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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.}

Anyway.

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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.

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

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Another successful weekend.

A Monday Wishlist

I can’t believe my kids go back to school in one week. In one week it’ll be me and the dog, hanging about! {well, technically, I won’t be home as I have a ticket to visit Clarence House for next Monday}. Time does indeed fly by.

This post is about the wishlist, the items I’d love to have added to my life. The first one I’ve searched for for well over a year, trying to find it second hand. I might just have to pay up for one. The Tweed Blazer:

I seem to only love it in a multi-colorway. The ones that are all one solid color like blue or green, just don’t seem to give me that -heck ya! – feeling. I am a preppy gal, and I’m not afraid to admit it. tweed blazer + trousers + penny loafers = my ideal fall outfit

So the next item is no surprise (though it’s surprising that I don’t actually own pair of loafers)

Totally in love. The.End. {I also love these, and these. And these.}

I find myself swaying towards the cliche ‘it’ bag – the saddle bag {though I suppose that was a spring/summer fad fad last fall. I tend to be behind when something is super trendy because I usually don’t like it until I’ve seen it ten thousand times.)

For obvious reasons – like 485 of them – I’m not buying a Chloe bag anytime soon; or even anytime far away.  This bag would not hold an umbrella – a prerequisite to living in London – and I doubt it would fit my wallet, and the other myriad of items I carry. But it is very nice. {similar & more affordable options here, here, and here.)

This next item is maybe a bit weird, but if I could find a place to store it until next year, I’d love this rug for my dining area:

Actually, the whole room. All of it. Please and thank you. {I actually do have two chairs in a similar color to the dining chairs that I thrifted awhile back.}

I’d also like to get rid of the sectional couch we bought a few years ago {which has not held up despite the price and ‘quality’ of the brand}. This one is rather ingenious and simple.

 

I’m also dreaming of going back here; swimming in the lagoon with the turtles, kayaking, listening to the waves…pure bliss.

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Are you coveting anything beautiful for the coming season? Dreaming of any magical destinations?

 

 

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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}

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

 

The kitchen reno {a very long post}

Every morning I make my espresso, fire up my laptop, and start my daily trolling of Houzz.com and add numerous pictures and clips and ideas to my kitchen reno/dining idea book. There’s only a year until we start this, and I am determined to make sure the choices I make I can live with for at least the next 5-8 years.

I finally convinced The Husband to agree to a kitchen renovation when we get home next summer. And when I say ‘agree’ I think I really just sent him enough links to things, and talked about it constantly, until I finally wore him down. Lesson: Perseverance pays off ladies!

It is also the prefect time to renovate. We will be in temporary housing for at least 6 weeks while all of our things are shipped from London to Seattle, so the house will be empty of furniture and people and whoever we hire can crack on and get to it. We won’t have to breathe in all the dust, fumes, & etc that comes from new countertops, painting cabinets, re-staining and installing hardwoods, and repainting of the kitchen and downstairs bathroom {which I would like to point out the 3/4 bathroom was painted dark brown – walls & ceiling – by the previous owners. I have much better sense than to do such a thing in a small space. I would’ve loved to leave a list for our tenants of the things I did not do to the house – such as questionable paint and weird stick-on wall stickers. We were only there one year before we moved to London. Painting the dining room and living room was as far as I managed to get.}

So anyway, kitchen renovations. This is what the kitchen looks like:

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It’s not horrible by any means, but I always knew from the very first time we looked at the house, that the kitchen was very far from my dream kitchen. The countertops are dark green granite (which I do not fancy in the slightest), so I’ve thrown in any white furniture or accent I possibly can. The biggest thing the kitchen has going for it is that the size is wonderful. I actually have more storage than I know what to do with in this kitchen. It’s not a bad problem to have. The cabinet color is not my favorite. I loved the dark scheme kitchen in our first Seattle house:

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The quality of the picture is rough, but it shows the dark wood cabinets and the countertops in Cambria Quartz Canterbury.

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The house was what they call a spec house, meaning it was already under construction when we bought it so we didn’t get to choose the model, lot, or any of the finishes in the house. The house had tons of light so the dark finishes in the kitchen worked really well (and because of issues with the floors after we moved in, they were replaced, and we were able to choose a darker finish than what is pictured.)

The current Seattle house does not get good light in the back where the kitchen and living rooms are. Which is disappointing, but our yard backs up to protected wetlands and tall trees and (unless it’s the dead of winter and the trees are leafless) you don’t see the houses set back behind the wetlands. That is lovely and a benefit of being on a cul-de-sac, which is why despite the house needing a bit of cosmetic work and the kitchen not being exactly right, we bought it anyway. And other than our house in Union, KY (which I loved even though it had wasted space), this house is my favorite, even though its a craftsman style which means it has weird angles, and is somewhat fussy for my taste in certain places. {I am a big fan of modern homes as seen in my boards here and here.}

The original idea was to build a modern home, but plots of land within our school district that are also close to a downtown commute simply do not exist, so we bought a house in the next neighborhood over from our first one. Literally .9 miles.

I think I was originally writing about renovating a kitchen and I’ve gotten totally off track.

My favorite style is probably ‘beach’. I don’t mean seashells in a lamp or anything, but more along the lines of the light muted colors, and soft furnishings. These are the two rooms connected to the kitchen, the dining room just through the passthrough and the living room which is all open to the kitchen.

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All the pictures on the walls are of beach scenes or similar colors. We also added the wood planks above the fireplace covering up the tv connections. Since the beach is my absolute favorite place to be, and I can’t live closer than 26 miles to it, using it as the theme in my home is as close as I can get. {proof living by the sea is good for your health}

The main sticking point in renovating the kitchen has to do with the island. While it is very large, and we love the seating area, the seating area is actually the problem. When someone is siting at the counter, it’s hard to access the refrigerator, which I am sure I’ve talked about before. Coming up with ideas that The Husband and I agree on isn’t easy. I’d like to remove the island, and make a peninsula with seating area next to the sliding doors (where we currently have a wine fridge). The Husband isn’t a fan, mostly I think because of the cost implications of doing that. The floor would need replacing, moving electrical, etc. I can see his point, truly.

But it would look good!

A few ideas I’ve seen on Houzz.com are good compromises. I had originally not been a fan of the rounded island end cap (it felt very 80’s to me), but some examples I’ve seen have actually peaked my interest, and it would solve the fridge/seating problem.

 

Observatory Park Contemporary Kitchen

Hadley Wood | Luxury Bespoke Kitchen

 

They are definitely good options. I also have an idea to put shelving where the current seating area is, and then put a table in the dining area of the kitchen. It’s not huge, we had a small table there for a few months before we moved, and I used it everyday. The main issue is the dining room table, which The Husband and I built for our previous house:

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It’s not the kind of thing you just replace when it took you weeks of time and garage space to complete. I’d love to make it work, but I think it’s too big for the space {if I remember correctly we measured it to fit in the center of the space and it was awkward, but since it’s in storage thousands of miles away, I can’t recall how big the dimensions are, nor do I know the dimensions of the kitchen I’m trying to fit it into.} One idea I had was to put a bench on one side that would be almost flush to the wood/carpet line into the living room. Something that would look like this:

Rainey Homes The Retreat Model Home

I adore this entire setup. Colors, furniture, lamps, all of it. As a bonus, it would achieve my goal of having a proper eat in kitchen. I have always hated a separate dining room. It feels very out-dated for the way we live. It would be a lot easier as well if one person is at the table and the other is at the stove, then we are actually in the same room to be able to talk to each other without shouting. {other ideas here}
I have previously lobbied for putting hardwood all through the living room which would add continuity, and we could snick some space from the living room to make the eat-in kitchen work. Since we are replacing the original carpet in the dining room with hardwood anyway (in the rest of the house we had new carpet installed before we moved in, minus the living room which the previous owners had just replaced so we felt like it would be wasteful to just tear it out), and refinishing the rest of the hardwoods, it seems logical to me. The Husband does not like this idea unfortunately, but persevere I will. {every house we’ve sold, I’m always told how many compliments there are on the style/decor, so I have to think I *do* know something about interior design!}
We do agree on countertops, leaning towards recycled glass options for the main counters and butcher block for the island (I want a countertop that is not ice cold to the touch if we are using the island as a sitting area as well). I’m in love with this particular counter:
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I also love Floating Blue from Vertrazzo. It’s eco friendly which I am all about incorporating into this remodel if we can, and in line price wise with other choices we are considering. Being eco-friendly is also the reason that I’d rather paint the cabinets than replace them (not to mention the cost). The cabinets are only 8 years old and in perfect condition, they just aren’t a color tone I like. I am a big fan of two tone cabinetry like these examples:

 

Steveston Townhouse
My Houzz: 5th Ave Apartment
What will we end up with? I have plenty of ideas, and hopefully some of them will become reality.
Then it’ll be on to the backyard, which is also getting an 2-stage overhaul starting next summer, to finish the summer after. This is the some of the current space:
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Goodbye weird half fence that divides the yard, and wonky half circle patio. Onwards to a raised veggie/fruit garden bed, koi pond, rose bushes, and a fresh extended patio.
2017 is going to be a busy year. What do you have planned?

Sunny Sunday

Today marks the return of summer in London. It is 70+ degrees, and I am loving {most} of it. It is hot in the house and we’ve nothing to do today but laze around {insert online shopping, researching tropical vacations, and planning out and adding to Mom and Chick’s Imaginary Ranch}. We did however make a run to M&S for milk and cereal, because although Ocado made a delivery this morning, I forgot the milk and cereal (story of my life).

I thought I would try to post a outfit photo. Please ignore the lighting, editing, and the weird look on my face. I used a the camera on a tripod set up on the third floor {which is boiling}. Since we don’t have a blank wall I can use, or enough space anywhere {city living!}, the upstairs hall/landing is what I’ve got to work with. The weather is supposed to be nice all week so maybe if I clear up the patio, there’s a hope of an outdoor shot if I remember to take one.

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On to the outfit: Jumpsuit, Hush / Sandals, Birkenstock Arizona / Fedora, Gap

Today was the first time that I’ve worn the jumpsuit, but it is epically comfortable, and I can see this working well for upcoming trips flying to the US. The sandals are actually the shoes I wear around the house, and I can’t believe it, but I am in love with them. I had a pair years ago in high school, the first time Birkenstocks became an ‘it’ item, and I have once again found the love {ugly or not}.

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I can hardly believe it but there are only two more weeks of the kids being school, then its a short month until we head to our much anticipated vacation in Seattle/Idaho. Ten days of hopefully wonderful weather, catching up with family at the lake and pretty much just doing nothing.

I am a water/beach/sun loving person, and I really do think it is my Happy Place. The evidence from my birthday weekend makes it pretty clear that the beach is where I want to be.

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Rhossili Beach, Swansea, Wales

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Three Cliffs Beach, Wales

 

A little legal action, and a little hiking action; Typical Monday

It was a typical Monday around our house yesterday; a little time at the courthouse, a little hike in the forest. Obviously, not exactly typical! Let me back up and explain. Back in 07 we adopted the Chick from Taiwan. Completely legal, official, and binding.

Fast forward to January/February of 2015. Upon providing our documents from the adoption to the immigration lawyers in the UK responsible for obtaining our visas, we were informed that the UK did not recognize adoptions from Taiwan, and therefore, she would be denied a visa. This was definitely not something we were expecting. The only way to actually get Chick a visa was to re-adopt her in the state of Washington, and obtain a US birth certificate. Then the UK would give her a visa; which is good because she’s gosh darn dang excited to move to London.

She is under the impression we will be lunching with the Duchess of Cambridge, or at least popping by to see the children, and say hi.

I’m not entirely sure she understands that the likelihood of us even standing in a crowd to see the royal family is unlikely. Though if the Duke and Duchess need any help with the babies, Chick is happy to volunteer!

Yesterday, we walked into the courthouse and received an official, legal, binding adoption decree….again. All the proper documents are now in the hands of the UK, and hopefully, we will have our visa’s in hand by June 21 when we plan to fly to London. Seeing as we just rented out our house here in the US and our tenant moves in June 22, lets hope there are no more hiccups in this process.

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Since that pretty much took half the day (since the court we went through was in Everett), the kids took the day off from school. Don’t they look super-duper upset about that? Of course, the one snap our lawyer took of us looking at the camera, the kids both look utterly unhappy. For the Boy, that’s normal, he’s a teenager. I don’t know exactly why Chick looks like that except that maybe she finally realizes what a looney family she’s stuck with.

That’s life my little Chickadee!

So what do you do after spending the morning driving to and from court? Go hiking of course!

We had been to Rattlesnake Lake last year just to check it out, but we hadn’t gone up the hiking trail before. It seems it wasn’t for the faint of heart, and Chick stormed right up that mountain with nary a complaint. Which is remarkable considering we’d never taken her hiking before, and it turns out to have been a bit of a hike.

Rattlesnake Ledge

LOCATION

Snoqualmie Region — North Bend Area

LENGTH

4.0 miles, roundtrip

ELEVATION

Gain: 1160 ft.
Highest Point: 2078 ft.
We were probably about .1 mile from he viewing ledge (though we didn’t realize it, all we saw was more serious uphill hiking, so we turned around). It was very, very pretty though.
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It was definitely a good hike. If you are ever in the North Bend, WA area I highly recommend checking it out. Hopefully we will hike it again, and make it to the view point this time!