Merry Christmas to you and yours… xx
’tis the season for saltine cracker toffee! My family has been making this every holiday season since before I can remember. It’s always a hit and it’s so, so simple to make!
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 bag dark chocolate chips
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil, and then line saltine crackers over the entire cookie sheet. Melt butter and brown sugar together over medium heat and stir until it boils. Let boil for 3 minutes, and then pour mixture over the saltine crackers. Bake for 5 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes and then pour chocolate chips over the crackers and toffee. Let sit for a minute or so, and then start spreading the chocolate lightly with the back of a spoon. The chocolate should start to melt and become easy to spread. Once chocolate is spread smoothly, top with sea salt (and/or crushed peppermint candies – anything goes here!). Cool in refrigerator for about 2 hours. Once hardened, peel off the tin foil from the bottom and cut into pieces. I recommend keeping these in the freezer until you are going to serve them.
My husband and I lived in London for 6 months in 2017 and it was one of the best times of our lives. I’ve been thinking about a trip back ever since we returned! I have countless lists here and there of things we did and places we ate… now I finally have some of our favorite spots in one place. Here you will find some of my top London picks! Hopefully these inspire you to get out and explore the city on your own.
E A T & D R I N K
Daylesford Organic: a perfect stop for a casual breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. There are a few locations throughout London and the food is fresh and delicious. Take some bites and groceries to-go, or sit and eat in the restaurant.
Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason: a wonderful afternoon tea experience! With a rich history and a store you definitely will want to shop through, I’d recommend booking your afternoon tea at Fortnums. (Other spots for tea: The Ritz, Sketch, Claridges, The Wolseley, Dorchester, Lanesborough)
The Connaught Bar: a ritzy bar in the ultra-stylish Connaught Hotel in Mayfair. The drinks and décor won’t disappoint. Be sure to order a martini which will be made to your liking table-side on the martini trolley. One gin with ginger and grapefruit, please!
The Shed: one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a long time. Beyond fresh and chuck full of seasonal flavor. This is a must try in Notting Hill.
Dishoom: this is also one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a long time. A fun Bombay-style stop for Indian street food. Even if you don’t like Indian food, I’m still fairly certain you’ll love Dishoom both for it’s food and vintage décor.
Barrafina: a delicious diner style Spanish tapas bar. They don’t take reservations, but you can have a cocktail while you wait and the line moved fairly quickly.
Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London: a really, really beautiful hotel that you should consider staying at! But, even if you don’t stay over night, you will definitely need to stop into their Scarfes Bar. It’s gentleman’s club-esque, complete with a fireplace, cozy armchairs, live music, beautiful woodwork, and even better cocktails. We went there for a few drinks and snacks before dinner at…
The Barbary: a cozy spot in the popular Neil’s yard in Covent Garden for an absolutely delicious Berber-style meal. We waited almost 2 hours, and you will too unless you show up at 5. But, I promise it’s worth it, especially considering you can wait inside the lively little spot with a drink in hand.
Duke’s Bar: a famous, classic London bar – go for a martini!
Yauatcha Soho: absolutely delicious dim sum
The Churchill Arms: you’ve definitely seen this Notting Hill pub on instagram. Flower-decked and filled with Churchill memorabilia. Stop for a pint!
Granger & Co: The best fluffy ricotta hotcakes ever! An excellent spot for brunch, lunch or dinner. This is a classic in Notting Hill.
Chiltern Firehouse: Super hot spot for dinner and drinks. If you can’t get a resy, just try to sit in the bar.
Ottolenghi: I visited the one on Motcomb Street in Belgravia – a delicious deli that is perfect for a takeaway lunch.
Borough Market: one of the oldest and largest food markets in London – browse 100+ food stalls and grab a delicious lunch!
Grenadier: one of my favorite local pubs if you find yourself in Belgravia and in need of a pint.
Bernardi’s: we stumbled upon this Italian kitchen and are so glad we decided to stop in. We sat at the bar, sipped on cocktails and had a delicious meal. They have some outdoor seating for when the weather is nice.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden: you’ve likely seen the front door of this spot on Instagram. It’s facade is filled with flowers and the interiors do not disappoint. Food is tasty! I loved this spot for lunch in the spring.
S E E
The Wallace Collection
Churchill War Rooms
Neighborhoods to wander: Kensington // South Kensington // Belgravia // Notting Hill // Marylebone // Chelsea // Mayfair // Soho // Primrose Hill
M E W S
aka the most charming streets in London! Originally these streets served as service lanes providing back entrances to the mansions and stables for horses– with carriage houses below and living quarters above. Today these cobblestone streets are lined with some of the cutest houses in London. Here are some of my favorites:
St Lukes Mews
Holland Park Mews
Sussex Mews West
Queens Gate Mews
S T A Y
splurge: The Lanesborough, The Cannaught, Rosewood London, The Berkeley
The Egerton House Hotel (boutique hotel and I really love the location)
Charlotte Street Hotel
S T O P S & S H O P S
Daunt Books: I visited their shop on Marylebone High Street and I felt like I was taken back in time a bit (this happened often… oh London, you’re so charming!) Pick up a few good reads for your vacation and flight home.
Soane Britain: I walked through this charming showroom off Sloane Square and couldn’t help but daydream up a deliciously English home for myself. Every piece is made in Britain and it’s beyond lovely. If you’re into interiors, this shop is for you.
Wild at Heart: Just down from Daylesford in Sloane Square, you’ll find this beautiful flower shop. A London favorite and a must visit! They also have locations in Notting Hill and outside Liberty London.
Peggy Porschen Cakes: An incredibly chic and delicious bakeshop located near Sloane Square. It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so this shop is decorated quite perfectly for the occasion. I’ll be taking the husband back to help me sample some more sweet treats.
Liberty London: Likely already on your list, this department store is a must visit for those interested in fashion. Among beautiful clothes and accessories, there’s a cute cafe and stationery shop inside, and a charming flower shop (another Wild at Heart location) out front.
La Stupenderia: Next door to a yummy cheese shop, you’ll find a beautiful children’s store. Stop in for a classic outfit for your little one.
Rachel Riley: Another favorite when it comes to children’s clothing. She makes the most darling dresses for little girls!
Pepa & Company: Aaaand… another favorite when it comes to children’s clothing! Stop in for traditional pieces worn by the Royal Family.
VV Rouleaux: I will always find the local fine ribbon store! I’m a sucker for ribbons and this store has quite the collection.
The Parent Trap House: Ok, agreed, this one is touristy of me. But I’m such a genuine fan that it really would have been a shame if I didn’t pay Annie’s home a visit. Plus, the neighborhood is beyond lovely. 23 Egerton Terrace.
Peacocks in Holland Park: I recommend taking a stroll through Holland Park. Although just off the busy Kensington High Street, the park is incredibly peaceful. Plus, you’ll likely run into some beautiful peacocks!
John Lobb Bootmaker: on St. James’s street, this family run shop has been hand making bespoke boots since 1866. In 1863, John Lobb apparently sent a pair of boots to the Prince of Wales who was so impressed by the quality of the workmanship that he appointed him his personal supplier. He then opened his London shop in 1866 and it’s still there today, supplying bespoke hand made shoes to people all over the world. They hold two Royal Warrants to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales. It’s a classic and a must-see!
James Smith & Sons: the most enchanting shop chuck full of classic umbrellas and walking sticks that has been in London since 1830. This is one of my favorite places I’ve gone while in London and you really must stop in. The umbrellas are made in their shop below the storefront, which is largely unaltered since they opened. I left with a black watch tartan that I’m excited to keep for years to come! (Side note: It rains, like, every day in London. But it doesn’t ever really rain to the point where you need an umbrella. That’s beside the point though, you should still go buy yourself a classic umbrella from this shop!)
Mount Street Printers: this one might just be for this paper romantic over here. But, if fine stationery is also your thing, it’s worth stopping into this classic printery. They also have a Royal Warrant and have been printing on beautiful Mount Street for over 35 years. They mostly do bespoke orders, but also have some cards and stationery on the shelves that you can take with you. If you stop in, tell them I sent you!
Harrods & Selfridges: likely already on your list… these are department stores you can’t miss!
‘Tis the season for persimmons and pomegranate seeds! I love these fruits this time of year, not only for their flavor but also because they add such vibrant color to salads. This salad is hearty, colorful and delicious. A perfect lunch on it’s own, or make as a side salad with your holiday dinner.
green leaf lettuce
To make the crispy quinoa, prepare quinoa as you normally would on the stovetop. Refrigerate overnight so the quinoa gets dry enough to crisp up. Place a thin layer on a baking sheet, spray lightly with olive oil and add a dash of salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees until quinoa gets crispy.
T O S T A Y
Zero George Street: three residences and two brick carriage houses make up this incredibly charming boutique hotel. An absolute gem and highly recommended!
Planter’s Inn: we didn’t stay here, but recommend it if you’d prefer a (slightly) bigger hotel. Great location and decorated with charming Charleston décor. Also a must is having a slice of their famous coconut cake (on their charming lantern-lit courtyard after a romantic dinner out)
Also worth checking out: Belmond, Spectator, The Dewberry
T O D O & T O S E E
Historic homes along Tradd Street, Church Street, Legare Street (all South of Broad)
Charming, historic alleyways: Stoll’s Alley, Longitude Lane, Philadelphia Alley
Carriage ride through the city
Historic home walking tour
College of Charleston
Head across the bridge and check out Sullivan’s Island
The Battery & Rainbow Row: take a walk all along the water and look at the beautiful, historic waterfront homes
King Street for shopping
Art galleries… everywhere!
Hampden Clothing: for great pieces from Theory, Rag & Bone, Tibi, Zimmerman & More…
Antique Shops: couldn’t make it into all of them, but check out John Pope Antiques, George C Birlant & Co, Alexandra Designs
Mac & Murphy Stationery: chuck full of sugar paper goodness
Club Monaco on King Street: such a beautiful store – a must-see for anyone who likes the brand
Lake Pajamas opened their first store on King’s Street. Stop in for interior eye-candy + a cozy pair of pjs
T O E A T & T O D R I N K
Butcher & Bee: one of the best tasting meals I’ve had in a really long time. Local, fresh, and FULL of flavor
Edmund’s Oast: we went for a drink before Butcher & Bee and had one of their 50+ delicious draft beers
Lewis BBQ: omg the beef brisket…
The Gin Joint: cozy spot for a cocktail. I got the pear pressure which was deliciously spicy and full of fall flavor. Snack on their famous beef jerky while you sip!
Husk: I’d skip your dinner reservation and grab a spot in their cozy, exposed brick bar. Enjoy southern bites and historic cocktails
Le Farfalle: a neighborhood osteria with incredible charm and authentic Italian food
Planter’s Inn Ultimate Coconut Cake®: famous Charleston treat to enjoy on their charming lantern-lit patio
Sugar Bakeshop: cute little bakeshop full of delicious treats
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit: fresh, warm, southern biscuits. Need I say more? Zero George serves these fresh every morning, but also check out their storefront on King Street.
Hominy Grill: a delicious, casual spot for Lowcountry classics. Head there for breakfast or lunch and try the Charleston Nasty Biscuit
Black Tap Coffee: for delicious cold brew on tap
We couldn’t make it to these ones, but they’re on our list for next time (worth checking out!):
FIG, Magnolias, Cannon Green, Leon’s, 5Church, Living Room & Henrietta’s at The Dewberry, The Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan’s Island
I’m generally a very healthy eater, but I definitely have a sweet tooth. So, I made up this recipe for “healthy” chocolate chip cookies to satisfy that craving for something sweet. It has minimal sugar, lots of protein and good fat, is free of gluten, and is vegan! Plus, they’re incredibly easy to make. If you don’t compare these to cookies to ones from Levain Bakery, then I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised (and won’t feel guilty afterwards)!
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar (you can use more if you want yours sweeter)
1 scoop vanilla collagen *optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup nut butter (I usually use almond butter, but used TJ’s mixed nut butter for these)
1/2 cup lily’s dark chocolate chips
Mix together the almond flour, coconut sugar, collagen, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Add the vanilla and nut butter and mix until well incorporated. If it’s still too dry, mix in a tablespoon of water (or an egg white). Stir in chocolate chips. Use a cookie scoop to drop rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet. Flatten the balls with your fingers (these won’t spread like normal cookies) and sprinkle some more sea salt on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes 12 cookies.
I store mine in the freezer (I’m odd and think all cookies with chocolate in them taste better frozen!)
I admittedly was not the best at packing my bag for our hospital stay because we live two blocks away and I figured I could send my husband home for anything we needed. Once we were there, though, I realized you really do not need a lot! The only thing I didn’t pack that I wish I had (or that I had my husband go get) was my own sleeping pillow and a bath towel. For the most part, using the items provided by the hospital was much easier. Here’s what I had in my bag:
• Pajamas & robe: Lake pajamas are my favorite and they have a maternity line!
• Slippers: for walking around your room and the hallways
• Camera and charger
• Phone charger
• Toiletries: Other than the essentials, I brought face and underarm wipes for ease and this toner spray that I love!
• Hair dryer
• Bath towel: You can certainly use the hospital provided ones, but I thought it was nice to have my own plush bath towel!
• Flip flops for the shower
• Sleeping pillows: Again, the hospital provided ones are just fine. I used some of them, but it was nice to have one really good pillow to sleep on
• Blankets for husband: He will appreciate having some nice, cozy blankets on his uncomfortable bed! 😉
• Snacks: I brought coconut waters and homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and some dark chocolate
• Onesies for baby: If you want your babe in non-hospital wear! *think: photos*
• Going home outfit for both you and the baby
• Receiving blanket(s)
• Car seat: Make sure it’s installed in your car!
Things I didn’t need (because using what the hospital provided was a whole lot easier!): diapers & wipes for baby (unless you feel strongly about using a certain brand), nursing pillow, belly wrap, undies, pads
Other items to consider: heating pad, Tucks wipes, Earth Mama spray, extension cord (so your phone can reach you in bed while charging), baby nail file, laptop and charger, night light (the lights in the room are really bright, so it would be nice to have something softer at night)
When buying a baby shower gift, you’re likely choosing something off a registry that is full of essentials. I’d typically recommend to always stick with the registry, but occasionally it’s nice to surprise with something a little more special. Additionally, if the gift is given outside of the shower I think going off-registry is even more acceptable. Below are some of my go-to thoughtful gift ideas for baby (and mom!)
Baby Book – I absolutely love the baby book I received from Sugar Paper. It has Henry’s initials embossed in gold on the cover and the inside is very beautifully designed. I love the contents of the pages, too! About half of it is for pregnancy and birth, and the second half takes you through highlights of months 1-12.
Monogrammed Bath Towel – makes bath time extra special! Etsy is a great source for monogramming if you don’t have a local spot.
Blankets – This one is obvious, but receiving blankets are so important! We use them every day, so having some nice, cozy ones are a treat. I love the ones I have from Little Giraffe, Ralph Lauren and Kissy Kissy.
Tiffany Piggy Bank – A sweet way to teach baby how to save their pennies (And it looks nice in their nursery!)
Onesies – A newborn can never have too many cozy onesies. My absolute favorite are Kissy Kissy because they are incredibly soft and have the sweetest designs.
Solly Baby Wrap – These wraps make for a stylish way to keep baby close to you (and often way more convenient than a stroller).
Monogrammed Pillow – I love the idea of monogrammed anything, but a little pillow is especially a great, long-lasting gift. Again, Etsy is a great source for monogrammed gifts if you don’t have a local spot.
Lands End Canvas Tote – These canvas totes are my favorite casual bag (again, monogrammed!) Get a smaller one for daily use, or the large for a suitcase. I used the XL for my hospital bag, and now for a weekend suitcase.
The World of Peter Rabbit – A classic! The full set (tales 1-23) which are housed in a box set make for an unexpected, yet special gift.
Pajamas/Robe for Mom – if you’re especially close with the new mom, I love the idea of gifting cozy pajamas. She will be living in them for a few months after the baby is born! Currently, my favorite are Lake Pajamas.
This easy Vitamix banana ice cream recipe is my go-to for a quick healthy sweet treat. I always have frozen bananas on hand which are much better than regular, as they will give you a frozen treat straight from the Vitamix without having to freeze. You can play around with additions, as well. I usually keep it simple:
About 2 frozen bananas
1/2 cup almond milk
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of sea salt
Teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (this one is my favorite!)
Heaping spoonful of almond butter
Top with chocolate chips (I used these)
Other ingredients to try mixed-in: peanut butter, dates, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, honey, coconut milk, shredded coconut