24 Feb 2014



As you can see, the highlight of Week 21 was definitely our weekend trip to Amsterdam. I'm taking the day off to relax from our three day adventure and I will start editing and uploading pictures tomorrow. I am backlogged on posts, so hopefully I will get the most recent happenings (Amsterdam) out first and then work on the older stuff later. This week will probably fly by; at least that has been the status quo lately. This Next* weekend we will be celebrating my 27th birthday since it falls in the middle of the week (March 5th)-- I am looking forward to it! xo

*Next weekend works out better! :)


21 Feb 2014

We are leaving for Amsterdam today and I couldn't be more excited. I wasn't able to focus on anything else this week, so I am sharing my 'travel light' experience with all of you! 

I am new to all of this "traveling light" stuff-- this is coming from someone who would pack for a long weekend in multiple laundry baskets. yeahhhh, not that organized. Traveling light is a constant struggle for me because I am a planner and I like to be ready for anything. All the what-if's kill me-- i.e. What if I only pack one shirt for Friday and a bottle of ketchup explodes all down the front of me?  This could happen people!

James and I are traveling Friday morning to Sunday afternoon, so we will almost have three full days of touring with a couple of dinners in between. For our three day/two night stay in Amsterdam, I packed one dress, two sweaters, one coat, one pair of black jeans, three pairs of shoes*, one cross body bag and a few accessories. 
*I am no longer bringing the rain boots due to the weather's cooperation!
Weekender Bag (Madewell), Fedora (J Crew), Dress (Zara), Sweater (H & M), Jeans (Zara), Purse (Marc Jacobs), Coat (Gap), Scarf (Zara), Black Boots (Madewell), Brown Booties (Urban Outfitters), Watch (Michael Kors), Sunglasses (Madewell)

Extra items not shown: three pairs of socks, bra/undies, pajamas (leggings and long-sleeve t-shirt), extra white long-sleeve shirt and sweatshirt.

Friday Outfit: Travel & Sightseeing 
(easy, comfortable, warm with a hands-free purse for lots of picture-taking!)

Friday Night Outfit: Dinner & Drinks
(lose the fedora?, change shoes and add lipstick for pop of color)

Saturday Outfit: Museums & Sightseeing
(cute, comfortable, warm and transitional enough to wear to dinner)

Sunday Outfit: Sightseeing & Travel
(easy for touring and traveling in comfort)
Everything I packed is easy, comfortable and broken-in, ANDDD the most important aspect is that everything can be mixed and matched. That, my friends, is key to traveling light.

  • Packing is less stressful if you stick to a uniform or a theme for your trip. All of your clothes should be interchangeable. You want to be able to mix and match everything! This saves you space in your bag and gives you more clothing options.
  • Always check the weather forecast the night before or morning of your trip and pack accordingly. (Umbrella, rain boots, etc...)
  • Have an idea of your daily activities and pack accordingly. James and I are only planning on one nice dinner and "night-out", and the rest of our time will be spent walking, touring and eating low-key meals. All of my clothes are warm and comfortable for walking and then I will spruce up dinner outfits with fresh hair, accessories and make-up.
  • Only pack items that you KNOW you feel comfortable in. I wouldn't suggest packing items that you haven't worn before. If you haven't worn it in your hometown, you probably won't wear it in another city.
  • Always check with your hotel to see what complimentary items are in your hotel room. Our room has a blow-dryer, so it's one less bulky item for me to pack.
  • Be strategic with your extras items. I packed a pair of black leggings that double as pajama bottoms or back-up pants and two long-sleeved t-shirts that double as pajama tops or back-up tops.
  • I live my everyday life wearing a fedora around town, so it's a no-brainer for me to travel with one, but bringing a cute hat or beanie along can save you a lot of time getting ready in the morning and it will free up space in your bag from all the hair products you don't need anymore.
  • Don't go overboard with jewelry. Traveling with jewelry is dangerous and it's heavy. Accessorize with lighter items, like a scarf that also doubles as a blanket on the plane.
  • Wear your bulkiest items (boots, coat, etc...) on the plane to conserve space in your bag-- plus, your coat will double as a pillow!
  • Ladies, leave your duffel bag of makeup at home and narrow it down to just the basics; concealer, mascara, bronzer and lipstick are my most important items.
  • Travel size products are a necessity when packing a carry-on bag. Since they are expensive, I am always looking for miscellaneous bottles and containers to use for my products. Contact lens containers and old hand sanitizer bottles are some of my favorite to use.
  • Stuff socks and underwear in shoes/boots to conserve space.
  • Don't forget your passport!
  • Don't forget to pack your converter!

Easy peasy?? I'll let you know in a few days! Hopefully I have everything I need for an enjoyable Amsterdam trip. 

What are your tips, tricks or hacks to traveling light?

See ya later, London! xo

I'm linking up with the Expat Diaries with Postcards from Rachel!


18 Feb 2014

How can you not love this face?! 
I love getting Sir Winston pictures from my in-laws. It just warms my heart. 
It centers me.

Here are a few of Angel Boy from the snowstorm in NC this past week. I'm thinking he wasn't having anything to do with the snow...

Enjoy! xo 


16 Feb 2014

Week Twenty. WEEK TWENTY?! WTH. 

Week Twenty was fairly low key besides the fact that I went to the Taylor Swift concert on Tuesday with a bunch of my American friends. Luckily the tube strike was called off hours before the concert so our transportation wasn't compromised.

I do not consider myself a Taylor Swift fan. In fact, many times, I have claimed her music to be against my religion-- I really just joined in with the festivities in the spirit of sisterhood. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that: 1) we had floor seats (we were about 20ft from Tay at all times), and 2) she can really put on a good show! I had a really a fun time!  So, with that being said, I would like to make a public apology to the one and only super fan Catherine Allison Bailey-- "I'm sorry for thinking you were a twenty-something loser. It was actually a really fun concert! Forgive me?"
Since I spent a good portion of my "fun" money at the concert, I had no choice but to pump the brakes on my spending. That means, me staying in. It's inevitable that any time I leave the flat, I spend money. Whether it's lunch, grocery shopping, getting a coffee on the way to somewhere, or taking the bus, you can't avoid it. We live our life on a strict budget since I am currently fun-employed and with our Amsterdam holiday coming up next weekend, we need to save as much money as we can. 

I guess I shouldn't say that I am unemployed... You are looking at the newest member of Sir Oliver's Dog Walking Committee! Yes, I am now a part-time dog-walker! No seriously, I am so happy to help out my friend and walk her adorable Austrian Shepard a couple times a week. I am loving the company and it's nice to actually have a reason to get out and stretch the legs a bit!
Thursday, we laid low.

Friday (Valentine's Day), we laid low. We typically don't like to participate in the hype of Valentine's Day. I walked Sir Oliver in the early afternoon, went grocery shopping and then got the flat ready for James to get home.

We stayed in, exchanged cards, cooked chicken pitas and binge-watched House of Cards while sharing a bottle of champagne. Maybe that's not everyone's idea of romance, but for us it was actually quite perfect and we were able to relax and spend some quality time together.

Saturday, we met some friends at a pub called Duke of York in St. John's Wood. We had a a few drinks and then headed back to get ready for dinner and drinks out with another couple at 69 Colebrooke Row. Unfortunately, we received the news about my Grandmother and we decided to cancel and stay in. 
Only a portion of the Alexander Clan
Mother and Daughter
June 8, 2013
Grammy with her girls
Barb and Jerry circa many, many moons ago
Even though it was nice weather on Sunday, I didn't feel like leaving so I stayed in and putzed around the flat. 

Next week will be a lot of preparation for our weekend trip to Amsterdam. The weather seems okayyyy, so hopefully I can get out and explore a bit. I am trying to clean out my iphone in preparation for the obscene amount of pictures I will take next weekend. It is a very tedious task. Once again, I am kicking myself in the ass for not having a proper camera OR computer in the UK. cue: eye roll.

Today is the last day to vote for the Team Starnes Takes London for the “Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs". Please vote if you already haven't, and thank you for everyone who already has.


I learned Saturday evening that my Grandmother passed away in her sleep the night before. She had been suffering from dementia for many years and I think we knew that this day was coming, but of course that doesn't make it any easier.  Grammy was an amazing woman-- the matriarch of our family.  She was the mother of 10, grandmother of 24 and great grandmother of 11 and counting. Our family will never be the same again, but her spirit will live on in our fond thoughts and memories for years to come.  We are comforted to know that my Grammy and Grampy are now united once again. 

Grammy, we love you and we will miss you always.

Alexandra & James


13 Feb 2014

The Saatchi Gallery is located in Chelsea, just a few minutes walk from Sloane Station. The gallery is known for it's selection of contemporary artwork and it's reputation for launching new careers. 

The minimalistic layout is easy to navigate and the nice thing is, you really only need one-two hours to leisurely walk through the entire gallery. 

If you're interested in abstract, contemporary or modern art, this place is for you!

For more information about the Saatchi Gallery go to:
These next two pieces were my favorite... Can you guess why??
I am a HUGE Tom Hanks fan! I can recognize those eyes anywhere!

This last picture is of an installation that is the only permanent installation at the Saatchi Gallery. I won't explain it or tell you what it is... You will just have to go and find out for yourself!
Afterwards, I treated myself at the Gallery Mess bar and absorbed all of what I had seen.
Overall, it was a very relaxing experience and I would go back again.

For more pictures from the Saatchi Gallery, CLICK HERE!


10 Feb 2014

Did you know that our January was the wettest January in 248 years? Yeah. That's what we've been dealing with recently. The. Rain. Just. Will. Not. Stop. And don't even get my started on the wind. I hate wind. How am I supposed to look cool in a fedora if you're trying to blow it off my head every second of the day? GAW...

Specifically, these past two weeks have been drab and unmotivating. The tube was on strike Tuesday-Thursday of last week and will continue to strike Tuesday-Thursday of this week, needless to say, there wasn't a lot of sightseeing going on. You would think that I would have used this down time to catch up on the blog, but I didn't. I have like six SEE, EAT&DRINK and WALKABOUT posts that need to be written, but I am just uninterested. I don't know, maybe I've just been a bit blogged-out recently... Hopefully things will pick up soon!

Since the tube strike was starting Tuesday afternoon, I decided to stay local and take a walkabout around Islington. There are a few cute areas of Islington that I want to highlight in future blog posts, so I was heading out to get some pictures and inspiration.  

Little did I know what I was going to find!
Entrance to the Secret Garden?? I don't know... Let's find out!
Right behind one of my favorite streets in Islington is a canal that I had no idea about! How cool is that to find a canal only a couple streets from you? I found it endearing. Obviously, I am a Pisces-- we are water people.

Those skinny boats actually had people coming in and out of them. So I guess people are living on those boats.. How cool is that?! I don't know, I was just really amazed by this gem tucked back off the main road.
I will post more pictures from my Islington Walkabout at a later time (or will I???) but here are a few other pictures of what you can find in my neck of the woods!
Wednesday night. Standard. Girls/Bachelor night and a crockpot meal ready for James when he gets home from work. Done and done.
Spinach and Sausage Tortellini Soup
Just to give you some insight on how bad the tube strike affected the city-- my friend Kristen was on a bus for almost 3 hours and eventually got kicked off and then had to take a taxi to our friend Ali's flat. Realistically, it should have taken her about 25 minutes via tube or 50 minutes via bus. I might be a little off on those stats, but seriously, what a disaster! We had pizza, hugs and wine waiting for her. Glad you made it Kristen! xo 

My friend Sophie invited me to a preview of an art gallery called Desert of Humanity in Central London. I was very excited about this opportunity and I was even more excited that James had agreed to accompany me! YAY! Hubby and Wife time!  What I wasn't excited about my transportation situation. I got kicked off my bus twice and had to walk the rest of the way in the rain, but eventually we made it.

Here is a clip from the press release to explain the premise of the show:
"Deserts of Humanity is a project that aims to showcase and explore the alienation, isolation and frustration that modern people, mainly in megacities, experience and how that phenomenon has been depicted through the practice of emerging artists who either work or study in the UK. How do young artists perceive and respond to those notions and which forms and structures do they select to visualise their concerns? The show features eleven emerging artists who, through different mediums; painting, video, photography and installation, present works that contain elements of isolation, introversion and distance from the energy and the joy of being alive."
art show or funeral? gotta love london.
NOTE TO SELF: use these pictures as a reference for future white walls in future home. 

Overall, we both enjoyed the art show. The artists are very talented and I am very grateful to be a part of their opening night. If you're interested, check it out yourself-- Deserts of Humanity is located at Morley House, 26 Holborn Viaduct London, UK EC1A 2AQ. 7 February – 21 March 2014 Opening Times: Monday-Friday 12PM-6PM

I was looking forward to Friday all week. Karaoke Night!!! 

The girls and I met up for some drinks at John Salt before heading over to the karaoke bar.
After half-priced food and drinks, we finally arrived at Lucky Voice in Islington. I didn't do any research on the bar ahead of time so when we arrived I was really confused. I assumed that this would be a stereotypical karaoke bar where you stand up on the stage and embarrass yourself in front of a large crowd. But au contraire! at this karaoke bar, you only embarrass yourself in front of your own party! I was so surprised to find out that we had our own private room! Well, this just opened up a whole new can of worms and the gloves came off!

We had a great time! It was the perfect girls' night. Lori-- you're going to love this place! 
Karaoke ended at 10:00 PM, so we met up with James and Ali's husband, Paul, who were having their own boys' night at the Hope and Anchor. The night came to an end around midnight and everyone went their separate ways. 

Saturday and Sunday were a recovery days for me and work days for James. Standard.

A couple of things:
J and I are so pumped to be heading to Amsterdam in two weeks! Eeeeekk! If anyone has any suggestions on places to go or eat, please let me know! I am doing a lot of research to make sure we hit up all the must see areas.

Also, If you follow along with the blog, please vote for Team Starnes Takes Lundun for the “Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs.” Voting ends on the 17th and it doesn't look like I have that many votes, so I would seriously appreciate it! 

Alright! Well, hopefully this week will be more of a success than the past two. 
Wish me luck! xo
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