JOY42

The Best of Autumn 2018

LifeHannah DrakeComment

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is literally just around the corner. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Gone with it are the pumpkins and cider and crunchy leaves. Autumn is my favourite time of year, but there is just something so magical about Christmas, so I can’t say I’m mad about the change at all. Bring on the eggnog and twinkling lights and the smell of evergreen!

But first, let’s recap autumn, starting with how I did on my 2018 Autumn Bucket List:

VISIT AN APPLE ORCHARD

WE DID IT! I’ve been wanting to go apple picking for y e a r s and I finally made it to an orchard during apple picking season (which, by the way, is September). Luke and I drove down to Worcester one afternoon in September and picked pounds of apple and half a dozen pears. It was the perfect fall day—overcast and cooler, but not too cold to need a jacket—and we beat the downpour. It was such a lovely afternoon strolling through the rows of trees with no one else in sight. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

ENJOY SPICED APPLE CIDER

Of course with all those apples, a batch of apple cider was in order! I had already made one batch from store-bought apples, but with so many from the orchard, I made a bigger batch to share with friends too. I enjoyed drinking cider with ginger beer (and maybe with a splash of Captain Morgan or Jameson for an occasion) all autumn long. But the best part was when we made apple cider donuts one morning! In the end, we made three batches of apple cider in three months.

BUY A COSY NEW JUMPER

Ever since I did my Closet Edit earlier this year, I’ve tried my hardest to buy less and re-wear more. It’s my dream to have a capsule wardrobe one day and I’m still working toward that, but it’s definitely a process. I’ve been trying to stick to a colour scheme, introducing a few new complementary tones in the summer, and that’s really made a difference in my shopping. But still, I like to buy a new jumper every autumn and this year is no different. Old Navy used to be my go-to for jumpers and cardigans, but we don’t have that here in the UK (even though we have Gap). Since moving to the UK, I’ve preferred to shop mostly at H&M, and especially when it comes time for a new jumper. H&M, I’ve found, is better when it comes to textured jumpers and chunky knits. If you’re in the UK or New England (MA, CT, VT, NH, ME, RI) though, Fatface is also a favourite. This year, I was dead set on picking up a navy cable knit sweater, something I could transition between work and real life and I found the perfect one at H&M. I also picked up the softest, cosiest beige jumper you’ve ever seen! That jumper paired with my mustard scarf from Fatface last year (still available in rose), is easily the cosiest thing I can imagine.

SHARE MY FALL BAKING WITH NEIGHBOURS AND LOVED ONES

In September, I was rationing my tinned pumpkin, but I seriously can’t tell you how many dang apples we had! I whipped up a couple apple crisps and took one down to our friends while they were working. I also invited my friend Taylor over for pumpkin pancakes and to help make apple cider donuts and sent her home with about half the donuts.

In October, Luke and I had The Great British Drake Off and invited our friends Adam and Esther over to be the judges. It was treacle week (or molasses for us Americans), and Luke made a ginger cake while I made molasses cookies. We learned for next time to make the same type of treat since I won mostly because our judges prefer cookies over cakes. Later that month, I made a chocolate-flavoured pumpkin-shaped cake when some friends came ‘round for dinner. I took the leftovers into work and my coworkers went absolutely crazy for it! I also made an old tried and true recipe for Caramel Apple Cookies and took them over to our friends’ house one evening. I forgot just how amazing these cookies are!

CARVE PUMPKINS

We did it! The Sunday before Halloween, we spent the afternoon carving pumpkins with a Harry Potter theme. I posted both of our pumpkins on my Instagram Stories so my followers could vote for a winner. Luke’s pumpkin—the Patronus—won handidly! It was barely a competition, but to be honest, I can’t believe I got any votes compared to his because his is a true work of art!

HAVE A HALLOWEEN MOVIE MARATHON

Okay, to be clear, when I say “Halloween” movie, I mean the The 10 Best (Not Scary) Autumn Films, plus Coco, which is probably my favourite Pixar movie and I completely forgot that it’s also the perfect film for The Day of the Dead. Don’t get any ideas about Michael Myers over here! (I’m seriously so far out of the horror film loop that I first typed Michael Moore because I knew he shared a name with a famous person, but I couldn’t remember which Michael M.) I’m also a total sucker for Hallmark movies, whether they’re Fall Harvest or Countdown to Christmas. This year, I made it my goal to watch all of the Fall Harvest movies that have come out so far, including this year, which totalled 20! I watched them all, except for the Good Witch films. (Do you have to have seen the show to follow the movies?!)

Luke and I had a few at-home date nights where we’d just cozy up and watch a couple of movies rather than leave that house. Honestly, those are some of my favourite nights. I love transforming our living room floor into the ultimate movie lounge with just the spare room mattress and a pile of blankets and pillows.

On Halloween, I got locked out of our house for a while, so Luke beat me home and surprised me with our movie night set up. We watched Practical Magic and ate probably the best chili Luke has ever made. It wasn’t exactly a marathon that night though, since we wanted to watch the Bake Off finale.

BAKE A PIE

This year for Thanksgiving, I made the same pumpkin cheesecake I made last year, but instead of making a caramel apple pie, I tried a new recipe: a chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go as planned. The filling basically swallowed the crust since the recipe didn’t call for the crust to be pre-baked before adding the filling. It also took nearly twice as long to bake, but at least I had some leftover crust that I was able to cut into the little leaves to make it look a bit better. And like it had crust!

HOST THANKSGIVING AND TRY ONE NEW RECIPE

We hosted Thanksgiving for some friends on Saturday (since no one had Thursday off work). It was such a blast and absolutely worth the work that went into making dinner. Luke cooked a whole turkey this year (instead of just a breast like we did last year) and it turned out perfectly. We had two Thanksgiving inspired cocktails (a cranberry Moscow Mule and an apple cinnamon gin & tonic). And with the help of my friend Taylor, we cooked seven sides (plus cranberry jelly) and two desserts! I used the same recipes for all of the sides as I did last year, but added spinach and artichoke macaroni and cheese and roasted parsnips and carrots. So in total, I made three new-to-Thanksgiving recipes, but I had made the mac and cheese before. Either way you slice it, I crushed this one!


OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Of course one of the highlights of our year was our trip to Italy, but while we were there, we were living in breathable linen, sipping Aperol Spritz or limoncello, basking in the sunshine and swimming off the Amalfi Coast. It’s not exactly #fallvibes, is it?

We visited a pumpkin patch in October to pick up some pumpkins for our front porch and to carve ahead of Halloween. It was Luke’s first time at a pumpkin patch, but I also think last year was the first year he even bought a pumpkin! One of the things I miss about my hometown is the amazing farm just outside of the city that has a huge pumpkin patch and a sprawling corn maze. They have a separate corn maze, a petting zoo, games and activities for kids, a small farmer’s market, and a bunch of other stuff. I would love to find something like that here!

So of course with all of those pumpkins, we had to decorate the front porch. To be honest with you, they didn’t stay out because last year we had our pumpkins stolen the day before our Thanksgiving dinner. It was so annoying because we were going to throw them out after everyone came by!

I spent one afternoon in London wandering around the city with no real plan except to look at the beautiful seasonal displays on the little shops in my favourite neighbourhoods. Day trips to the Big Smoke are my favourite. London in general is my favourite! No other city in the world has the kerbside appeal that London does. No matter what time of year it is, you’re sure to find shops and bakeries with the most beautiful facades. I can’t wait to go back for all the Christmas displays!


BINGO UPDATE

When I announced my 2018 Autumn Bucket List in September, I also announced a game of bingo for all us basics out there. I periodically posted updates to my Instagram Stories and loved seeing other boards from people playing along too. I decided to just go based on what I did, rather than what the people I follow on Instagram did, and I got sooo close to blacking out my board, but in the end, it was my lack of excitement for Halloween and hatred of coffee that did me in.

Second Annual Drake Thanksgiving

LifeHannah DrakeComment

We hosted our second Friendsgiving over the weekend for some friends from church. It was so much work, but so much fun and definitely our best one yet. I started prep for it on Thursday by making the syrups for our two cocktails. I did the bulk of the cooking on Friday, which certainly had its setbacks. And my friend Taylor came over early on Saturday to help me finish off the side dishes while Luke managed the turkey and made more than one last minute grocery store runs. We also made a few upgrades from Thanksgiving 2017.

The first improvement, was extending our table. Last year just put our two tables together, but the table from our kitchen was slightly taller and slightly more narrow than our dining room table, so it didn’t look quite right. Over the summer, after we replaced the table with our bar, Luke turned the kitchen table into a table with hinged legs, making it perfect for picnics in the back garden. He was careful with the leg heights so we could add a board that was the same width as our dining room table to the top and it would all be the same height. Perfect! But still, our table is so narrow, so this year we got even more boards to put on top of the whole thing, making it about 6 inches wider, which made a world of difference. Especially since the plates we got for our wedding are bigger than the plates we got from IKEA when we first moved in together.

Our menu was also bigger than it was last year, starting with having two signature cocktails this year. Last year, I made my go-to autumn cocktail, which was great and perfect for Thanksgiving. This year, I decided to go with two different cocktails with Thanksgiving flavour: an apple cinnamon gin & tonic and a cranberry Moscow Mule. I set everything up on our bar and then forgot to take photos of the bar and the drinks! We even had this cool glass bottles for the simple syrups and got to use the pourers that came in our cocktail set for probably the second time. It was legit!

APPLE CINNAMON GIN FIZZ

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 apple (any kind), sliced

  • 2 oz apple cinnamon simple syrup

  • 1 1/2 oz gin

  • 3 oz tonic water

DIRECTIONS

  • Make cinnamon apple simple syrup:

    • In a medium saucepan, bring apples, cinnamon, sugar, and water to a simmer over medium. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Let cool, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard apples.

  • Coat rim with lemon juice, then cinnamon sugar mixture.

  • In a cocktail glass, combine all ingredients, and stir. Add ice, and serve.

  • Garnish with thinly sliced apple and cinnamon stick.

CRANBERRY MOSCOW MULES

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (8 ounces)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 oz cranberry simple syrup

  • 2 oz vodka

  • ginger beer

  • 6 frozen cranberries

  • 1 cinnamon stick

DIRECTIONS

  • Make cranberry simple syrup:

    • In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, and water to a simmer over medium. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until cranberries are tender but haven't burst, 10 minutes. Let cool, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard cranberries.

  • Combine all ingredients, and stir. Pour over ice, and serve, preferably in a copper mug.

  • Garnish with cranberries.

I also added mac & cheese to our menu this year. My family has never had mac & cheese as a Thanksgiving side, but I know it’s a staple for some families and after we discovered the world’s best mac & cheese earlier this fall, I couldn’t resist. While looking at our menu, I realised we were seriously lacking on the veggies department, so I decided to do roasted carrots and parsnips too.

One of my goals for this autumn was to try a new recipe for Thanksgiving, and I actually tried two! The carrots and parsnips are the first. And instead of making the caramel apple pie I made last year, this year I made a chocolate bourbon pecan pie. It was the first disaster on Friday when I checked on it in the oven and realised the filling had essentially swallowed the crust. The recipe didn’t call for the crust to be baked before adding it and it definitely should have. Plus it took about twice and long to cook than the recipe called for. Luckily I had left over pie crust so I cut out some leaves to add to the top, but I forgot to give them an egg wash so they didn’t look as done as they should have.

The other setbacks I experienced on Friday were spilling some tea into the beginning of my bread dough. I was tight on counter space and had my tea cup between the bowl and the hand mixer, so when I went to pick it up, I also managed to spin the hand mixer, which then ran into the tea cup and then spilled not anywhere on the counter, but all into the bowl! Luckily I had only added two cups of the flour and I had exactly enough milk to remake the dough. Later that night, I had some issues trying to add the pumpkin design onto the cheesecake. I just gave up in the end, but I lost a bit of the filling set aside for the design, so it was the opposite of the pecan pie: 90% crust, 10% filling. Ha!

The last improvement we had this year was cooking a whole turkey. Last year, I was absolutely terrified that we would end up with an under-cooked or even frozen turkey, so we opted for a large turkey breast that could be cooked from frozen. This year, Luke was determined to cook a whole turkey, so he took on the main dish from the beginning. He defrosted it, brined it, even added a beautiful bacon lattice on top! And let me tell you, it was beautiful and delicious! He really did a fantastic job.

Thanksgiving 2018 was fantastic! British people asked me a lot this week 1) What is Thanksgiving? and 2) Am I sad not to be home for Thanksgiving? Truth be told, I don’t mind missing Thanksgiving in the States. Of course I miss my family, but that’s true every day! I’m glad we’ve been able to create our own traditions and share our table with friends who have become our Birmingham family each year. Food is such a powerful thing when it comes to memories and comfort and being able to recreate my favourite dishes from my grandmother’s menu or my mother’s menu or my stepmother’s menu has been an amazing way to feel connected to my family and feel like I’m taking on that role in my own family. Also, I think the fact that Thanksgiving isn’t a set date makes it easier to be in another country that doesn’t celebrate it at all. Of course no one has the day off here, so we’ve done it on the weekend both years. I don’t mind it much because having Thanksgiving on the 24th of November is no big deal!

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and are still enjoying all those delicious left overs! We’re doing a late Late Thanksgiving this evening with some friends who weren’t able to make it over the weekend. We just forgot to save gravy because neither of us like gravy whatsoever! Whoops!

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales

LifeHannah DrakeComment

Black Friday is upon us, my friends! I’ve searched the internet to find some of the best sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday for you. Check them out below!

Don’t forget about Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday, when you have the opportunity to support local businesses and invest in your community!

Alo Black Friday Sale

Get up to 70% off sale items and 30% off full price items. A portion of the proceeds will go to supporting Alo’s goal of bringing yoga to 2 million schoolkids.

Enjoy free global shipping.

Anthropologie Black Friday Sale

Get 30% off everything!

Amazon Instant Pot Black Friday Sale

Get huge savings on an Instant Pot on Amazon.

BUY
Amazon Kitchen Aid Mixer Black Friday Deal

Get huge savings on an Kitchen Aid Mixer on Amazon.

BUY
ASOS Black Friday Sale

Get 20% off sitewide, with 25% off clothes and accessories through November 27th.

Audible Black Friday Deal

New customers get 50% off the first 4 months of Audible, paying just $3.99/month, instead of the regular $7.99/month.

BUY
The Body Shop Black Friday Sale

40% off storewide and 25% off gift sets. Exclusions apply.

Use the code 19805 when you check out.

Gap Black Friday Sale

Get 40% off full priced items and take an additional 25% off sale items through November 24th. No exclusions.

Use the code BFGAP when you check out.

J.Crew Black Friday Sale

Get 50% off your entire purchase with the code TGIF.

Levi's Black Friday Sale

Get 40% off sitewide and free shipping through November 26th.

Use the code INDIGO when you check out.

Macy's Black Friday Sale

Get 20% off your purchase from November 25th through November 28th, plus enjoy free shipping when you spend $25.

Use the code CYBER when you check out.

Madewell Black Friday Sale

Take 25% off your purchase.

Use the code DEALWITHIT when you check out.

Minted Black Friday Sale

Get 20% off all artwork and home decor at Minted.

Get 15% off all other orders, including wedding invitations and holiday cards.

Use the code BF2018 on November 23rd only.

Nordstrom Black Friday Sale

Get up to 60% off sitewide through November 26th.

Untitled design (2).png

One day only, get 50% off your entire purchase. Plus 1000’s of styles from $5.

Oliver Bonas Black Friday Sale

Take 25% off selected items from today through November 26th.

Shopbop Black Friday Sale

Get up to 25% off full-priced items and up to 75% off sale items. The more you buy, the more you save.

Use the code MORE18 when you check out.

Topshop Black Friday Sale

UK shoppers can enjoy 50% off the entire store.

US shoppers will find selected lines 50% off

Shop through November 26th, enjoy free worldwide delivery, and stack it with a 10% student discount!

Urban Outfitters Black Friday Sale

BOGO 50% off the entire site today only.

West Elm Black Friday Sale

20% off your everything, including sale items.

Use the code FRIYAY when you check out.

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link.