Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Games Are Here!

It's hard to believe the Olympics are finally here. Living over here during the lead up to the Games and all of the preparation that goes into making it happen has been quite the experience. There's been construction all over town, hundreds of news stories about the implications and opportunities the Games will bring, and now of course, the transportation issues that will surely arise over the next few days. Everything from Heathrow airport to the tube stations are decked out in Olympics signage, and people are slowly but surely starting to file into the city. With the opening ceremony taking place tomorrow night, the city really feels electric with anticipating. I could not be more excited and grateful to be experiencing this monumental event in one of the greatest cities in the world! The last few legs of the Torch Relay are passing through central London today, so I'm hoping to step outside of the office this afternoon to catch a glimpse of the festivities. 

We're headed to two events this weekend: men's beach volleyball on Saturday at the Earls' Court venue, which is just a five minute walk from our flat, and then handball on Sunday at the main Olympic park in Stratford, where the opening ceremony and main events will take place. And yes, I said handball...not the kind you play in gradeschool's more like soccer with your hands and it's popular in Germany, Austria and lots of other countries. Should be an experience for sure!

Here's to a great 2012 Olympics...and go Team USA!!!

[Image via Pinterest]

Monday, 16 July 2012

One Year Later

I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we said ‘I do.’ Being married has been such a wonderful experience and I’m so proud of our relationship. This past year has been eventful to say the least – from getting married and rushing off to London, and then settling into married life and travelling all over Europe – it’s almost been like an extended honeymoon! I feel so lucky to have such an amazing man in my life, who’s not only my husband but also my best friend. He truly is the love of my life and I can’t wait for all of the exciting things we’ll experience together throughout the years. 

I wish we could relive our wedding day today, but at least we have our wedding video to look back on (it always brings me to tears!). You can have a look here.

Happy anniversary, babe!

[Image via WhatShanniSaw]

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Anniversary Trip to Greece & Turkey!

Tomorrow we're off to Turkey and Greece for our one year anniversary, and I could not be happier about escaping the London rain for some sunshine in the Mediterranean! First we head to Istanbul for a few days...I've never been before but have heard really good things from my sister and parents who've both been in the past few months. From Turkey, we move on to Athens for a quick look at the Acropolis and then we hop over to Crete for a few days to check out the archaeological ruins and the beach. We'll end up in Santorini for three days to soak up the sun and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets from the whitewashed buildings nestled along the cliff. I think it's going to be a wonderfully romantic holiday to celebrate our first year of marriage! Photos to follow when we return! x

[Image via Pinterest]

Friday, 13 July 2012

Scenes From The Cotswolds

Our trip to the Cotswolds the other weekend with my parents was every bit as magical and quaint as I thought it would be. From the grazing sheep to the picturesque pastures, it really is a gorgeous place to spend a few days. There are dozens of villages in the Cotswolds and we went to five in two days. Each one is pretty small and with a car it was only about 15 minutes to drive from one to the other (or at least the ones we went to). Our first stop after spending a few hours in Bath (check out my post on this pretty city here) was Bourton-on-the-Water. Don't you love the name?! This actaully ended up being my favourite village on our's a tiny place with tea shops and knick-knack stores lining the shallow river. You can walk the town centre in less than 10 minutes, but you could easily spend hours over a cream tea, which is exactly what we did! I've really come to love cream teas (English tea and scones with clotted cream and jam), and my parents loved it too.

After Bourton-on-the-Water, we made our way to Gloucestershire where we spent the night in a small hotel overlooking fields and had a lovely dinner at the hotel's restaurant. The next day, we drove to Stow-on-the-Wold where we had a long breakfast to avoid the rain and walked around a bit. This little village seemed more built up than Bourton-on-the-Water, but it was still fun to take pictures and admire the old beautiful buildings. The Slaughters (two cute neighbouring villages) were next on out tour. We went to Lower Slaughter first which is an adorable, sleepy town with not much else besides an old mill, a few fancy hotels and a museum with a giftshop where you can catch a good look at the grazing goats and sheep. From Lower Slaughter you can walk to Upper Slaughter, although if it's been raining like it was when we were there, bring your wellies! I'm pretty sure I ruined my leather boots, but I did get some great photos and unforgettable family memories, so it was worth it. We walked through fields and made our way on the path to Lower Slaughter, where there's only a few hotels and a church (it's mostly residential).Our last stop was Chipping Camden, which was pretty, but less quaint then the others...although we did have a lovely Greek lunch at a small cafe on the high street. You'll find that in the Cotswolds it's just about enjoying nature and being peaceful - no big exciting attractions to see, just miles and miles of sprawling green hills. It was such a fun road trip with my family and I highly recommend it as a quick trip from London.

Now I'm off to spend more time with my parents, who are back in town for one last visit before they head back to the states. Tonight we're headed to dinner and jazz in Chelsea, followed by a trip to Hampton Court tomorrow and then a viewing of Les Miserables at night. I just wish my sister and Corey were here too...that would make the perfect weekend even better!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

All The Pretty Details

Quite a while ago, I said I would share some tips on wedding planning and given that one of my best friends just got engaged (congratulations, Lindsay & Ross!!), my sister-in-law is about to get married in a few weeks, and some of our good friends are in the midst of planning their nuptials, I thought it was perfect timing! I was also inspired by our anniversary, which is coming up next week! Now of course, these are only tips based on my experience last year, but I hope they're useful for all the brides-to-be (and their doting fiances).

As soon as you're engaged and all the excitement of the actual proposal has died down a bit, you quickly move onto thinking about the big day and all those logistics, well the girls do at least. After Jim and I got engaged in Nantucket two years ago, I had a few ideas (maybe more than a few) about what I wanted our day to look like, but wedding planning was still largely uncharted territory for me since none of my close friends had been through it. I started out by visiting Style Me Pretty several times a day, which I still do now to scour the stunning weddings. I also regularly checked Oncewed (loads of pretty weddings with pretty details), Green Wedding Shoes (again pretty weddings with eclectic twists), Style Me Pretty California (more SMP but with a little extra sunshine) and The Knot (a great resource for protocol, seating charts for the reception, guest list manager, galleries for everything you can imagine and helpful tips). I'll be the first to admit, all the options for every aspect of your wedding can be a bit overwhelming, but if you just go with it and embrace your vision, it will be such a fun experience!

To me the main things to nail down in the first couple of months (if you're planning a yearlong engagement) are the venue, photographer, your dress and colour scheme. I highly recommend both getting a photographer and videographer as you can relive the experience for years to come (I love watching our video, but only once in a while because I always cry!). The catering (if not included with the venue), florist, bridal party attire, hotels, honeymoon and all the details can come later. But even before all of this, you should establish your headcount and budget, which of course can be very challenging and complicated. One of my friends lent me a 'workback schedule' as we call it in the PR world, and this helped out so much. It's basically a checklist of everything that needs to be done month by month. Key to keeping you on track! If you have the luxury, hire a wedding planner for the month (or more) leading up to the wedding. You won't be able to do it all on the big day, so you need someone who knows your vision and can bring it to life.

Here are a few more bits of advice for the brides-to-be...

Your photographer and videographer are invaluable and they capture the most important memories so invest wisely and if you can, opt for the albums - they turn out so well! And if you're able to, do the engagement photos - you get amazing portraits with personality and the chance to get comfortable with your photographer before the big day. 
Your venue for the ceremony and reception really set the mood of the entire wedding so really think about what you want it to represent and how you want to feel on the day - ceremony inside or out, venue on the water or in the mountains. All of your details will follow the tone of the venue.
'First Looks' are a good idea and from experience, I don't think it made it any 'less special' for us. It actaully allowed us to be alone together in the moment. You also get some really great photos!
Have fun with all the details. I poured over the wedding sites and searched high and low on Etsy for my ring pillow and brooch, and craft sites like Save-On Crafts and Cost Plus for things like lanterns and wedding favours. Mixing pricey and budget items can help save costs and it allows you to splurge on things that matter (maybe shoes!) and then save on other things like string lights.
Enjoy your wedding party and all the fun moments at the bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinner and of course, the big day. This is the one time you're going to have them all together to celebrate the two of you so enjoy it all!
Flowers were a main element of our wedding that really helped bring the garden party theme to life. Depending on how flowery your venue is, you may not need a lot, but they can definitely make everything look a little more beautiful.
Remember, it's always, always, always about the couple and the day is really about what you want. Try not to let others' opinions influence you too much, because when you look back on your big day you'll want to know that it was exactly what you wanted.

[Images via WhatShanniSaw]

Friday, 6 July 2012

Florence in the Summer

I'm finally to the last post on our Italian holiday: Florence! This gorgeous place is much more relaxed than Rome, but still filled with so much history, culture and of course, good food. Jim and I wanted to relax but also sight-see since Jim hadn’t been ended up being a perfect combo of both made all the much better with 80 degree weather. And our hotel, Porta Faenza, was small but close to everything.

If you’re heading to Florence any time soon, here are my recommendations for the must-dos: Il Duomo (the famous cathedral in the centre of town), Piazzale Michelangelo (a square looking over the city where you can catch some the square on a hill where you can see the spanning views of the entire city, grab a gelato and just soak it all in...check out the pretty gardens on your way up the hill), Piazza della Signoria (the main square in Florence), Baldovino (amazing spot for creative, delicious Italian fare), Uffizzi Gallery (where you can see all the famous Renaissance art from Leonardo Da Vinci and tickets in advance though), Ponte Vecchio (a stone’s throw from the Uffizzi Gallery, it’s a bridge filled with jewellery stores and lookout points for photos), shopping around Piazza San Lorenzo and the side streets off of Piazza della Signoria. Another bit of advice would be to eat all the pizza, pasta and gelato you can! 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Celebrating America!

It’s always a little weird celebrating the 4th of July outside of the US – you just don’t get that same feeling of celebration, nostalgia and country pride. The 4th for me is always a small town celebration in La Selva Beach with family and friends. The festivities start bright and early with the Pet Parade in the park where locals bring their prized pooches and other rare species (turtles and snakes have been known to make an appearance) to be evaluated by a panel of judges who give every animal a 1st place ribbon for their special attributes. My dog (brother) George always gets a ribbon for something a little different – sometimes it’s best dribbling skills with his plastic basketball or sometimes best smile with his crooked teeth and sideways tongue. It’s always a sight to see the kids and adults so proud up there with their pets. Next in the festivities line-up comes the big parade, where kids line up on our street to take part with their red, white and blue decorated bikes and painted faces all ready to stroll down Playa Boulevard (the main palm tree lined street in town). There’s always a band that kicks things off and rides down in front of the bikes, strollers, wagons and miniature cars (animals take part too...the past few years have seen llamas among other pets). Along with the Grand Marshall (someone in town who gets nominated to lead the parade), there’s always the special groups of people in town – from the Twins Club to the Baton Twirlers.

My absolute favourite spectacle in the parade is the librarians and their carts – it gets me every time. The local librarians all dress up in their uniforms and take their little red book carts and do a coordinated routine – it’s hard to explain, you really have to see it in person (my husband, Jim was literally shocked the first time he saw it). Everyone lines the street and cheers as the parade goes by. After it ends, everyone heads over to the park for the games, which vary from sack races to the diaper derby (yes, parents send their little babies crawling down the lawn to earn a prize!). It’s so fun mingling with people in our small town and eating the yummy baked goods that people prepare and sell on the picnic tables. The rest of the day is all about BBQs, the beach and the infamous sand castle contest. And if it’s not foggy, we can see the big fireworks show down the coast – or we often get amateur fireworks on our own little beach.

This year we obviously won’t have this experience, but we’ll toast America in our own special way – maybe with some BBQ and beers or something equally red, white and blue. I love our incredible country and am so proud of where I come from! Happy 4th everyone, I hope you have an amazing celebration!

[Image via grace (ful things)]

Monday, 2 July 2012

[Dream] Home Office

Like so many of us, I often fantasize about my dream home. Luckily, Pinterest feeds this habit perfectly and allows me to find gorgeous rooms like this beautiful home office! I just love the contrast of the deep blue and yellow offset by the stark white and little accents in the bookshelf. I would love to be able to work from home, it seems so ideal to have this creative space where you can really get to work with no distractions in these lovely surroundings. Someday...

[Image via Horchow]

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