My favorite things

I think I did a favorites list once, and I’m pretty sure it had one thing; chocolate. Since everyone is doing favorites lists, I thought, why not? So here are my favorite things from the last year or so across any category.

Movie: The Martian

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Matt Damon. What else is there to say? Seriously though, this is such a good movie. I could not convince the Husband to go to the theater with me when it came out (and I think it actually came in 2015) but as soon as it was available digitally, we owned it. I watched it countless times since, and last night at the Boy’s request, we watched it again for movie night. There’s just something wonderful about a man being left behind on a planet and trying to survive. Maybe it’s a metaphor for me trying to survive the epically martian land of England? Who knows.

Book: Impossible to just pick one given my love of all things BOOOK! but here are two four I’ve read that I keep revisiting: {if you need more check out my GoodReads page}

Philipa Gregory, I fell in love with Three Sisters, Three Queens (the first of hers I read), and then proceeded to speed through her Cousins War series. I’ve hit a slow down with the Tudor Series, but I think I just needed a break from the pace I was reading them.

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Black Boy by Richard Wright, I have never been able to let this book from my mind. There’s just something sad, and moving, and wonderful in it. It is partly non-fiction and partly fiction (there’s academic debate about it being memoir and embellished). You decide.

Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser. I am a lover of all tings Scottish because of my family ancestry, and I’ve read a few books on Mary but this was my favorite.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. I loved her take on living for a year in the land of hygge. Especially how she refers to her husband as Lego Man.

The Rival Queens, Nancy Goldstone. This is about the trials of Catherine de Medici and her daughter Marguerite of Valois. Absolutely fascinating, and horrifying what things went on in the 15th century! I became fascinated by Catherine de Medici after watching Reign (yes that soapy not exactly historically correct teen drama), but her real life was very interesting. It also led me to be very interested in this Netflix original:

TV: Medici: Masters of Florence. You will pretty much find almost every character has been on a show you’ve either seen or heard of (Rob Stark from Game of Thrones AND Walter Frey as in laws??) It has a fabulous cast (Dustin Hoffman and et al), and the story is very worthy of binge watching. The drama, the backstabbing (literally), the time period. I can never get enough of these shows from another time. (It also led me to read The Medici by Paul Strathern – Loving It.)

Mini-Series: I couldn’t pick just one, so here are two:

The White Queen from Starz (based on 3 books from Philippa Gregory’s Cousins War series. Really, Really hoping that season two rumors are true, since this originally ran in 2013.)

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Victoria from ITV. It tells the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign from when she was crowned at 18 to the birth of her first child. Highly entertaining and my 10 year old also loves watching it. I believe there will be a season two.

I fell in love with this beauty product so much that the Husband is even schlepping to Nordstrom today while he’s in Seattle for work to get me some more (he’s awesome!). I hate it when products I love aren’t available in the UK:

Kate Sommerville Age Arrest Serum. I’ve gone two months without it since I ran out, and yes, it definitely improves my skin and I love the silky texture and the way my skin feels when I use it. Even though it’s $95….If you know an alternative that is just as good, for cheaper, please tell me!

MV Organics Rose range: everything. The moisturizer, cleanser, and the rose boost oil. (I have the Skin Tonic as well, but the jury’s still out on that one). Let’s just not even talk about the price, please. The cleanser is reasonable comparative to other similar brands but the moisturizer, {heart attack} on the 70ml price –> £77. I finally paid for it after schlepping out repeatedly for the 15 ml size at £25 a jar. Normally, I’d say NUTS to pay that much (even though I’ve bought pricier things…Sunday Riley, Sisley and May Lindstrom spring to mind…) but this is the first product that might actually be toning back the rosacea. And I’ve been consistent in using it every day, twice a day for a few months. I think we might be getting somewhere. I’m sure it’s probably not available in the US because {story of my life}.

Speaking of not available, I have fallen.in.love. with this clothing company – Hackwith Design House. All ethically made, gorgeous things, that are pricey! but with the companies ethics, and sticking to being on sale, I can live with it. They DO ship to London, for $20, and then VAT and duties are paid on top of clothing cost + shipping. So one dress I love, the Desiree (among many others), would be $158 + 20% duties + £8 post office ‘fee’ = way too much money. It makes me VERY sad but that has been the luck. So many ethical outstanding clothing companies {Brass Clothing, Everlane, Jan-N-June, ArmedAngels, Uniform, Zady, Need Supply Co, Gather & See, esby, and on that will/won’t ship/or charge in Euros} but the price of buying something is astronomical by the time I pay to get it out of Duty Jail. 5 more months and The Husband will just have to deal with a little wallet pinching. For a fantastic list (and website in general!) see Anuschka Rees. She also has a book The Curated Closet which I am impatiently waiting to be available to the UK.

Dog items: Wagg Training Treats (there’s even a low-fat version which is hilarious) and Pill Pockets from Greenies. Both of these items have been lifesavers with Mocha for training/rewards, and for the unending medication rotation we seem to be on since we’ve been in London.

Those are some of the things I’ve fallen in love with this year. There are many other things  that I have loved this year, but if I listed all of them it would be more like a book than a list. What have you fallen in love with this year?

2017, oh let’s not start out like this

2017. I want us to be friends, good friends, really good friends. I want us to be the kind of friends you can call up at 2:30 in the morning because you had this epically scary spider dream, and no matter how hard you try, your spouse just keeps pretending he’s snoring.

that kind of friends

So far, 2017 and I are not off to a great start. It is cold here in London. Nothing new, seeing as it IS winter, but it’s become bitter cold this week. Or at least it feels bitter cold. The temperature says 34 this morning, but it feels…like an ache in the bones kind of cold (which thanks to my advancing age of 39, my knees and my Bad Foot are telling me daily that they hate the cold, with passion.) Since we just got back from Copenhagen on New Years Eve and it was even colder there, London should feel warmer. But, oh, how it does not.

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Move to tropical climate is still on my number one list of things I want to accomplish in my lifetime {preferably soon}. Likelihood: zilch. A girl can dream.

I may have mentioned it before, and if you’ve ever glanced at my Instagram for more than 3 seconds, you’ll know our family has a mini-dachshund. She’s cute, she’s small, she’s a barking drama queen. She’s also sick.

Because the details of getting a urine sample from a dog are just TMI for anyone, suffice it that I managed to get one, and it’s been sent out to see what type of infection she has. It could be simple. And it could not be simple. Given her stomach issues that have been going on for over a year and her special diet, I have fears that it is not going to be simple. This little face deserves simple.

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So keep your fingers crossed for this adorable nugget of crazy, please?

2017 and I were supposed to start of with a Great Fashion Project as well. I came across this video about 2 1/2 weeks ago from Gold Zipper (I can’t even remember how exactly). The concept is simple: to wear 1 dress for 30 days.

Depending on your point of view, it’s either brilliant, or a little out there. I gravitated toward brilliance. Here’s why:

I like this concept of ease in the morning. The same thing everyday that isn’t jeans (which is my normal ‘uniform’), and it forces you to be creative with accessories, shoes, etc. I think it could teach me more about the way I interact with my clothes, how people might see me and what direction I really want my closet to go in.

Last year I did try to do Project 333, capsule wardrobing. It didn’t go over super well; I made about 5-6 months (if I’m generous) and I slipped right back into my buying ways. {this month, I have been a very bad spender. something about this time of year just sets off a spree for me}

January 1, 2017, I put on my only weather (somewhat) appropriate black dress. And about a minute later I had marked it with deodorant. {anyone else have a deodorant issue? no matter what kind I use, how/when I put it on it’s like one giant Russian roulette wheel every morning} I took the dress off, did some silent screaming, and moved on to a quasi-plan b. I put on this outfit, what seems to be a cross between a schoolteacher and a librarian.

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this is my ‘i feel stupid’ face. happens frequently.

I managed tights All. Day. with a dog, and children, and leaving the house. I hadn’t worn tights since a dinner party I went to back at the beginning of December and before that I’m not even sure when.

Point: I don’t often wear tights.

Day one. Not the raging success but I did manage to substitute an out-of-comfort-zone outfit. {skirt: Boden, old; white shirt: Jcrew; grey sweater vest: Jcrew; necklace & tights: Ann Taylor, old.}

Day two: it was Monday, we lazed around the house all day. NO tights were worn. Tuesday, it became cold, and I still hadn’t managed to wash the deodorant marked dress yet {things that happen when one load of washing – not drying – takes 2 hours plus and you’ve just come back from vacation}.

Day three: it is really freezing, though the dress was washed and hanging to dry.

And that’s when I started thinking maybe January, in London, might *not* be the best time to give this experiment a try. Even though when I first thought “I’m so doing this!”, I immediately listed 15 different ways to change the look of the dress without even having to consult my closet. That made me feel very happy. I have started re-thinking this 1 dress 30 days challenge I’ve set for myself, and ordered a dress more weather appropriate instead of summer thin. I really did want to try to make it happen from what I already owned, this $12 dress I’ve had for over 8 years. I actually wore it to the dinner party I mentioned above.

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friend, birthday person, me and the LBD

I’m definitely going to complete 1 dress, 30 days. Hopefully the temperature will kick up a bit. The best way to make the project a success is to give it a chance of success, i.e. not doing it in freezing cold temperatures. I am actually quite excited about doing this. Along with that I want to not buy anything wardrobe related {minus a second pair of black tights. only having one pair and a very cold house, means wearing them after washing the night before might not be possible. a second pair is always a good idea.} 

I’ve been bad with buying (as I said above). It is a cycle, of being down or bored, or a combination of both. It is the one thing I said in my last post I was going to stop, and I already bought four things. 1. 2. 3. 4. Granted, this is all from Christmas gift money, but still, it’s no excuse. And if there’s one thing I want to stop doing this year, it’s making excuses for purchases. I want to try to be more like these guys – The Minimalists. I can’t see us ever getting that extreme, especially since 3/4 of my family are bordering on hoarders (only the dog gets away clean as she can’t really throw out her possessions.) But it is a goal to down-size the stuff, which was what the point of a capsule wardrobe was supposed to be for me. In a lot of ways, I have done very well in reducing things I never wore. I just brought other things in again…

I’ve written up a list of BOOKS I plan to say adieu to. Yes, I did say books, and upon returning to Seattle and seeing the majority of my books again (and lots of the things we haven’t needed in two years), I think there will be a lot of clearing going on. If I didn’t need them for two years, I don’t need them now, will be my attitude. {I hope}

That’s the first week of 2017 (almost) finished. He’s to 51 more to go. How’s your New Year  going?

End of 2016, Goals for 2017

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stairs in bullring, Ronda, Spain

It’s Christmas Eve, and all through the house, every creature was stirring (and possibly a mouse??) More like a dachshund, a teenager, and a pre teen.

It’s 24 December, and the year has quickly (slowly??) come to a close. It has been a heck of a year. We have made it to 18 months living here in London, with 6 more to go. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m dying to get back home to Seattle and my house and my garden and my peace.solitude.and quiet. But as the calendar flips forward to another year I am feeling mildly sad that my days of glorious exhibits, stunning art, fantastic gardens, and crazy people watching is coming to a close. Seattle has hiking, kayaking!, and my gorgeous mountains steps from my front door, but it is lacking in art and theater.

In this, very few places can compete with London.

As we enter into a new year, I thought maybe it might be helpful to set out some goals {ones I hope I might actually stick to}:

  • I’m cutting back on sugar. I’ve already started this one, and on day 3, I am getting used to my morning coffee with no sugar. I’ve never taken milk, so black is where it’s at at the moment. And a Nespresso with no sugar does take some getting used to.
  • I really want to try to be better about what I buy. Last year at this time I had entered into the capsule wardrobe idea and I was doing pretty good. I fell off the wagon repeatedly though in the last 6 months, and now I just feel disenchanted with not having learned anything despite my best intentions. I’ve printed another copy of Un-Fancy’s wardrobe/capsule planner and hopefully, new year, new me.
  • I want to be more mindful of what I buy and where it comes from. I’ve done very well in my awareness of the need of shopping ethically, now I just need to practice it more. The hardest part is realizing that I am going to have to pay more, be more patient, and accept the reality that companies that pay a living wage are going to charge more for their products. That’s just a fact (and a reasonable one). It is hard to swallow paying £££ for a sweater that I used to buy for ££. It comes down to what matters more, ethically produced clothing (and other items) or me keeping an extra £60 in my pocket.
  • I also am trying to be better with buying ethically produced, cruelty free foods. This is a very hard one, especially when convenience is important. The butcher on the street just behind my house is ethically sourcing, I just need to force myself to go there more often. I will say that I buy organic, and I do check for free range, ethically sourced products before I buy anything. How animals are treated is very important to me, even if I choose to be vegetarian as much as possible, my family isn’t.
  • It’s time to realize old-friend rosacea might be here forever. I had IPL this week to try to minimize the appearance and unless things fade in the next 10 days (as is possible), it wasn’t a success, and not worth the £400 it costs (per treatment!). So I have to learn to live with never feeling comfortable enough to go foundation free.
  • Stop buying so many books. Might as well cross that one off now! #unrealistic
  • Be more engaged. Leave the electronics behind, be more mindful, find more hygge. This is a massive goal.

Those are the goals for now. We’ll see how far I get on with completing them.

Now to take a look at where we’ve been in 2016:

Places:

  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Bonn & Munich, Germany (revisiting our former home city)
  • Edinburgh & the Highlands, Scotland
  • Seattle & Cheney, WA
  • Malaga, Spain & Tangiers, Morocco
  • And others around the UK
  • (And before we finish the year, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Some things I’ve seen this year:

  • Amazing art exhibits: Monet & Impressionism; Paul Strand Photography; Abstract Impressionism from Pollock to de Kooning; the History of Underwear; A Century of Vogue; Russian Artist Portraits; Jean-Etienne Liotard; Engineering: Ove Arup; Design Museum, Design of the Year Awards
  • Theater: Wicked; Nutcracker
  • Concerts: British Summertime, headliner Mumford & Sons; Dave Matthews
  • Windsor Horse Show
  • London Fashion Weekend

In all, 2016 was pretty darn spectacular. 2017 should be pretty unforgettable as well:

Travel:

  • Milan & Venice, Italy
  • NJ & Seattle
  • Dublin/County Louth, Ireland {ancestry trip}
  • Oslo, Norway
  • Weekends around the UK
  • Alaska

Art:

  • A full-day of study on Goya at Burlington House
  • V&A You Say You Want A Revolution
  • National Portrait Gallery, Picasso Portraits; Taylor Wessing Photography Prize
  • Design Museum exhibits, Fear & Love; Imagine Moscow; California (and starting 28 June days after we return to Seattle, Hella Jongerius, Breathing Color – SO bummed to miss this one)
  • And all the other places I still haven’t been – Tate Modern, need to go back to the Wallace Collection, etc.

This was a cathartic post for me, to remind myself of what a damn.fabulous.life we have being able to pop to another country for a weekend. When we move back to Seattle, a weekend of exciting travel will include going to Portland. Or Idaho. Exciting, but not on the same caliber as taking the Eurostar to Paris.

It’s going to be a good 2017, a very insanely busy 2017 with travel, The Husband will relocate back to Seattle in March and fly back and forth (I’m looking forward to watching him handle repeated episodes of jet-lag every few weeks, I am a very nice wife like that!), birthdays (lovely milestone year for me), school events always get crazier in spring, moving back to America, and just general life things. I am determined that it will be a good one though.

Have you set any goals/made any plans for the upcoming year?