Monday, July 18, 2016

Our Trip to London

Steve and I traveled to London in March, and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it! I want to share with all of you, but I also love keeping a little travel diary on the blog so I can always go back and quickly reminisce! You can find our other travels under the "Travel" tab at the top of the page!

This was Steve's second time traveling to London and my first. Steve got a wild hair one day in January and said "let's go to London. Let's just go". I'm a planner and not super spontaneous, so I was a little apprehensive, but he assured me we could pull it off, and by mid-March we were on a flight across the pond! And because Steve travels for work most weeks, and books his own travel, it's like being married to a travel agent! We are also lucky to have retired parents who will watch our kids for extended periods of time. I will NEVER take this for granted - such a blessing! Well, London was everything I wanted it to be and then some. We just had the most fantastic time together exploring, eating, walking miles and miles, pub hopping, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. I can't wait to go back!
We toyed with the idea of taking an overnight trip to Paris or taking a day trip to the countryside, but ultimately decided to just stay in one place and really take London in. This way we could unpack and relax. We stayed at the most amazing hotel, Marriott Park Lane, in a fabulous location (right across the street from Hyde Park). We walked (A LOT) and took the Tube everywhere. There was a stop right outside our hotel and it made our lives so much easier!
We did a little shopping. We did a lot of sightseeing, park strolling, touristy stuff, and we pub hopped and enjoyed many a beer in London! We just love ourselves a good English pub. We visited both touristy pubs, as well as off the beaten path pubs. This was at The George Inn, since 1677.
We also love to go off the beaten path and find spots where the locals go. We had the best Indian meal  one night. And no surprise, we have beers in our hands. :) This meal deserves it's own post. This was at a little corner spot we found in Marlborough called The Rajdoot. So quaint and delicious, a must try if you are in London!
Oh, Notting Hill, I loved you. We strolled the Portobello Road Market. It was packed, but fun to be in the hustle and bustle. Have to do it once.
Since it was my first time to London, we hit up all the tourist spots (Buckingham Palace, Borough Market, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Tower of London, etc).
One of the most fun things we did was attend an Arsenal Football Match. This is Steve's team and his second time seeing them play. The whole experience was something I will never forget...the stadium, the fans, the passion, the yelling, the atmosphere. I was indifferent about going, but I'm so glad we went!
We walked/rode bikes through three parks in London (St. Jame's Park, The Regent's Park, Hyde Park). I can only imagine how beautiful they are in the spring/summer! We were there just before spring and only a few daffodils were sprouting. Riding bikes through Hyde Park with Steve was just awesome.
As you can see, we are glad we brought winter hats/scarves/coats/gloves! It was certainly chilly in London in mid-March. And I'm not sure how we pulled it off, but we did not see one drop of rain in the 6 days we were there. We were dressed appropriately, so it was never an issue, and when the sun was shining it was perfect. We also felt it was not busy this time of year, which was a bonus. It's London, so it's always "busy", but we never felt crowded. We also never felt scared. With all that is going on in the world, sometimes it's scary to want to travel. I'm happy that did not stop us. We had such a fantastic time. I love making memories in new places. Going away with each other is always such a gift.

And we definitely perfected our English accent by the time we left London! Send me an email if you have any specific questions! I can't believe it took me 36 years to get to London. What a memorable experience! xo

Friday, July 15, 2016

Finishing the Basement - Part 1

Well, we all made it to Friday! The sun is shining and Steve and the kids are in Chicago, so I have a feeling it's going to be a wonderful, relaxing weekend for momma! :) Our basement project is in full swing and I wanted to post about the progress so far. Our contractor and his crew are just working like crazy and moving so fast, I'm just amazed. Every night when we go scope it out, so many things are different and new. Here is a little snippet of the bar and where they left off last night...

Drew will be 9 y/o next month (gasp!) and Kate will be 8 y/o in the fall. We knew we would eventually finish the basement, but weren't sure we were quite ready. Ultimately we decided to just do it and enjoy it rather than waiting 5 more years when the kids would be a lot older. We certainly don't need more "space", but having an extra "lounge" space will be so great for this sports loving family. We hope to entertain more and all that good stuff! I can't wait until it's finished!

We are finishing off about 1100 sq. ft. of basement which will include a TV/lounge space, a bar, a 3/4 bath, and a bedroom (which we will use for a playroom). We also have room for storage. They built wood shelves for all of our bins and we also have a big closet in the back bedroom. Before we decided to finish the basement, this space was a concrete jungle and a dumping ground for our stuff and kid toys. We had carpet remnants laid out, a TV for playing video games, and the kids enjoyed skated and playing basketball and hockey on the concrete floors. Needless to say, we had A LOT of stuff to get rid of!

It is so freeing to toss and donate things. I've said many times that I am not a saver and "things" don't hold a lot of value for me. I'm training my kids to be tossers as well. Kate is much more of a hoarder than any of us! Still working on her! We donated most of our stuff to Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity Restore. Habitat came to our house and hauled off large items which was a win win for everyone! We usually move every 2-3 years which forces us to get rid of things. Now that we have been in this house for 4.5 years and we know we are staying, it was time for us to purge. Who has 3 rugs and 2 doors in their basement anyway?! And the dust on that coffee table should tell you a little something about the basement!

We decided on our contractor through word of mouth and recommendation. Our friends and neighbors used this same contractor to finish off their basement last year and had great things to say and came highly recommended. We felt he would make our vision come to life and have been pleased so far. They are also doing a neighbor's kitchen down the street, so they are busy in our neighborhood! They had our basement framed in a day!

Then lights and insulation...we put in a lot of overhead lights. We have no natural light in the basement (aside from 1 egress window in the back bedroom) and I want the space to feel light and bright. All lights are being put on dimmers so I won't have to mess with floor lamps in the space. I'll go into more details about all of this in another post.

Then drywall and sanding and mudding...

And starting to paint...

The noise! The dust! The footprints! It's all a part of the process, so I'll just look the other way. :) And during the construction process, we have been making decisions, scouring Pinterest, testing paint colors, choosing grout and tile and carpet and stair carpet, making last minute decisions and purchases, sending endless texts to my mom and sister, and tweaking design decisions. This is the fun part for me!

As you can see, we are going neutral with gray, black, and white. The bar cabinets and island and small bathroom are being painted black! And that glossy beveled subway tile gives me all the happy design feelings. I'm obsessed!

Because basements are pretty basic, we wanted to add a little detail to the walls of the lounge area, so we are having some custom trim work done. I'm loving it!

I'm also FINALLY replacing the ugliest vanity known to man in our upstairs bathroom! Our contractor had his cabinet guy custom make this piece. It will be painted white and have brass pulls on the drawers. Today, I'm going to choose a top for it. Hoping I can find a remnant of Carrera marble that won't break the bank!

Between our week at the lake and company being here and this basement project, our summer is absolutely flying by. Only a few more weeks until school starts around here so we intend to make the most of it! xo

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kirkland's Look For Less

I am so happy to be collaborating with Kirkland's on a Look for Less post! Look for less items are right up my alley as I feel strongly that good design doesn't have to cost a fortune. I have chosen five items from the Kirkland's website and compared them to similar items found online. I chose items that immediately caught my eye and are things I would purchase for my own home. As you can see from some of my choices, I must be into gold and geometric shapes right now! I am amazed at the price difference on these items. Be sure to check out the Kirkland's website for many more great deals!

You just can't go wrong with a large mirror! Large mirrors work in all spaces, bounce light around the room, and provide a little touch of "jewelry" in a space. This mirror is modern and dimensional, which I love!

Look for Less

Shades of Light // Kirkland's

I'm obsessed with these little patterned bowls! What a great gift! They would look adorable stacked on open shelving and are perfect for serving snacks.

Look for Less

We actually already have two white gourd lamps on either side of the bed in our master bedroom. I absolutely love them! This lamp is simple, elegant, timeless, and goes with every style of decor. This price point is amazing and the clear base is spot on!

Look for Less

These pendant lights are cool and modern. I can see these over an island, one over a sink, or multiple in a basement bar area. The black is striking without being too harsh because of the fun geometric cage!

Look for Less

Talk about a great gift for a wine lover! Even if you don't drink wine, this wine rack is chic enough to display in a kitchen or bar or dining room (or any space)! This is such a great price, you just can't go wrong! Give me all things gold!

Look for Less

I hope you found something that caught your eye! I encourage you to check out the Kirkland's website for many more great finds. Many of these items are new and won't last long! xo

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Moving the Fiddle Leaf Fig Outdoors

Hi friends! I decided to try something I've been wanting to try for a few years now. I recently moved our 6 foot fiddle leaf fig tree outside, to the back patio. I'm scared. I love "Jewel". I had my kids name her when we got her. Yes, it's strange. Yes, I love plants. Yes, I am the crazy plant lady! I have somehow managed to keep Jewel alive for over 3 years, and I don't want this move outside to kill her! Obviously, it's a temporary move, as we live in Kansas and it will only be hot and humid enough for her for a few months, but I am going for it. Here, you can read all about when we first got her, as well as see pictures of how full she used to be...hence my need to move her outside!
I know FLFs love humidity and heat and indirect sunlight. I've read stories of people moving them outside and them growing several new leaves and branches during that time. Well, I'm going for it this year. We have a covered back patio and I'm keeping her back enough against the house that her leaves will not burn (the black piece just above her is where our TV connects). She will get some direct sunlight, but late in the day for a few hours as the sun begins to set. I know they are finicky and don't like to be moved, but I'm hoping this is a good move, away from the air conditioning vent, into the hot and humid air.

Now, I have a space indoors that just looks barren without her. I'm going to have to come up with something for the summer months. I'm most definitely going to have to water Jewel more than I normally would if she were still indoors. I basically ignore her for several weeks until she dries out before giving her water. Now, I will have to check about once a week to see if she needs a drink. This was her old spot in our eating space.
The branches of the tree are not full like they once were, but as long as I see new growth and new leaves, I know she is hanging in there. I did move her from an indoor lined basket to a more durable outdoor planter (it's still too big for the planter, but I'm just leaving it).
Why do they have to be so finicky?...and expensive?...but, they are just so dramatic and pretty. I am such a sucker for a tropical plant. It's too bad I live in Kansas, so I mostly have to enjoy these guys indoors. I"ll keep you posted on what happens over the summer. Hopefully I won't have to move her back in any time soon. I've been wanting to do this for a few years and finally got the courage to try it. Hopefully I will get lucky! Tips and suggestions welcome! Happy summer! xo

Monday, June 13, 2016

Chalkboard Summer Bucket List 2016

Good morning! I hope you're summer is off to a wonderful start! Our kids got out of school May 20th this year, so we have been in summer mode for a few weeks already. No snow days this year, so we had two full weeks before our pool opened or any activities started. Having a few weeks with nothing really going on is so glorious. My kids needed the downtime and I think it's so fun having them home. June is full of fishing and camps and being pool bums...we heart summer around here!

This is the fourth year we have made a summer bucket list on our chalkboard wall. It's a favorite and I'm so glad we started doing it. The kids are getting older (7.5 and almost 9), so we have to tweak the list every year, but I know we will be doing this for years to come. There is so much to do in our city, we should never run out of things to do!

I've used this childhood quote on this wall before. I just love it and find it speaks to me. I don't believe that every minute of every day should be devoted to your kids. I don't believe that it is my job to entertain my kids all day long. I believe that kids should learn how to be bored. I believe they should have to use their imaginations. I believe siblings need to find ways to get along without a parent intervening every time. I believe that kids should be able to go to the grocery store and run errands without it ending their world (or their parent's :).

However, I am home with my kids all summer, summer is a season of fun, my kids are only young once, and we intend to have a lot of fun! I think most parents hope to provide a childhood their kids will remember, and we are no exception. This certainly doesn't mean saying yes to everything. I believe the power of saying "no", and often. I believe in the power of new experiences and trying new things and it is important for us to pass this along to our children. I also believe in old fashioned fun and the power of playing with friends and learning how to resolve conflicts. I believe in frog catching, bike rides, nerf gun wars, and taking baby dolls for stroller rides. I want our kids to think back about their childhood and not remember what they received, but what they "did" and what they "learned" and that they were "loved".

We add a lot to the list and never get to all of it, but it's a good reference point for us. Most of the items on the list are inexpensive or free, which is also important to me!

I decided to make a little bunting for the summer list using random scrapbook paper. I just adhered it to the wall with electrical tape on the back of the paper. So far, so good!

We als have a separate list of new restaurants we have been wanting to try. And come on, if you are anything like me, you LOVE a list! I've passed the "love" on to my kids!

You can find our other summer bucket lists here:
Cheers to a fantastic summer full of late nights, eating outside, friends, family, vacations, good food, relaxation, sunshine, and happiness! xo

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