My dad sent me this photo while I was in London. My 82-year-old English mum
said, “How did you already get on one of the double decker buses?!”
I celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago in London, at my home away from home. Till this day, I can still say studying abroad was one of the three best decisions I have ever made. It was a transformative experience at such a formative age. It challenged me to step outside my comfort zone, to let go of FOMO (“fear of missing out”), embrace adventure and the unknown and to harness a lifelong passion for traveling. But most importantly, I gained a second family through my host family, Brenda & Tom Downie on Dudley Gardens in Ealing, London.
By day, I navigated this storied, dynamic city full of promise, I “mind(ed) the gap,” studied British history at Thames Valley University, made plans for weekend adventures, and looked so forward to my evenings with Brenda. She always got so genuinely excited to see what kind of treasures I picked up at Portobello Market, what I was wearing, to find out who I met that day, what I learned. And to all the people back home that said I’d hate the food in England, too bad they never had a meal at Brenda’s dining table. No matter how intimidated I was by the way something looked, I quickly learned that if Brenda made it, it would be delicious.
Sitting by the fire with a cup of English tea (Brenda always preferred coffee) and BBC’s Top of the Pops droning in the background, we would get lost in each other’s stories, sharing our loves, losses and dreams.
I’ve been back to London five times, most recently in 2010. Shortly after I got word that Brenda’s dear husband Tom (also in his 80’s) had passed, I knew it was time to make plans to go back. Intimidated as always by the strength of the almighty pound, I knew the only way I could afford to go would be on my own. Joel suggested I ask my mom to join me since she is always up for an adventure. She responded with a resounding “Yesssss!” within seconds. I planned on asking my dad for a loan for my flight, but it turns out I had just enough points stored up on my credit card to purchase a return fare. I took it as a sign, once again, that it was time.
A day before our departure, I got word from Brenda that she had been diagnosed with cancer for the third time. Even though she was still recovering from a recent hernia operation, she was resilient and positive as ever. “Ahhhh well, that’s life.”
After letting that knowledge set in, I was more thankful than ever for the precious time we would share together over the next eight days. With my body still in fight-or-flight mode from the stress of my fashion show, the emotional return to my second home, and mortality echoing each exchange; I experienced an unfortunate series of panic attacks. A visit to the hospital (free healthcare – what a novel idea!) and a Chinese Medicine doctor (my first shot at acupuncture) was tempered with priceless bonding time with my mom, Brenda and our beloved Joan, Brenda’s sister. By the end of the week, my mom was just as enchanted with them as I have always been.
And, if you know my Mom, “Susy Sunbeam,” you also know it’s impossible to travel with the Energizer Bunny without experiencing as much as possible. We took our morning jogs in the park, got lost in a sea of Brits at Oxford Circus, went treasure hunting at the vintage markets (come shop my finds this Thursday 6-9pm at Style Girl Vintage!) and even took a trip to the idyllic English countryside to see my long lost friend, Anna Hollywood. Please see my travel photo diary below.
This home and the special people in it hold so many dear memories to me. I am so incredibly grateful to have spent my birthday week with three women whom I love with all my heart – my English mum Brenda, her sister Joan & my mom. I can’t imagine waiting another 6 years for our next reunion. So I am pledging here – London, this is see you soon. Not goodbye!
It’s never too late to reconnect with loved ones in your life near or far.
Thanks for joining me on my London reunion.
Brenda, Tom and I on my last day of my semester abroad, in 2000.
Returning home to Ealing, London – fresh off the plane!
Between my two favorite English Roses:
Joan (Brenda’s sister, left) and Brenda
Met a lovely Englishman working in his garden that introduced us to the “Peace” rose, which changes color from yellow to red. He lets them climb towards the sun so his wife (who is blind) can find them at eye level through their scent.
The Tube map on fleek.
“Mind the Gap.”
Introduced mom to Pimm’s Cup – yum!
Try Astral Cocktails / Joel’s version at our “London Calling”
Sip + Shop this Thursday at Style Girl Vintage (6-9pm)
Vintage pop-up heaven
Still mourning the loss of this dream dress
Incredible Victorian lace lamp in a jewel box of a boutique
Gotta love that British sense of humor!
Angelina – sweet bistro in Covent Garden
SKETCH IN BLOOM
In conjunction with the Chelsea Flower Show
These pods were actually the loo! Coolest thing ever.
“The Dame of Roses” Cocktail:
30 pound / $20 cocktail at Sketch
Blend of rose liqueur, Hendricks gin, lemon juice & rhubarb bitters
“You used to call me on — “
to the English Countryside
Tintype on the train to Hungerford
Visiting one of my favorite English friends Anna Hollywood Liverton and her beautiful baby Georgie in Boxford in West Berkshire, England.
Enchanted land of the thatched roof
After a successful haul at the charity shops (aka thrift shops) in Hungerford. Good thing we had some extra room in our suitcase!
Pretty little Pony.
My Happy Place.
May 22: Birthday Selfie
Jimmi Hendrix busker at Brick Lane Market in East London –
vintage, music & Indian food everywhere!
Shoreditch Wall Art
Life imitating Art
Petticoat Lane, East London
For cereal lovers —
Cereal Killer Cafe
Brick Lane Market, East London
Swooned over all the jewelry in this cool bird’s shop at Labouddica at Brick Lane
Searching for treasures for Style Gir Vintage at BLITZ, Europe’s largest vintage store, located off Brick Lane in East London.
Outside my bedroom window at Brenda’s house in Ealing, London
View from the balcony inside the Palm House
Mom enjoying the ambiance at the cafe.
Reveling in the sun in my new vintage floral dress I scored at the charity shop in Hungerford. Switched out my buttons for daisies.
Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens
Mom looking cute in the look I styled for her inside The Orangery
Gardeners at work. Check out the book I got for Joel at Kew:
Teas, Tonics & Tipples
My love for wisteria knows no bounds
Suspended 60 feet in the air on the “Sky Walk.”
As someone who is afraid of heights, I have no idea how my mom convinced me to do this. FREAKING OUT inside.
We ate outdoors at this delicious cafe after our day at Kew and then went crazy for this charming pub connected to the Tube station called “Tap on the Line.”
Love seeing English poppies everywhere.
Mom turning onto Dudley Gardens after our morning walk
Walpole Park in Ealing, London (nearby to Thames Valley University , where I spent my semester abroad)
Brenda / Joan sandwich!
Foyer in Brenda’s lovely Ealing home
London Calling! Soiree
@ Style Girl Vintage
Style Girl Vintage curator Jess James has returned home from London with some new vintage treasures! Get first dibs on NEW arrivals from London plus a rack full of bargains: $25 & under.
Photographer Harry Taylor will have his photography studio open for luau tintype sessions. Joel Finsel of Astral Cocktails will serve the signature English Pimm’s Cup featuring Method + Standard Vodka.
Mini-massages with Andrea Townsend of Wholesome Journey Massage & Reflexology
Thursday June 16th
21 Market Street (2nd floor)
Style Girl Vintage @
Willard Green Pop-Up Market
Style Girl Vintage will be set up to sling vintage for the second year at Willard Green Pop-Up Market. We had so much fun last year! Live music, beer, vintage – what else could you want on a summer day?
New arrivals from London, bargain racks under $25, vintage jewelry & shoes + books, tchotchke + treasures from Joel. Look for us under the champagne tent!
Saturday June 18th 9am-4pm
2nd Street between Willard & Greenfield
NEXT FASHION FIX
Find out what it was like to co-design this rose gold / raw emerald ring with talented local jewelry designer Melissa Tyson in next week’s FASHION FIX
THAT 70’s FASHION SHOW PHOTOS
See all the runway looks + my favorite photos by Bella Rose Photography on the style girl FASHION FIX Facebook page
Shannon Dunne, Amy Hammond, Jess James, Carly Forman, Kirsten Gravely
Special thanks to the beautiful & talented Lisa Brown of Bella Rose Photography for capturing the spirit of That 70’s (FASHION) Show with all these wonderful photos! xo
Beanie + Cecil
Front Street Optometric Care
Second Skin Vintage
Style Girl Vintage
ART IMITATING LIFE
The crazy talented Kristen Martinez created this gorgeous illustration inspired
by the Gucci inspired image we created for #that70sfashionshow
Prints for sale now at Style Girl Vintage!
Illustration / Graphic Art: Kristen Martinez
Inspired by Gucci S/S 2016
Photo: Bella Rose Photography
Styling: Jess James
Wardrobe: Style Girl Vintage
VIDEO PREMIERE: Solving the Mystery –
Who is Jess James & What does she do?
FOR HIRE: ON-CALL STYLING
1 hour, 20 outfits (styled from your closet) for $100
Make an appointment:
FOR HIRE: CRAFT COCKTAILS BAR MAN
Want to have Playboy’s Top 10 Mixologist
slinging drinks at your house party or creating
a signature cocktail at your wedding or special event?
Book Mixologist Joel Finsel of Astral Cocktails now!
* Mention seeing this in the FASHION FIX,
and receive 10% off!
Photo: Leslie Koehn