Hannah Drake


The Expat Diaries, Vol. 16

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Holy smokes! How is it even possible that as of today, I’m exactly a month away from being a resident of England for two years. Was that confusing? I’ve lived in the UK for exactly 23 months and I can’t believe it! I’ll never forget the day I moved to England. Luke was in Colorado for my last week. The morning of the move, my mom took us to breakfast and then dropped us off at the airport. We had one easy flight and one flight I would very much like to forget. (I’ll never fly Thomas Cook/Condor ever again.) We landed in Manchester and took the train back to Birmingham, where I moved into the house Luke would be sharing with three other guys for another two weeks or so. I think we had fish & chips for dinner, Luke went out to vote for his local MP, I went to bed, and woke up in the middle of the night, hours before our flight to Berlin for holiday with Luke’s family. It was a crazy week. And as cliche as it is to say it, I still can’t believe this is my life.

I still can’t believe that I like in the United Kingdom. I find it so ironic that years ago, a guy broke up with me, citing a throwaway comment I made once about wanting to temporarily live abroad someday. I remember being so confused as that being his reasoning because I barely remembered saying it. But it was like that idea continued to grow deep down inside me, so when I made the decision to move (rather than Luke being the one to move), it felt right. It felt like something I could handle. It was an exciting new adventure and I felt really at peace with that.

Thanks for indulging my little moment of reflection on the last (almost) two years. Now I’ll get to the last two months, which has included two fairly major life things.

A few months ago, I called a counselling office to book time with a counsellor/therapist. It’s an office set up in town where counsellors basically volunteer their time to meet with patients. You get a block of six weekly appointments, plus an initial evaluation where you just meet with your counsellor and determine if it’s a good fit. Per appointment, t costs £5 if you’re unemployed and £10 if you’re employed. And that’s what I think is truly amazing. I had my sixth (technically seventh) appointment last Thursday. It was really good to be able to talk to someone about all kinds of different things.

I think this second year abroad has been a bit more difficult than the first. I still love living in England and Luke and I are working to put down even more roots, so it’s not like a move back to the States is even on the table for now. (Side note: It always is. It’s always an option for us, but we’ve chosen not to consider it until it begins to feel right. We’re both open to it near or far down the line, but neither of us ever want to put a date on it until we actually need to for logistical reasons because it’s actually happening.) I have a feeling that the difficulty has been more about the personal changes I’ve experienced in recent months and less about living abroad. Maybe just the new city and country further highlight those shifts and changes. Or maybe there’s no more distraction of wedding planning and the fact that I’ve been back to the States twice in my second year and didn’t go back at all during my first. Who knows!

But either way, therapy was good. I’m able to “reapply” in the future since there’s a waiting list, but I’m also kind of welcoming the break and hoping to dig in more with the things that came up for me in those conversations, especially about my anxiety. And by the way, therapy is freaking awesome. You should try it if you haven’t and you shouldn’t ever feel ashamed that you’re in counselling or therapy or whatever you want to call it. You wouldn’t feel ashamed about getting a physical from your doctor, so why feel shame about taking care of your mind?

So about those roots we’re working on. It all kind of hinges on getting a house. If this isn’t your first Expat Diaries, you might know that we’re desperate to get a puppy and a kitten. (Yes, at the same time.) But we’re not able to have pets in the rental we’ve lived in for the last 22 months. (Woah! I can’t believe it’s been that long!) Buying a house has been on our radar for quite some time. We were hoping to buy in early 2019, but then figured we’d wait until after Brexit (at the time planned for March) to see what happened with the market and to get an additional three months of savings. In January, we decided to sign another six-month lease, taking us almost through the end of July, with hopes that we would move from our rental into our own house at the beginning of August, but with a fallback plan to go month-to-month on our lease if needed.

We started looking at houses in March, with an idea of our financials, but without confirming anything. (I’m not sure I would recommend this.) After seeing half a dozen houses, most of which were solid no’s, we finally got in touch with our bank about a mortgage. One afternoon, we sat in bed, Luke on the phone with our bank, to find out if we could be approved for what we wanted.

“Does Hannah have a British passport?” the woman asked while gathering our information.

“No, she has an American passport,” Luke replied. I got up to get it, but it turns out I didn’t need it at all. When I came back into the room, Luke was in the middle of a line of questioning about my residency. What visa do I have? How long have I lived here? It ended with a frustrating conclusion. I’m not eligible to be a part of our mortgage. I’m not on the right visa. I haven’t lived here long enough. Even as Luke’s wife, I can’t get a joint mortgage.

That was obviously not what we wanted to hear and it meant we could only go forward with Luke on the application. Because of that, he didn’t get a yes or a no right away, but later got approved, thank goodness. It would have been so frustrating if we hadn’t been able to buy a house because of my residency and we totally lucked out.

Hopefully I’ll have more information in two months in my next Expat Diaries with where we’re out with the house hunt since we’ll be close to the end of our lease (though we can go month-to-month after our lease is up), so in the meantime, send us first time homebuyers lots of good vibes!

The Best of April 2019

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Let’s get after it with eight of my favourite things from the last month! I love the opportunity to reflect back on the last four weeks in regards to what I’m blogging, what I’m buying, what I’m reading, what I’m listening to, and more. But I’ve also found that it makes me more mindful of what’s bringing me joy as I go through the month.

And now with four posts in a row, I feel like I’ve committed myself to the challenge of somehow incorporating flowers into all twelve posts this year!

Why I'm Done Travelling for Instagram

I got the most amazing feedback on this post from people in real life and people that I’ve been lucky enough to connect with online, particularly through Instagram. Sharing this post felt like a milestone in a long journey to readjust how I approach must of my life, especially travelling.


Our AirBnB host in Edinburgh was amazing and actually gave us part of their SCOBY to start making our own kombucha. When we got home, we ordered the necessary supplies and got started on it as soon as possible. I’ve been following Megan’s Kombucha Tutorial, Part I and Part II on what to do, and I’m currently in the middle of the second fermentation and flavouring.

Pod Save America

Between the NPR Politics Podcast and Pod Save America, I’m basically always up to date with American political news. (Well, those podcasts and Stephen Colbert.) I won’t go into my usual why-you-should-listen-to-Pod-Save-America pitch, but I do want to highlight their 2020 coverage. With basically half the country declaring a run for president, it’s really hard to keep track of who’s who and where all these candidates fall on the policy spectrum. Even though we’re still 18 months away from the election, Pod Save America is putting in work and releasing long interviews (a standalone 60-minute episode, compared to a 15-30 minute interview inside of an episode) with all the candidates. They’re putting them out quickly and the most recent few are piling up in my feed, but thankfully I have plenty of time to catch up before the primaries. They’ve already interviewed Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Seth Moulton, and Tim Ryan. I really encourage you to check out them all, not just your current favourite candidate. See what everyone has to offer!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: How We Can Support Survivors

Jess Ann Kirby has quickly become one of my favourite bloggers/influencers because she doesn’t shy away from talking about important issues like climate change politics, and sexual assault. Last week, she shared a post titled Sexual Assault Awareness Month: How We Can Support Survivors and I strongly encourage you all to read it and follow it up with more of your own research. As she mentioned in the post, every 92 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. We have to do something to change stigma around reporting and support the survivors in their quest for healing and justice.

Becoming Michelle Obama

I finally started Becoming this month after being in a bit of a reading slump after finishing You last month. Genuinely, I teared up about three times in just the prologue. It’s easy to see from the first paragraph why this is the best selling memoir of all time. You need to read it if you haven’t already!

Avengers: Endgame

Could it even be a list of my favourite things from April without talking about Avengers: Endgame? Like all MCU fans, I’ve been waiting for this movie to come out for a year. Luke and I booked tickets at the beginning of the month for opening night and made plans to stop at Five Guys before for dinner. I was SO excited, I can’t even tell you. The night before, we watched Avengers: Infinity War as a bit of a refresher and I gotta be honest, after re-watching the last movie, I felt like I wasn’t emotionally prepared. But I absolutely LOVED the movie! I laughed, I cheered, I cried. It was such a great culmination of the storylines we’ve invested in throughout the previous 22 movies and it was awesome to see the original six back together.

Soy and Orange Pork Hello Fresh

We had some friends around for dinner earlier this month and decided to make one of our favourite recipes we’ve tried from Hello Fresh. (And it was a hit!) The soy and orange pork with couscous salad is such a flavourful and filling meal, but it also feels so light and summery. Perfect for dining al fresco in the summertime. When we make it for just the two of us, we make it according to the recipe, except use four pork chops instead of two and are able to divide the couscous salad into four easily. When our friends were over, we added pita with hummus and tzatziki too.

Drops of Youth Liquid Peel - The Body Shop

Oh man, you guys. I’m obsessed with this new product I got last month. I went in to The Body Shop a few weeks ago for mascara and they just happened to be doing a buy two, get one free deal on make up, skincare, and fragrances. I totally fell victim to the deal because I really wanted to try this Liquid Peel after the woman used it on the back of my hand. It’s so crazy how it works and just gently removes dead skin that don’t come off in other steps of my usual skin care routine. I was 100% sold and bought it immediately I’ve been using it 1-2 times a week since and noticed a huge difference. Plus, I used it on my feet one day and it was AMAZING. I seriously need to get back into the habit of weekly feet care. (Are we calling it that? I don’t know.)

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The Best of March 2019

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

7 Game of Thrones Inspired Cocktails

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

Homemade Vanilla

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

Binge Mode Game of Thrones

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

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

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

You Caroline Kepnes

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

Jaime Lannister

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

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes from Halfbaked Harvest

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

Ille De Cocos Cashmere Comb

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

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!