Hannah Drake

Summer 2019 Highlights

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F I N A L L Y! It’s nearly September, and in my book, that means autumn. But before I move on to my absolute favourite season (sorry, not sorry, but the gloominess just speaks to my soul), I wanted to do a quick little recap of the summer, starting with my 2019 Summer Bucket List.

To be honest, my summer wasn’t exactly what I expected it would be a few months ago. We didn’t get out to explore as much as I would have hoped, but we still had a lovely summer, even if it was a bit on the hectic side, especially toward the end.

HOST A GARDEN PARTY

This one was a gimme because my friend Taylor and I had already been planning it for months before I posted my list. We hosted some ladies at Taylor’s house the second Saturday in June, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with our dreams of it being an actual garden party. In the end, it was more like a sit down afternoon tea, but it was a lovely and beautiful affair if I do say so myself. We’re hoping to make it an annual event and hopefully the weather is more cooperative next time.

VISIT ENGLISH HERITAGE SITES

We did see Balsover Castle and Ashby de la Zouch Castle, both ruins that were conveniently on the way (or just out of the way) between us and Luke’s parents’ house. But other than that, I’m sad to say we didn’t cross much else off our list (AKA the booklet we got of all the sites when we signed up.)

TAKE A ROAD TRIP

I suppose it counts that we drove about four hours to Newcastle, but you just don’t get the same kind of American road trips here. There’s less of the “open road” because there’s more traffic. And, personally, I’ve never heard of a novelty like the world’s largest rocking chair being just off an exit on the motorway here in the UK.

GO WALKING

I pictured the summer weekends full of walking in the countryside somewhere. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Maybe this fall while the weather is still decent. Or there’s always next summer!

MAKE AN AMERICAN FLAG CAKE

FAIL. Absolute fail. I did attempt it this year, but it completely fell apart. A cake pro might have been able to salvage it, since the layers were just falling apart, but it was really hot and I was really frustrated, so I just threw in the towel. In the end, I just threw all the crumbled layers into a big container and Luke and I just picked at it over the next week. (Here’s a throwback to 2016, which was also a fail but apparently salvageable enough that I still took it to the BBQ.)

HOST A BBQ

Ummmm…I’m trying to think. I don’t think Luke and I did host anyone over for a BBQ this summer, but we did host a BBQ for two for ourselves one day when the weather inspired it. Taylor and I also jointly hosted a low-key Fourth of July gathering at her house. In typical British fashion, it was BYO meat, but we made some classic American sides (corn on the cob, potato salad, etc.) and luckily Taylor planned to make an apple pie so we weren’t completely without dessert when my cake bombed.

SPEND SATURDAY MORNINGS AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET

Sadly, this one was a bit of a fail as well. We attempted to shop the farmers’ markets a couple of times, but they either weren’t that good, we had the wrong weekend, or they were cancelled. I was really looking forward to this one, but we just found ourselves a lot busier on Saturday mornings this summer that we usually are—or at least the Saturday mornings that mattered.

HAVE A PICNIC

We didn’t bust out the picnic basket this summer, something Luke is probably quite happy about, but we did have an impromptu picnic lunch with our usual spread when we visited Ashby de la Zouch Castle.

S'mores

MAKE S’MORES IN THE BACK GARDEN

CHECK! We did have s'mores in the back garden once or twice, but we also head stove top s’mores A LOT. It was a good little summer treat for us that wasn’t too much and wasn’t too sweet. By the way, I’m fully #TeamReeses and I don’t even have s’mores with plain ole chocolate anymore.

ADOPT A PUPPY & A KITTEN

Honestly I didn’t know if this one was going to be possible at the beginning of the summer (or the end of May, as it were). But lo and behold, we’ve added two furry little ones to the Drake family this month! You can read more about our kitten, Eggs, in Monday’s blog post. Look out for a post next Monday about our puppy. You can also follow them on Instagram.


OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

I’m just going to start with May because we did quite a bit of summering in May. We went to Ghetto Golf in town with my work, which was so much fun that we almost considered it for our G date. We hosted two parties, a Cinco de Cuatro fiesta and a Game of Thrones finale party. We went to London to see Come From Away with Luke’s family. (Highly recommend!) My mom came to visit. While she was here, she and I spent the day in London and then went to Hampton Court Palace. On the bank holiday over her visit, we went to Balsover Castle. And at the end of the month, before my mom left, we picked up our latest foster cat family.

June was a lot more low key. We saw quite a few movies at the cinema. My friend Gennean came to stay with us for a long weekend. We went to Lincoln to see comedian Reginald D. Hunter with Luke’s family. We decided last minute to have lunch at a BBQ festival one day and it was the best decision we made all month! And of course we had lots of kitten cuddles at home.

In July, we of course celebrated the fourth with lots of British friends. I went to Winterbourne Gardens with Taylor. We joined a gym! I started re-reading Harry Potter for the umpteeth time. And we made a lot of arrangements for all the big life events that would be coming up over the next few months.

August began with my birthday celebrations. We went out to Lane7 in town for beer pong and bowling. (We went there on our B date earlier this year.) It was so much fun! On my actual birthday, I took the day off to basically stay in bed, read Harry Potter, and cuddle with our kittens while it poured outside. That evening, Luke and I went out for sushi in town. We had an incredible opportunity to go to our second Arsenal game together (and second this year, the first for our F date), this time getting box seats! It was an unbelievable experience and one we’ll both treasure forever because it’s highly unlikely we’ll have a three course meal inside a cozy box at a sporting event ever again. The rest of August was mostly taken up with our house and the new additions to the family, which was fun but definitely made left a bit more chaotic and busy. We officially wrapped up summer on Monday’s bank holiday with a BBQ at our friends’ house, which was also Benedict’s first party! (She did great and she was obviously the star.)

I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked to have done this summer. And like I said, I didn’t explore as much as I would have liked to have done this summer. But it was still a pretty great summer all the same.

Now…BRING ON AUTUMN!

Introducing Eggs

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So remember last week when I posted about the Ragnarok Family and I mentioned that Hela had been adopted? Well, we’re very pleased to share that she was adopted by us!

After we found out that the reserve on all three kittens had fallen through, we considered if we would want to keep any of the three kittens to become our Eggs. I think we always had a soft spot for Hela, but it became increasingly clear that she would be the one we would keep in the days that followed. We let Furbabies know and promised to continue fostering her brothers until they found their homes.

We officially adopted her on 16 August. Originally, we were going to adopted her when I took them in for their second round of vaccines on the 6th (my birthday!), but they asked us to hold off until later in the week when we dropped them off for what was supposed to be a week-long stay with another foster mom. We were excited to be able to adopt her on the 16th, which is a special date for us (we met, got engaged, and got married all on the 16th of different months), but even though our plans ended up changing, we actually forgot to adopt her when we picked all three up from the cattery after a weekend away. It worked out to get her on our special date! So all of that to say, she’s officially been our kitten for 10 days!

Of course she’s been living with us since she was about five weeks old, along with her two brothers and originally their mom. You can read all about that in last week’s post about the foster cats. In the two and a half months she’s been with us, though, we’ve developed such a special bond with her. Like I mentioned in last week’s post, she and I have a particularly special connection, though she does love Luke very much as well. But the fact that she sleeps curled up on my chest almost every night! I mean, it’s what I’ve always dreamed of from a cat! Here’s hoping she just doesn’t grow to be too big if she wants to keep that up.

We’ve known for quite some time that we wanted to get a puppy and a kitten as soon as we can, which was basically the moment we bought a house since our landlord wouldn’t allow pets. (Shhhh, don’t tell them five different cats have lived there in the last six months!) We were really hoping that we would be able to adopt one of the kittens we would foster to really get to know them, start a bond early, and be able to see them when they were so tiny. It was complete luck that we were able to keep one from this litter and we’ve taken full advantage of having extra time with her.

Despite what other people might think, we’ve been keen on training whichever cat we get and it was important to us to choose one that wasn’t stubborn enough to resist our attempts. Like I said last Monday, Thor is never one to turn down a treat, so he would probably be easily trained with food, but Eggs has also taken to it quite a bit. She knows her new name—and her brothers know when she’s called she’ll get a treat and they will too if they come as well—and she knows when we’re speaking to her. The vet recommended at their 12 week appointment that we get her comfortable in a collar as soon as possible, so we got her a little plaid collar with a bell. It took her a second to realise what was around her neck and there were a few failed attempts to play with it, but she’s really gotten used to it quickly.

We’ve also been harness training her since the 1st. We got her a mesh harness that covers her chest and back and I’ve been working with her two times a day if I’m home or once in the evenings if I’m at work to get comfortable in it. In the mornings, I put it on her and let her just hang out in it. Usually, she sleeps next to me in bed while I read. As she’s gotten more comfortable in it, she’s become more mobile on her own and been able to wear it for longer stretches. In the evenings, she does a short stint in the harness, something like 30 minutes at the most. This is when she needs to “work”. It’s easiest if Luke is home as well because we’ll sit on opposite sides of the living room and call her back and forth between us for treats. At first, she acting like Gilderoy Lockhart had magicked away all of her bones and she would become incredibly floppy. If she did walk, it was like she couldn’t control her back legs. She would almost slither across the floor, low to the ground. But as we worth with her, she’s getting more mobile. We try to play with her favourite toy, the mouse on the string, while she’s wearing the harness as well so she moves completely freely and normally in her usual parkour ways. We’ve also started attaching the lead to her harness for one or two treats so she can get used to it as well, but more intensive practice with the lead will come later when she’s totally comfortable in the harness.

My goal for her is to be able to walk on the lead, like a dog would. It’s completely possible, it will just take a lot more time than it would for a dog because it’s not quite as natural for them. Maybe she won’t ever get there, but for now, she’s making great progress to becoming an adventure cat. She won’t be allowed to come and go from the house as she pleases, but I would like her to be able to be outside in a controlled and safe way eventually. After all, she loves looking out the window. She could live in that world, not just watch it!

You can follow Eggs on Instagram and check out more of my Ode to Eggs on her foster kitten post.

All About the Ragnarok Family

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Just like I did with Jake, I wanted to devote a whole post to the family who has been cohabiting with the Drakes over the summer, the Ragnaroks!

(For a bit more information on how I started fostering kittens—and once two puppies—or how we got involved with Furbabies spectifically, check out the post on Jake, our last foster kitten.)

THE RAGNAROKS

Unless you’re a mega Marvel fan like we are, you might be confused by “the Ragnaroks”. When we picked up the cat with her three babies, we were really not into their names. (Mama was Joyce and the three kittens were Seth, Evan, and Lydia.) We brainstormed some ideas, but since Avengers: Endgame had just come out, we were in a Marvel headspace.

For a bit of simplicity, we decided to go with the names from the Norse gods turned superheroes, rather than using the superhero names like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, etc. Iron Man just doesn’t work for a kitten, does it? Though Doctor Strange isn’t so bad… Anyway, I was hesitant to name the female Hela since she’s the villain in Thor: Ragnarok, but my mom, who was visiting at the time, convinced me. She was so fierce already. She was more confident and brave than her brothers in those first few days, so we figured she could make the name work for herself. Instead of naming the mom Frigga, like their mother in the movies, we went with Valkyrie, who might just be the most bad ass female character in Marvel to date, but is unrelated to the three siblings.

We got the family when the kittens were about four weeks old, on the 28th of May. (They estimate they were born the 1st.) They had been brought in by a family who claimed she was a street cat whom they fed occasionally, but the charity suspected she had actually been their pet. For the first three and a half weeks, they were with another foster mom, but they needed to move them, so they offered them to us.

VALKYRIE

She wasn’t much of a lap cat, but she did grow to be quite affectionate with us. She was such a great mom to them, jumping in and out of the box we kept the kittens in at first to feed them and clean them, pushing them to experience new things, and encouraging them in their own independence. The plan all along was to separate her after a few weeks and move her into another foster home, once they were eating dry food, so the kittens good grow more independent. A few days before she left us, we separated her from the kittens most of the day and she just did her own thing while the kittens just stayed in the living room. We took her back to Furbabies on June 25th, almost a month after we picked her up, so she could go to another foster home and eventually be adopted. Unfortunately, last I heard she’s still in a foster home and has not yet been adopted.

THOR

When we were decided which of the male kittens should be Thor, we simply felt that this one looked more like a Thor. I think at the time, they were about the same size, but he just looks softer and sweeter in my opinion. But in getting to know the kittens’ personalities, we might have misnamed our boys. Thor was a total mama’s boy. When we started separating Valkyrie, he just wouldn’t eat. He would lie in the corner for the entire day, totally lethargic, and refused to eat the dry food. As soon as she came back into the room, he would act just like you would expect a starving kitten to act, the poor thing. They recommended Thor come in with Valkyrie, not so they could be together, but so he could attend something of a kitten boot camp. He was also terrible about using the litter box, so they gave him a week to start eating and start using the litter box. We picked him up just three days later when they said he was eating like a champ (or like Thor in Endgame) and using the litter box with no problem. When we brought him home, he was eating without issues, but it certainly took a while for him to start using the litter box. Eventually, we got a different type of litter from them that he seemed to like a bit more. Though he still had accidents.

In the last few weeks especially, Thor has become so affectionate and cuddly. He especially loves Luke. Usually, he’ll fall asleep on Luke on the sofa and he’ll even sleep on him for part of the night. But, he whines and cries a lot. It’s just not very becoming of a Thor! He’ll absolutely be a lap cat and I think he’ll do best where he’s the only one getting attention. He LOVES treats. You’d have no idea he once went a week barely eating. We gave them raw pumpkin and he eats it up like he’s never getting food again. Plus, he’s really good about coming for little kitten treats. I suspect he’ll be easily trainable if someone wants to go that route with him. He’s also proved to be the bravest when we’ve had people over. He’ll be the first one down the stairs after they’ve all sprinted away. That week head start that his siblings had on him with dry food made such a difference for a while. He was literally almost half the weight of his “little” brother Loki for quite a while. He also had more of a kitten coat longer than Loki and Hela. Now he’s quite soft, but he’s still not as sleek as Loki.

LOKI

As Loki has gotten bigger, it’s become very apparent that he essentially has a beard within a beard and I find that hysterical and adorable. Loki was by far the quickest to grow and for weeks he’s felt and looked very much like a small cat. He acts a little more mature and responsible than his siblings, even though he does play with them a lot of the time. It just seems like it’s Thor and Hela getting up to trouble. He’s certainly more dominate that his siblings and he won’t tolerate being held like a baby, while Thor and especially Hela have no problem whatsoever. He’s not as cuddly as the others, but he’s brave and curious and loves to be human-adjacent. Meaning, he’ll sleep near us, but usually not on us. At night, he usually sleeps between us, but down by our knees. He’s grown into an absolutely gorgeous cat. He’s had an adult coat for ages now and only gets softer and sleeker every day. Even though he’s much more independent than the other two, I love finding him wherever he’s sneaked off to (probably our bedroom) and cuddling with him for a bit. He loves the one-on-one time affections.

HELA

She’s quite the little character, let me tell you! Like I mentioned above, she was the first to jump out of their box. She was the first to figure out how to climb on to the sofa and how to climb the stairs. She’s a go-getter and she’s very brave. She was the first to try the dry kitten food. She doesn’t care about pumpkin at all unless it’s pumpkin muffin crumbs off the wrapper, which is lucky for Thor who eats up her portion in a second. She loves treats and usually gives her treat a swat or two before eating it, but unlike Thor, she seems to grow tired of treats after a while. But her absolute favourite thing is playing with the mouse toy that Luke put on the end of a string on a pole for us to play with them. She goes full parkour for that crinkly mouse! Unlike her black-and-white brothers, she’s a tortie with small tan spots on her face, a ginger and white belly, and ginger hairs mixed within her mostly black coat. I swear, every day I find new little markings on her, but my absolute favourite are the almost identical spots on the back of her two back legs, though one is ginger and one is black. She’s absolutely an independent lady, but only by choice, and it doesn’t stop her from being insanely affectionate. She’s got to keep up with her brothers and make sure Loki knows who’s boss, but she’s a total softie at heart. (And on the outside because she is SOFT!) She is so cuddly with us and is more likely to take a cat nap on me than her brothers. At night, she almost always sleeps curled up on my chest. I mean, it’s heaven.

GOING FORWARD

All three kittens have been fully vaccinated and are growing well. Thor and Loki are currently available for adoption with Furbabies and they are requesting that they be re-homed together. As I mentioned above, Valkyrie is also still awaiting adoption. Hela, however, has been adopted. We’ll continue to foster the boys until they’re adopted, which is fine by us because we’ve grown quite accustom to sleeping under a pile of kittens.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

I’m always happy to shout out both organisations I’ve worked with, 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.

If you’re in the market for a new cat or two new kittens, consider adopting Valkyrie or Thor and Loki. Through Furbabies, they’re listed as Joyce, Seth, and Evan respectively.

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!