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
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