We had New Year's Day off, but it was back to the grind on the 2nd, which was a harsh reality after over a week off. We set some new goals for ourselves to try to get into better habits, like everybody does this time of year. January meant our wedding was about 4 months away and we needed to really get the ball rolling with some of the planning we had put off. We attended an open house at our venue the first weekend of the month, which helped us find some of the vendors we had been missing. We basically spent the majority of every weekend in January doing wedding stuff, meeting with vendors, setting up our registry, crafting, planning, etc. Work continued to be much of the same for me--boring, monotonous, and unenjoyable--which managed to make me unusually excited when the days started getting longer and we had some daylight after we got home from work. I also started looking for other jobs toward the end of the month. We managed to conquer another escape room with friends, once again making it out with time to spare! At the end of the month, we started a new group through church that we helped our friends lead, centred around board games, one of our favourite activities to do together and with friends. On the 31st, I had my first meeting of a book club with some women who live near me, accomplishing my life-long dream of being in a book club!
It's always great when a month starts off on a high note, isn't it? I feel like I got hit with a new wave of inspiration and motivation for so many things in my life: my blog, my career, our wedding. And the cherry on top of an already good start was sneaking off to Paris for a long weekend with our friends Tom and Luke to go to Disneyland Paris after Tom scored some tickets. We had a full day at Magic Kingdom and then spent the next morning at Walt Disney Studios. It was fun to be back on Disney property and experience what it was like in another country, language, and even culture. We marked our second Valentine's Day together with a super low-key evening at home with some left over soup and me ducking out early for book club. A few days later, we marked a year of engagement, reminiscing about our trip to Denmark and Sweden when Luke proposed. We celebrated with friends' on their birthdays and spent a weekend away to visit Luke's family. We started a 30 day yoga challenge that we had been talking about for quite some time and made it a part of our everyday life. At the end of the month, I got a job offer for what I thought would be an amazing opportunity, but sadly, it was later rescinded as they had jumped the gun a bit on expanding their team.
My Favourite Post of the Month: 5 Changes to Make If You're Unhappy Where You're At
The Most Popular Post of the Month: 25 Things to Do in London
Because I was staying at my job that wasn't my favourite, I spoke to my boss early in March and decided to go part-time since the job just wasn't keeping me busy. I found that I enjoyed it a bit more after that since it didn't feel like such a waste of my time and our conversation also prompted him to train me on some other things that I was responsible for in order to keep me a bit busier. I took the entire month of March off from my blog in order to hone in on my focus and create some content for the coming months in the hopes that I would have a head start on things and not put out lame posts just because I felt obligated to blog. At times, I really missed sharing my posts with the world because there was so much I was excited about, but it was nice to be able to do some behind the scenes work that would hopefully pay off. We really got a lot done in terms of wedding crafting in March. We had some final appointments (some of which were moved because of a massive blizzard we got during the first weekend of the month) and we finished making our paper flowers at last! It felt like things were really under way and we were making lots of progress with just two months to go until the wedding. We also played tourist in our own city one day, which was so much fun. We completed our 30 day yoga challenge on the 20th, having woken up every weekday morning at 6:00 and doing yoga first thing every day but 3 of those days. It felt amazing to have accomplished that and created a routine we could continue without the challenge. We had lots of fun with friends during our board games small group through church, dinner parties, and brunching! Luke went to Colorado for a men's retreat with my old church one weekend, which made me really jealous, to be honest. He made it up to me by bringing back some goodies from the States that I can't get here.
We kicked off April like everyone else with Easter, but in the UK, that means a four-day weekend! We had a quiet Easter, going to church in the morning (which has been the key to our new church rhythm), having a potluck lunch at the ministry where our friends work, and hanging out with friends. Also in April, we visited the Black Country Living Museum, which was a fantastic local day trip. Most of the month was spent finishing wedding plans--and paying all the balances, yikes!--and trying to find some time to ourselves outside of wedding planning. We went to London to visit Luke's grandma for her birthday and had a lovely time with family and exploring the city and enjoying the perfect weather! We did a pre-wedding cleanse that didn't go exactly as planned, but was fairly successful and helped me rethink how I approach my relationship with my weight. Believe me when I say that it was a quiet month, albeit an important one for us as we prepared for our wedding and tried not to let it take over our lives.
Wedding month! I started the month working the last two days I was scheduled before taking about 2 and a half weeks off for the wedding, mostly thanks to working part time. On the 2nd, I got a notification that I had won the Hamilton lottery for the next day, so Luke immediately cancelled his plans to watch the Arsenal game and requested to leave work a few hours early the next day so we could drive down to London for the show. We both loved it--it was even better than we expected--and would love to see it again, from another vantage point. I spent the next few days trying to finish up everything before the wedding. Our goal was to finish everything by Thursday, the 11th before Luke headed off to his stag weekend and I headed down to London to surprise my family. We were up late that night, but we did it! I should also mention that we decided to upcycle an old chest of drawers from Freecycle into a bar cabinet that same week, which was actually the reason we were up late that night. In London, I was able to surprise my dad and younger sister with the help of my step mom, before spending the day sightseeing with them. The next day, I went over to my mom's hotel to surprise my older sister, before spending the day sightseeing with them. It was so much fun to get to do touristy things with them, especially since none of them except my mom had been to the UK. When I got back to Birmingham, it was the kick off of wedding week. I had my hen do the Monday before the wedding so my family and friends from Colorado could be there. We did an afternoon tea, followed by a sushi dinner and drinks out at a trendy bar. It was a lot of fun. On Tuesday, we set up the venue, hung out with family, napped, and had a welcome dinner before saying goodnight. The next day was the wedding and it was absolutely perfect! We got the rest of the week to chill out, but ended up going to Oxford with some of my family and friends and celebrated birthdays with our friends. It was a long, exhausting, and absolutely wonderful week. After a half week back at work, I planned an impromptu trip down to London to see Chelsea in Bloom and all the floral displays around the city. It was such a lovely day! We booked our honeymoon to Italy, swooned over our own wedding photos, and ended the month with our first joint illness. That was fun.
We started the month still feeling ill, albeit better than how we ended May. That weekend, we drove up to see Luke's parents and got to spend time with Luke's aunt and uncle as well. We stopped by Hardwick Hall on the way home and I visited my first English manor house. I was impressed by the grounds and gardens, but underwhelmed by the interior of the house. (Except the original portrait of Queen Elizabeth I!) I marked one year living abroad on 8 June and we went out for tapas and drinks to celebrate! After two public figures committed suicide the week before, I opened up about my struggles with mental health here on the blog and was greeted with so much love. A number of people reached out to me thanking me for sharing part of my story and even shared a bit of theirs with me. It was a powerful experience for me and exactly what I had hoped for in sharing my story. To me, if sharing my story will help even just one person, save just one life, it's more than worth it. Towards the end of the month, my younger sister arrived to spend an extended weekend with us! We spent time in Birmingham, and took her to Oxfords and the Cotswolds. It was a lot of fun, to say the least. On the last day of the month, we finally received the gifts from our wedding registry, which made for a great day.
We kicked off July by hosting a First of the July BBQ for some of our friends. I tried my hardest to make it a classic American BBQ, but those Brits just don't believe me that baked beans are meant to be eaten with burgers! Still, it was a lot of fun and we were blessed with a beautiful day. A few days later, we jetted off to Colorado for a week and a half stay. While we were there, we were super busy catching up with people, eating at all our favourite spots, and even doing a bit of travelling. We spent one day in Colorado Springs with our friends Jason and Tia and later drove to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a very brief holiday-in-a-holiday. But the main reason we were there was to celebrate my younger brother's wedding! It was a great party and really nice to see some friends and family that we hadn't seen at our wedding two months prior. Our time in Colorado was short, but full. We were sort of excited to get back to our boring lives in England, to get back in our routine and certainly to get back in our kitchen. We spent most of July in a heatwave in England. It barely rained and our plants didn't fair too well while we were gone. And while England was in a drought, I was longing for autumn. By the time we got back from Colorado, I was kind of over our summer evenings in the back garden enjoying the long light and warm sun. I won the Harry Potter Friday Forty, so we went down to London one day toward the end of the month to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It was just as magical as I had imagined.
The first weekend in August, we drove up to Scotland for a bit of a Drake Family Reunion. Luke's aunt had rented a beautiful country house for the week, but we were only able to make it for the weekend. It was a lovely time with family and exploring everything nearby. Not to mention the house was incredible! When we got back, we celebrated my 28th birthday by going out to dinner at a sushi place in town and then eating chocolate cake in bed with Parks & Rec. I took a quick trip to London to meet up with my former boss and meet a new friend from Instagram. Even though it was short and rainy, and also the first time I've ever missed a train in Europe, it was a nice morning in the Big Smoke. We went to our friends' wedding near Liverpool, which was the first British wedding I've been to. The whole thing was beautiful and it was so fun to be there to celebrate with Mark and Chantal. (And to wear a hat!) The last Monday of the month was a bank holiday, so we--along with thousands of other people--decided to visit Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. It was a nice day trip, we explored a lot more than we did the first time, and our annual passes are good through next June so we immediately started planning our next visit. In between our busy weekends, we made good use of our unlimited cinema pass, had some really awesome at-home date nights, started walking in the evenings sometimes, and even had a few BBQs with friends.
After living in England for about twenty months and having experienced two British Septembers, I think I can say September is my favourite month in England. Unless you’re brand new around here, you probably know I love autumn and my mind shift from summer to autumn as the calendar moves from August to September. England is one of those places that actively participates in that shift (weather wise) and I’m all about it. We started the month by driving to Manchester with some friends to do The Crystal Maze, which is a British game show that everyone in the group loves. I’ve only ever seen one episode, but it was such a cool experience, even if I didn’t have the added 90’s nostalgia as well. We also dog sat for our friends, which made us even more determined to get a dog sooner rather than later! I dove right in to doing all the autumn things, like going apple picking in Worcester one weekend with Luke and bringing home p o u n d s of apples, forcing me to make a huge batch of apple cider and a couple of apple crisps. (What a problem to have, right?!) I helped a friend photograph another friend’s wedding, which was fun and stressful and exciting and eye-opening. We made a decent team and managed to do a decent job even though it was a first for both of us. Nothing much happened over the next week except that we prepared to head to Italy for our belated honeymoon and first anniversary trip. The day before we left it was our actual anniversary, so we went out for breakfast (a rare occasion for us) and later drove to London to stay near the airport since our flight was so early the next morning. We had an unbelievable time in Italy, visiting Naples, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome. We ate more pizza and pasta than in our whole lives, I’m pretty sure. We learned how to make our own fresh pasta. We explored the little villages and experienced the history of the country. It was absolutely marvellous, even though it was like a second summer down there! When we got back, we did laundry for the next four days (the joys of not having a dryer) and eased back into life over a long weekend. We played games with friends, starting a new continuous game called Near & Far with a couple with whom we played Pandemic Legacy in 2017. Before we knew it, was time to go back to work and time to welcome October.
October was a bit of a rough month for me. It was probably the most difficult month since moving to be away from the States and that became a huge stressor for me leading up to the midterm elections. It probably seemed like I went WAY over the top with fall, but it was silly things like pumpkins and Hallmark movies that helped me keep my sanity. So I was more than happy to indulge. The month started out slow for us, but soon we found our social calendars filled with birthday celebrations, game nights, and more. We did our inaugural Great British Drake Off, which will surely become a quarterly feature in our lives. We spent a weekend with Luke’s parents while his brother and family were visiting from Ireland. We taught our friends how to make fresh pasta like we learned in Italy. And I even started a small ladies’ group every other week while Luke was at his own small group. I decided to head down to London one day toward the end of the month to see London in all its fall glory. We soaked up the remaining days of October with all the fall staples: hot soup and warm pumpkin treats, Hocus Pocus and other autumnal movie nights, carving pumpkins, and just cozying up at home.
November 1st brought on my first Bonfire Night celebration in the UK. (We missed it last year.) While Luke was hanging out with a friend, I met up with some people for a BBQ around the fire pit before walking to the university for the fireworks display. It was a lot of fun, but it’s definitely different from the Fourth of July! We mostly had a low key month in the middle weeks. We did our usual weekly routine of date nights, small groups, cinema trips, but also made some Christmas wreaths and I had a number of tests done by my cardiologist. (I’m fine, it’s just usual check ups.) We marked Thanksgiving by helping out at Canvas’s annual dinner that was bigger than ever. (Well, Luke helped serve but I was under the weather so I stayed away from the food. I did bake cookies though. And washed my hands plenty, don’t worry.) It was so busy that we weren’t sure we were going to get dinner, so we dipped out early to get some pizza. We found out later that they had somewhat of a bread & loaves miracle and ended up feeding about 40 more people than they had planned for! The next day, we had a home check with a charity that fosters kittens. We got approved to start fostering in early 2019! The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we hosted our second Thanksgiving together, this time with even more food! We had some friends over for left overs the following Monday since they couldn’t make it over the weekend, but set up for Christmas the Sunday after the holiday. We got so much extra Christmas this year!
We didn’t waste any time with the Christmas activities. The first weekend in December, we visited Blenheim Palace for their Christmas events and the next day we did 21,000 steps seeing all of the decorations in London. It was so much fun. I hosted a craft night and made yet another wreath, we hosted some friends for game night, we celebrated Luke’s birthday early, once with friends and once with his twin sister in Nottingham. Due to some unused holiday, I got to start my “Christmas break” on December 5th, which was awesome. I did so much holiday baking you wouldn’t even believe it. We tried to make the most of our nights at home, watching Christmas movies and sipping hot cocoa before we flew back to Colorado for two weeks. We toured the Harry Potter studios in London for my birthday gift and went to a few Christmas parties. On Luke’s birthday, we flew to Colorado for a whirlwind two weeks. It was jam-packed with family time, festivities, and even managed to see a few friends while we were there. We celebrated Luke’s birthday properly, I went to a Christmas pop up bar with my little sister who is 21 (what?!), I got to take a new class at Pure Barre (but didn’t get to take the other new class after I severely injured my toe when I dropped a stocking holder on it.) We got dressed up for The Nutcracker, as tradition dictates, we decorated cookies, we went to my old church for Christmas services, we cross-country skied (and Luke fractured his hip), we celebrated Christmas many times and usually without gifts, we helped my mom host a murder mystery over Christmas dinner, we got to go to cinema a couple of times in the States which means we got delicious American movie theatre popcorn, we ice skated, played games, did a brewery tour in my home town, and so much more. It was such a great trip home, but it just always feels like there’s never enough time! The morning after we got back, we had our own little Christmas morning (five days late) and opened our gifts to each other. I got Luke a ton of tools he had asked for and he got me a Kitchen Aid Mixer! On the 31st, we hosted our second New Year’s Eve party, another murder mystery (Murder in Sin City), and we carried on the tradition of having a Drake be the killer. This time it was me! It was a fantastic end to a pretty great year if I do say so myself.