London Travel Guide

Heading to London for the first time? Check out this awesome travel guide!

One of Kevin and I’s favorite things to do together is travel and explore new places. It’s been one of  our goal over the last couple of years to travel more and I’m thankful to say we’ve done quite a bit of it! Last August we traveled to England to explore the city for the first time together and to visit some of our close friends. This August we planned visited our friends again and then continued to head east all the way around the world before heading home.

I’ll tell you more about the second leg of our trip soon but today I’m sharing some highlights and my favorite things to do in and around London.

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Choose a hotel near an underground station

While in the city we stayed in East London at the Andaz on Liverpool Street. While this hotel is situated more in the financial/banking side of the city, it’s right next door to the Liverpool Street tube station which was super convenient. Whenever you’re traveling to a city, I highly recommend choosing a hotel that’s close to a subway/train station. This made it easy to travel all around town.

This hotel was gorgeous! It super modern lobby and foyer had a spiral view to the floors above that resembled the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The rooms are in a much older part of the building which while still modern and chic had tons of charm.

Pretty colored front doors in London

Pick up a SIM card

After checking into our hotel our first stop always is to grab a SIM card so we can stay connected. When visiting the UK for less than a month, one of best deals is to grab a SIM card from Three which gives you 12 GB of data (plus calling) for £30. And if you plan to use Uber while you’re there, you can update your phone number in your account so your driver can call you.

Orla Kiely wallpaper found in the flagship shop in London

Leave room in your suitcase for shopping

While tons of U.S. brands have stores in London, there are also tons of UK only brands that you may want to check out. I swear I think I should have been British because nearly all my clothing and accessories are from English brands. I intentionally left almost half my suitcase empty because I knew I wanted to do a little shopping this trip (even though I almost never do much shopping when I travel since I prefer to spend money on experiences and food).

My favorites? Orla Kiely, Cambridge SatchelCath Kidston, and Liberty.

Beautiful flowers at a shop in London; check out this travel guide to the city!

Visit the markets

My favorite food market of all time is the Borough Market, which is located on the south side of the Thames. Grab some bread, meat and cheese to enjoy later in your room or on a picnic. I promise you won’t regret it! While some of the vendors take credit cards, most only take cash. There’s a Post Office nearby, which usually has the best exchange rates, although this trip we found better exchange rates at individual ATMs.

After visiting the Borough Market it’s about a 10 minute walk to the Tate Modern. Which if you love art museums, this is one of the best in the world!

Other markets to check out: Brick Lane Market (then visit Nude Espresso after), Columbia Road Flower Market (on Sundays), and Broadway Market in Hackney.

When visiting London rent a bike at one of the many kiosks around the city.

Rent a “Boris Bike”

Much like L.A.’s Hulu bikes and New York’s Citi bikes, London has Santander bike rental kiosks all around the city. Hopping on a bike is a great way to explore a city but if you’re a little nervous about riding in traffic (and on the left side of the road) I highly recommend heading to Hyde Park. There are several kiosks on all corners of the park but taking the tube the Marble Arch station  brings you to the northeast entrance of the park and right next to two kiosks.

Hanging plates on a wall for instant wall art in Smug, a boutique in London

Explore other neighborhoods

On your first trip to London you gotta see some of the sights. Check out Covenant Garden, Buckingham Palance and the London Eye. But if you have more time, I recommend checking out other areas of the city.

Hackney: We meet up with Fran and Teri at the Hackney train station and headed to the oh so Instagramable Palm Vaults. This area used to be a little rough around the edges but is now one of the hippest neighborhoods in the city.

Islington: Stroll up A1 street and wander in and out of all the shops. Don’t missifeelsmug.com and Present & Correct if you’re a stationery lover like me. Stop in Byron for a burger if you’re craving (posh) comfort food.

Gorgeous countryside in Foxton, Leicestershire England

Travel Outside of London

If you have the opportunity I highly recommend exploring the villages outside of London. Our friends live in a small village outside of the town Market Harborough. It’s just over an hour train ride from central London and has a cute little “downtown” with shops and is home to the first Joules store, which of course I had to visit and lucky for me they were having a summer sale!

Foxton, the village they live in, is mostly just residential and farmland but it does have some delicious food. We celebrated our friend’s birthday at The Bell Inn which looks like a small neighborhood pub but has incredible food. And The Black Horse Pub has a gorgeous garden that you can sit in and enjoy a pint or gin and tonic while admiring the English countryside.

Bright and cheery yellow front door spotted on a home in Foxton, Leicestershire England

Other Things to Note…

Visit the SkyGarden

If you find yourself in the banking side of East London, stop by the SkyGarden for a great view of the city. It’s an indoor garden and tropical oasis right in the middle of one of London’s tallest buildings. There’s a cafe counter where you can get coffee and pastries or Darwin, a restaurant that has delicious avocado toast.

Don’t tip

It’s standard to not tip at restaurants and bars. You will probably get some funny looks if you do.

Ask for tap water

This seemingly obviously thing can actually save you tons of bucks if you don’t mind drinking tap water. If you order still water 9 times out of 10 you’ll get a fancy glass bottled water that’s way overpriced.

Any type of food can be found

Whatever you’re craving, chances are you can get it in London. From fish and chip stands to Good & Proper Tea and great Italian, Indian and Thai food you can find it all. If you love homemade pasta, definitely check out the tucked away La Tagliata in East London. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Pick up an Oyster Card

An Oyster Card is the reloadable plastic smart card you can use on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, Tfl Rail and most National Rail services in London. You can pick one up at any train station and you can load and reload them with a credit card so no need to get cash out for this.

Navigating the underground is easier than you think

Google maps makes it super easy to figure out which lines you need. Just be sure to look up directions before heading underground, where you won’t have service. Take a screen shoot of the directions to reference.

Pink drink! A beet root almond milk latte served at Palm Vault in London.

P.S. If you followed my Instagram Story while I was traveling you might have noticed that we traveled on first or business class the entire trip. That’s all thanks to Kevin’s travel hacking skills and he’ll be sharing more about that in the near future!

Chocolate Pocky Pops

These chocolate @Pocky pops are the perfect sweet treat to pack in your lunchbox! Click through to watch how to make them and see the other variations like matcha and cookies and cream.

Back to school is just around the corner and today I’m sharing a fun and super easy recipe that is the perfect lunchbox treat. My chocolate Pocky pops use everyone’s favorite sweet snack as an edible lollipop stick, making it fun for kids to eat. They are so tasty too that I bet you’re going to want one too!

These pops take less than 30 minutes to make and can be stored at room temperature when they’re done. Just place them in a small glassine or plastic bag to make them lunchbox ready. And the best part is that they can be customized to your liking. Top each chocolate pop with your favorite sprinkles, candy, or even crushed Pocky bits.

Watch the video below to see just how easy these pops are to make!

 

These chocolate @Pocky pops are the perfect sweet treat to pack in your lunchbox! Click through to watch how to make them and see the other variations like matcha and cookies and cream.

Chocolate Pocky Pops

Ingredients

Your favorite Pocky
Dark and white chocolate candy melts
Confetti sprinkles
Matcha powder
Cookies and Cream cookies, crushed

Supplies

Heart lollipop mold
Round lollipop mold

These chocolate, matcha, and cookies and cream @Pocky pops are the perfect sweet treat to pack in your lunchbox! Click through to watch how to make them!

Directions

  1. Remove the Pocky from the box and place on a cutting board. Cut off about half of the biscuit end. Repeat with all the other flavors you are using.
  2. Working with one type of chocolate at a time, place half in a glass bowl. Heat for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir and heat again in 15 second intervals (always at 50% power) until it’s completely melted. It will likely only take a minute and fifteen seconds to a minute and a half for the chocolate to be completely melted. It’s best to remove it from the microwave before it looks fully melted. When you stir it, it will finish melting. If you overheat the chocolate it will become lumpy and when this happens there’s no going back!
  3. Use a small spoon (dessert or appetizer tasting spoons work great) to spoon some of the melted chocolate into each mold so it is filled half way. Place a Pocky stick inside each mold and top the pop portion with chocolate so it is filled just about all the way. Carefully tap the filled chocolate mold on the counter so the chocolate becomes level.
  4. While melted, top the back of each pop with your favorite toppings. Place the entire tray in the freezer for 10 minutes and then they are ready to be enjoyed!

Cookies and cream lovers, you gotta try this! These Cookies & Cream @Pocky pops are the perfect sweet treat to pack in your lunchbox! Click through to watch how to make them.

The Cookies & Cream Pocky makes for the tastiest treats! Right after filling the candy mold, I topped both white and dark chocolate with cookies and cream cookie crumbs to give the pops a yummy crunch. Chocolate Banana Pocky and Strawberry Pocky make cute and colorful pops. Top each of these pops with rainbow sprinkles, like these confetti quins, which I adore because the look just like real confetti.

Matcha lovers, you gotta try this! These Matcha @Pocky pops are the perfect sweet treat to pack in your lunchbox! Click through to watch how to make them.

If you love all things matcha like I do then you’ll absolutely love these Matcha Green Tea Pocky pops. Just after filling the molds, dust the melted chocolate with matcha powder. I found it easiest to use a tiny mesh sieve, that I keep on hand for sprinkling powdered sugar on sweets.

These chocolate, matcha, and cookies and cream @Pocky pops are the perfect sweet treat to pack in your lunchbox! Click through to watch how to make them!

What’s your favorite flavor of Pocky and what would you top your pop with? For another lunchbox friendly sweet treat, check out my homemade chocolate Pocky marshmallows.

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This post is created in partnership with Pocky

DIY Floral Bento Box and Fresh Herb Dip

You can make this skinny green goddess dip is just 5 minutes and it’s perfectly packable for lunches and picnics. Serve it with @HarvestSnaps and crudités for a tasty snack!

I’m big on snacks. I’m always down for a savory bite (or two or three). I often find myself crazy hungry between meals so I’m always on the hunt for savory snacks that are tasty and healthy too. Because though I do love sweets and it’s all about balance, right? While skimming the snack aisle at the grocery store, I stumbled upon Harvest Snaps. The crisps go great with this fresh herb dip. It’s one of my all time favorite dips and it can be made in just about 5 minutes.

If you’re not familiar with the little pod shaped snacks, they are snapea and lentil bean crisps. They meet two of my ideal snack criteria: they are loaded with flavor and they are low carb (not to mention high protein and gluten free too). They come is a variety of flavors but Wasabi Ranch and Black Pepper are my fave. And their french fry like shape make them oh-so-perfect for dipping.

You can make this skinny green goddess dip is just 5 minutes. Click through for the recipe and tutorial on making these cute floral bento boxes too!

This easy to make dip is perfectly packable and makes a great on the go snack or lunchtime side. I love using bento boxes for their tidy organzion so I customized some with a super easy DIY. Watch the video below to see how to make the skinny green goddess dip and keep reading to see how to make your own pretty floral bento boxes.

5 Minute Fresh Herb Dip

makes 10 servings

Ingredients

½ cup packed parsley leaves
½ cup packed dill
½ cup packed basil leaves
1 scallion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
¼ cup light mayonnaise
½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
Harvest Snaps, in your favorite flavor

optional: 2 anchovy fillets—they add great flavor to the dip, add some if you love them!

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Recipe Directions

  1. Coarsely chop the scallion. Place the parsley, dill, basil, scallion and garlic clove in the bowl of a food pressor or blender. Pulse a few times and process until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and then enjoy with your favorite Harvest Snaps!

You can make this skinny green goddess dip is just 5 minutes. Click through for the recipe and tutorial on making these cute floral bento boxes too!

Carry your lunch in style by DIY-ing your own pretty floral bento box.

DIY Floral Decoupage Bento Box

Supplies

bento box
floral gift wrap sheet
dishwasher safe mod podge
1″ foam brush
scissors

Carry your lunch in style by DIY-ing your own pretty floral bento box.

DIY Directions

  1. Wipe down the top lid of your bento box to remove any dust. Use scissors to cut around a grouping of flowers on the printed gift wrap.
  2. Apply a thin coat of dishwasher safe mod podge to the area of the lid where you will apply the floral paper. Then apply a thin coat of mod podge to the back side of the cut out floral paper (I like to use a scrap piece of paper for this). Carefully place it into position on the lid of the bento box. Use your fingers to smooth out any bubbles and allow it to dry for an hour. Apply a second coat of mod podge and allow that to dry for one more hour. Finally, apply a third thin coat and allow that to dry completely.

Carry your lunch in style by DIY-ing your own pretty floral bento box.

To be fully (top rack) dishwasher safe, the directions on the mod podge container state that it must cure, or air dry, for 28 days. I recommend sticking to that time frame before washing the lid. Although for best care of your bento box and the decorated lid, I recommend always hand washing.

Carry your lunch in style by DIY-ing your own pretty floral bento box.

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This post was created in partnership with Harvest Snaps

August 2016 Drink Umbrella Wallpaper

Savor summer by using this free drink umbrella wallpaper on all your devices!

August is just around the corner and that means it’s time to update your wallpaper! It sure still feels like summer so the August 2016 wallpaper features cute drink umbrellas. So next time you’re working on your computer you’ll feel like you’re laying by the pool sipping a pretty cocktail with a drink umbrella in it! Or at least you can pretend, right?
Savor summer by using this free August 2016 calendar wallpaper on all your devices! Features cute and colorful drink umbrellas.

DOWNLOAD THIS MONTH’S WALLPAPER

Computer | Computer with calendar | Computer with quote
Retina computer | Retina computer with calendar | Retina computer with quote
iPhone | iPhone with calendar | iPhone with quote | iPhone home screen
iPad | iPad with calendar | iPad with quote | iPad home screen
Apple Watch

Savor summer by using this free August 2016 calendar wallpaper on all your devices! Features cute and colorful drink umbrellas.

Savor summer by using this free drink umbrella wallpaper on all your devices!

Design and illustration by Sarah Khandjian

Want more free wallpapers? Check out every one I’ve created over the years over on the wallpaper page. And if you just adore the drink umbrella illustrations, you can purchase the vector and hi-resoltuion files here for use in your own designs!

Printable Summer Fruit Placemats

Protect your table and make dinner clean up a breeze with these free printable summer fruit placemats. Perfect for summer parties and bbqs!

If it weren’t so darn hot, I’d want summer to last forever! Besides popsicles, beach bike rides and barbecues, one of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of summer produce. And this year it seems summer fruit is the star. And I don’t mind one bit. I’d gladly put a cute summer fruit print anything and everything. That’s why I designed these free printable summer fruit placements. Just download, print and enjoy!

Protect your table and make dinner clean up a breeze with these free printable summer fruit placemats. Perfect for summer parties and bbqs!

The placemats are formatted to fit an 11″ x 17″ sheet of paper. You can download the file and take it to your local copy shop to get them printed. Or if you’re like me and love to print out tons of stuff, I highly recommend investing in a large format printer. I purchased the Canon PIXMA iX6820 last year and have been so happy with it. It’s a rather compact ink jet large format printer and prints as large as 13″ x 19″! I use it for printing placemats, art prints (hello instant wall art), and even used it to test the scale of the horse wallpaper I made. (This post isn’t sponsored, I just wanted to share about some of the tools I use day in and day out).

I printed my placemats on matte presentation paper. It’s similar to copy paper but has an ultra bright white side that makes colors really pop.

Protect your table and make dinner clean up a breeze with these free printable summer fruit placemats. Perfect for summer parties and bbqs!

Download the free printable placemats here

 

Protect your table and make dinner clean up a breeze with these free printable summer fruit placemats. Perfect for summer parties and bbqs!

gold flatware

If you love this cute fruit pattern then you’ll adore the matching free printable note sheets!