Our Master Bedroom

At HomeHannah DrakeComment

You may have noticed I did my Home Tour post back in April and never followed up with a Part II. I've been putting it off for four months apparently and now I'm officially throwing in the towel. My original intention was to complete our Home Tour by showing off the upstairs, but then I wrote 3 Ways to Elevate Your Guest Room and there went half my Part II post. Upstairs, we have three bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, and a tiny closet. Neither the closet nor the bathroom are worth documenting. (In fact, I don't even know how I would take photos of our bathroom because I can barely fit in it myself, let alone with a camera.) And our study/spare room has become more of a junk room, if I'm being honest. I'm not trying to hide our mess, because believe me, we have it, I just don't think it's worth dedicating half of a blog post to showing off our piles of stuff, our boxes of Christmas decorations, our suit cases that we have no where else to store, or our sad looking book shelf.

Instead, I decided to focus on the good vibes only. So I'm talking all about our master bedroom today. This is undoubtedly where we've invested the most money in our year (plus) of living in our house. When we moved in last summer, we bought a bed, mattress, wardrobe, and vanity, but also decided to upcycle some Freecycle finds, like the drawers and bedside tables.


If you're interested, you can scroll down to the bottom for some updates on our home since my first Home Tour.

We essentially had to decide how we were going to set up the room the day we brought home our first IKEA haul. With the former fireplace leaving two little nooks on one wall, and the window on the front, it limited where we could put our triple wardrobe. What we decided that day is what we've had the whole time we've lived in this house, and even though we've talked about moving stuff around once or twice, I'm not really interested in moving that wardrobe until we move house.

In the past, and possibly because I lived at my mom's house, I always had a desk and bookshelves in my room. I can't remember the last time I had a chest of drawers to hold my clothes, to be honest. But here, where you're lucky to even have one closet in your house, wardrobes and drawers are absolutely necessary. 

As I mentioned, we got the drawers from Freecycle. They were already white and had long brass handles, but I repainted it just to make it look a little fresher. (See before and after photos on my Home Update post.) I also switched out the handles for ceramic knobs that I found on Amazon. Obviously that's as far as I got with my upcycling of this particular piece. The original plan was for Luke to realign the knobs to be centred from the top two drawers and fill in the holes. We're clearly not in a rush to finish, and honestly I notice the slant of the drawers more than the off-centred knobs or the holes, so I'm not too bothered. My sister and brother-in-law have a chest of drawers I've always loved, the HEMNES from IKEA, and it's the style I would want to look for down the road when we're looking to upgrade our drawers.

I have a vanity in our bedroom because--fun fact--bathrooms don't have plugs in most British homes. Newer builds would have an outlet for an electric razor (with a lower voltage and different holes), but the only time I've been able to plug in my curling iron or hair dryer in a bathroom over here is in a new hotel. Anyway, I chose the BRIMNES from IKEA since it was small and simple, but someday I'd love to upgrade to something more vintage looking. (Can we talk about how my friend Kelsey's is seriously #vanitygoals?) The top opens up to reveal the mirror and some storage to accompany the drawer on the left side. Luke added some upgrades by attaching a power strip to the inside and a hook to hang my curling iron on the outside. I opted for a small stool from IKEA (no longer available, it appears) and painted the legs light green to add a bit of colour to the room.

And now for the aforementioned wardrobe. It looks like it's no longer available on IKEA which is a bummer because I absolutely love it. (I only wish it had better support across the pack.) Luke uses the third on the left and I've laid claim to the other two thirds that open into the same section. It works out okay since Luke only needs to hang up his shirts, while I have both shirts and dresses that need to be hung. He keeps nearly all his clothes in there and just rotates what's in the front of his shelves based on season.

For the first time in quite a while, I've also had to rotate my wardrobe based on season because I have limited hanging space. (Though I'm ashamed to say I have many more clothes than this, taking up most of the chest of drawers, two drawers under the bed, and most of the closet in the hall.) I recently added the drawers (FLARRA from IKEA) to keep some dressier shoes, trainers, and sandals. Basically not everyday shoes. I store my tall riding boots in the bottom, as well as some wardrobe upkeep items like a steamer, leather polish, and a suede brush, and there's still space. I keep some light cardigans I often wear to work, some bandannas and delicate scarves, and a few other accessories on the top shelf. 

Okay, the best part of our bed is the EVE mattress. Our mattress is actually made from the clouds in heaven, I'm sure of it. Just this week we were talking about how we're so spoiled we can always feel the imperfections in other mattresses when we're away from home. It's a curse, but it's so worth it. Anyway, our bed is a double, which is big enough for us, even though we could have fit a bigger bed in our room. The frame, the KOPARDAL from IKEA, is amazing because it stays so cool in the summertime since it's metal. When it's really hot, I just touch my foot to the side of the frame and it's like it instantly cools me off. We currently have a £10 quilt from the grocery store (yup, seriously) on our bed, but in the winter we switch it out for our goose down duvet so we're nice and cozy.

Our friends gave us the bedside tables, which I believe are originally from IKEA. I painted them last summer as a part of our Home Update, and I love the finished result. I replaced the plain silver knobs to match the knobs on our dresser and I love how the blue details compliment the lighter blue paint. The lamps are from--you guessed it--IKEA. If this were our forever home and how our bedroom would always be set up, I would want to find two matching chests of drawers to use as our bedside tables, like the smaller HEMNES from IKEA. It would give us both more storage and fill out those nooks a little better. Of course our bed would need to be a bit taller though.

On my side, I have another Freecycle project to store my under garments and some other things. This project needed the most work since the drawers aren't on tracks and it was not in good shape when Luke found it. He did quite a lot of work with a planer and sandpaper to get the drawers to open and close properly. In addition to the paint job I gave it, I lined the drawers with contact paper. On the top, I keep a few treasures, like my dried wedding bouquet and a photo of me and my bridesmaids. I also keep my clay cat and a jewellery box my friend brought me back from Africa.

We don't have a ton up on our walls, in any room really. But, you know, #renterproblems. However, we've added two mini gallery walls in our bedroom. Above my vanity, we have some prints I made with a watercolour print of a lion I found online. Luke and I both went to these retreats, The Crucible Project and Soul Beauty respectively, and these are daily reminders of the work we did while we were there and the truths we keep with us every day. I love that its the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning and the last thing I see before I go to sleep. (Other than Luke's face of course!)

On our side wall, we recently added three prints from our wedding and I'm o b s e s s e d. I had the photos printed at 8x10, imagining them in matching frames with large mounts, but the IKEA here usually goes by centimetres instead of inches and doesn't always have the same standard frame sizes. So while we were in Colorado, we bought three frames from Target and brought them back in our suitcase padded with our clothes and putting our bag dangerously close to the weight limit. It was worth it though, because in the end, we ended up with exactly what I imagined.

So there you have it. I love our master bedroom and the work we've put in to make it what it is. And I love that it's basically an IKEA showroom.


Maybe you saw my DIY Bar Cabinet post, but we've further updated that area of the kitchen. We had one shelving unit (VILTO from IKEA), that was at the end of our cabinet, but before our First of July BBQ, I moved it next to the bar cabinet so it wouldn't get knocked. After the BBQ, we realised we kind of liked it there, but I wanted a second shelf to balance out the two sides and to show of more of our beautiful wedding gifts.

I think I mentioned in my home tour post that I wanted Luke to add a floating shelf in our kitchen to be our coffee and tea bar. It was a slow moving project since it took a while to find the leather straps, but it's finally up and I couldn't be happier. It clears SO MUCH space on our counter, which was been really nice. It helps it feel less cluttered and with our small kitchen, every inch of counter space counts.


In an interest to not only show you the highlights, the picture-perfect, the staged, I'll show you the rest. Or at least our messy study/junk room, the tiny closet, and tiny bathroom:

Embracing the Britishisms

LifeHannah DrakeComment

Instead of my usual Expat Diaries post, today I want to talk about some of the differences in British culture that I've experienced in the last 14 months. Before my first trip across the pond, I naively thought the UK was simply a better extension of the US in many ways. And while a lot of it feels familiar, there's quite a bit that different. There haven't been huge things that have given me culture shock during my time here, but instead it's little things that I should know that just don't feel right. Like opening a bank account. My days sitting across from a Wells Fargo banker opening a new account or discussing my current accounts aren't that far off, but somehow opening a new bank account last summer was insanely frustrating and complicated for me.

A lot more is different than you would think, like I said, so today I wanted to highlight just a handful of those differences that I've noticed, some of which I enjoy, some I'm indifferent about, some have been difficult to adjust to.


I'm sure most Americans have their own idea of what words and phrases British people use. Some are probably fairly accurate, but I'm here to tell you I have never heard someone seriously say "pip, pip, cheerio" or "hello, governor". While I've embraced much of the wording and phrasing that Luke uses (for example, I say bin instead of trashcan, cinema instead of theatre, trainers instead of tennis shoes or sneakers, jumper instead of sweater), and I think I've fully accepted British spelling thanks to my time in the workforce, I still struggle with some of the phrases. Every once in a while, someone will use a phrase I've never heard. (The other day two people said "he likes to throw his toys out of the pram" as in he throws fits.) It happens less and less frequently with Luke now where we have to kind of find out what we're trying to say. Like when Luke said aerial, meaning antenna. I've also developed two pet peeves about British English. Firstly, people seem to use "myself" and "me" or "I" interchangeably and that just doesn't work grammatically. Secondly, a lot of people at my work call lunch "dinner" and dinner "tea" and while it might sound quaintly British, it drives me nuts. But I've also noticed that even if we have the same phrases, some are considered rude to the other. Maybe this isn't just a US vs. UK thing, but here's the biggest example in our relationship: If Luke asks me if I want something and I respond with "sure", he feels that's disrespectful, no matter my tone. On the flip side, if I thank Luke for something and he responds with "it's okay", I feel that's disrespectful, no matter the tone. We're trying to be better for each other. And for the record, I may not be great at recognising accents yet (unless its from Liverpool), but I'm happy to say that I at least understand more accents than I did 14 months ago.


It might not be a surprise that the UK uses different units of measurement. They use a 24-hour clock instead of a 12-hour clock. (I changed my phone and computer to be 24-hours a few months before I moved last year to try to get the hang of it. I think I've finally done it, but for some reason 17:00 and 19:00 always trip me up.) Baking was tricky at first because they work mostly in grams. I kind of straddle the line between grams and cups since most of my recipes are American, but I did convert some since we didn't have measuring cups for the longest time. Now I almost prefer grams because it's more accurate and seems to require less washing afterwards. Obviously they use Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, which has proven to be the most difficult. Truth be told, I'm a bit (okay, alot) resistant to it too (outside of the kitchen, because I have no choice but to use Celsius in our oven, of course) because 32 to 100 in Fahrenheit is only 0 to 37 in Celsius. I just feel like there's a difference between 74 and 75 and Celsius doesn't accommodate for that! ;) The UK does, however, use miles, which is different than the rest of Europe. They measure fuel efficiency in miles per gallon, but buy it in litres. I mean, what?!


One of my favourite things about the UK is that taxes are included in the price on items at stores. So if you see that something is £25, you don't need to worry about trying to figure out the tax so you know how much you need to give the cashier. You'll give them £25 and they'll give you a receipt. So simple! One thing I can't make up my mind about quite yet is store hours. Shops close fairly early around here, mostly by 8:00 on weekdays and Saturdays, even the big stores at the mall. On Sundays, it's even earlier. Also on Sundays, grocery stores over a certain size are only open from 10:00 until 4:00, so you have to plan accordingly. There's nothing worse that realising on Sunday evening that you don't have everything you need for dinner. Smaller grocery stores will be open later because they're under a certain square footage, but they obviously have fewer items, so if you need something specific, you might be out of luck. However, I do like their reasoning for having shorter business hours. They're giving their employees opportunities to have a life outside of work and to spend time with their families. And if I remember correctly, most places were open a little longer around Christmastime, but it wasn't anything too extreme. And you would never see anything like Black Friday hours over here, especially running into national holidays. 


Here, you're going to get charged 5p per bag, no matter where you are. I experienced that in Boulder before I moved, and I'm reading that more cities and states are working toward that now, but it's e v e r y w h e r e here, even beyond grocery stores. If you want a cart, you have to put a pound coin (or a token you bought for a pound) into the handle to unlock it from the rest. That means you have to return your cart to a designated spot otherwise you won't get your coin/token back. There are no carts left around the car parks. It's genius! You also can't take the carts off the property, as they have a magnet in the wheels and will lock when you get to the edge of the lot and I think that's pretty cool. Grocery shopping is otherwise the same. I always feel like it's cheaper here, especially produce, but I haven't actually crunched the numbers with an exchange rate. And it's not like all American foods and products have made there way over here. Some ingredients that I would consider standard seem a bit more rare, but we're often able to find them in the Indian section. Like cornmeal or popcorn kernels. The grocery store we go to has a small "American" section where we often buy Kraft Macaroni. They also sometimes have root beer (you'll never see it on a menu), marshmallows, pop tarts, Reese's peanut butter cups, Mike & Ike's, and more. I guess I'm just an adult because I kind of love grocery shopping, hence why it has its own category.


I've never really worked in a large office before, so maybe this is true in the States, but there really seems to be a tea culture here. At work, people offer to make tea or coffee for everyone else and most people prefer tea, especially in the afternoons. Are people just nicer here or do people do that in the States too? Because so many people enjoy a simple tea with milk and or sugar, there's less of a Starbucks (or Costa) culture of running out for a £5 coffee even just once a day. But that might just be the demographic of people I work with. Either way, I just think it's nice that people drink tea all day and make tea for one another all the time. By the way, the UK Starbucks rewards app sucks. Oh yes, you can't forget that people definitely have a preference on what shade their tea should be depending on how much milk is in it. Afternoon tea isn't a regular thing either. People may go out for a special occasion or every once in a while, but don't picture the whole country stopping every afternoon so we can all sit down for a tea and some cucumber sandwiches.


I've talked about this on my blog before, but going to the doctor was a bit of a different experience. I made an appointment at Luke's GP's office to get established here earlier this year. They offered me really bonkers times, like 8:07 or 8:23 and my OCD brain just couldn't take it. When I went to my appointment, it was super quick. I didn't have to pay a co-pay and I pay for the NHS out of my pay check. (I also paid an NHS surcharge with my spousal visa.) "Free" healthcare is awesome, you guys. At my appointment with my GP, they referred me to a cardiologist (I'm fine, but I have a history of heart problems) and they said it would be about a 16 week wait. It's a non-emergency appointment so I'm lower priority, but even in the States you'd have to wait at least a couple of weeks. And bonus, I'm not going to have to pay anything out of pocket to have an appointment with a cardiologist!


If you've been around here long, you probably know I don't drive in the UK. I'm actually kind of terrified about it, and no it's not because of being on the other side of the road or car. I'm used to that now. I could have driven on my Colorado license until June, I think, during my first year abroad. And I even have a UK provisional license, but I've never used it. It's the narrow roads, the roundabouts, and different traffic signs that worry me. It seems like a lot of people here take driving lessons, at least the people I know, and Luke's been hoping I'll agree to take some soon. Also, you can't get your license until you're 17 in the UK.


One of the things I found most strange about the UK when I first visited was the lack of flat sheets. They only have a fitted sheet (although you can find plenty that don't have the elastic in the corners to really hook around the mattress) and a duvet. It certainly makes the bed easier to make in the morning!

You always have to ask for water at a restaurant and you'll have to specify that you just want tap water. A lot of places will give you small cups and the server won't be around every five minutes to top it up. Though, I haven't experienced having to pay for tap water in the UK like I have in restaurants in Denmark and Sweden.

Movies. Movies are different here sometimes. From what I can tell, there seems to be a small UK market that releases films here that I don't think would come out in the States. But on top of that, sometimes film titles are changes (and it's reflected on my IMDb since they know where I am!). Like The Avengers. Here it's called Avengers Assemble to avoid confusion with a previously released film. Or I noticed on one of our TV apps that instead of the final two American Pie films simply being called American Wedding and American Reunion, they're called American Pie: The Wedding and American Pie: Reunion. Sometimes films will have different release dates too. We got Thor: Ragnarok and I believe Black Panther a week before the States, and we were supposed to get Avengers: Infinity War a week early too, but they moved up the US release date. It seems like we got Jumanji weeks earlier than the States, but other films, like Lady Bird and now Ant-Man and the Wasp have been a month (or more!) later. We saw the former while we were in Colorado in July, but it didn't come out here until 2 August. Also, with all this Movie Pass news happening across the pond, I feel I should say Luke and I both have unlimited memberships to our cinema for less than £18/month. It's a large cinema chain in the country and we can go to something like all but two locations. Plus we get discounts on concessions.

Phone plans seem to be incredibly cheap compared to in the States. Luke and I don't share a plan because it doesn't make sense. In total, we pay something like £30 a month for our phone plans, which seems like a drop in the bucket compared to some plans available in the States. Before I moved, I contributed something like $40 to a family plan to pay off my phone, have unlimited calls and texts, and less data than I have now. Phone plans don't need to be so expensive, America! Do you hear me, cell phone companies?!

People give each other their bank details to pay each other all the time and I still can't get used to that. You can't use Venmo here, so instead you'll just give someone your account number and sort code and they'll just pay you directly into your account. Both numbers are even printed on your debit card! Also, we've moved on to contactless payments, up to £30 per transaction, instead of just the chip. That means you just tap your card on the machine and don't have to enter your PIN. When we were in the States last, there were still shops that didn't accept the chip.

From what I've heard, the school system is a bit different here. I still don't fully understand it and I probably won't unless we have kids using it so my apologies for the lack of information. The school year is different, with school starting the first week of September, breaking for Christmas at the end of the first term. (They don't have Thanksgiving so no Thanksgiving break.) Then they go back to school until Easter, when the second term ends, and get another break. The final term starts when they return and then they go until mid-July. So two two-week breaks and a six-week summer. There are more differences, like what they call the grades (Year One, Year Two, etc.), requirements for how long they have to go, plus continuing with either school or formal training, how they apply to colleges (including only being able to apply to either Oxford or Cambridge, if interested in either), and more. Maybe part of why Hogwarts seemed so magical was because it was such a different system from the US school system, but it's quite obviously inspired by the UK schooling system, including O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s.

The best part about living in the UK has got to be the number of holiday days you get per year. My company offers 25 days to all full time employees, plus eight bank holidays (including Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Years Day), and the option to buy up to ten more days off. It still boggles my mind. Especially because by January, Luke and I had essentially planned our whole year and used up all our holidays, including the five extra we both have. (With two long trips back to CO this year and our honeymoon, it was quite easy.)

Cotswolds Lavender

TravelHannah DrakeComment

Back in June when my younger sister was here, we packed a lot into our time, like visiting Oxford, Bibury, and Stow-on-the-Wold. But perhaps my favourite thing we did was visiting Cotswolds Lavender. It's only a 15 minute drive from Stow-on-the-Wold, and in the right direction of Birmingham, so it made for the perfect final stop on our mini tour of the Cotswolds.

Visiting a lavender farm was a dream come true. The purple flower buds were as far as the eye could see in one direction and the rest was surrounded by beautiful countryside. But the smell. Oh, the smell was heavenly. It was the sweetest smell I've ever smelled.

The fields are made up of three types of lavender: 

English Lavender: Probably the best known of the lavender family, produce generally compact, neat plants with a profusion of flowers. The best known varieties are Hidcote and Munstead. Almost all of us have some this family somewhere in our gardens. They produce the highest quality essential oils used for toiletries and perfumery.

Cottage Garden Lavender: These grow larger than Angustifolia types and are often used at the back of a border to give height and movement. Typical varieties are Grosso and Abrialii. The most widely grown group of lavenders in the world due to their high oil bearing properties used for bulk fragrance applications such as soaps and room fragrances. Their oil contains a more camphorous note. Technically this group are a hybrid of L. angustifolia and L. latfolia.

French Lavender: Completely different in nature to both L.angustifolia and L.intermedia. Has large, fat heads on top of slender stems. Colourful bracts (often compared to rabbit’s ears) protrude from the top of the flower head. This group will keep flowering if ‘dead-headed’ through the flowering period. They do not produce commercial amounts of essential oils and are regarded as an ornamental variety. Some varieties can be frost sensitive.

The farm is open to the public from early June to early August, but the best time to visit is the end of June or early July. It's a £4 admission for adults, £2 for children 5-15, but you can get a season pass for £7.

You kind of have to get creative for photos to avoid the people everywhere. This particular field is on the side of a hill, so it's really easy from the bottom to get a lot of bystanders taking their own photos. While we were there, we also saw a couple doing a maternity shoot and I can only imagine how gorgeous those photos will be with such a picturesque background. Photographers are able to use the fields for shoots and workshops, but have to pay more for access. Unfortunately drones aren't allowed at any times.

Cotswolds Lavender is known for their products, like chocolate, lotion, and essential oils. You can go into the area where they distill the essential oils and read about the process and all of the products are available for purchase across the road at the shop. We even saw a lot of their products in Bibury.

The only mistake we made was not going across the road to visit the barn, which has the shop and tea room. They have a lot of lavender treats, including lavender ice cream, which I would have loved to have tried. 

If our July hadn't turned out to be so busy, I definitely would have loved to get a season pass with Luke so we could go back, but perhaps that's an activity for next year. Even if we don't, I highly recommend it.