast will change your life, I promise!

January Refresh - The Honey Print

My friend Blythe wrote an awesome blog post at the beginning of the month all about how New Year’s resolutions simply aren’t realistic. She listed some smaller goals to try to tackle in the name of larger changes in your lifestyle, home, mindset, etc. It was absolutely brilliant and this really spoke to me: “I am just plain tired of having so much stuff. I really want to live more minimally this year. I want to invest in ethical clothing (and have fewer clothes), say goodbye to plastic, and buy from sustainable brands. I am over fast fashion, unnecessary containers, and compulsive purchasing. I am ready for every inch of my home to stay clutter-free and environmentally friendly, year-round.”

Crazy Rich Asians Books

I literally bought this trilogy when I got home from seeing the movie. It took me a while to pick them up, but once I did, I couldn’t put them down! I finished the third book at the beginning of the month and I’ve been dying to talk to anyone about it. I would recap what I read for Luke, but it was too hard for him to follow without having read it. So if you’ve read these, please let me know. If you haven’t, you should! They’re great and will definitely make you want to have a feast of dim sum, duck, and noodles. Even though he ended it brilliantly, I wish he would write a fourth.

I Was Spending 5 Hours A Day On My Instagram Obsession And It Ruined My Life - HuffPost

Traveller & author Kashlee Kucheran wrote a fascinating article for HuffPost about how Instagram has ruined the way she travels and lives her life. She talked about spending 5 hours a day on the app, planning and capturing the perfect shot, and never feeling good enough. I wasn’t a follower before, but I’m here for her commitment to changing how she shows up on social media. And I can definitely relate to some of what she talks about!

Amber+Glass+Spray+Bottle

I did a bit more shopping this month than I normally do, but more of it came from decluttering and reorganising our home and making some shifts to be more green. Amidst the vacuum storage bags and acrylic storage from MUJI, I think my favourite purchase has been the amber glass spray bottles I got for our all-purpose cleaner and fabric/room spray alternative. They’re pretty, they’re effective (and protect against UV rays), and I get to label them with a chalkboard marker.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas - Damn Delicious

Last week, we made one of my favourite meals: carnitas tacos. We use this recipe for the pork shoulder, though slightly modified. We keep it simple with chopped white onion and coriander, topped with an avocado crema salsa. I usually make a copycat Chipotle rice and sometimes black beans and/or corn. It’s so delicious and the left overs are great for taco bowls!

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10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Me

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I originally shared this post last year, but over the last 12 months, my blog has continued to grow and I’m happy to welcome all the new faces around here! If you want to know some more about me—or ensure that you beat me in any game of 2 Truths & A Lie (because I’m probably going to pick from this list—this post is for you. I’ve updated it a bit since last year too. So in case you’ve been around that long, there are a couple of new facts for you!

I’VE BEEN BLOGGING SINCE 2009

I started blogging on Blogspot 10 years ago in March. My first blog was called Tales from a Time Out because I was on a “time out” from the University of Colorado. (Yes, that’s literally what it’s called when you take one or two semesters off.) It was a great creative outlet for me in a really dark time, but it was also very much 2009 Blogosphere. Later, I rebranded to just TFATO to try to avoid getting contacted about being a mommy blogger, thinking I couldn’t stray too far from the original name. I eventually changed it to Hannah, Here!, but my frequency slowed way down in 2016. Exactly 2 years ago yesterday, I started this iteration of my blogging life as Joy42. (You’ll still find plenty of traces of the name around this site. At least for now.) In 2019, I’m starting fresh with something simple: Hannah Drake. Clearly I suck at naming blogs, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with my name!

I’M BOTH THE YOUNGEST CHILD AND THE MIDDLE CHILD

This is always a go-to in 2 Truths & A Lie. (See!) How is that possible, you ask? Half-siblings. I'm my mom's youngest child (of four), but I'm my dad's second child (of four). They share two of us, so I have five siblings total: two half-brothers, two half-sisters, and one full-sister. But half-siblings aren't really a thing in my world, only when I'm explaining my complex family tree to people--and of course during the subsequent test. In my mind, they're all my brothers and sisters and that's how I generally talk about them.

I WORKED AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

In August of 2010, I started working as a life guard as part of the College Program. It was an experience of a lifetime! It's a great conversation starter and looks pretty good on my CV. I wrote a full post about my experience, here.

I BROKE MY ARM IN KINDERGARTEN

I was at a friend's house up the street and we were--for some reason--playing "jail" in her mother's tomato garden. It was my turn to go to jail, so I climbed up and over the frame for the plants to get inside. It's worth noting, these were pretty tall, fairly sturdy structures. When I finally got set free, I climbed up and over to get out, but managed to fall from the top. I ended up breaking my right forearm, but I think my family just thought I was faking for a while because my grandma offered to treat me to Dairy Queen later and it wasn't quite the fix I needed. I got a lime green cast and it was pretty cool when they used that little saw to cut it off at the end.

I HAD HEART SURGERY TWICE

It's a bit more serious medical story, and one that happened within my first six months of life. When I was 11 days old, I had surgery to repair a coarctation of the aorta, leaving me with a scar along my left shoulder blade. When I was nearly five months old, I had open heart surgery to repair an atrial septal defect leaving me with a scar from my collar bone nearly to my belly button. I wrote about it more here last May.

I VOLUNTEERED AT SUNDANCE TWICE

And almost did a third year this year! In 2013, a friend of a friend who was living in Salt Lake City at the time mentioned applying to volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival. That sounded really cool to me, so I decided to apply as well. I was accepted for the 2014 festival and then returned for the 2015 festival. Both times, I worked the late shift at the Park City Library, usually taking tickets or keeping count of how many people entered the auditorium (my favourite job) for the final two movies of the day. I still have a list on my phone of all the celebrities I saw over those two festivals, including James Franco, Ken Jeong, Jake Johnson, Kevin Bacon, and Kyra Sedgwick, all of whom I spoke to, Keanu Reeves, for whom I got popcorn and a soda, and Jack Black, James Marsden, Chris Pine, Margot Robbie, and Sarah Silverman, whom I just saw from across the room. (Among many others.) Luke and I applied for the 2019 festival last fall and both got accepted, but ultimately decided not to go this year. We’re hoping to do the 2020 festival instead!

I WENT TO CIRCUS CAMP

During the summers when I was in elementary school, instead of going to day care, I went to a lot of day camps through our local museum and the gym where my parents work out. I remember one of them being a week-long course in origami. But the best one was probably circus camp. Or maybe it was clown camp. Either way, I learned how to do things like juggling and spinning plates on sticks. I currently posses none of those skills today, but it was definitely fun while it lasted.

Summer, Lady, & Nymeria

Rey & Finn

Susie, Buddy, & Jovie

I’VE FOSTERED 2 PUPPIES & OVER 60 KITTENS

Back in Colorado, I volunteered at the Humane Society as a foster mom, starting in 2009. I had to take a training course and pass a home inspection, but then I was on an email list for animals that needed fostering. Because I already had 2 adult cats, we only ever got kittens and they mostly stayed separate from each other, unless supervised. In 2016, they got in 8 puppies and wanted to send them out in pairs so I volunteered to take 2 and instantly fell in love. I named them Rey and Finn since I had just seen Star Wars Episode VII for probably the third time. It was hard giving up the kittens, yes, but usually they were ready to go and I would leave with a smaller, needier litter when I dropped off the last litter. But I did always take a liking to the runt of the litter and there were a few groups of three that were particularly hard to give up. In November, Luke and I got accepted with an organisation here in Birmingham to foster kittens. We didn’t want to take any over the holidays, so now we’re just waiting until they have some available for us!

I WON A TEXTING COMPETITION IN HIGH SCHOOL

My youth group set up a tournament to see who could text the fastest. A nonsensical phrase or a company slogan would show up on the screen and you would go head-to-head with someone else, the winner progressing to the next round like a March Madness bracket. I made it to the finals and ended up winning a hoodie and, of course, bragging rights. (This was back in the days of predictive text and no full keyboards, so they tried to make them sentences and phrases that wouldn't be recognised by our phones already.)

I LOVE A GOOD THEME PARTY

I love hosting so much and recently created an “Entertaining” section on my blog to house those posts. Over the years, I’ve thrown many a theme party, usually around a book, TV show, or movie(s). The first one was my Harry Potter dinner party in honour of the final movie coming out. My sister made a beautiful, traditional English roast dinner like they would eat for a feast in the Great Hall. We had sweets from Honeydukes, like liquorice wands and sherbet lemons. We made pumpkin juice and (alcoholic, if I remember correctly) butterbeer. For dessert, we had cauldron cakes, treacle tarts, and pumpkin pasties. Honestly, I want to have this party again!

I’ve thrown three Oscars viewing parties with my mom that were always so much fun. We would make a smorgasbord menu based on the Best Picture nominees, make predictions on all the winners, and sometimes get dressed up. One year we even had a red carpet! The best thing we ever had on the menu was in 2013, at our first party, when my mom made catfish etouffe for Beasts of the Southern Wild. I’m actually planning to do a post about this soon.

For the Breaking Bad finale, I threw a viewing party complete with themed invitations, predictions on how the show will end, sky blue cocktails, and the title card as a cake. My dad even showed up in a full hazmat suit, which scared the crap out of me when I answered the door!

I’ve had two big Game of Thrones viewing parties, first for the season 4 finale and again for the second episode of season 5. (We watched the first episode too.) I’ll do a big post with some ideas and all the cool stuff we did ahead of the final season, but my Red Wedding Cupcakes were always a favourite. Luke and I are hoping to go big for the last episode of the series this year, but we haven’t totally decided yet because we can’t watch the episodes until Monday over here.

Tell me something interesting about you in the comments!

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!