So we started our week long western European tour in London, then headed to Brussels, then to Amsterdam. After that we wanted to go to Berlin, but it’s a bit far (about 6 hours by train), so instead we made a last minute decision to take the Thalys to Paris for 24 hours of non-stop,… Read more »
What We’ve Been Up To
From Brussels, Rachel and I took the Thalys train (about 2 hours) straight to Amsterdam for a two day stay in the city. At the central station just walk outside and grab a tram (you can buy the tickets on the tram, get a full day ticket so you can hop on an off) and… Read more »
Hey there! It’s been a minute. Summer Jacinda and Summer Jaime have been living it up. Here’s what I was up to last week. First: a little background: I am 38 years old. I have several sisters and brothers, the youngest of which is Rachel. She is 20 years old and studying to be a… Read more »
Hello my precious’. As Jaime explained in her last post, we are in Summer mode y’all and here in Texas we are unapologetically living life just exactly how we want to do so, with a few reading charts mixed in. I’ve been calling myself Summer Jacinda and Summer Jacinda can’t be held to a daily… Read more »
This week has been ridiculously beautiful. More on what I’ve been up to in a minute, first just wanted to address that Jacinda and I haven’t been popping in quite as much lately and that’s because it’s summertime! Also, we are working on some behind the scenes update to our site, which are taking up… Read more »
I know the off-the-shoulder cut doesn’t immediately register as a look most of us want to rock, but it’s actually more flattering then you think, especially when the silhouette is loose and blousy. Here are some of my favorite takes on the bardot style for the summer of ’16 (and I’m working on a DIY… Read more »
This is where I would typically share about being nervous regarding school ending and the terror of keeping my kids busy for the next three months but for some reason, this year, I’m all about Summer. Aside from those induced by Quinn’s plan to be home schooled, by me, every day, the entire Summer, I… Read more »
So we started our week long western European tour in London, then headed to Brussels, then to Amsterdam. After that we wanted to go to Berlin, but it’s a bit far (about 6 hours by train), so instead we made a last minute decision to take the Thalys to Paris for 24 hours of non-stop, unabashed tourism. It was awesome.
We booked a hotel in the first arrondissement right next to the Louvre for easy access to all the major sites. The good news is Paris is actually quite small for a large city, and the Metro is extremely easy to use. We bought a 24 hour metro pass and headed to the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, where we dropped our bags and walked across the street to take in what is arguably the world’s greatest museum. I purchased tickets to the Louvre online (which definitely saves time) and the concierge printed them out for us. Wander around the iconic Pyramide du Louvre before heading into the museum.
Of course you will want to see the Mona Lisa, you and all of the hundreds of people pictured below as well. We also enjoyed the Venus de Milo, Egyptian Antiquities, and the Oceanic arts section, as well as the old masters paintings. I would make it a point to visit the decorative arts section to see the rooms made up in classic Louis XIV adornments.
After the Louvre we of course had to stop for some Parisian croissants and coffee.
From here we headed up to Montmartre. Part of visiting Paris is really just taking in the different neighborhoods, and Montmartre is beautiful. We wandered the streets a bit
before taking the Funicular (people who follow me know that I take every funicular I am anywhere near) up to the Sacre Coeur. Note that your day pass for the Metro also works at the funicular – no need to buy another ticket.
Take in this gorgeous view of Paris below.
After that, we did a little shopping in Montmartre, and of course stopped for some wine.
From there we took the metro down to walk the Champs Elysees before heading to the river bank. The singular best tourist thing to do in Paris is take a river cruise on the Seine. You will see all the major sites like Notre Dame, and take in the students hanging around the Sorbonne and the glorious Paris evening. I HIGHLY recommend taking the cruise right before sunset, as it heads down the river and then back, so you can see everything in the daylight and then again lit up at night – Paris is the City of Light after all. You can get tickets from your concierge or right at the dock. We saw the Eiffel Tower in the light of day,
and again just as the night began. This was far more affecting than I thought it would be. Just filled our hearts right up to the brim.
The bridges of Paris are stunning from every angle.
The rain broke for a few minutes and we saw a glorious sunset over the Seine.
We had some crepes from a river-side stand, and took an uber back to the 1st arrondissement where we found a cafe for a late dinner and some more French wine. In the morning, we walked back through the Louvre and across the river to hunt for pastries in the charming neighborhood of St Germain des Pres before taking the metro to the Paris Catacombs. I recommend splurging for skip-the-line passes available from the concierge at most hotels or any tourist office, as the line can be long because very few visitors are allowed in the catacombs at a time. The tickets also come with a self-guided audio tour that adds a lot to the experience. For those who don’t know, the catacombs are ossuaries deep under the streets of Paris, where old mining tunnels were filled with the bones of over 6 million Parisians. They were created when Les Innocents cemetery suffered a collapse due to over crowding. It took two years from 1786-1788 to transfer all of the bones, which were deposited in decoartively-arranged sections detailing where the bones were moved from and when, along with quotes from famous authors and thinkers on the nature of death and dying. It is a truly fascinating experience deep underground in the dark, dank bowels of Paris. It should not be missed, even on a short visit like ours.
From the catacombs, we headed back to our hotel, gathered our belongings, and headed back to Paris Gard du Nord to board the Eurostar back to London. Arrive early for this – it is more like boarding a plane (with security and passport control), and be careful on the escalator. I had a spectacular fall which I am sure is posted on YouTube somewhere. After a visit as packed as this one, you will want to sleep on the 2 hour train back to London, but try to keep your eyes open to enjoy a little of the French countryside as it zooms by.
From Brussels, Rachel and I took the Thalys train (about 2 hours) straight to Amsterdam for a two day stay in the city. At the central station just walk outside and grab a tram (you can buy the tickets on the tram, get a full day ticket so you can hop on an off) and check into your hotel. Don’t bother with a taxi or uber – it’s easier and faster to take the tram. I chose the Hotel Seven One Seven and I could not have been more in love. The sitting room and library were so rich and inviting, and the rooms named after famous authors are luxe and quiet. We had the JRR Tolkein suite – just stunning.
Soak in the hotel’s atmosphere before heading out for a walk about. We first headed straight for the Anne Frank House – this is a MUST while in Amsterdam. However, the line is several hours long if you did not book tickets online in advance. Tickets are booked up months and months in advance, and give timed entrance up until 3:30 pm. After that, walk ins are taken until closing, but the line is daunting. Do not let this deter you, you should visit this museum line or no line, it’s worth the wait. But we learned a secret when we headed to the tourist office next to the museum. We were given a tip that some timed tickets are released online each morning at 9 am. We set a timer and checked the following morning and were able to snag two tickets for later that afternoon! So definitely do this if you aren’t able to book in advance, this freed up a lot of time to experience the city. So, we instead purchased tickets for a canal tour (we went on a Lovers tour, which are great, but you can also book a dinner tour, a private hire boat, or basically any type of tour you desire) and headed back to central station. A canal tour is the perfect way to start your visit to the city as it will give you a lay of the land and some great history. Also, the canals of Amsterdam are stunning.
I want to grow old with Carleton on a house boat on an Amsterdam canal. #Dreams
After your tour, make your way via tram or on foot to the Jordaan. This charming neighborhood is typical Amsterdam. Have a perfect dinner at Trattoria Donna Sophia and an ice cream from the little shop across the way. Wander a bit before heading back to your hotel, through Leidseplein and Vondelpark, and admire the canals at night.
In the morning, head to the Van Gogh Museum – purchase timed tickets from a tourist booth the night before, or get there at opening for faster entry. This museum is wonderful and immersive – I couldn’t help but read each description as it pieced together the story of Van Gogh’s life and art. If you are up for two museums, the Rijksmuseum should be next. If you are museum-ed out, book a bike tour. Amsterdam is a biker’s heaven, but unfortunately it was raining most of this visit so we didn’t take a bike tour like I did in Copenhagen, but I would highly recommend it. Otherwise, head back towards the canals and find a pretty spot to have a sunny lunch by the water. Apple pancakes and local beer can’t be beat.
In the afternoon, the Anne Frank Museum is an emotional experience. The museum is in the actual “secret annex” where she and her family hid from the Nazis. I can’t put the experience into words, as a Jew and as a human being.
This is the actual faux bookshelf/door the family hid behind. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make the time to see this museum when in Amsterdam. I will leave it at that. You will have your own experience of it.
After the Anne Frank Museum you can cross the canal and walk a block to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. I’m not sure the museum itself is a must-do, but it’s interesting to learn about the tulip hype and crash, and the museum is quick. You can pick up some bulbs to bring home (they have a special selection approved to bring into the US and Canada) from the gift shop. There are also so many flower stalls on the street that will also sell you bulbs. It was peony season a few weeks ago. I couldn’t get enough.
Take a rest for a bit so you can stay up late to see the sunset around 10 pm. In the evening, take the tram to the Red Light district. Instead of just gawking, visit the Red Light Secrets museum to get some context for prostitution in the country and a look at the lives (and often, exploitation) of sex workers in Amsterdam. I chose not to take pictures here, except of this Croissanterie. Because, croissanterie.
In the evening, you can have a cocktail at Vesper or wine at La Oliva, or go out clubbing Dutch-style at Cafe Nol if that’s your thing. Or you can smoke pot legally. You can already do that in California (the novelty is not there for me), and also I’m too old for that business, so we headed back to the hotel to rest. For our final morning, we enjoyed coffees and shopping on Haarlemmerstraat. While there we wandered into Posthoornkerk – a stunning church. Then we walked around a bit enjoying the brief sunshine, and stopped for a sunny moment at Winkel where the apple pie should not be missed.
Head back to your hotel to gather up your things and take the tram back to central station. Next stop, Paris!
Hey there! It’s been a minute. Summer Jacinda and Summer Jaime have been living it up. Here’s what I was up to last week. First: a little background: I am 38 years old. I have several sisters and brothers, the youngest of which is Rachel. She is 20 years old and studying to be a veterinarian. She works her booty off in school and I am busy mothering and such, so we don’t get to spend as much time together as sisters probably should. When we both had a week off this summer, we decided to take a trip. It was her first visit to Europe so we made a mad dash through several cities via the train (thank you Rail Europe) from London. I warned her about jet lag, the stress of seeing so much and walking so much, blah blah blah none of it mattered, she basically was like a veteran traveler after 5 minutes on the ground – figuring out train schedules and conquering jet lag like an old hand. Our first stop after leaving London (1.5 hours on the eurostar) was 24 hours in Brussels, Belgium. Here’s how to get the most out of your short stay in this charming city.
The Hotel Des Galleries is perfectly located in the city center on this charming little walk street. The hotel is perfect in it’s elegant design, and has a lovely restaurant and wine bar right in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.
After you check in, the first thing you will want to do is take a short walk to the Grand Place to admire the architecture and soak in the vibe. Here is Rachel and me in front of the stunning Guildhalls. .
You can stop by the tourism office on the square for a free walking tour (ask for the times at the desk), or you can pay 40 euro (plus tip) for a horse drawn carriage tour, which we did and was totally worth it.
You’ll learn about the buildings of the Grand Place and tour a bit outside the city center. I was fascinated to learn about Brussels’ history of comic strips, which are memorialized in several murals throughout the city.
You will also learn from your guide about the terrorist bombings of March 22, 2016. This graffiti touched me.
And of course you will see the famous Manneken Pis. It’s smaller than you think, but it’s a must see when in Brussels.
Blink and you’ll miss the smallest house in Brussels.
After your tour, stop at a cafe for a Belgian beer and some seafood. Then take a walk through the beautiful Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a shopping arcade dating back to 1847. You will want to bring home some chocolates – you can even take a chocolate tour. The Belgians I know recommend Pierre Marcolini, which you can find in the Galeries and a few other locations around the city center. It’s spendy, but worth it. You can also arrange a chocolate tasting tour – there are many, many, many chocolates to be had.
Make your way back to the Grand Place, taking note of the spring flowers and doorways to secret gardens. You will want to watch the sunset and see the buildings light up in the dark. In the summer the sun won’t set until almost 10 pm, giving you plenty of time to have some wine or more Belgian beer on the square.
Find a local shop and have a late night Belgian waffle. The topping options will overwhelm you, I suggest going with crumbled Speculoos – the famous cinnamon and ginger Belgian cookies. So good. I would have taken a picture but my sister and I ate the whole thing. Get a good night’s rest and wake up with a delicious cappuccino. In the morning, walk to the Magritte Museum by way of the Brussels Library. At the top of the stairs you’ll enjoy this lovely view.
The Magritte Museum suffers from not having his most famous works on hand, but it is still a must to learn about this Belgian artist while in Brussels. The museum will take less than an hour to experience, then walk next door to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium for an immersive tour of the paintings of the old masters and a few modern works as well. Don’t ask me why I snapped a picture of this Dirk Bouts. It should be obvious.
From there, if you have time, stop into the Musical Instruments Museum before walking back to your hotel. Finish up your 24 hour visit to Brussels with a selfie and some frites in the square before grabbing your bags and heading to the train.
Next up – Amsterdam!
Hello my precious’. As Jaime explained in her last post, we are in Summer mode y’all and here in Texas we are unapologetically living life just exactly how we want to do so, with a few reading charts mixed in. I’ve been calling myself Summer Jacinda and Summer Jacinda can’t be held to a daily blog post calendar. Summer Jacinda is playing lifeguard, playing tennis, coordinating playdates, playing dominos, doing a lot of Summer reading, doing a little Summer weeding, sipping some pink beverages, and occasionally tapping away at a keyboard with pink fingernails. Summer Jacinda is going wild people, but in the most chill way possible.
A few days ago Clare had her cousin/best friend/neighbor Manning over for a sleepover so we set up an impromptu watercolor painting session just as the afternoon glow hit the cacti in our front courtyard. You can see more of that space here. It’s definitely due for an update but there hand-painted stools are hanging strong. The girls love to paint and I love their artwork so much. Aren’t they both beautiful and so unique? I want to frame them… but framing seems like more of a Fall Jacinda project. Time will tell.
I hope that all of you are enjoying your Summer months. Making beautiful memories with friends and family and taking some time to refresh and relax, in whatever way means the most to you.
This week has been ridiculously beautiful. More on what I’ve been up to in a minute, first just wanted to address that Jacinda and I haven’t been popping in quite as much lately and that’s because it’s summertime! Also, we are working on some behind the scenes update to our site, which are taking up some of our precious time as well. Scarlet is 8 now and going to third grade (at a new school next year, eek!) in the fall, that means only 10 more summers at home with me! I want to make them count.
So first things first, my big news is I BOUGHT A HOUSE! Carleton, Scarlet, and I have loved our spanish bungalow for the last 7 years – you’ve seen it in our Pretty Prudent Home book. Well, the time has come to make a change, and we are moving into a perfectly preserved 1949 mid century modern gem. Lots of posts to come on this as we get closer to moving in August, but here’s a sneak peek. Isn’t it wonderful??
So while I am going through the escrow process (so fun :/), I am also trying to make time for a magical summer with my sweet girl. This week I surprised her by starting her summer with two days and one night at the new Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove. Jeez Louise, that place is exorbitantly expensive, but we did have a blast. We went on waterslides until closing time at 9 pm, and we magic-quested all over the hotel. She was ecstatic, so it was worth it. After that, the rest of our week has been utterly free, and also super fun. We went for a hike up around Franklin Canyon with our rescue mutt, Princess Cheese.
Had to snap some pics of my woodland sprite.
Scarlet has taken a few photography classes down the street at Samy’s Camera, so she wanted to document our hike. I’m actually really impressed with her skills! Love this shot of the lake. It’s hard to beieve this little hidden gem of a park is smack dab in the middle of Beverly Hills. She wants to do a post of her photography, I told her I would let her post her favorites here later this summer.
Yesterday we had her BFF Xylee over for a playdate. We headed to Jo-Anns to grab some crafty projects to do. They made these bird houses. This one says “Birds! Come! Eat!”
And this one says “Birds Please Have a Good day at Restaurant For all birds!!!!
I also spent some time re-potting some of my succulents. I grew these from the some of the same tiny clippings I used to make the internet’s first Succulent Wreath DIY back in 2010. See how tiny they were? Now they are so big and beautiful. They are going to look lovely around my new pool!
I’ve also been obsessively making and eating my grilled corn salad. Seriously, try this recipe. I can’t get enough of this stuff. I’ve been eating it outside on my somewhat-new equipales table and chairs. I’d been craving a set like this for years, and a few months ago I finally bought it.
Well I made the mistake of not properly treating it before setting it outside and it has a few rings and stains on it (spilled grilled corn salad). So I spent some time researching the best way to treat it, and then an hour or so doing the table top. The trick is to use Neatsfoot Oil and an old t-shirt scrap. Don’t drip it right on the table though, I did that and it soaks in so fast that it made darker marks. Apply it to the t-shirt scrap first and quickly rub it into the table. A few layers and it will be good. It won’t be uniform but that’s part of the appeal of equipales (which by the way are made of pig skin, not cow leather). I’m glad I spent the time to do this, and wish I had done it before I ate on the table. I haven’t done the chairs yet, but I will because the oil darkened the leather on the table top (attractively) so I want the chairs to match.
So that’s generally what I’ve been up to this first week of summer break. Looking forward to taking Scarlet to the Curtis family reunion and the Elmswood Dairy farm in Pennsylvania next week, where we will be staying with her Great Granny (the queen of our family) and playing with all the extended family Curtis cousins! I hope you and your families are well and enjoying the season.
P.S. As I’ve been writing this, Scarlet has been making electrical circuits that make her playdoh light up and make noises. My friend Erin gave this to her for her birthday and it is awesome for any STEM minded kids out there: DIY Electro Dough Kit.
I know the off-the-shoulder cut doesn’t immediately register as a look most of us want to rock, but it’s actually more flattering then you think, especially when the silhouette is loose and blousy. Here are some of my favorite takes on the bardot style for the summer of ’16 (and I’m working on a DIY too)…
Love the longer ruffle on this one: Tennessee Dress from The Reformation.
Eyelet balcony off-the-shoulder top in mystic yellow from Madewell
This bright red is ballsy and I love it: Piper Bogo Embroidered Off Shoulder Romper from ASOS.
I don’t love the drawstring waist on this (not great with my large chest), but it would look adorable on many: Embroidered indigo mercado dress also from Madewell.
Love this low-cost version: Off-Shoulder Tie-Belt Dress for Women from Old Navy.
Love the color on this one: Embroidered Bardot Dress from Topshop.
I love florals on black, so I love this Retro Bardot Frill Off-The-Shoulder Top from Topshop.
I love some stretch. Just cause we are curvy doesn’t mean we can’t go off-shoulder. Get out your best strapless bra and rock this one: ASOS Curve Bardot Romper from ASOS.
This is where I would typically share about being nervous regarding school ending and the terror of keeping my kids busy for the next three months but for some reason, this year, I’m all about Summer. Aside from those induced by Quinn’s plan to be home schooled, by me, every day, the entire Summer, I have had no episodes of extreme anxiety. I mean really, I would be the worst homeschooler ever. She will soon see.
I do however, excel at lazy days by the pool and the occasional craft project. Here are some of my favorites from Pretty Prudent that are sure to delight the young and old. It’s going to be a great Summer. Don’t worry. I promise.
Here all the toys Scarlet has or wants for this summer. Well, one of them is for me. That first one. I want a giant inflatable pool swan, which I can get on Amazon. But, for this I really need a pool. I mean, I guess I could sit on it in the yard?
Wet Head Game This game is the follow up to last summer’s crazy Pie Face Game. We have had so much fun playing this one… the squeals from Scarlet every time someone pulls a pin are hilarious! And when someone finally gets all wet it’s hilarious. Find it on Amazon.
Little Monkey Playground Jungle Gym I love this for smaller kids, because you can climb all over it, or with a few towels it makes the perfect fort hideaway. And its only $125 on Amazon right now.
Poof Pop Fly They can play catch with themselves, ha. They stomp the paddle and a beanbag or ball is launched into the air. On Amazon.
Nerf Rebelle Scarlet found one of these for 99 cents at the 99 cent store. It shoots foam darts at stuff, in her case she stacks up paper cups or makes herself targets. She LOVES it. Here is a similar one on Amazon, but seriously go to your local dollar store and see if you can find the 99 cent version.
Triple Water Slide. This one is from H2OGO. We have it and its held up pretty well and is as fun as you can get without having a pool. Find it on Amazon.
I hope y’all have some great fun in your backyard this summer. Any toys you would suggest for my little monkey?