Georgina just turned one in August, and lately she’s been bringing me books to read to her throughout the day. Before she was mobile, we would read books over and over, but since she started walking she hasn’t been as interested in reading, which concerned me a bit. My husband and I have always loved reading and it’s been one of our dreams for our daughter to discover the joy, knowledge, and escape books provide.
Georgina definitely has favorite books and I find that reading these has been the key to getting her to pay attention long enough to get through a book or two. She is a busy lady, but I have been trying to work more books into our playtime so her language skills can continue developing. I am on pins and needles, waiting for her first few words beyond “mama” “dada” and “hi”! I can’t wait to hear her little voice, chatting away.
I thought I would share our current favorites for babies around one year of age. Would love to hear your favorites as well!
DryBar Dry Shampoo: My favorite dry shampoo of all time. I’ve tried others, but always come back to this for its impressive ability to freshen and add volume to limp, lifeless hair.
Dermaflash Device: This exfoliation device allows you to dermaplane in the comfort of your own home. Dermaplaning removes the top layer of dead skin as well as peach fuzz, and better prepares your skin for skincare products.
GHD Curling Iron: My favorite and most-used curling iron. It heats up quickly, has a clip, and creates voluminous curls that last for days.
L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil: The most luxurious shower oil that slightly lathers and provides lots of hydration. I have used this as a shaving oil for years.
Barefoot Dreams Cardigan: There’s a reason this brand has a cult following. They make the softest products to cozy up with and this cardigan is no exception. I love throwing these over pajamas or athleisure when I’m around the house.
Barefoot Dreams Blanket: If you don’t have one of these, treat yourself to one during the sale. They are perfect for cuddling up during a movie and make a great gift as well.
Moonlight Dream Pajamas: I think I have these pajamas in every color. They’re super soft and wash well. Order in your regular size for a loose, comfy fit.
Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Trio: As a busy mom, I love the idea of a quick and easy-to-apply eye shadow stick. I bought these during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, received my order, and quickly fell in love with these. The colors are gorgeous and they’re easy to apply and blend.
North Face Oso Zip Hoodie: These sweet little jackets are so soft and come in both pink and blue. I got one of these for Georgie and I think it will make a perfect play jacket for her this fall. Runs true to size. I ordered the 18-24 month size for Georgina as she just began wearing size 18 months and I think this will fit her through the spring.
Jelly Mary Jane Flat: Georgie got so excited when I gave her these. Jelly shoes are fun and easy to clean if she wears them out in the garden. She kept walking around and staring at her shimmery golden shoes! Runs true to size. Georgina wears a size 5.
Little Giraffe Blanket: The softest baby blanket you’ll ever snuggle a little one with! This is like a Barefoot Dreams blanket for babies. I got one for Georgie because we’ve started letting her snuggle blankets during her naps. It would make the perfect gift for a new baby.
Nuna Rava Car Seat: We just switched to a Nuna brand car seat (this is the one my mom gave Georgie for her birthday) and it is so much more functional and efficient than the Maxi-Cosi infant seat we used. One of my sorority sisters messaged me recently to tell me how great she thought it was as well; she doesn’t have a baby yet, she was just helping her friend with her baby and thought it was that amazing!
Tom Ford Sunglasses: These are my favorite timeless sunglasses I wear year after year. You can’t go wrong with a classic style like this.
Dior Lip Set: Two of my favorite lip products in one great set, along with a cute Dior cosmetic pouch and the Dior lash primer. You’ll love these lip products because they hydrate and gently plump your lips, while creating a natural pink glow with your body’s own chemistry so the color looks slightly different each time you wear it.
Cubic Zirconia Stud Earrings: These earrings have a cult following. I’ve heard some people say they wear them to travel and some say they wear them every single day, just as they would diamond earrings. These aren’t to be missed during this sale.
Vince Crop Flare Trousers: I love this pant. It looks so polished and elevated, even when you just throw it on with a tee. It isn’t really “flared” on me – I think I would call it more of a straight leg. Really flattering and true to size.
I feel as if it’s been ages since I’ve tried some new products and wrote a proper review. (I’ll blame it on having a baby.) But this summer I’ve been enjoying taking a little time to get myself ready during Georgie’s morning nap and as a result, I’ve stumbled across some new favorites I had to share with you.
Just because many of us are raising littles or working from home or hidden behind face masks, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the little things that make us feel great about ourselves each day. For me, taking the time to make myself presentable makes a huge difference in how I feel and even increases my productivity for the day. Lately I’ve been doing a really natural look that focuses on glowy skin, lashes, and rosy cheeks. Here’s to pretty packaging and products worth the spend…
1. Tatcha Liquid Silk Canvas: Featherweight Protective Primer
In the past, I’ve struggled with finding really great primers; it seemed like the ones everyone was raving about would never work for me. I saw this primer during a sale, was intrigued by the clean beauty stamp, and decided to try it. As soon as I applied this over my moisturizer I saw a visible difference in my skin. My pores and even my under-eye circles were minimized, my skin looked smoother, and my skin had an almost filtered appearance. I am sold on this primer, ladies. Never letting this one go!
I have had dark under-eye circles for years; I think I started noticing them in college, but they’ve definitely gotten worse since I developed allergies and became a permanently-tired mama. It’s difficult to find products that conceal them without looking cakey… Until I discovered this little tube of magic. I wear shade #2 and I think that’s key for concealing because it has a peach pigment that counteracts blue and purple undertones. It brightens my under-eye area and conceals beautifully. Sometimes I apply with my BeautyBlender and sometimes I apply with the little concealer brush it comes with. Either way, this is a godsend as I no longer look like I may be auditioning for a vampire series when I apply it. This is definitely the chef’s kiss of under-eye concealers.
I discovered this dream product last summer when I was pregnant. It’s a creamy bronzing base that also offers beautiful coverage. It comes in a sleek little tub and you can use fingers, a brush, or a sponge to apply.
My preference? After moisturizing and/or priming (sometimes I use this product in place of primer) I apply a little concealer with a damp BeautyBlender, then use the same sponge to dab and blend this product all over my face. Remember to blend down onto your neck – it’s important since this product does give you a little dose of bronzed color. Et voila! You’ll have a glowy, sun-kissed daytime look. You can add foundation on top of this for even more coverage and a more “finished” evening look. This has become a “Holy Grail” product for me. When my skin is looking a little dull or pale, I add this into my routine and I instantly look fresh and brightened up.
While this product line is new to me, the makeup artist Gucci Westman who created it is not. Before I became a wife and mama, I worked for a skincare and cosmetics company. Gucci Westman is known to everyone in the industry as the skin goddess to models and celebrities. Her artistry for balancing skin tone and creating a flawless canvas are unparalleled. So when I was sent some Westman Atelier products to try, I was thrilled.
I was a bit nervous to use a stick foundation, but I jumped in with both feet, ignoring my foundation brush and using my fingers to melt the product and blend into skin a la Gucci herself. To be honest, I was floored. At the risk of sounding cheesy but being completely honest here… My skin looks like I’m wearing one of those Instagram filters when I have it on. The stick formula is easy to build where I need it and gives me beautiful, barely-there coverage where I don’t. In the eloquent words of my UPS delivery man, who I see nearly every day, “What did you do to your face? You look twenty-one today.” Thank you, sir. The first time I wore this foundation I got ready around 11 AM for friends to come over and they didn’t leave until 8:30 PM when I finally checked my face; the foundation still looked great and hadn’t creased at all.
I use shades Atelier II and III and blend them according to my skin tone at the moment. I love placing the slightly darker shade along my hairline and forehead, down the sides of my nose, under cheekbones, and around my jawline for a natural, effortless looking contour.
5. Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in “Dou Dou”
I’m going to go ahead and say it. This is my favorite beauty product of 2020. This creamy blush stick can be used on cheeks and lips and this particular color called “Dou Dou” gives such a perfect rose glow, you could be an extra in a Jane Austen period drama. It’s perfect.
I use two fingers to rub the top of the blush stick, then I gently dab onto the apples of my cheeks and I use the extra to dab a little color onto my eyelids and bridge of my nose for a natural flushed look. Then I go back to the blush stick and dab onto my lips. You will love this product. I’ve shared a swatch above to show both the blended out color and the color applied straight out of the stick.
I’ve been forgoing contour lately and just doing a little highlight instead. I think it’s more natural and youthful. This highlight stick isn’t shimmery; it just kisses the skin with the perfect touch of dew-like finish. I dab a little on my brow bones, cheekbones, the tip of my nose, and my cupid’s bow. Effortless and fresh.
I am picky when it comes to mascaras. For the past ten years or so, I’ve been alternating between two main favorites. I’ll admit, I decided to try this mascara for the pretty pink and gold packaging. Imagine my surprise when I applied it and it gave me long, perfectly black, flirty lashes. Who knew?! This mascara is a gem. It’s less clumpy than my previous #1 favorite (Chanel Le Volume), but still gives volume and major length.
When I want a natural pink glow to my lips with just a little shine, I reach for this gorgeous balm-meets-lipstick. I love it so much, I think I’m on my third tube since discovering it a few years ago.
This lipstick reacts with your natural chemistry to produce the perfect pink flush for your skin tone. I’m no scientist, but I can tell you this product somehow looks uniquely gorgeous on every person I’ve seen wearing it. And the mango butter in it is so moisturizing. If I had to pick one lip product right now, this would be it.
What better way to make the most of time at home than with a backyard tea party in the garden? Grab an old quilt – this one under $100 is my favorite we’ve been using lately – and place on the ground. An upturned picnic basket makes for a great table. Tea isn’t required if little hands are involved, but Georgie will tell you these delicious cream buttermintsabsolutely are a must! (They’re the kind of cream buttermints I remember grandmothers bringing to luncheons and bridal showers when I was a little girl.)
We’re using this Blue Willow Tea Set – it’s under $200, so appropriate for picnics or outdoor tea parties and you have to worry you’ll break your grandmother’s tea set in the garden. It’s a beautiful set and I have mine displayed in our breakfast nook’s glass china cabinet when we’re not using it.
Our little city garden is small, but we make the most of it! If you don’t have a garden, head to a local park or try opening up all your windows and have a picnic on your apartment floor. What activities have you been doing with your little ones to keep them occupied and enjoy the warmer weather?
I’ve been so looking forward to Georgie’s first Easter. I’ll admit, I had visions of us wearing coordinated pastel outfits at a fun Easter brunch, but this year will be different. We’ll be having a quiet brunch here at home, enjoying one another’s company and venturing out to the garden with the dogs if the weather is nice enough. Perhaps this year is an important reminder that Easter is not about candy, bunnies, and new white shoes. May we remember the real reason for this holiday and what it means.
I couldn’t resist getting Georgie one of these sweet smocked dresses with the matching bunny doll. She loves little bags (that one must be genetic) so I found her a sweet pink quilted purse and this little tweed bag with pearls on the handle. A sweet rosebud print bow headband. And a teething egg – a soothing teether that comes attached to a lanyard. I made sure to order lots of books; Georgie is a busy little girl, but each day I try to incorporate some reading time with her. She enjoys books about animals most, and of course I couldn’t resist going with a bunny theme for our little Bunny girl.
I hope you all have a very Happy Easter. Wishing you safety, health, and time with your loved ones.
Like so many of you, Georgie and I have been safely tucked inside our house waiting for the coronavirus storm to pass. I have chatted with several fellow mamas via DM and you have the same fears I do. Simple things like getting our mail, receiving packages, and ordering takeout now come with extra worries that weren’t there before. The unknown can feel overwhelming and I need to protect my baby and keep her close.
But with this time comes a silver lining; a global pause to be still and reflect, extra time together as a little family, quiet moments with my daughter. I’ve pulled out our favorite books, many of which were also my favorites as a little girl, and we have been reading amongst a pile of blankets and quilts each day. I challenge her by reading children’s books to her, not just the baby board books and she seems to love it. Of course, sometimes Georgie decides to spend our reading time chewing on the books as opposed to reading them and that’s just fine with me.
I wanted to share the books we adore so much with you in case you’re looking to fill your time and stock your library a bit! In the first slide, you’ll find our favorite book series. I find that these provide hours and hours of reading, make a beautiful gift, and also look especially lovely on a shelf or in a bookcase. I want to point out the Angelina Ballerina boxed sets – these are vintage as they no longer print all of these titles. They have the most beautiful illustrations that are no longer in the current books. (Those of you who grew up in the 90’s like me will remember these illustrations.) I gave Georgie a complete set for Valentine’s Day and we keep it in her bedroom bookcase. I was only able to find two so please hurry if you’re interested!
In the second slide below, you’ll find books that are currently in a ‘buy two get one free’ sale. I’ve purchased some of these books for Georgie’s Easter basket and of course, for our sanity the next few weeks! My mom has always said she’d rarely tell me ‘no’ when I asked for a book because reading is so important for children. I hope Georgie loves reading as much as her father and I do, so I’m diligently building her little library one book at a time.
When I was a little girl, I would love when my mom would decorate our house for each holiday. I got so excited to come home after school and find haunted houses on the buffet or a Christmas village along the hearth. Now that I have Georgina, I can relive these traditions with my own daughter. Although she’s six months old and hardly aware of our decorations, it’s fun for me I suppose!
After a dull winter with the brown grass and bare trees outside, I really enjoy bringing spring indoors! Our breakfast table is the first area we see each morning and where we eat a lot of our meals, so it’s one of my favorite spaces to decorate. I love bringing a little Spring and Easter to the table in simple, easy ways. These plates are melamine, so they are safe for grabbing baby or toddler hands and can even be taken outdoors on warm days. I think we’ll be able to use the gingham ones throughout the summer. Do you decorate for spring? What are some of your favorite ways to bring a little life indoors after a long winter?
When I became pregnant, I panicked for a bit… Where were we going to put the baby?! When we moved into our home in 2014, I thought we would neverbe able to fill all the rooms. Five years later, every room and closet was full, made worse by the fact I was blogging full-time and packages of skincare, makeup, and clothing arrived every day from PR companies. It sounds like that would be a great thing, but truthfully, I felt like I was drowning in STUFF. And the last thing I wanted to do was bring a baby into our clutter.
I read books on tidying, looked up decluttering articles online, and watched Marie Kondo’s TV series for inspiration. My mom offered to help and over the course of 2-3 months we donated or gave away 50% of our belongings. This includes furniture, some of which we replaced with newer and baby-friendly versions, so I suppose the actual percentage is closer to 30%… But still… It’s something I never thought could be done when we started.
The change I’ve felt since letting go of items that didn’t fit, items I didn’t use, and items we simply didn’t need has been incredible. I felt this immediate weight off my shoulders and my mind felt less cluttered too. After actually realizing how much we had I felt wasteful. The feeling of letting it go was so freeing, I promised myself I would never let it happen again.
#1 – Totality is Key
I don’t think the Marie Kondo method needs to be followed exactly, but I do agree with her on one thing. If you’re going to clear out, you need to go through the entire house.It will take time, but it’s worth it… If you don’t, you’ll find yourself shuffling stuff from room to room and closet to closet. And you won’t have the freeing feeling when you let go of so many unnecessary things.
Start with your main living area – which room or rooms do you spend the most time in? We started with the main floor of our house. Once we had decluttered there, it felt so good to walk in and spend the majority of our time in a tidy space it was easy to find the motivation to declutter the other two floors. Every drawer, every cupboard, every closet, and every container in those spaces. My mom and I would go through items and sort them into piles. John would load everything into his truck and take loads to Goodwill and Salvation Army when it was full. If you can only do one room a weekend, that’s fine. But don’t stop until you’ve gone through your entire house or apartment.
#2 – Four Piles
Keep, Donate, Give, Trash/Recycle. Take a look at your space and assess exactly how much room you have for items if they are displayed neat and tidy as if they’re in a shop. That’s what you can keep. Continue looking at your keep pile – if it grows too large to store in your space neatly, edit it down and move it over to the other three piles.
The donate pile is to drop off at Goodwill or Salvation Army (nicer items going to consignment could go here as well). The give pile is for items that will be given to friends or family. And the trash/recycle pile is for paper items or items that are damaged or beyond use.
You could add a fifth pile for items you want to sell on eBay or Poshmark, but I wanted things out of my house so badly I avoided selling online and chose to send/drop off at consignment shops. Kouture and Rags in Cherry Creek and Common Threads in Wash Park are consignment shops you local Denver girls suggested.
#3 – Focus on Joy
The best takeaway from Marie Kondo is the question she asks declutterers to ask themselves when choosing whether to keep or discard an item. Does this item spark joy? It’s sounds silly, but its incredibly effective. When you walk into a space, when you are choosing what to wear, when you are applying skincare or makeup… You should feel joy. You should feel excited to wear that dress, excited to apply your favorite lipstick, excited to walk into your home office and sit down in your favorite chair. When you pick up or look at something that sparks joy, it should feel like seeing a great friend across the room. Ahh… There you are!
Damaged items, clothing that doesn’t fit, pajamas that look old and sloppy… These items don’t bring you joy. They are disappointing and bring you down. Don’t you deserve to have a drawer full of pretty bras and panties? You are worth looking neat and tidy, even if you’re just at home. So say goodbye to your stained sorority tee and those saggy old yoga pants. You deserve better. You’re worth putting on an outfit that makes you feel amazing every single day. How you look on the outside will, without a doubt, affect how you feel on the inside.
When you walk into a space, does it bring you joy? If not, keep tidying and tweaking your decor until it does. Your physical space should be full of useful things and items you actually love. I used to fill every surface with little decor elements, potted flowers, and stacks of books, thinking more was more. My mom started taking them away and… My living space felt clean, fresh, and organized! Less is often more when it comes to interiors. Try taking everything off a surface and only adding back three items. Does it look better to you?
#4 – Create Space for Sentimental Things
When we began decluttering I realized I was holding onto a lot of things for sentimental reasons. I had little boxes and files full of papers and business cards and tickets from fashion weeks and vacations. I was holding on to the memories, but I realized I didn’t need these items to do that. I kept a few things to scrapbook and fondly remembered each item as I let it go into the waste bin.
Marie Kondo has a method for things that are tough to let go. Thank the item for what it did for you and put it into its proper pile. Do you have a gift from someone you’ve been keeping just because it was a gift? Maybe it wasn’t your style or you don’t use it. Simply thank it for being a gift and making you feel appreciated and grateful in the moment. It did its job – now let it go. Think of the person that will stumble upon your sweater from Aunt Mildred and be thrilled when they find it at Goodwill.
Right now, go into the Photos on your phone. Make a new album and title it Things I Want To Remember. When you’re decluttering and you find something from the past you want to remember but don’t need to keep, take a photo of it and file the photo into this album. That way, you can look back on it (much easier than going into your storage and tracking it down, by the way) and remember it, but it doesn’t have to take up physical space in your home. Because physical space in your home equates to physical weight on your mind. I was able to let go of so many things using this technique.
#4 – Time of Last Use
When was the last time you used something? Has it been over a year since you last wore something? If so, chances are you won’t ever wear it again. My mom’s stylist used to say if you’re getting dressed and you say no to something three times or more, you’ll never wear it. We are creatures of habit and we know what we feel comfortable in and what flatters our bodies. If it’s been over a year since you wore something it’s time to say goodbye.
I make an exception for special occasion pieces. My time limit is three years here. The special occasion pieces should spark joy as well – you should want to put it on as you’re looking at it. But if it doesn’t fit and/or you haven’t worn it in three years, it needs to go. I let go of a lot of evening clutches this way; I have two or three favorite clutches I use regularly but the others hadn’t been carried in years… If I was honest with myself I knew I would always choose the two or three that spark joy. The others could go on to Goodwill for someone else to enjoy.
My time limit for skin care, makeup, beauty products, and beauty tools is two years. (I know people rant about expiration dates but I believe most of that is marketing.) You should look at your beauty stash and see things that you actually use and that make you feel beautiful. I had all sorts of gadgets for at-home facials that I wasn’t using so those went, along with makeup that wasn’t flattering on my skin tone and perfumes I didn’t really love.
Are you a sample and hotel product hoarder like I am? Get an apothecary jar and store them in your guest bathroom for guests to use when they forget products. Put them in a small container where you keep your travel bags and use them when you travel. Otherwise, make a point to use these minis up first before you use anything else in your bathroom cabinet. Every year, I go on a beauty buying ban for 3 months to use up my products. Sometimes I do this twice a year.
For dishes and kitchen appliances, my time limit is two years. If you have a shelf of crock pots you never use, get rid of them and create space for something you actually love. We can have great intentions to become the next Martha Stewart, but the truth is, most of those kitchen gadgets are just gathering dust.
The “spark joy” factor applies here too – are those faded souvenir plastic cups really making you feel happy when you open your cabinet? What about that dish towel with the hole in it or your cracked coffee mug? You deserve to have pretty things to use when enjoying your morning coffee or cooking a meal. Every mundane morning feels more special when I give myself permission to use my best china and a beautiful napkin.
#6 – Smart Storage Solutions
Now that you’ve decluttered, the goal is to keep your space tidy… And to want to keep your space tidy. Get yourself pretty file folders for important documents. Tuck one of these spinning shelves under your bathroom sink for easy-to-reach hair products. Contain small items like contacts and bobby pins in these clear bins. Coordinated storage always makes a space feel more organized – get matching hangers and stock shelves with matching baskets.
Get creative with your storage solutions. I love recycling nice accessory boxes or shoe boxes as containers for printed photos and mementos. Then I use my Labelmaker to keep everything organized and store them in large plastic totes.
Most importantly, repeat this exercise once a year to keep on top of it. Once you’ve done it the first time, each year after won’t take you as long. You can quickly assess what you have, remove what’s unnecessary, and move on. But your home (and mind!) will continue to feel fresh and uncluttered.
This is the most luxurious cleansing water you’ll ever have on your countertop. With vanilla planifolia and purifying harungana extract, this silky water cleanses, soothes, and illuminates skin in one step. I like to use mine with cotton pads to remove makeup and cleanse my skin. As a busy mom, there are nights when I’m so tired I just want to do a one-step routine and fall into bed! This product is a little luxury that makes my skin feel clean and hydrated at the end of the day. On days that I’m not wearing makeup, I like to use this throughout the day to freshen and illuminate my skin.
Makeup artist James Webb described Le Blanc Essence Lotion as “primer for your skincare”. It’s a light, silky water formula with a beautiful pearl luminance. You can splash a bit of this into your hands after cleansing and gently pat into your skin before topping with serum, eye cream, and moisturizer. Le Blanc Essence Lotion gives a beautiful gentle light to skin and sets the stage for glowy makeup while ume flower oil deeply nourishes and hydrates skin throughout the day. When I use this, my skin feels better and my makeup looks better.
Chanel Ultra Le Teint Velvet Blurring Smooth-Effect Foundation SPF 15
Since I’ve been focusing on taking better care of my skin, I was looking for a light, natural looking foundation I could wear every day. James Webb told us to give this foundation a good shake to blend the two semi-transparent powders suspended inside. People varied on how they preferred to apply this foundation, but I like the soft, even coverage a foundation brush gives. This foundation formula creates a blurred, filtered look on skin while still appearing fresh and natural. I like using a light powder on top to set, but it isn’t necessary; my makeup still looked fresh five hours later even without setting powder. I wear the color B30.
Chanel Baume Essentiel Multi-Use Glow Stick in Golden Light
I loved the way James Webb demonstrated brushing this dewy bronzing stick on an angled cheek brush to create the softest, natural-looking bronze glow ever. Gone are the days of the orange contour streak down the cheek… Happy we are finally embracing a fresher, more natural bronze these days.
As soon as I tried this beautiful rose-toned blush I knew I had to bring it home with me! I love the subtle gold flecks in it and the way it creates a fresh, slightly sunkissed look. I apply mine with an angled blush brush just underneath my cheekbones and blend up and onto the apples of my cheeks.
Chanel Stylo Ombre et Contour Eyeshadow Liner Khôl in “Rouge Noir”
This is such a versatile product. It’s a creamy sort of crayon that you can use as an eyeshadow by blending out with an eyeshadow brush or use as an eyeliner by applying directly onto your lashline. I chose the gorgeous plum color “Rouge Noir” because it looks great on light eyes and is a fantastic color for spring and summer. But I’m currently looking at other colors to add because I think this is such a great product that will save me time and space in my makeup bag!
Chanel Rouge Coco Gloss Moisturizing Glossimer in “Bourgeousie”
I saw this rose-mauve gloss with subtle flecks of gold on my mom and fell in love. What a gorgeous, subtle color that looks amazing on lips. Add this over a lipstick or wear it on its own – it’s perfection.
This was my most difficult post to write from our U.K. driving trip because all the destinations could have individual posts of their own. But some of them can be stops along your way to other places and for that reason I’ve decided to put them all into one “English Countryside” post that combines all our visits outside London and Wales.
These areas outside London are such beautiful places to explore. I think you can get a better idea of English landscape and the British people when you wander outside the major cities a bit. Rolling hills, lush forests, and dewy gardens with ancient hedgerow borders abound in this part of the country. It makes for a scenic, relaxing drive. Stopping at little villages for lunch and to browse a shop or two… You could really spend weeks exploring the countryside this way.
Stratford-Upon-Avon is about 90 miles northwest of London, making it a great stop on your way into or out of the city. It’s best known as the birthplace of Shakespeare and for that reason you will see a lot of tourists here. The town is filled with rows of Tudor buildings with gorgeous wood beams. Unless you’re a real Shakespeare lover, you probably don’t need more than a day here. Take in a few sites such as Shakespeare’s birthplace, former wife Anne Hathaway’s cottage, the Church of the Holy Trinity where he is buried, and perhaps the Stratford Butterfly Farm. There are often markets here which can be fun to browse, along with the plethora of cute shops lining the streets. The old pubs make for a historic spot to enjoy lunch. I would recommend traveling through on a Sunday… there’s nothing like a traditional British Sunday roast at an old pub.
Blenheim Palace is a magnificent palace outside London, the birthplace of Winston Churchill and the residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. It’s a sixty-mile drive out of London, so it’s perfect for a day trip. We stopped on our way back from the Cotswolds to see their Christmas market and take a tour through the palace. Each year at Christmas, the ground floor rooms inside the palace are decorated in a festive theme, complete with music, video, and animation. The theme for Christmas 2018 was Cinderella and it was magical; the final room, a ballroom, was decorated as the wedding reception of Prince Charming and Cinderella. I think this would be a great stop for families.
Thornbury Castle is a stunning Tudor castle outside Bristol where we stopped between Wales and the Cotswolds. It’s been restored into a hotel and restaurant and the castle is surrounded by beautiful Tudor gardens with beehives in the walls. You can have dinner here in the former dungeon next to a glowing fireplace; it really is like taking a step back in time.
The Cotswolds were my absolute favorite part of our U.K. driving trip. I love the quiet, quaint villages and the winding country roads framed by hedgerows and fields. Fantastic restaurants and streets full of little shops. Stopping for tea and browsing through antiques and galleries. I’ve listed some of my favorite villages and places to visit while you’re in the area, but the truth is, each village is more picturesque than the last; they just keep getting better and better as you go along. I wish I could narrow them down for you, but it’s really worth renting a car and taking several days to wander through several of them. The Cotswolds is an area meant for leisure… Take your time, pack your wellies for a few romps through the woods, and enjoy.
Lacock is a popular filming location for period TV shows and films because of its unspoiled nature; as you walk along, everything in the village seems like it has been there forever and you get a little lost in time. There were some charming shops, especially on and near the main street. I particularly remember a homemade bath products shop called Quintessentially English, where I bought a few bath bombs to enjoy back at our hotel. We had a fish & chips lunch at The Red Lion pub before driving on.
Lacock Abbey isn’t to be missed. This abbey, founded in 1232, and the architectural elements added throughout the centuries are preserved beautifully and the original cloisters and chapter house are still visible. Lacock Abbey is surrounded by lush grounds and gardens; take a walk or bring a picnic when you visit. You may even recognize the abbey’s interior from Harry Potter and other films.
We stayed just outside of Broadway at a beautiful hotel called Dormy House, where we had our own little cottage to stay for the week. It might be because of this, but Broadway quickly became my favorite village. I loved the wide street (hence the name “Broadway”) and the charming shops. I went back to Landmark for gorgeous British country clothes numerous times and loved hunting for antiques here. There was a fun Christmas market going on here one evening; we got cups of spiced wine and walked along, listening to Christmas carolers. We had so much fun; I’ll never forget that evening.
During the Christmas market, we ate at one of the food stalls where they served mince pies, Raclette, and sausage rolls. But as far as Broadway restaurants go, we ate dinner at the Dormy House restaurant one evening which was romantic and had a “farmhouse chic” atmosphere as they describe it. We also enjoyed dinner at The Lygon Arms, an inn in Broadway with a regal country house feel. You might make reservations for either as they were both full when we visited!
John says if I lived in the Cotswolds, I would live here. It’s not far from the truth! Lady Carole Bamford started Daylesford Farm after converting her family’s land to organic, responsible farming. She started the farmshop and café in 2002 and since then, it has grown into a beautiful destination for those who love organic food, beautiful gifts, and sustainably-grown plants and flowers. You can stay at the Daylesford cottages or at the Wild Rabbit inn and cottages, also on the Daylesford estate. If you’re going to visit, allow time for lunch and check their calendar of events. There was a cooking class, wreath making class, and Christmas reindeer arriving all while we were there. And take a peek at the Bamford Wellness Spa in case you’re in need of a little pampering.
More Cotswolds Villages
I could sit all day and type about the beauty of each and every one of these villages, but just know that so much of the fun of the English countryside is about driving to a new village, exploring the shops, stopping for a leisurely lunch, and taking a walk after. Here are some Cotswolds villages worth exploring: Moreton-in-Marsh, Upper and Lower Slaughters, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford, Bibury, Chipping Camden, Castle Combe.