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.


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.


Taken June 27, 2015, our first weekend in London


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.



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


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.


Artist: Zabou


Artist: Dale Grimshaw

I particularly liked the French street artist C215.


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:



Artist: SHOK-1


Artist: Phlegm


Artist: Phlegm



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.


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!


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.

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??)


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).




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.


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.)


  • 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:


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


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! 

If the sun shines


If the sun shines in London, make sure you are enjoying it, like Mr. Peacock here. There’s one definite way to enjoy a sunny, warm, winter day in London; go to Kew Gardens. Kew Gardens is one of my favorite places (and I will miss it dearly when we move home). I have more than gotten my money back from my membership. And then some.

Originally I wanted to take pictures in front of the Chinese Pagoda. The walls are red and I thought my green peacoat would look great in front it. Unfortunately, (or fortunately since it needs it), the pagoda is under restoration which I knew was coming but they’ve already started. With the area blocked off by fences, I had to come up with another plan. Thankfully, Kew Gardens is huge, so there are plenty of other places to take pictures.


Along the far back side of the gardens is Queen Charlotte’s Cottage. While it isn’t open to the public during the week {I believe it is also closed in winter}, it does make a great backdrop for photos.


Taken on a previous visit

It is insanely peaceful in this part of the garden and not that many people wander that far, though I did have a few people wander past today. I think the day was just too nice to pass up a stroll through the woods.



Wellies were the footwear of choice today for wandering off the path and amongst the muddy grass. If you don’t leave the path, you’ll miss out on beautiful things.




It might only be February, and the begin of it at that, but it certainly feels like spring might be on the horizon. The rhododendrons were already in bloom.


If it should rain tomorrow, at least I can look back on today when the sun was shining and warm, and remember, tomorrow’s another day.

Maybe it’ll be sunny.


Things I don’t know

Last week, I did a post on Things I Know. Today it’s all the things I don’t know. It has the makings of a bit of bitch fest at the moment because I am utterly annoyed/irritated/having-an-Anger-from-Inside-Out-head-exploding-moment with my kids school intranet system (and really, the school in general).

Let’s get started, shall we?

  • I can’t log into the school grade book, aka PowerSchool. It says my account does not exist. It existed last year. I have 3 logins, for 3 separate school-related websites, none of which exist in one place, or work on a regular basis. I’ve had it with this school. Their ‘technology’ is crap, and repeated emails to someone in their tech department simply go unanswered. So this has been me for the last two weeks trying to find out if my kids are flunking out of school:io_anger_standard2


  • The teachers would email me if they were flunking out right? Right??
  • School field trips should only be initiated by teachers who know what they are doing. Especially when it involves a trip finishing at 6:30 on the night before the school play when half of said teenagers are IN the school play and need to be at the final rehearsal that starts at 4.
  • Especially when the said teenagers idea (and initially teacher approved idea) is to ‘just get an Uber’ from the film studio back to school. On what planet I would ever go along with that plan, I do not know. The teacher finally sorted out transportation after parent complaints.
  • And by the way, Monday afternoon, I’ll let you know that the kids need to have a proper government issued ID – aka passport, drivers license – to get into the field trip at the film studio {because they are shooting Star Wars there and all}. Nothing like notice! Especially when your teenagers passport is with the UK Home Office in the visa renewal process.
  • Good thing you kept a copy of the passport on your laptop. {time for another Anger moment}
  • The line at the post – which on a good day takes 20 minutes minimum – has now stretched to epic proportions because it’s ‘the holidays’. 40 minutes. For-ty minutes the other day. And I wasn’t even mailing anything Christmas related {yet}.
  • The construction/design company we met with this past summer for our kitchen remodel, has now said (when we asked to set up a measurement/estimate meeting) that they don’t do ‘the eastside’, where our house is located, which we told them this summer. That’s an Anger moment times a million because I had actually been planning to just get two estimates and go with this company because I liked them better. Now, back to square one (and do I really even want to bother at this point? I may have to regroup on the ‘kitchen remodel’ next week, because right now I’m not feeling particularly charitable, in case you hadn’t guessed. see ANGER)

I could go on and on, the things I don’t know this week seem to be pretty big. Instead, I think I’ll get on the tube and spend the morning starting at abstract art at the RA, and lose myself in the drips of Jackson Pollock and the paint swathes of Clyfford Still.

September? October? I have no idea

It always seems to happen just when you get into a rhythm. You get over the beginning of the school year chaos, you get back into an exercise routine, the weather starts to not be so hot. And then it happens.

The dreaded summer-fall cold.

Die, summer-fall cold, die.

I’m at the end of two weeks of misery, and I have a feeling this cold isn’t quite ready to release me yet. I spent the first week glued to a tissue box and my tv (bonus, I made it through re-watching the first 3 seasons of Game of Thrones, and finally finished the last season of Gilmore Girls. Poor Logan, right?) This week, I have actually had to do things, and while I’m no longer tied to the tissues, the bleary eyed sleep machine seems to have belted itself securely to my back. Along with the sore throat man.

I could go back to bed right now and be so deliriously happy.

There are few things worse than the summer-fall cold.

The dentist comes to mind, but that’s less fun than just about everything.

I have more lovely pictures from the day before I got sick, where I spent two hours walking around Kew Gardens before it opened to the general public (I love having a membership!), but I don’t know when I’ll actually get around to sorting through them. (this blog is quickly becoming one big unpaid ad for Kew Gardens, my apologies.)

The summer-fall cold is especially uncool when it coincides with visitors from the US (who arrive tomorrow), and all the fun things you had planned. Like going to see Wicked, the Kew Literary Festival (for which you have non-refundable tickets to see Jessie Burton), and the fact that your children have a Monday off that isn’t also a bank holiday where everyone else in the country also has the day off.

I think the most interesting things to happen in the last two weeks have been some weird animal poltergeist who has been invading my food and drink. I have seen a duck in my tomato soup, and Mickey Mouse ears in my morning cappuccino.


Spooky right? I keep waiting to see which animal will come up next. One good thing did come from the Mickey ears (the first sign). We decided to change next summers planned rv trip through Oregon into a Disney cruise to Alaska instead. And very ironically, as The Husband would really like to try and experience one of the other Disney ships, we will be taking our Disney cruise aboard the ship Wonder. For the third time.

If it’s not broke don’t fix it, right?

In that regard, there’s an awful lot of school related things going on, open houses, parent ‘home’ night (where someone from each area of the catchment hosts the parents who live in that area for an evening drinks and nibbles event), and bus stop mom’s night out. I’m also in very grave danger of joining the PTSA. I’ve managed 10 grades without joining (I ignore that brief stint with the BIS parent volunteers in Germany), help me now in not failing in my goals to never, ever join the PTSA. They do have a book club, a lunch club, and do fun things like walking tours of London.

I’m on the edge and possibly falling over into all it’s fundraising, socializing, insanity. Someone talk me down.

As we are nearing October, London has finally moved on to cooler temperatures, where you are constantly putting on layers and taking them off five times a day. We are three weeks from our trip to Spain, a few birthdays, Halloween, and then into the long month of November (no holidays here kids), and into the slippery slope of Christmas. That seems to be approaching awfully fast.

Hopefully my summer-fall cold with have left the premises by then.

I can only hope.

Weekend in Pictures: Greenwich and a Moody Kew

This weekend we were all slightly titchy for something to do. We even had the Boy wanting to go out and about, which is somewhat of a rare thing in a teenager. We figured it had better be good.


Awhile back over the summer, I took the kids to the Maritime Museum (to see a space exhibit, we had just watched Martian). The museum is in Greenwich by the Royal Naval College. Getting there from west London is not so much fun; two tubes, the DLR, etc. Since it takes about the same amount of time as a train, we decided to take the Thames River Ferry {or whatever it is actually called, I have no idea}. I’m glad we did because we’ve done boat cruises/tours in a few places – Bonn, Germany and several in Seattle. While this wasn’t a tour, just a ferry/commuter boat, it was still a nice way to see the city from a vantage point I don’t normally get to.


Even though I caught part of the pier ceiling in the picture above, I like that I caught the bird. It was a moody kind of weekend, all overcast.

So it was a typical London weekend!

But that was actually part of what I made it a fun weekend. The imminent threat of rain at any time is always interesting.


This is a part of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. It’s very pretty, and if it weren’t for the imminent rain we likely would have stuck around a bit longer. Unfortunately, the Greenwich Meridian Line {again, no idea the actual name}, is inside a museum and no one felt like paying the entrance fee just to stand with one foot on each side.


The family, secret spy picture, which is about all I can manage of the teenager these days. I did cause him concern this morning when I told him we were actually buying the school pictures the year (he tried to flatten his hair and everything since today is picture day). I do like that at their current school they require the high schoolers to dress in formal shirts, no logos, etc. So it’s the only time my Boy wears a button down shirt, other than on school field trip days when they go to see a play. Then they are also required to dress nice. I actually just bought him not one, but two button down shirts last week. He can wear the other one when we go see Wicked in a couple of weeks. He will be most excited by this no doubt {the dressing nice part. He surprisingly wanted to go see Wicked, mostly I think because he does the sound & lighting for the school plays and seeing a professional show would be interesting from that perspective. It could also be because his grandmother and aunt are also going, and well, anything for Grandma. Including button-up shirts and London stage shows.}





Sunday was the same sort of day, we did errands in the morning {Costco and Ikea, could we be any more fun?!} but in the afternoon we decided to go to Kew Gardens. The Hive instillation is being moved in the next week or two and the boys hadn’t seen it yet. While it was a moody kind of sky, it was also rather nice after the hot weather we’ve been having.


How wonderful is this tree? I love the knots. It would go very well in a Narnia movie.



Another successful weekend.

Post holiday blues & Month 13

Ah, holiday. How do I love thee, let me count the ways?


Post holiday blues are real. And so extremely hard to get over. Especially if you toss in jet lag. And your 3 doors down neighbors all-day long digging out a basement construction noise. {which is bugging me so much I might start taking the dogs prozac just so I can survive the year it’ll take for them to finish}

Month 13 of living in London is going swell, in case you couldn’t tell. I have tried to not be a negative nellie but if The Husband came to me tomorrow and said he was being transferred back to Seattle ASAP, I would start tossing clothes in a suitcase without even folding them. That’s how much I am ready to leave London. There comes a time where all the noise, dirt/trash, people just becomes too much. I have hit that point and then some.

I don’t even want to leave my house to walk the 1/2 mile to buy milk. I finally took the dog to get her nails trimmed (the only option since in case I haven’t mentioned it, my dog takes anxiety medicine because London has her so freaked out). It’s a 1/4 mile maybe? I literally walk up the street, cross the high street, and then it’s half way down the street on the other side. She gets so stressed out by the traffic and people, I get stressed out.

Recently, on the expats group I’m in on Facebook, someone asked about living in London because they have the opportunity to move here. Everyone chimed in ‘it’s so awesome!’ ‘we travel every weekend!’. At one time that might have been me, and if we were still living in Germany, I’d probably be encouraging them to go for it (language challenge though it was). But english speaking London? I’m proud of myself for at least being honest despite everyone thinking I was crazy for saying I wouldn’t do it again. There is a big difference between a sleepy little city like Bonn, Germany, and frenetic crazy London. {maybe if we didn’t live IN the city, but then how would we get anywhere? I’m not insane enough to drive here.}

People like to talk about all the great things like art, cultural events, sights to see, history, ability to travel in Europe easy {which is a bit of a joke. do you know how expensive it is to get 4 people off this bloody island??} What a lot of people forget is that you aren’t on an extended vacation. You are living a life daily in and out with small spaces, noise, crowds, things that make no practical sense, and a confusing set of social norms {like leaving trash on the ground/table/where ever because it’s not ‘your job’ to clean it up. what IS that about?}

This is basically my post to get it all out and stop trying to sensor what I really want to say when people ask me “how do you like living in London?” On Friday we are having dinner with one of The Husband’s former interns who is in town from Boston. I know I’ll get that question, it’s only normal. It will be a struggle to not be totally honest and say

It. Sucks. And if you could smuggle me into your luggage, that’d be awesome.

I thought this job would be the easiest of the many places we have lived, but I am finding it to be the hardest of all the places we’ve lived – even over middle of no-where Kentucky. Which was pretty bad.

I very much miss the peace and serenity of Seattle life. The quiet, the birdsong, the bullfrogs croaking, driving a car, understanding that if I buy milk the expiration date won’t be in 3 days, and that a loaf of bread will actually not mold after 5 days if we can’t eat it all. {i know, preservatives are bad, but living without them in certain things is really tough}

There are 11 more months to go. I look forward to our scheduled holidays; Spain in October, Italy in February, east/west coast US in April, and my 40th birthday weekend in May (destination as yet undetermined).

11 months.

I wonder if the dog really will share her prozac with me….


Last minute festival tickets

A few weeks ago, I was searching the internet trying to see how to get tickets to one of the music festivals that are so popular in the UK. The biggest being Glastonbury that was a couple of weeks ago. Tickets to that festival are very hard to get, and once you buy them – in October for a June show – you cannot change your mind or sell them (as every ticket is printed with your picture to avoid reselling). At the equivalent of about $310 a ticket, there really is no going back. You are committed. I registered the Husband and myself for a chance to get tickets just for fun. You never know. Maybe we’ll get tickets and someone will watch our kids for 4 days next June.

One of the other festivals, and there are quite a lot, is the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park. {which oddly enough I heard a lot of last year since we lived across from the park and that’s where we used to walk our dog} I looked at tickets about ten days ago. The only big name I recognized was Mumford & Sons (who I love), but they were playing Friday (today) and the only tickets left were over $100 each.

Flash to about an hour ago: the Husband calls to ask me if we want two free tickets to todays BST festival. His boss has 2 extras. {cue the rainbows and unicorns} So the first thing to do, after immediately turning on M&S on my phone, is to figure out what I’m wearing, right? I already had on the green linen pants, and decided to switch out my black tee shirt for this {supposed to be off the shoulder} boho top.


boho top, Abercrombie & Fitch; linen trousers, Next; purse, Kohls (old); Birkenstocks


The last festival I attended was the Y100 Feztival back in 1996-97? in Philadelphia. So a looong time ago. I’ve been to concerts since, most recently Dave Matthews at the O2 last fall. Most unforgettably, Jimmy Buffett in the pouring rain in 2002.


Hopefully, I’ll still like festivals after tonight. Mumford & Sons go on stage at 8:20 tonight, which is usually the time I’m {sadly} putting on my pajamas. This getting older stuff is no joke.

Have you been to a music festival? Do you have any tips for me?

A day at Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens just outside London is one of our favorite places to visit. Since we have a membership, and it’s only two tube stops and a short walk, we visit frequently. It’s a wonderful place to explore for flower lovers, and for those who love to be outside in general. While there are often a lot of school groups there, Kew is so big you don’t have to worry about crowds.


The Chick and I made a stop at Kew yesterday. We tend to go once a week, and since it is summer holidays, two to three times a week. We wandered from the Victoria Gate to the far right through the Winter Garden and the Plant Family Beds up to Kew Palace. {map here}



There’s nothing that compares to walking through a beautiful flower garden, the perfume in the air is wonderful, and for me at least, it’s an instant mood lifter. There’s also nothing quite like seeing poppies growing with abandon either. I even managed to capture a bee gathering nectar.



The colors as we walked through the Plant Family Beds were incredible {no filters or touch-ups on these pictures, just amazing natural colors}. I can’t name the flowers we saw but I want all of them to live in my garden.


They also have a vegetable & fruit garden, the Kitchen Garden, which supplies food for their restaurants. I think one day we will have to stop and eat at Kew Gardens because everything looked wonderful!


I loved the peppers, but they also had snap peas, squash, zucchini, cabbage and strawberries amongst others.

They also have beautiful water lily ponds, and wonderful flowers and plants along the Broad Walk. I couldn’t absorb enough of their beauty.


I even caught snack time in the Secluded Garden among the bamboo.


Kew was even doing some filming of their own. {photographers in the wild!}



Do you have a garden you like to visit? What sort of things bring you happiness in the wild?