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.
“I looked into those green eyes, and well… It was so intense. All Welsh people are intense and mystical. That sense of poetry and wildness in Richard was where I wanted to be.”
Elizabeth Taylor on Richard Burton, “Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry”
What Elizabeth Taylor said about Welsh people, and by extension Wales, is true; I’ve never been anywhere else so mystical and moving. The country is like someplace out of a fairytale. Misty fog swirls in through the greenest meadows and curls up to the rugged mountains where wild ponies roam. The wild Irish sea crashes against rocky cliffs and onto black sand beaches. Picturesque villages framed by dewy glens and trickling streams and romantic islands with cotton candy sunsets. Wales is a truly magical place.
My great grandmother immigrated from Wales and our family still lives there, so we like to visit when we can. We drove up from London, stopped in Stratford-Upon-Avon (will cover this in my Countryside blog post), and continued on into the mountainous northern region of Snowdonia National Park.
Palé Hall is an incredible castle on the edge of Snowdonia National Park where Queen Victoria once stayed; you can even sleep in her room. Palé Hall has an award-winning restaurant and fantastic afternoon tea. But the real gem, in my opinion, are the breathtaking views of the countryside and woodland surrounding the castle. When I woke up each day, I opened our windows and felt like I was living in Downton Abbey.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia Park is nearby and you can get as adventurous as you like. Since that day was a bit chilly, we chose to drive through and stopped to take some photos along the way, but I’d like to return in the warmer months to do a little hiking and see some of the wild ponies up close. There’s also a famous rack-and-pinion railway that can take you to the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest point in Wales.
Wales is known as the castle capital of Europe. At one time, over 600 impressive castles stood over Wales’s green valleys. More than 100 Welsh castles still remain. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech are some of the best preserved and greatest examples of 13th and 14th century military architecture. On this trip, we visited Harlech Castle’s tourist center and climbed all the stairs to the top of the turret where we could look out over the Irish Sea. If you visit Wales, you must stop to see at least one of these incredible pieces of history.
One of my favorite things about Wales is the abundance of beautiful, quaint villages to explore. A few favorites? The charming village of Beddgelert in Snowdonia National Park. The romantic island of Angelesey where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their lives as newlyweds. The seaside town of Aberystwyth where Catherine Zeta Jones spent her childhood summers. And the city of Swansea, specifically the beachfront Mumbles area, where you can admire the waves crashing onto the beach while you enjoy an ice cream cone from Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour. Brecon Beacons is a beautiful national park near Swansea with lots of history and places to explore.
London has a special spot in my heart since I lived there as a little girl andno one does Christmas like the Brits. Here are a few of my favorite things to do in London at Christmastime.
First things first. You’re in London, so you need a proper tea. The finest traditional British tea? Many would say The Ritz, which is a bit fancy and makes for a special experience in such a lovely hotel. This happens to be my father’s favorite afternoon tea. Surrounded by glittering chandeliers and mirrors, you can enjoy tea at the only U.K. hotel with an actual Tea Sommelier. Note: You may want to dress up a bit for this tea; I wouldn’t go in tourist clothes.
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, you might like the afternoon tea at the Corinthia. With a Baccarat crystal chandelier overhead and a recently updated tea menu, you might feel ready to swear allegiance to the Crown and never look back! Note: This is also a spot where you’ll feel more comfortable in a bit dressier clothing; not a tea spot for tourist clothes.
One of my favorite hidden gems near my old stomping grounds is tea at 11 Cadogan Gardens. Traditional, quaint, and cozy, this hotel is a spot where you can wear jeans if you like. The tea is beautiful and can be enjoyed in front of the hotel’s cozy fireplace. After your tea, have a walk around nearby Sloane Square to burn off those scones!
There’s something special about streets of beautiful British shops, where the shopkeepers still take pride in wrapping up your purchases with lovely boxes and bows. Whenever I come back to the hotel from shopping in London I never want to unwrap my treasures because the packaging is so pretty. It makes for perfect gifts to bring home to loved ones.
Although Harrods has changed a bit in the past ten years or so, it’s still one of my favorite places to browse. The Christmas windows and holiday decor are like nothing you’ve ever seen and inside you’ll find floors upon floors of the most gorgeous, luxurious things. Don’t miss a walk through the Food Hall and a stop at the Fish & Chips bar doesn’t hurt either. And be sure to snap a photo outside with the Harrod’s sign in the back… Extra points if you catch a double decker bus behind you!
Take a step back in time as you walk through Burlington Arcade, an original shopping mall dating back to 1819. The holiday decor is lovely, as are the shops! I always stop in to Penhaligon’s for some new perfume or bath products, Mulberry to browse the leather goods, and hunt for treasures at the many jewelry shops.
The highly Instagrammable Covent Garden is the quirky sister of these shopping spots. There are plenty of flower-laden photo opps here. And besides shopping, you can grab a bite to eat as well. Petersham Nurseries is a favorite of mine!
Take a little walking tour of the following: Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Bond Street. Of course, all the spots I’ve mentioned above have impressive holiday lights as well. When I was a little girl, we would walk around the major department stores at night to look at their holiday windows lit up. There’s usually a cart nearby selling hot chocolate or roasted chestnuts to warm you up!
One of the most-Instagrammed spots in London at Christmas? The tree and ice skating rink outside the British Natural History Museum. You don’t have to ice skate to snap a great photo of this view with the impressive architecture of the museum towering above, but it’s more fun if you do. There is a small market with a carousel nearby that little ones will appreciate. The British Natural History Museum is incredible and free (donations welcome) but can get quite busy, so time your visit accordingly to avoid crowds and long lines.
This was such a fun nighttime date! Winter Wonderland is the most wonderful festival set up inside Hyde Park during the Christmas season. There is a Christmas market, holiday lights galore, arcade games, food and treats, carnival rides, and even little bars and restaurants with live music set up throughout. If you’re in London during this time of year, do not miss this. It’s so well done and any age group will enjoy the festivities.
Where To Stay
For traditional British charm, choose The Stafford. This stately hotel has just the right blend of elegance and charm. Rooms are comfortable and cozy and the hotel is well situated for walking. Both their breakfast and room service were delicious.
If you want to go for a bit more glamour, stay at the Corinthia. The hotel is luxurious and has a sort of contemporary chic decor. Their tea is incredible and the hotel is also in a great location for walking.
A couple other mentions… The Berkeley in Knightsbridge is my family’s personal favorite. And I’ve been hoping to stay at the newly renovated Belmond Cadogan Hotel in Chelsea, which I’ve heard great things about. For dining, you can’t miss Maroush on Beauchamp Place – it’s been my favorite since I was a little girl!
When I was a little girl, my mom would decorate my bedroom for Christmas. I had a garland with ornaments and pink velvet bows hanging over my head and a little tree with my favorite ornaments in the corner. I remember feeling so special when I put on my holiday pajamas and got into bed. Even though Georgie is far too little to understand Christmas or even remember the decorations, my mom and I wanted to create a little Christmas magic in her room. (Mostly one of us would watch Georgie while the other decorated!)
I’ve had a lot of people ask about the ribbon in my main Christmas tree and I did it exactly how I ribboned Georgie’s tree, just on a larger scale. You’ll need to get wired ribbonfrom a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. The key is to cut pieces between 8-24 inches, depending on your tree, and tuck them into the branches at random diagonals as if they are woven throughout the tree. Do this after you add your lights but before you put any ornaments on.
The ornaments came from Hobby Lobby, Target, Caitlin Wilson Design, and Neiman Marcus. There are far too many to link individually, but I did link one of my favorites in the slide below. I also linked these darling holiday houses I used to make a little snow village for Georgie; they’re absolutely darling and you could really add them anywhere in your home. I added some snow fluff and vintage-inspired bottle brush trees for a little charm. I linked most of the snow village setup in the slide below.
Georgie loves looking at her girly Christmas tree and little snow village each day. And I have to admit, I appreciate having such a pretty view as I spend so much of my time in her nursery with her. Feeding her, changing her, and rocking her while I enjoy pretty holiday decorations has been a blessing throughout these busy new-baby weeks.
If slide above is not appearing, please click here to view and shop items pictured in this blog post.
Out of all my content, travel guides are probably my favorite to write and create. I love sharing the little details that make a destination truly special. I spend hours going through photos I’ve taken, trying to find the one that conveys the spirit of a place best; one that gets it just right. Which is why I was a little sad I wasn’t able to share our incredible driving trip through the United Kingdom with you last year, even though I had the best reason possible.
Upon returning from our trip, I discovered I was pregnant with Georgina and began experiencing morning sickness almost immediately. I had planned to wrap gifts, pack up our car, and work on my travel guides while on the way and while at my family’s home for Christmas. But I soon found out it was nearly all I could do to sit in the car and not be sick. I had serious morning sickness nonstop well into February. And by then, spring was around the corner and it seemed strange to share photos of chilly London and Christmas in the Cotswolds, so I waited and am happy to share with you a year later.
If you like this type of content, I’ve created many different travel guides you can search in the search bar or and browse in the ‘Travel’ category on this site. I also documented a similar driving trip through France – you can find the detailed itinerary here with links to travel guides for each destination.
This trip was less structured than our France driving trip because I lived in London when I was young and my mother’s family still lives in Wales, so I was more familiar with these places than the ones we visited in France and we didn’t need travel guides to interpret and explore new sites. And this trip was all about a cozy Christmas journey through the United Kingdom. Personally, I love the U.K. during the winter because their winters are very mild, all the holiday decorations are up, and the pubs feel extra cozy on a damp, chilly day. While our France trip focused on a spring/summer vacation, this trip is focused on seeing Christmas sights, venturing out to a few Christmas markets, and being cozy. Enjoy!
Is there a better place to experience the holiday season than London? I think not. The windows are bedecked in the most tasteful holiday decor, the doormen are wearing wool uniforms with gold buttons, and there are Christmas markets and holiday events galore. We stayed at the classic Stafford Hotel in London which was within walking distance to everything we wanted to see, but the newly opened Belmond Cadogan Hotel is also on my list since its in my old stomping grounds. I’ll touch on all my favorite holiday stops in the city in my upcoming London Christmas Travel Guide.
Allow a few days in the city to soak in the magic of Christmas done the British way, then head out toward the countryside to relax, stopping at Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-Upon-Avon for lunch and a bit of a walk. I suggest stopping through on a Sunday when you can enjoy a delicious Sunday roast at one of the original pubs; there’s nothing like a cozy pub meal on a chilly day. There was a charming Christmas market going on when we passed through as well.
Continue the drive from Stratford-Upon-Avon into the northern part of Wales where fluffy wild ponies wander in beautiful Snowdonia National Park. Stay at Palé Hall, a stunning castle with an incredible restaurant tucked into the misty edges of Snowdonia. Wales is a romantic, mystical place; there’s something very special about it that you’ll feel as soon as you arrive. Waking up at Palé Hall felt like an absolute dream, from breakfast served bedside by the fireplace to seeing the ponies in the field and the forest surrounding us outside our windows.
Allow a couple of days to explore Snowdonia Park, walk through the impressive Harlech Castle, and meander the Isle of Anglesey where Prince William and Duchess Catherine lived when they were first married. I loved the seaside village of Aberystwyth where I purchased Welsh gold jewelry from the family-owned jeweler, Rhiannon. And I’m quite partial to my great grandmother’s home of Swansea, where wild waves crash against the vibrant seaside village known as Mumbles.
As you make your drive toward The Cotswolds stay at Thornbury Castle, an actual Tudor castle set amongst original English gardens dating back to the 1200’s. The castle has a fantastic restaurant nestled in between stone walls with a cozy fireplace, so there’s no need to venture out for dinner.
While on your way from Thornbury Castle, you may want to make a few stops in the English countryside. Bristol and Bathare main cities along the way, and I wouldn’t miss the charming villages of Castle Combe and Lacock.
The Cotswolds were probably my favorite part of this trip. John and I both love the country; pulling on our wool and wellies and mucking about if necessary. We enjoyed the more peaceful pace of the Cotswolds, the charming villages, and quaint restaurants. During this time of year there are Christmas markets galore here – I think we went to one in nearly every village we visited. With spiced wine and holiday carolers and little stands selling cozy things, it’s definitely worth making the rounds.
We stayed in our own cozy little cottage at Dormy House, which manages to create a space that simultaneously captures the quaint nature of the Cotswolds with the sumptuous interiors and fine dining of a luxury hotel. You’ll feel torn between having a slow morning, a day at their beautiful spa, and dinner at their restaurant… Or going out and about, exploring the charming Cotswolds villages. Luckily, you can do both. Dormy House is outside the village of Broadway, which was my favorite we visited. But I would allow at least a few days to visit the surrounding villages such as Chipping Campden, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Norton, Burford, and Upper and Lower Slaughters. Allow a half day for lunch and shopping at the exquisite Daylesford Organic Farm near Kingham.
Back to London
On your way back into the city, I would suggest stopping to tour Blenheim Palace and visit the city of Oxford. Blenheim always has an absolutely stunning Christmas display throughout the house (you can purchase tickets ahead – it’s worth every penny) and had a charming Christmas market going on while we were there. I would plan to visit Blenheim in the morning and leave after lunch, stopping in Oxford in the afternoon, and planning to arrive back in London in the evening. I would allow another night or two in London before you leave since there’s inevitably something that couldn’t be squeezed into the first stay.