Hannah Drake

6 Ways We're Going Green at Home

At HomeHannah DrakeComment

This year, Luke and I are tying to commit to being a little bit greener than we were last year. We have a ton of ideas and a list of products we want to purchase to help in that, but we’re trying to take it slow and staying within our budget. Still, you have to start somewhere, so here are six things on the top of our list, some of which we’ve already started, some of which we’re planning to start this month.

BUYING & STORING FOOD WITH LESS PLASTIC

In November, our grocery store moved to a new, bigger location and I think it’s so fantastic that I actually look forward to going to the grocery store every weekend. (It kind of reminds me of a Super Target, except it’s at least 60% groceries. Maybe 70%.) With their new location came some other awesome changes, including Smart Shop and more loose vegetables. With Smart Shop, we can use our loyalty card to check out a handheld scanner before we start shopping. We’re able to scan and bag all of our groceries as we go through the store and then quickly check out at a kiosk. Since we have reusable bags (all stores charge 5p for bags in the UK), we skip the plastic bags in the produce section since they immediately become trash at home. Maybe it’s the idea of loose produce rolling around in your shopping cart that makes people bag their produce in extra bags, but it’s nice to have the option to skip that step. Unfortunately, they still package a lot of the produce (like apples in plastic bags or cucumbers in shrink wrap), but it’s getting better!

At home, we’ve made a concerted effort to move away from using one-use plastic baggies. We’ve built up quite a collection of quality reusable storage containers to store left overs, including things like 1/2 of an onion or other produce we used to just toss in a plastic baggie. We try to only use plastic bags when we’re freezing things like pasta sauce or dumpling filling that we want to freeze flat in order to maximise freezer space. Or when the sneak popcorn into the cinema. But even then, we’ve started reusing those bags since it’s just popcorn and we go often enough.

Reusable bags are getting increasingly popular and available at most grocery stores and even some shops. If it’s not an option for you to bag as you shop, invest in some cotton produce bags, like this set of 7.

STORING FOOD MORE EFFICIENTLY

I’ve never for one minute given any thought into how to best store different foods until I was responsible for my own grocery shopping and cooking. Since we’re trying to cut down on all waste, but especially food waste, that means doing a lot of research into the best methods to store different types of foods.

Did you know that mushrooms should be kept in the fridge in a brown paper bag? Our store now has “mushroom bags” next to the mushrooms in the store, and since we’ve started using it, our mushrooms have lasted d a y s longer than keeping them in the packaging they come in or transferring them to our own plastic storage container. It traps too much moisture in with the mushrooms and makes them go back a lot more quickly.

We’re also looking at getting a fresh herb keeper to extend the life of our herbs. Our grocery store only has one size available for most of the herbs and we often don’t use it all in one recipe and won’t use it again before it goes bad. Extending the life gives us more time to plan to use the rest in another recipe, which admittedly is another valid options. Along that same line, we want to try our hand at another herb garden this year. We didn’t have much luck last year when we tried to grow rosemary, basil, and coriander (cilantro). The basil did the best and we used it often, which was great. But this last summer was incredibly hot and we forgot to get someone to water our plants while we were away for nearly 2 weeks so our coriander got absolutely fried. It was yellow and dry when we got home and didn’t stand a chance at coming back.

MAKING OUR OWN NATURAL HOUSEHOLD CLEANER & ROOM SPRAY

This year, I bought some amber glass spray bottles and jars from Amazon to make our own household cleaners. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, but I wanted to use what we had already purchased first. My reasons for doing this were two-fold: It reduces plastic waste by reusing the same bottles. (Not to mention they’re more aesthetically pleasing, something that we all look for in our cleaning supplies, right?) And it reduces the chemicals introduced to our house. It’s no secret we’ve been itching to get a kitten and a puppy and eventually we’ll have kids. All of those little creatures are going around putting their mouths on everything and we want them to be safe. We don’t want them touching or licking surfaces that I’ve just sprayed down with harmful chemicals. Come to think of it, the cat definitely wouldn’t do that because cats have more dignity than that.

I looked into a couple of different methods and found a fairly similar theme. I knew I wanted to stick with just a vinegar and water cleaner, but infusing the vinegars was key. Hence the jars. Here’s what I did:

  • Put 1/2 cup dry ingredients into a 16-ounce (490ml) preserving jar. I did the following mixtures:

    • orange lemon thyme (peel from 1 lemon, peel from 1/2 orange, springs of thyme)

    • lavender sage (1/4 cup dried lavender buds, leaves of sage)

    • orange cinnamon clove (peel from 1 1/2 orange, 2 Tbsp whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks—although I used 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon because we couldn’t find any sticks)

    • lavender (1/2 cup dried lavender buds)

  • Fill with distilled white vinegar. In the States, distilled white vinegar should be readily available, but there’s no such thing in the UK. After some research, I discovered that the closest would be distilled white pickling vinegar. The key is the 5-7% acidity and the brand I found had 6% acidity.

  • Sit in a sunny spot (window sill is best) for 7-14 days. I opted for the full two weeks to allow for a deeper infusion.

  • Mix in a spray bottle at a 1:4 ratio with distilled water. Of course it depends on how big your bottle is, but the ratio is important. For every 1 part infused vinegar, add 4 parts distilled water. If you don’t have a purifier or filter for water, simply boil water and let it cool to room temperature before mixing.

  • Optional: Add a few drops of essential oil to enhance the scent. I use Young Living Essential Oils (though I recently bought a large bottle of lavender oil from Cotswold Lavender). They have cinnamon bark, clove, lavender, lemon, orange, sage, and thyme oils available.

Our vinegars will be ready to use this Sunday and I can’t wait! From everything I’ve read, these should easily replace your all-purpose and glass cleaners (and you’ll never want to go back!). However, do not use a vinegar-based cleaning solution on marble. It will erode the stone. Since we don’t have marble counter tops, I didn’t do any research into a natural alternative.

We also decided to make our own fabric and room spray, inspired by my Instagram friend Megan’s recent post. Add 30-40 drops each of two oils (she uses orange and bergamot) to distilled water. Again, use the amber glass spray bottles, which protect the contents from damaging UV rays. (If you’re storing them in a dark place, like in the cabinet under the sink, it should be fine in a clear glass bottle.

INVESTING IN MULTI-USE ITEMS

A few months ago, we bought a four-pack of microfiber cloths to use in our kitchen in place of paper towels. I was thinking about it this week and realised we’ve cut way down on the volume of paper towels we have used over the last few months. I wish I had exact numbers, but I didn’t think to keep track of it. Still, using the same cloth for a couple of days is a big difference than using a handful of paper towels to wipe down the counters after every meal.

Over the holidays, we bought some metal straws and a straw brush to start using more. I’m trying to remember to ask to not get a plastic straw when we’re out and instead use ours, but it’s a new habit that I need to build to. I recommend this set of 8 straws because it includes 4 straight and 4 bent, plus 2 straw brushes and a bag. We only have 4 bent straws and had to buy a brush separately and I do wish we had straight straws because they would be easier to travel with.

Luke got me a stainless steel water bottle in my stocking to replace a 5 year old Nalgene that definitely needed to be replaced a lot earlier. I really didn’t want to get another plastic bottle, but this does have a plastic lid.

I also currently have Keepcups and stainless steel lunchboxes in my Amazon cart waiting for purchase. However, it doesn’t make sense to replace a plastic item that you can continue to use and would have no other purpose for. So we’re going to wait to buy both items. We both have good non-plastic to-go cups and our plastic containers are holding up well to store left overs and pack lunches for now. We just won’t replace them with more plastic.

SWITCHING TO BIODEGRADABLE PRODUCTS & AWAY FROM PAPER PRODUCTS

We’re trying to cut down on our waste in a lot of ways and one of the easiest is to switch to biodegradable products. Instead of plastic toothbrushes, buy bamboo toothbrushes. Instead of plastic q-tips, buy bamboo cotton buds. Instead of sponges, buy bamboo brushes. Switching from plastic to bamboo is possible for a lot of household options. And while it might be slightly more expensive, it’s worth investing in our environment.

We’re also trying to use fewer paper products. I mentioned above we’ve made the switch from paper towels to microfiber cloths, which has made a noticeable difference already. I also made a new grocery store template to use after going through a whole note pad just for grocery lists. I laminated it at work and use dry erase markers on it. I punched a hole in the corner and added a ring to it so I could hang it up on a hook in the kitchen. If you want to use it, you can download a copy:

COMPOSTING

To be honest, I’ve been kicking myself for months for not doing this sooner. We throw away a lot of food scraps that could become compost. When you throw food away, it goes to a landfill where it rots and produces methane gas. The nutrients of the food are never able to return to the earth. The amount of wasted food is absolutely staggering and the percentage that is actually composted is a mere blimp on the radar. We certainly want to take responsibility for our food waste and do our part to help decrease the damage a banana peel tied in a plastic bag is doing to our earth.

We’re definitely not experts at any of this stuff, but we’re committed to making these changes in our household this year. My hope is that by this time next year, we’ve decreased the amount of plastic we use drastically, we’ve decreased our food waste, and made other substantial changes in our lifestyle to help our environment. It’s absolutely a learning process and we need to do more research on all of these things. But we’re taking the first steps and pledging to be better and that’s what matters today.

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A Sunday Well Spent

Self CareHannah DrakeComment

I’ve been seeing more and more about how awful Sundays are and the so-called “Sunday Scaries”, but I don’t buy into any of that for a minute. Sundays are actually my favourite day of the week, especially Sunday evenings. Here are 4 things that I started doing on Sundays that change the way I view the day.

MEAL PLAN + GROCERY SHOP FOR THE WEEK

We meal plan every Sunday, but we never meal prep. Both of us enjoy cooking and we take turns throughout the week, sometimes cooking together. However, meal planning sets us up for the week so we know what we’re doing every night for dinner and don’t have to try to figure something out after work. It also gives us an opportunity to look over our schedules for the week and see what we have coming up either together or individually.

Now, with our new grocery store open, I really enjoy going to the store. It’s fun and it doesn’t take as long now that they have Smart Shop. (I’ll post more about this on Friday.)

HAVE A SUNDAY RITUAL

We decided back in the spring that we would watch one episode of Game of Thrones every week since there wouldn’t be any new episodes in 2018. It put us on a schedule to finish mid-July, but we had to readjust and start doubling up when they announced that the new season starts the 14th of April. (!!!!!) It gives us something to look forward to every week and makes the day special even in a tiny way. Now I understand why all the best shows are on Sundays. It’s the best!

PRACTICE #SELFCARESUNDAY

It’s sometimes part of our Sunday ritual, but not always. Last year as I was prepping for our wedding, my younger sister suggested I just get into a good moisturising routine. I decided to also look into face masks for the first time and went into LUSH to find one that would be right for my skin, but I’ve since switched to The Body Shop. Now, Sundays have become face mask nights and it honestly feels so good to take care of my skin for the first time in my life!

We also do a little foot spa with a hot Epsom salt soak to give our feet some TLC. Luke’s arches have been incredibly tight lately, so we’ve been doing joint 10 minute foot massages some evenings, but it’s also really good to open up his pores to get some essential oils deep in there!

Check out my DIY At Home Spa Night post for everything you need to make your Sunday evenings a relaxing #SelfCareSunday.

HONOUR YOUR TIME ON SUNDAYS

I have become fiercely protective of my Sunday nights. My preference is to be at home, in my PJs, with my husband after 18:00 on a Sunday. (And the earlier the better.) I found myself bailing on Sunday evening plans so I could spend the evening exactly how I wanted. I don’t really want to be that guy, so now I’ve learned to just not make plans on Sunday evenings at all because I know I won’t show up. Of course there will be a rare exception from time to time. But the point is spend your time on Sundays in a way that best serves you. Maybe it is to hang out with friends or family. Maybe you too just want to cuddle up on the couch for the evening. Just do what’s best for y o u.

And by the way, one great exception to my Sunday evening rule would be Game of Thrones. I watched two seasons with the same group of friends and absolutely loved it! (Sadly Game of Thrones is available in the UK at the exact same time it’s available in the US, which means most people watch it on Monday rather than stay up and start it at 2:00 in the morning.)

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link. Thank you for supporting my blog!

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

LifeHannah DrakeComment

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!