All the things: birthdays & leaving London

I can hardly believe it but several things are taking place in the next 35! days that are pretty momentous in my life.

Item 1. My youngest turns 11. I could look at it like she’s growing up, wah!, or she’s pretty much in teenager mode, and it’s only 7 more years till I can make her move out. It really depends on the day and the attitude.

DSC_0094

On top of the Cliffs of Mohr, Ireland

Item 2. I’m turning 40 in ten days. I’ve generally been fine with this, age is just a number, yada yada, and I’ve got far more important things going on right now to worry about it (see next item). That is until a friend who is giving a birthday dinner for me wrote in the email Andrea’s 40th Birthday Celebration, then I started freaking out a bit.

40 candles birthday cake 5265

But in almost 40 years I have lived in 3 countries and 6 US states, visited 18 countries (so far), and I have seen so many wonderful things I couldn’t even begin to describe them all. That’s not too bad considering most of the people I went to high school with still live in the town where I grew up. I caught the adventure bug early on and I think I’ve made the most of it.

Item 3. We are moving back to the US in 35 days and saying cheerio to London. I can’t even describe how happy I am about that. It isn’t that London has been the worst place I’ve ever lived (middle of nowhere central Kentucky has that honor), but would I choose to do it again? No, probably not. It is not lost on me that my dearest wish as a naive 18 year old was to live in a thriving city (the goal was NYC). I can now say that I have lived in a city, and the experience did not really agree with me. London is loud, dirty, crowded,  my neighbors are obnoxious, and I am very much looking forward to closing the door on this experience.

IMG_2796

Taken June 27, 2015, our first weekend in London

IMG_2154

from the bus

I will miss the art museums, Kew Gardens (which you’ll note isn’t technically IN the city), and even the tube. It is sometimes nice to get to a destination while watching a movie on your phone, or reading a book, instead of driving.

But mostly I miss the quiet solitude of our US home, with it’s deer walking down the street, and nothing but mountains and evergreen trees out the window.

DSC_0008DSC_0045

DSC_0018IMG_0010

Item 4. We are traveling to two different countries in the next two weeks (Scotland and Norway). I am quite excited about both. In Glasgow we will be visiting our tiny little 2 square feet of land that legal allows us to use the titles Lord and Lady. And no, I’m not joking. It’s part of this scheme (and there are other programs like it) used as a way to raise money to restore the castle on the grounds. I bought us the titles for our anniversary this year. They came with full fancy certificates with wax seals and everything. I’ve already started changing all my official documents to

LADY ANDREA OF CHAOL GHLEANN

It does have a nice ring to it (even if I have no idea how to pronounce it). The Husband has asked the children to call him Lord Father. So far, they aren’t complying. The cool part is that we are allowed to use them on legal documents. Something about that makes me happy.

It’s the little things.

The next 35 days will be so very, very busy. Saying goodbye to favorite places like Kew, the Italian restaurant in Notting Hill, and the Royal Academy. Making sure everything in the house has a designation for shipping: SEA, AIR, or SUITCASE. Selling off electronics, and storage closets; donating clothes, and books to the local charity shop. Making sure every single piece of paper you need for moving four people and a dog across two countries is filled out and stamped and sorted in triplicate.

35 days to go.

 

Inspiration: Street Art

This week I went on a tour of street art in Shoreditch (London). I’ve always found street art sort of interesting as a medium. It definitely takes talent to create street art. The first thing our tour guide did was to define what is street art and what is graffiti.

Street Art: Street art is visual art created in public locations, artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues.

Grafitti: Written letters, generally illegal.

There is a lot to see, and I took quite a few pictures (55 actually.) I don’t remember most of the artists names but some of the pieces were really amazing. A gallery called Stolen Space frequently exhibits street artists work as well.

fullsizeoutput_3fe

Artist: Zabou

fullsizeoutput_406

Artist: Dale Grimshaw

I particularly liked the French street artist C215.

DSC_0140DSC_0145DSC_0156

There were some very big pieces (I believe these were all commissioned, or if not, at least allowed to remain by the neighborhood community), but I don’t remember some of the artists names:

DSC_0134fullsizeoutput_407DSC_0153

DSC_0157

Artist: SHOK-1

DSC_0162

Artist: Phlegm

DSC_0163

Artist: Phlegm

DSC_0164

fullsizeoutput_40a

Artist: SHOK-1

I found this website that provides biographies and links to some street artists, Street Art Bio. There were other examples, some called paste-ups (essentially posters), and other forms of art like mini sculptures.

fullsizeoutput_3fbfullsizeoutput_3fcDSC_0118fullsizeoutput_401DSC_0131DSC_0138DSC_0139fullsizeoutput_403DSC_0165DSC_0172DSC_0176

Some of the funniest ones were street signs (Do Not Enter signs) that an artist reinterpreted (and subsequently got arrested for).  can’t remember the name of the artist but I will be forever looking more closely at street signs now!

DSC_0142DSC_0143fullsizeoutput_408

I highly recommend a street art tour because you learn so much about the different artists and some of the motivations behind their work. Even if you don’t take a tour, look around at what you do see. The work can truly be art.

Post-apocalypse; or surviving jet-lag, & vacation review

Jet-lag. Oh, you fun little treat. If jet-lag were the ‘it’ item of the month, then I would be in luck. Because jet-lag is certainly living large and in-charge in my life this week. We are post 6 days since we returned from the US, and I’m still hitting snooze to the point where I’ve started taking my alarm into bed with me so I don’t have to get up to hit reset.

Nicht gut, meine freund.

Tomorrow the kids go back to school, which means I have the school run, which means the alarm will be going off at 6:15. I’m having trouble going to bed before 11, falling asleep before midnight, and rarely sleeping all night long {last nights highlights include obnoxious drunks walking down the street at 3 am, the dog throwing up at 4 am, and then she decided at 7 am that she’d like to get up and go outside. Note: dogs do not care that you would like a nice sleep-in.}

61 days.

61 days left on the Great London Adventure and I am most looking forward to the fact that we will be spending 9 of those days in other countries {Ireland, Scotland, Norway} I am, as they say, done. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is definitely at home in Seattle. It seems strange that I am so looking forward to going back to one of the rainiest places, but when you have views like these just driving down the freeway, how could you not want to be there??

IMG_9829

FullSizeRender 6IMG_9845

Seeing that -those glorious mountains- never, ever gets old. Even in awful phone snaps.

I had planned to blog about the Spring 10×10 but I ended up not taking my computer with me on holiday, and that’s good; as I would have had zero time to actually write anything. We pretty much spent vacation {especially our brief trip to Seattle} going from 6 am to 9 pm without much of a break. The days were full, and productive {the kitchen is fully planned and picked, our contractor has already picked up our granite slab we chose at the warehouse. that’s a post for another day.} I did take some admittedly terrible selfie outfit shots which you can find on my Instagram. At some point I might get around to writing more about it.

The trip to the US was really good, and we managed to go a great hike with my sister in law aka The Hiking Guru. The day truly was spectacular {even if it was 4.2 miles!}

IMG_9982

IMG_9957IMG_9958IMG_9967IMG_9978

IMG_0014

You could even see the skyline of New York City in the distance at one of the lookout points.

IMG_9961.JPG

I can see many hikes ahead in our future back in Seattle {which is kind of the mecca of hiking/outdoor activities}, because we all really enjoyed it. We also enjoyed a walk around Princeton and the campus, which I had never been to before (the campus, I’ve been to the town a few times). The weather turned so nice we stood outside eating ice cream in the shade and didn’t even get cold. {I love NJ in the spring!}

Vacation is always welcome, even if I am glad this was our last back and forth to the US {because all I want right now is a nap}. Even though we were crazy busy most of the days, I definitely know that I felt relaxed in a way that I never am in London. Maybe it’s just being home, in my own country, or in my city, but I think it might be awhile before I get the expat itch again.

It might be a good long while indeed.

 

*journal style blogs are out it seems, but I’m in the thought of who gives a peach?

Vacation Challenge: Spring 10×10

When Lee at StyleBee announced that she will be hosting another 10×10 fashion challenge with Caroline at Un-Fancy, I did a cheer. Especially since they will be starting on Monday April 10th. I’ll be starting on Saturday the 8th because that’s the day we leave for a ten day holiday in the US. Now, because I do not seem to like anything simple {ever}, this could have been a particularly hard 10×10 to plan for. We are flying to the east coast (NJ), then the Husband and I fly off to the west coast {Seattle} for a few days {to take care of house reno/car buying stuff for July}, flying back to NJ for the Easter holiday and visiting, then the kids and I fly back to London {while the Husband flies back to Seattle to work for a few weeks}.

That’s a lot of flying, and a whole lot of temperatures/holidays/outift-needing-to-pull-double-duty going on.

I thought this would be really difficult to plan out, like last time when I did the winter 10×10. But in only 20 minutes {maybe less}, I had planned out each piece {plus a spare outfit because holidays + me: I tend to need an extra outfit, and I almost always somehow forget to pack socks}.

fullsizeoutput_3f2

AllSaints/Braintree (ethically made)/Mint Velvet/GAP/Hackwith House (ethically made)/Madewell/Mint Velvet/Levi’s

The best part is that I love everything I picked out. Maybe I am starting to figure out my style?? I don’t know, but I did stick to a color palette that is neutral – black, grey, white, and one red top. I was able to see each piece layering and combining and coordinating. The one thing I tried not to do {which I think is where I always go wrong} is plan out each daily outfit in advance. Yes, I semi-thought about how each piece would combine but I didn’t solidly write any combination down and plan it out. Because I picked such a basic/neutral palette I think it’ll all work without needing to be planned out.

That’s a refreshing change from my usual structured, I must know exactly what I’m wearing attitude. I am a planner. I’m about to turn 40 so I don’t see that changing in my lifetime. Not knowing what’s happening this week, and next week, and two months from now really freaks me out {just ask the Husband}. This will be what I pack unless the weather throws me a curveball in the next few days before I put it all in my suitcase.

Challenge Goals

For this challenge, I want to see how I feel wearing a more muted, neutral color palette. I am really happy with what I’ve put together by seeing it, now to see if I feel as good wearing it. This challenge will help me to see if I am moving in the right direction with my closet overall by choosing a more streamlined look. Clean lines and geometric shapes make me very happy in other areas of my life, so hopefully that also holds true for my closet.

10×10 Selection Criteria

When I selected my items, I knew I had to be able to get the most possible wear out of them. I will be on holiday, so if I didn’t bring it with me…I won’t be swapping anything out. It will force me to come up with solving any problems that might arise. The time difference {ranging from 5 hours to 8 hours}, general jet lag, busyness of the trip, and general keeping my eye on temperature fluctuations are going to be demanding. The items for the trip had to follow these ideas:

  • Must be comfortable. I will be on a plane four times, the shortest trip will be 5 hours long.
  • I also needed to be able to layer. Temperatures between NJ and Seattle in spring can widely vary, and one should always plan for rain when going anywhere near Seattle. {waterproof coat, check}
  • Comfortable shoes. I wish I could just make one pair work, but the issues with my foot simply make packing a pair of trainers a necessity. I’m going to limit myself to two pairs of shoes.
  • The items needed to cover a variety of situations. From Easter dinner to walking around a slab yard picking out countertops. While I am favoring multiple white items this time around, I’ll keep those for the less dirty days on the agenda.

End goal

I am hoping to get closer to realize what my style is. I’ve been reading The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees {which is brilliant}. There has been a lot of note taking, and nodding along, and one {semi-successful} dressing room trip. I really want to be so happy with my closet that I can stop online impulse buying, which is definitely an issue for me. I *think* once we return to the US and I know where to shop and can just get in my car and go, this will taper off {as I didn’t have such an issue before we moved to London. I will also have the dedicated space to once again pursue the things that used to take up my time, like painting and refinishing furniture.}

The biggest challenge is that we are sort of between seasons. Some days it is cold enough to wear a sweater in the morning, and again at night, but not quite warm enough to pull out anything on the light side. I’m worried we will roll over into summer and I will have my closet crisis all over again. There are a lot of things I like about my summer wardrobe {which is mostly packed away} but I do know it has a lot of color. I need to stop thinking about trying to change everything all at once, changing it, and then not being happy with that either.

Is anyone else going to be a part of the 10×10 Spring Challenge? It was such fun in winter and this little community sprang up on Instagram. I came across some really great people I otherwise wouldn’t have know simply by using and searching the designated hashtags. {See Lee’s post for more information, and all the details of the challenge!}

See you there!

Buried alive in my kitchen {5,000 miles away}

How many of us bemoan the lack of posting? I have been particularly bad at getting anything up these days other than inspiration posts. The calendar is very full my friends, and next month is even busier. And so is May. And June is moving month so we can forget anything remotely lengthy happening.

I thought I would share a bit about what has my mind so busy that I’m even dreaming about it now {literally dreaming about it. I wake up freaked out that my kitchen is purple with yellow flowers.}

kitchen3.jpg

As I’ve mentioned, we are preparing to renovate our kitchen in Seattle {it really needs to lose the 2006 look}. It is crunch time. Work begins around July 5th. Selection needs to be Final Answer in about two weeks, so countertop slabs can be reserved, long-lead item orders placed and a construction crew booked in. We’ll be spending a day and half in Seattle with our contractor picking finishes {the other half day we’ll be ordering/buying cars. A very fun but no less anxiety producing task for me}

That’s a whole lot of pressure to get it right {yo. I want to add yo to everything these days – and frequently do in my head. I started watching Breaking Bad for the first time (thanks Netflix!) and I can’t seem to help it. yo} This renovation thing is only happening once. Period. Full stop.

Because it’s expensive. And it’s hard to make your spouse agree with your vision when he actually has the NERVE to have an opinion.

We negotiated. I wanted to add hardwood to the family room, he didn’t {he won}. I wanted to remove the cabinets on the right side of the window and do a floating shelf {I won}. In the big picture, we have a similar vision, we just differed on some things, and I’m sure we’ll have to employ more negotiating as we move forward. It does feel exciting to be at the stage we are at.

Over the last couple of weeks we hired a designer here in London to help us visualize our goals. I could have done this myself but it helps to have a professional provide her thoughts. We now have a solid image of what we want {even though it turned out a bit opposite of what we originally thought we wanted}.

This is what we’ve chosen thus far:

  • Whirlpool hood (to replace the silver country monstrosity)
  • Elkay sink (wide enough for baking dishes)
  • Paint: Farrow & Ball Down Pipe for the island, Cornforth White for the walls, and Strong White for the cabinets
  • Caesarstone Raven (for the outer lying countertops around the kitchen)
  • More contemporary squared handles for cabinets & drawers
  • Ann Sacks Lucian Field tiles for the backsplash (currently the color is ‘oxygen’)
  • Pental Quartz White Fusion (for island countertop)
  • Natural tone wood floors (refinishing existing and adding hardwood to dining room)

We haven’t sorted out paint colors for the stairwell (which is a very unpleasant brown), the downstairs guest bathroom (even darker brown, and that includes the ceiling as well…). With the openness of our foyer/stairwell/dining room/hallway, it’s hard to know where to stop the color without shelling out to repaint the entire house (in truth it needs it, it needed it when we bought it 3 years ago – the previous owners picked the green and brown scheme – but have you seen what it costs to repaint a room these days? That is not cheap. I can do most of it myself but the two-story on the stairs with a ladder is not my cup of tea.) We also need to finalize the exact design of the island (which will be made smaller in width but longer to move the seating to the end, adding big drawers instead of cabinets and building in a wine fridge and wine storage area.)

Things like a light fixture for the dining room, redoing the weird mirrored area, and deciding one hundred percent on the smaller items (like floor color, I’m still on the fence about a light stain). These keep me up at night.

My head is spinning with all the decisions. It is a lot more than I thought. We’ve built two houses through builders, and you basically pick package A or B or C and it comes with everything all coordinated and decided. It’s much harder when you are in charge of all those choices.

But it’s also a lot more fun.

What’s been occupying your mind lately? Are you tackling any renovation projects?

 

 

A random collection of inspiration

I couldn’t come up with one theme for an inspiration post (as I have in the past like fashion or forests). There are so many different ways to find inspiration for so many different things.

This sink is off the charts crazy, unpractical, and probably a nightmare to clean. But just look at it. It’s a piece of sculpture. People would flock to the bathroom just to look at it. Imagine how the water flows down each little step in the design?

I love Scandinavian design. And a mid-century modern one? I’ll take it. The colors, the style, the comfort and hygge factor are very high in this little corner. The wallpaper makes a huge impact without making too much of a statement.

I doubt there’s much that’s comfortable about these chairs but I’m sure comfort wasn’t the point of making them. Take the sink from the first picture, and add these chairs to the same house, I’d never, ever leave. Inspiring.

This Great Dane is the gentle giant of the dog world. If he wasn’t bigger than I am, I would be snuggled up against him with my Doxie in my lap watching Netflix. As much as I’d (sorta kinda mostly) love another dog, I can’t see this guy fitting into my life. So adoring him from afar will have to do.

That’s sound advice. I definitely can’t be a ballerina if I continue to let cake be my guiding force of life.

Damn it. Let me eat cake!

(It is a lovely thought in all seriousness, and very true.)

If we want to talk dream home…this would be a top contender for me. Despite the fact that I hate being cold, and have lived in enough snowy places to last a lifetime, this house is just amazing. Again, there’s a sculptural theme running through it, and I bet the bands of light that fall across the rooms are pretty spectacular. It’s likely unpractical, but until I live in it, who can say for sure?

I like this display, the common thread of colors and type of pictures. It’s pleasing to look at, and a good use of a ‘dead space’ in the home. I’d love to do something similar in my staircase. Unfortunately, our staircase is a giant curved wall, so repainting it from repressive brown to something lighter and brighter will just have to suffice.

55142_15

Is anything inspiring you this Tuesday? Where do you go to find inspiration? To see what else I find inspiring, visit me here.

Inspiration: Effortless Dressing

When people write about fashion, often times they say a person should have a style icon (i.e. celebrity) with a style they admire. (or flat out wish to rip off if they had the means). I pin a lot of looks, and a lot of them are not exactly fit to my lifestyle (vacuuming in this gown maybe??)

d1f483199cebc03923f6c780288978ef

Maybe she does, who knows? The more down to earth (and reasonable) side of me knows that I should stick with simple clothes, interchangeable, and items that can work in multiple ways.

source: Pinterest 

These women – Victoria Beckham, Clemence Poesy, Jennifer Aniston – all have simple, clean styles, and for the most part, practical styles that could work for me as well.

I am also a huge fan of Sophia Coppola. She’s beautiful without trying to be. Her style is also very French chic, and seems like it is effortless (I have a Effortless- Sophie Coppola Pinterest board that I continually drool over).

5c9cde91b8e669285a87e1f1552d0deb

bbeebee5848fa5edeeada98d343860f6

ca6ef1924411f826565938598715c171

There’s nothing particularly complicated about her look, she knows what looks good on her, and the fit is especially key to her look. The pieces are high quality (and I do think that does make a difference.)

Recently, I looked through my own closet (as I’m off to discover Blitz vintage to uncover some treasures.) I saw a lot of things…but not a lot that can do multiple duty. I have lots of color – pinks, blues, reds – and way too many stripes (my weakness). It’s time to change things up, or at least add some more neutral items.

dsc_0002

pardon the chaos, but that is literally what I have to work with for a closet. I have one small space upstairs about half the size with a top hang bar and a lower hang bar, neither of which allow a shirt to hang without touching the bottom, I am used to hanging everything in my huge suburban American walk-in closet, so this has been challenging to say the least

Upstairs in the ‘dressing room/useless space/office’, I have several bags of items waiting to go to the consignment store back home (where I’ve had good luck getting at least some money for items I no longer wear.) I do believe if I bring something in, something needs to go out unless the new item fills a specific need. At least in theory. In practice, I’m still working on it.

Yesterday after watching this video on HuffPostStyle, I made my list for Blitz (and I fought the urge to jump on the tube right then and there, which is progress.)

NO STRIPES

  • denim skirt
  • cropped sweater in rust/spice
  • swingy sweater in rust/spice/earth tone
  • long line cardigan in grey/black/neutral
  • loafers/brogue shoes
  • brown tote/crossbodybag

The loafers have been an item I’ve been looking for since forever. I love these ones from Everlane, but I have most definitely learned my lesson after the import duties/customs charges incident a few weeks ago. More than learned that lesson, thanks. Once summer comes along and we are back in Seattle, then maybe my Everlane loafers will be in the cards.

I do have a denim skirt I thrifted from thredUP, but while I love the quality, and the responsible values of AG, it simply does not fit me right. It’s big in the waist and I am not comfortable with the height of the back slit. I should have returned it (one of the greatest things about thredUP), but I didn’t. It sits, being unworn. A denim skirt is a valuable item in a closet because it can dressed up, maybe with this top:

0be935cb115ef0bff9a1dc55bb190a28

Or kept casual with a sweatshirt and scarf, or cropped sweater and under layer like this:

2b4d623ec1a47b08a4b43a9f5c40f9ef

Boots, trainers, sandals, even heels and clogs; the denim skirt is every bit as versatile as the the perfect pair of jeans. The other items on my list like the long cardigan and perfect brown tote (which does not exist!) are also items I’ve been searching for. The big difference between past searches and now, is I’ve actually written it down on my phone and I am determined to ONLY purchase something if it’s on my list. (something every capsule closet blog tells you to do, make a list and stick to it).

If I manage to find anything on my list that fits within that effortless style I am looking for, I will be very happy. If I don’t find anything, that’s okay too because the hunt is half the fun right?

Do you have a style icon, or a style you are looking to emulate?

I just wanted to add, as there have been some blogs/articles on affiliate links of late. None of my links are affiliated in anyway {you may find links in posts from 3+ years that were ads/reviews I was compensated for – usually with a product. each of those posts are very clearly marked as such}. If I link a product or website, I simply like the product or want to point you to what I’m mentioning. If I ever do have an affiliate link, I will mention it very clearly. Because if I made money from blogging that’d be cool!