Why You Should Visit the Garden of the Gods

TravelHannah DrakeComment

While we were in Colorado last month, we hopped in the car after church to go to Colorado Springs and spend time with my dear friend Tia and her boyfriend Jason. We first stopped for lunch at Trinity Brewing, which turned into longer lunch that expected, but Luke, Tia, and Jason enjoyed a few beers while I sipped on cider. 

We headed into the park later than we probably meant to, but the clouds were rolling in which made it so much cooler than it had been, probably scared off a few people (making it easier for us to find a parking spot), and clearly created beautiful lighting. We didn't have much of a plan, other than to wander around and the rest of the group was patient with me while I snapped like 200 photos. (Don't worry, they're not all in this post.)

So what is Garden of the Gods, you want to know? When I was younger, I had heard about it, but I don't ever remember going. That probably explains why I basically pictured it as being a second Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I thought it would be closer to a forest than a desert and I figured if the gods had anything to say about their garden, it would definitely be lush and green and there would be vines dripping from above. Right? Wrong.

Instead, this is Garden of the Gods. And boy am I glad because, as you know if you read my US Bucket List post, I've been wanting to go somewhere with otherworldly rock formations. Somewhere dry and dusty.

So Garden of the Gods is a free park and a National Landmark as of 1971. It was first called Red Rock Corral by the Europeans until two surveyors came across the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". The other, Rufus Cable, seemingly awestruck by the landscape, replied, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."

The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. Many native peoples have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute.

In 1879, Charles Elliott Perkins and William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. After Perkins' death, his family donated the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, under the condition that it would remain free and open to the public. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch, which was also donated to the city after his death.

Colorado Springs is definitely worth visiting and Garden of the Gods is just one of its wonderful attractions. Although it's free, there is limited parking and operational hours. You can check online to see when they'll be open, as their hours change throughout the year.

It's a really great place if you're looking for an easy hike (perhaps even called a walk), or with a large group, children, elders, or people with disabilities. While you can "off road" a bit, much of the park is paved with wide walkways with fencing.

There are 15 miles of trails to explore in the park, some of which can be found online, though you can pick up a map with all the trails shown at the visitors' centre.

You may also spot some wildlife, but sometimes it's hard with the crowds. While we were leaving the park with Tia and Jason, I saw a deer butt off the side of the road while it ate some grass, but no one else saw it before we hit the curve. 

You are able to bring dogs on a lead, though there is one designated area where they can be off the lead.

You can even rock climb or mountain bike, but I recommend checking the site for regulations first.


Our Ceremony

MarriageHannah Drake3 Comments

Our ceremony was short, just the way we wanted it. (It wasn't without awkward moments, though!) But like I've mentioned before, since we weren't getting married in a church and since our friend Tia, who did a beautiful job on the ceremony, hadn't married anyone before, we literally started from square one.

Writing the ceremony was probably the last "big" thing on our wedding to do list, and arguably the most important! As the calendar moved closer to our wedding day, figuring out what would be said and how it would go definitely became a stressor for me. In the end, we worked with Tia to kind of piece together the ceremony. I started by finding an outline that seemingly included nearly anything you could do during your wedding. I put it all in a Google Doc that Luke, Tia, and I had access to and could edit, and we started narrowing things down from there. We cut out things we weren't going to do and rearranged things to make it the order we wanted. After that, it was a matter of finding the right words for everything.

Before the processional started, Tia made a statement about it being an unplugged ceremony. I knew right away that I wanted just the ceremony to be completely camera and phone free. I didn't want people obstructing others' views--especially our photographer's--trying to snap a photo. I didn't want photos of the ceremony to have phones being held up over people's heads or people standing at their seats. I found the perfect statement online that only needed a few tweaks:

I invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology.

Of course there are so many ways to do everything, but Luke knew for sure that he wanted to have all four of his groomsmen standing up with him at the beginning, so all the bridesmaids would walk down the aisle alone.

After my dad walked me down the aisle, I did something that still haunts me late at night. See, our venue doesn't do rehearsals. The closest we got was the bridal party going over where to stand while Luke and I did our first look. So because of that, we didn't practice the whole giving away thing. When we got to the end of the aisle, I started panicking and muttering (apparently not very quietly) "give me away, give me away". I think Luke and my dad shook hands, but then I hugged Luke. I didn't hug my dad! Seriously, it's one of those embarrassing moments that just randomly pops into my head every once in a while. Ugh.

A few weeks before the wedding, I asked people on Instagram what they did at their wedding or have seen at other weddings that was worth repeating. What I got back more than anything was having a moment of stillness. Everyone says the whole day goes by so quickly, you never get enough time with everyone, and it can seem like one big blur. It was really important to us to take a moment to pause and to look at everyone's faces who was there to support us. (This is the #1 thing I would recommend all couples incorporate into their ceremony.)

To honor this wonderful expression of Hannah and Luke’s love and commitment for one another, I would like us all to enjoy a moment to take in our surroundings and the people who have come to celebrate with us.  Hannah and Luke, I invite you two to take a breath, and look around you. See who has traveled to witness this ceremony. This day is made possible in part through the grace and support of your family and friends, who all hope that you find continued fulfillment and joy in each other.  Soak in their love and excitement for you both. I invite the whole room to please be still with me for a moment.

Tia's address was absolutely perfect. She asked us to give a sort of thesis statement to capture what we wanted our wedding to be about. We told her that we didn't want to emphasis the wedding as being the end goal, but instead celebrates everything that has come before and marks our commitment to each other in the future. 

We've talked about it since and she said she was just thinking "Don't lock your knees" the whole time and I was thinking "Don't cry or Tia will cry" the whole time. 

We had asked our friends Adam and Esther to do a reading during the ceremony, but had no idea what we wanted them to read. We were kind of hoping they would have some good ideas from something they had read or something they had heard at one of the weddings they have been to. Instead, they did us one better! Esther wrote a beautiful poem that Adam read during the ceremony. It means so much to us that they were a part of our ceremony, as they've become such good friends to us over the last year. And it's so special that it was something Esther wrote rather than a recycled passage about love that you hear all the time at weddings.

If only love remains, there I am happy.
If the tides have pulled apart the string of my life,
Untangling and removing those things that give me meaning,
But you and your love still remain, there I am happy.

If only love endures, there I am content.
If the storms have blasted apart the earth upon which I have settled,
Destroying my foundations and dirt upon which I rest my head,
But i have your love enduring through this, there I am content.

It is love that roots in the summer but blooms in the winter.
It is love that hides in the light and shines in the dark.
It is love that speaks a shout of rebuke and a quiet word of adoration:

For what else would I be? Without your love, my darling, what else would I have?

After the reading, we did the Declaration of Intent. You know, the "I do" part. It was the only time the words Luke and I said to each other differed, as Tia asked us two slightly varied questions.

Luke, do you take Hannah to be your wife? Do you promise to love and protect her, forsaking all others and holding only unto her?

Hannah, do you take Luke to be your husband? Do you promise to love and respect him, forsaking all others and holding only unto him?

I wanted the words "protect" and "respect" to be different because of a teaching I had heard at my church a few years ago and the roles in a Biblical marriage. 

Luke and I wanted to write our own vows, but it was incredibly important to us that we said the exact same words. We've both been to weddings where the couple have said beautiful, wonderful things to each other, but haven't made any promises. Or where they're promising each other different things or silly things and missing out on the big vows. Everyone should do what they want since it's the foundation of their marriage, but for us, we wanted to make promises to build our marriage upon and we wanted them to be the same.

I, take you, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. I will share my joy with you, that it be multiplied. I will share your pain, that it be divided. I will walk by your side as we journey together through life's adventures. I promise to live together in the holy covenant of marriage. I promise to love you, cherish you, comfort you, and keep you. Forsaking all others, I will be yours alone as long as we both shall live.

We did a lot of research about traditional vows from various sects of Christianity, as well as secular vows. We took what we liked and worked it into something we loved. So many of the phrases are pulled from various types of ceremonies. I love what we ended up with.

We read our vows from the vow books I got from Elmo Paperstories. They were an investment, but they're so gorgeous with their velvet covers and silk ribbons and they had exactly our wedding colours. We had also written letters to each other in the books that we read during our first look, so we mostly filled up the pages.

I give you this ring,
As a symbol of my commitment to honour and respect you.
I give you my love, forever.

This might just be my favourite photo from the ceremony. While I was putting the ring on Luke's hand, he mouthed something to me, which made me miss the line Tia had just given me to repeat. I thought for a moment that I knew it well enough to wing it, after all I had written it and Luke had just said the same words, but then I decided I needed to get it exactly right. So I turned to her and said, "Wait, what?" Everyone started laughing immediately. Turns out, Luke was telling me to stop trying to force his ring on. It fit, but it wasn't exactly sliding on. He said while I was distracted laughing, he slipped it on so I would stop pulling his skin. Ha!

So even with a few hiccups, our ceremony was exactly what we wanted it. I love that we were in complete control with the words that were said at the beginning of our marriage. Words are powerful and it was important for us to get it right.

We are so grateful to everyone who was there, and those who were there in spirit, to witness our promise and commitment to each other. We are especially grateful to our friends and sisters who stood with us and to Tia who blessed our marriage.

I really appreciate this is the only photo I have of Rachel and Emily walking back down the aisle together.


Bridesmaids' Dresses: Weddington Way (US)
Cake: Amerton Cakes (UK)
Cuff Links: Tesoro Jewelry (US)
DJ: Benny Smyth (UK)
My Dress: Allure Bridals via The Bridal Connection (CO)
Engagement Ring: ROX (UK)
Florist: Penny Johnson Flowers (UK)
Hair + Make Up: Sam Larson Hair (CO)
Paper Flowers: Lia Griffith (US)
Photo Booth: Peter Horrox (UK)
Photographer: Brianne Haagenson Photography (CO)
Ring Box: Amonie (AUS)
Robes: David's Bridal (US + UK)
My Shoes: Hobes (AUS)
Stationary: Minted (US)
Luke's Suit: Next (UK)
Venue (Catering & Alcohol): Shustoke Barn (UK)
Vow Books: Elmo Paperstories (UK)
My Wedding Band: Ernest Jones (UK)
Luke's Wedding Band: LuxuriaJewelers (US)

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link. Some linked items are similar to what has been shown.

All photos in this post, including the header photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

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: