London Highlight #2: Harrod’s & Liberty

London

We ended our second day in London with a quick stop inside Harrods. Since London is so huge with lots to do, I tried my best to research and plan ahead of time (despite my natural inclination to just “roll with it”). Every person that I spoke to, blog post, website and forum that I read mentioned Harrods, and instead of focusing on the major credit card damage that you could do inside, everyone said that I had to check out the food court. If you’re like me, the words “food court” make you think of Jamba Juice and Panda Express — think again! Harrods blew away all expectations. Once you step inside, just follow your nose and you’ll likely find yourself lost inside the maze of tea and desserts… you’ll see a full date bar, cheeses & pies, breads, Japanese cuisine, oysters…even just regular produce.

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(check out all those dates!)

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London

(for the cheese lovers)

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(no photos allowed! sorry i’m not sorry!)

London

Regrettably, I did not have the best appetite. We treated ourselves to a full, proper afternoon tea at the Kensington Palace a few hours prior (more on that later!) and while my brain said “try EVERYTHING!”, my wallet and stomach said “maybe next time”. Don’t those pies look delicious though?! Don’t even get me started on the oyster bar.

Liberty London on Regent Street was another fond memory from the trip and a must-do. We stopped in for a cup of tea (obviously), but I could have spent hours wandering inside… i

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Liberty is another department store in the “look, don’t touch” category but it is situated in a super old building that is true to its original 1875 architecture. It’s known for its playful and luxurious use of floral and graphic prints and of course, its rich history. If you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, this is where you would shop for your unique gifts and oddities like the kitty tower pictured above (priced at over 100 pounds)! In many ways, Liberty is a typical designer department store, but it also has a stationary shop, home goods, even fabrics sold off the bolt. Picture me in window-shopping heaven!

London Highlight #1: Borough Market

It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite memory from my trip to London, but visiting Borough Market is definitely up there on the list.

If you enjoy local fruits and veggies, freshly baked goods, gourmet cheeses and charcuterie and unique jams and spreads, you must carve out a few hours to spend at Borough Market. It’s located on the Southbank and is easily accessible from the tube (London Bridge Station)…just make sure you come with an appetite because you’ll want to try everything! Upon arrival, Lauren and I swept through the market to see what we were up against. Unlike the food court at Harrods, the vendors were all mostly friendly and willing to provide samples. We tried all kinds of cheeses, charcuterie, and olives before choosing our meal. Lauren is a vegetarian and was satisfied by all the cheese and bread samples (umm, fresh baked sourdough? Yes please!), but she patiently watched me slurp down some oysters. We also enjoyed some fresh squeezed OJ, a yummy parmesan and olive bread stick, some leek and potato & tomato basil soup, and a small focaccia. Mmmm! Our only regret was not having enough room for dessert.

More photos after the jump!

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London On Foot

A few months ago, I was offered a chance to go to Frankfurt, Germany to check out a new trade show. Five or six years ago, I would have dropped everything at the opportunity to travel so it was really weird to feel resistance and anxiety about leaving home this time. When vacation days are few and precious, money isn’t exactly flowing, and life at home is really comfortable, it’s much harder to leave (yikes, I am getting old and boring aren’t I?!) However, a free trip to Europe doesn’t come around often so before I knew it, I was planning a trip!

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Congrats, Charley!

It’s hard to believe that it has been only 4.5 months since we adopted Charley. She has come so far in such a short amount of time! Yesterday morning, she was certified by the American Kennel Club as a Canine Good Citizen…basically a fancy title for being a well-behaved little lady. She earned that shiny blue ribbon because she was able to prove that she could:

  • sit well for grooming
  • react well to distractions (like big, scary umbrellas!)
  • sit, stay, come, and lie down on command
  • be friendly to a stranger and a new dog
  • walk nicely through a crowd
  • walk with a loose leash
  • “supervised separation” for 3 minutes

…and no treats allowed during the test, which is the hardest part! If you are a dog owner, you’ll know that this list is a tall order…but she passed!

As soon as Charley completed her basic obedience classes, we wanted to get her certified. It is the prerequisite to becoming a therapy dog and also since we are apartment dwellers (and no where close to being able to buy a house), we figured certification would be a good idea so that we can show potential new landlords that she is well behaved and trained. Plus, she really is such an angel, why not have the title to prove it?

Although this is “my” blog, Jackie really should get all the credit for this one. I just got back from a short trip to Europe (more on that later!) and before I left, we were nervous that Charley wouldn’t pass. During her mock tests, her biggest challenge was the grass (out of all things!) — something about the grass in that park is sooo tempting and delicious and when she loses her focus, she lets her nose take over and we can’t get any work done. Well, apparently the key to solving this issue was me leaving for 10 days because when I got back, Charley seemed more focused than ever! On the actual test day, she was distracted with me there so I had to cheer her on from the car, getting updates via thumbs up and texts. Oh well, I’m okay with taking the back seat on this one.

We’ll be taking a little bit of a breather for these next few months, but the training never ends! Maybe we have some agility classes in our future…something to help her gain more endurance. Or maybe we go straight into therapy dog training. Who knows! I’m just happy to record this fun little milestone.

PS: If you’re reading this and considering getting your dog AKC Canine Good Citizen certified, we went through Karma Dog Training and our “coach”, Chelsea, was awesome!

The Good and Bad of DIY: Doggie Car Quilt

Charley Girl & Her New Quilt

Have you heard of the book, Make the Bread, Not the Butter.? In a nutshell, Jennifer Reese records her experiences making 120 kitchen-related things from scratch and tells you whether or not it is worth “the trouble”. I heard about this a few years ago on NPR and the whole concept stuck with me. Ok, raising my own chickens to get eggs, to eventually make into baked goods, has zero appeal to me. BUT when I find that I “need” something I could possibly sew or build myself, I can’t resist that DIY pull. I like the challenge of drafting out a new project, figuring out what I would need and seeing something through to the end. I especially like it when that end product is something that will be used and appreciated every day. My thriftiness is a double-edged sword, however. Take, for instance, the time I was 2 minutes away from sewing the last handle on this car quilt for Charley and my sewing machine failed. I must have gone through something particularly thick, or maybe my needle was getting dull. Either way, I kind of “forced it” because I was SO CLOSE to finishing and that’s when something really went wrong. Without boring you with details, I ended up finishing the quilt by hand and looking up Youtube videos on how to fix my sewing machine because I didn’t want to spend money on professional repairs. Fast forward a day and a half and I have my entire machine open with screws and other miscellaneous pieces in piles. I told myself that I could handle it and put my machine back together, but I knew that I was way in over my head. Those things are complicated! Thanks to my darn DIY sensibility, I probably now have an even bigger repair bill on my hands. The sewing machine (minus a few screws that I had leftover?) is now put away out of sight so I can just avoid the thought all together.

Oye.

But hey, Charley sure is happy about her new quilt (and I’m happy that I don’t have to drag a vacuum out to my car every other week)!

How to Make a Dog Quilt for Your Car

Materials:

- *2 yards of a durable fabric. I chose 59″ Duck Cloth Canvas for muddy or dusty days!

- *2 yards of soft and cozy fabric like 59″ anti-pill fleece

- *2 yards of either batting, old towels, more fleece…something thick to sew in-between the two sides of the quilt.

- Double fold quilt binding, 2-3 packs if each pack is 3 yards (you can make this yourself or buy it, depending on how much patience and time you have!)

- 2 yards of Cotton Strap (Webbing)

- Thread

*These are approximate measurements for a Honda Fit. I recommend measuring your car before you get started! It only takes a second!*

To start, measure the inside of your back seat and take note of where the head rests are placed (because that’s where the quilt attaches). If you want your quilt to become a “hammock” like I have pictured, double the height of the seat/chair.

Lay out the duck cloth canvas, the thick batting, and then the soft fleece on the floor. Cut the pieces so that they’re all the same size and then pin to keep the layers together. I used a long ruler to mark out my quilting lines in a diamond pattern (3″ x 3″) and then I got to sewing! It was easier to start quilting from the center…this is the longest step and takes tons of thread. Just be warned! When that part is done, you’ll be happy you quilted. It’ll look awesome and your friends will be impressed with your handiwork!

The last step is finishing the edges with binding and sewing the loops for the headrests. If you want to be fancy, you can use buckles for the loops so that you don’t have to mess with the head rests…but I got cheap. Hey, an extra $16 saved in buckles is $16 towards fixing my sewing machine…

I spent around $25 for the entire project, but you can be super thrifty and spend close to nothing if you have spare towels and sheets around!