Category: Friends

Five Things I Loved in August

“We don’t need to have just one favorite. We keep adding favorites. Our favorite book is always the book that speaks most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives. And our lives change. We have other favorites that give us what we most need at that particular time. But we never lose the old favorites. They’re always with us. We just sort of accumulate them.”
― Lloyd Alexander

It was a whirlwind month, so I figured a little introspection wouldn’t go amiss as we head into the month of “back to school” and “seasonal wardrobe” changes. The nights are getting cool, even though the days are still deceptively hot, and all of London is working hard to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible. Winter is coming, and all that, kittens! Here’s a quick run down of the things, profound and silly alike, that made my month.

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Image via Netflix

Stranger Things. Count us among the many who inhaled the series in one go. Proud of the fact I am not (it was a late night). Would I do the same again? Instantly. Noir meets science fiction meets childhood depicted right meets 80s nostalgia. I can’t tell if I’m happy or not it got a second series as it strikes me as one of those wonderful things in real danger of being ruined by its own popularity…but I’m deciding to be optimistic. Anyone else have thoughts to share on the cult-inspired cult hit of the summer?

Shimmering Skin Perfector® Pressed

Image via Becca Cosmetics

Becca Highlighters. These gems come in liquid, cream, and powder form and each have different finishes and effects on the skin. I was always a blush girl but had a hard time getting over the idea of anything designed to make one shine, probably an overreaction to Twilight hype (or more likely just intimidation when considering how I was supposed to use such an item). Consider me converted.

Image via Amazon

Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto (audiobook). It’s taken me a while to give audiobooks a try, which is odd given that I listen to more podcasts and spoken word media than I do music, but I am coming around. I really enjoyed this book, narrated by the author herself. Lesley Hazelton has a deep contralto voice that I found a joy to listen to at the gym, on public transport, or just doing chores around the house. I like it when authors narrate their own books; they have the most intimate knowledge of their writing, of course, and so I think can probably imbue text with their intended emotional meaning better than even talented and experience voice readers. I wonder how much gets lost in emotional translation in many audiobook cases? I’ve listened to one or two audio books in my time that sounded absolutely silly or unenjoyable in audio form but when I picked them up in text later I had a completely different reaction to them. In almost every instance, I felt that the audio reader “got it wrong” somehow. In any event, I found this book not just delightful to hear, but the topic to be handled personally, intelligently, and even humorously. To write personally about agnosticism, which is usually debated nastily or dismissively in my experience, with wit and mischief was really interesting, and I came away wholeheartedly agreeing with her that whatever one’s personal beliefs, the real danger comes from “one dimensional thinking.” In the end, what Hazelton really seems to reject, in my opinion, is not forms of belief so much as fundamentalism.

Image via Glossier

Glossier concealer. Amateur beauty junkie that I am, I tend to keep an eye on companies and launches that tickle my fancy and test them whenever I can. London is a veritable beauty mecca but there are new and interesting US based brands popping up all the time that don’t have European suppliers or don’t ship here yet. Such a heartbreaker is Glossier who I have been lusting after ever since they came out with their Phase 1. I timed an order to correspond with our visit to Utah and have been testing all the goodies I stocked up on ever since and can dub the Stretch Concealer (in shade Medium for me) an absolute winner. The UK has been roasting for the whole of this month and most complexion goods simply slide off the typical mortal woman’s face in the tube but this baby has held firm. Alas I couldn’t order the Haloscope highlighter…next stateside jaunt.

Email chains with friends. With a chunk of time in July taken up with family travel and a new job offer, my mind was a bit preoccupied. Last month the girls and I (we keep up regular and spirited correspondence, deeply grateful we live in the age of email and text because that six-weeks-delayed-gossip-and-dependent-on-mail-coaches nonsense would simply have not done at all), wrote about creative projects, Tudor history, and shopping for decor in decommissioned masonic temples. Seriously. I’m planning an upcoming trip to Spain with one, getting to hear about a potential new gentleman friend from another, catching up on freelance work with yet another. Food for the soul.

What have been your summer standouts, darlings? And more importantly, what other pop culture do I need to catch up on as a matter of priority?

So, we went to NYC

‘The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere elsewhere have to be, in some sense, kidding.”
– John Updike

Since we had previous travel plans (understandably) disrupted, we decided to go to New York instead–theoretically in honor of my 30th birthday, but in fact mostly because I just really, really wanted to visit my best friend and surrogate older sister. It was a three day jaunt that was over too soon, but was very much needed.

X lives in the Upper East Side with two hilarious cats that provided the majority of our at-home entertainment (I now want a cat in spite of a mild allergy) and generously provided our base of operations. The goal was to see the “real” New York as both Jeff and I had only ever seen the moderately touristy bits and what fun is that?

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In fact, the only moderately touristy thing we did was the Met, due largely to our shared love of museums. Everything else was wandering the city with a native guide, a girls’ day whilst Jeff met up with an old university flatmate, dinner with a good friend and her husband, an unholy binge of a Sephora excursion, second hand shopping, and more food.

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My favorite girl in front of one of my favorite paintings.

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It’s hard to be away from friends and family. On our recent trip to Utah a friend asked what I missed most about the States and without any hesitation my response was, “My people. Friends.” Growing up as we did, I think my family and I are used to the notion of kin being distant and, while not being easy, it’s certainly manageable. I don’t feel particularly distant from them or their affection, which sounds odd but by which I mean I feel very secure in those relationships. I have a harder time with the fact that my best friends live in massively different time zones and small things like phone calls require pretty significant coordination. My friendships really feed me and keep me balanced–shout out to Katarina who gave me one of the most useful external party insights to my character I’ve ever received recently–and while I have close, close friends here in London, I miss the girls with whom I literally came of age. Over and over again.

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I also forgot what unrelenting sunlight felt like, as a side note. New York was blazing!

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Reader, I ate it. What, you ask? Everything.

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The benefit of having a local guide is that you get a first hand introduction to the best eats. Apparently Midtown Bagels East is something of an institution which I can enthusiastically endorse as a reputation earned. According to X, the queue at the weekend is ridiculous. We, savvy tourists that we were, went on a weekday.

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She also has the best recommendations for the weird and wacky shops for planning your next gallery wall.

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One of my favorite excursions was to the justly famous Bite Lip Lab where we were able to make custom lipsticks. A pair of self-proclaimed lippy fanatics, this was closer to a pilgrimage, really. Pricey. Worth it. Expect a full post on this in its own right.

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To be honest, before this trip, I didn’t really “get” New York. I have never romanticized it the way a lot of people do (hell, I didn’t even romanticize London so much as I just knew in my bones it was where I wanted to live), and I’ve always rather thought it was overhyped. Well, I still might not love it as much as London, but I finally get some of the appeal. It’s fast, it’s awake, and it’s almost a minor world in its own right in terms of what you can see and do. I have no idea if we’ll get to “try it out” someday as a home or a regular haunt, but I’m far more open to the idea now.

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X lives close to Central Park (her life is a trial, truly) and we took full advantage–prior to it being overrun by Pokemon Go enthusiasts. The view was…not bad.

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We ended our visit in Brooklyn at the pizza joint reputed to be Beyonce’s favorite. It’s like she’s known me for 17 years, or something.

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Pretty sure we’ll be back.

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A Weekend in the Country

“It was a sweet view-sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.”
― Jane Austen

This post needed to go up today because London has been in a rainy, gray fog for several days now–in defiance of both the appropriate season and the 30th celebration of my birth. Weather aside it’s been great as I’ve taken a short workweek and a break from almost all media to enjoy the aging process. However I could not continue to let photos of the first (and at the rate we’re going only) proper summer weekend of the year.

My friend who kindly invited us for New Year’s this year, even more kindly invited us back for a camping weekend. His family home is a working estate, complete with livestock and acres, that operates a farm shop, camping grounds, and restaurant in addition to being a family home. Both he and his partner are in the events and entertaining business (admittedly on a grand and international scale) and as you may imagine, they are exquisite hosts. They also have a seemingly endless supply of fun, funny, and interesting friends and spend a great deal of their scant free time organizing ways to spend time together. New Year’s Eve was a grown up and dog affair, this party was a mass of families with children–with dogs. This is Britain after all.

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The house is gorgeous and the family have spent a long time and a lot of investment in keeping it both up and properly in the family. Not all homes like this still survive with property intact and it’s a real testament to how much they love it that it’s still in their care.

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What’s a stately home without some sort of grand hall, I ask you?

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We might have slept in tents, but we dined in absolute style. This was seriously the most civilized meal arrangement you’ve ever witnessed: long table set up in the “summer garden” with a pretty much constant flow of food and beverages, all with interwar records playing in the background. Badminton was played, pups were frolicked with, and long hours were spent sitting in the sun discussing the Queen and other highly important topics. It’s was terribly British in the most lovely possible way.

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One of our hosts with one of the canines. His hairstyle made for required photography.

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The gentlemen enlisted the help of one of their private chefs for the cooking (don’t worry, he tucked in along with the rest of us) and the results were about as amazing as that suggests.

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Seriously, it was glorious.

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Did I mention there were dogs everywhere?

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A rousing and very chaotic game of rounders was played later in which were were injuries and several delays of play when pups absconded with the necessary equipment.

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Obligatory bonfires were also had.

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The next morning, another unbelievably civilized breakfast was taken with locally sourced bread, a special coffee machine was set up (again, in the garden) for those needing caffeine, and heaping amounts of a jam made from a rare breed of French strawberries that only last about a day once picked and so have to be eaten or made into something immediately. Of course it was. I raved about it so much the chef (who I actually have worked with on several events now and really love) gave me a pot that I lovingly cradled in my arms for the whole train ride home.

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After breakfast, farm chores.

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The family keep pigs, hundreds of chickens, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl. All the significant players are, of course named. The larger pig is Gertie, the lone guinea fowl is Cutherbert and he’s apparently a major bully in the farmyard.

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It was, as I’m sure you can tell, an absolutely smashing weekend!

Emails With Friends: Marital Counseling

“I had an argument with a friend who claimed Henry “didn’t behead THAT many” of his wives (which…lol?) by claiming Cromwell was a proxy Anne of Cleves, and I stand by that assertion.”
“…How many wives does it have to be before it becomes problematic…?”
– Katarina and C.

Dublin Pt. 1

“…I live in Ireland every day in a drizzly dream of a Dublin walk…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

The one thing Jeff and I are constantly berating ourselves for is the fact that we live in one of the major international travel hubs of the world, and yet we do not do a fraction of the traveling we should. Even within the UK there are countless adventures to be had, and yet we find ourselves pretty London-focused. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a fabulous city, but it’s pretty shameful how little we get out of it.

Speaking frankly, for the first year and a half, this was largely down to finances and the constraints of freelance life. Despite that I was growing as a freelancer almost exponentially year to year, the currency conversion was backbreaking and I didn’t feel I could take a break. Meanwhile Jeff was putting in the first two years of his career with all the hours that implies. However in the past year, with new opportunities and smarter time management, many of those constraints have lifted and we’re now trying to make a conscious effort to travel more. After all, it’s one of the reasons we moved here!

A few months ago (I am shamefully behind…) one of my friends from university emailed me to say she and her husband were making plans to come to Europe and did we want to meet in Dublin? Did we! It took some coordination but we made it happen. On a side note, these friends succeed where we fail, they make it a priority to go on a trip at least once a year and have an adventure. We’re hoping to arrange a couple of future ones together because we had an absolute blast. Recapping on the flight home, Jeff and I got to talking and realised that almost all of the travel we have done in our lives has been with family–which is wonderful and I wouldn’t put it down for the world. But there was something so enjoyable about going on a trip with friends and we were glad to discover the pleasure of it. There was no “character building” to be done, or educationally required stops to make, we simply decided to enjoy the city in good company. While eating as much food as we possibly could.

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I’ve made an art of the travel capsule wardrobe. You are looking at the sum total of what I took with me and I felt downright smug about it until I caught glimpse of my travel partner on the train platform…

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Because Jeff was his irritatingly well-put-together self on just as little gear as I packed. The man is stylish, but infuriating in said stylishness.

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Somehow, the weather gods were with us. I have no idea how we lucked into such a gorgeous spring weekend, but it only rained once and that was while we were snug in a Spanish restaurant eating tapas.

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Seriously. The weather was freaky it was so lovely.

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Kelsey and I actually first met on a study abroad program at university and our first leg of that program was a week in Ireland. It was a delight to return to a place where we had made so many good memories, with a couple of good looking gents in tow who were enjoying it for the first time. Our first stop for food was the famous Queen of Tarts, which you must go to if you are ever in need of a munch whilst in Dublin. It’s a gem of a place and the food is seriously impressive. Cardamon cinnamon rolls, guys, just saying.

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Dublin is a very small city, but unlike many places in Europe, it’s remain largely untouched by the ravages of two world wars. Which is not in the least to say that it hasn’t had its share of troubles as a nation, but much of that history has remained available to view. Medieval, Georgian, Victorian, and modern architecture and design all live side by side and give you a sense of the depth of the past of the city.

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Again, the weather. Frightening in its unrelenting goodness! Kelsey and I dragged the boys around Trinity College simply for the sheer joy of walking the grounds in the sunlight.

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Dublin is a fabulous city for pedestrians, there is absolutely no need for public transport, which is something to take advantage of.

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One of the places we traveled in Ireland was the Dingle Peninsula, famed for its traditional music and use of gaelic, and the home of Murphy’s Ice Cream. The ice cream is made from the milk of a cow breed from the peninsula and found no where else in the world (according to Murphy’s there are fewer of this type of cow than pandas left in the wild), fed on Dingle grass, and raised by Dingle farmers. The flavours include “brown bread” and “sea salt” (made from Dingle salt, of course), and all of them are delightfully unexpected and lovely. Kelsey, doing her research, discovered that since we were last in Dublin, Murphy’s had opened a shop, one of only four in the world, and naturally we had to insist on a visit. The guys had no complaints.

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Emails With Friends: International Incident

“I’m just trying to stay awake. Last night was a stupid string of stupid decisions and as a result I didn’t really sleep.”
“That sentence just screams for further details.”
“No, last night was actually boring and stupid. But let’s invent an alternate narrative involving helicopters, Versace dresses, and Vladimir Putin. And then, as a result, Greece collapsed.”
“I support this in it’s totality.”
– Katarina an C.

Emails With Friends: Novel Writing and Great Men of History

“Let’s go back in time and literally just be Lafayette. What a complete lunatic-slash-badass.”
“I love the stories of how people just went NUTS over him for well into the Victorian era!”
“Seriously though, “Hey, I’m 17, let’s build a boat and go join another country’s revolution even though I don’t speak the language and know no one,” and then like a year later you’re a crucial strategist and George Washington is calling you his SON. I’ll take impossible YA premises for $1,000,000, Alex.”
-Katarina and C.