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An Alternative Guide to London

2 Jul

In just a few weeks I’m going on an exciting European vacation with my family, so as I do before almost every trip, I wanted to do my research so we all get the most out of the trip. Up first on the itinerary of our 7-city, 18-day adventure is London!

Instead of going to the Olympics, watch them in Hyde Park, Victoria Park, or Trafalgar Square: Yes, the Summer Olympics inspired our trip to London, actually it was the inspiration behind our entire European vacation. We are headed off to watch Academy Award winning director and British native, Danny Boyle transform the Olympic stadium into “a picture of ourselves as a nation” for the opening ceremony. Boyle’s heart-wrenching Slumdog Millionaire, visceral Trainspotting, and riveting 28 Days Later are all evidence that he will make the opening ceremony something memorable. He is rumored to be spending over $40 million on the Tempest-inspired ceremony to make the stadium into a traditional English meadow with farm animals and national landmarks. I’m more excited to see what Boyle comes up with for the grand opening than I am for the Olympic games themselves! Watch the olympic games at one of the three BT London Live festival sites where large outdoor screens will be set up for crowds to picnic and socialize while watching some of the most eagerly anticipated races and contests in the games.

Instead of going to a traditional tea at Harrods, enjoy the fashionable Pre-a-Portea at the Berkley: This fashion-inspired afternoon tea changes every six months so that the sumptuous tea goodies mimic the latest fashions by leading designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Jason Wu, and Valentino. It includes a selection from the extensive tea menu, mini skewers, taster spoons, elegant canapés, tea sandwiches, and for the grande finale a collection of fashion-forward cakes and fancies. I cannot recommend this highly enough for anyone who wants a modern take on traditional British tea! My family and I did it when we were in London a few years ago, and it is by far the most delicious and beautiful high tea I’ve ever had. Current selections include a Jason Wu romantic cherry bavarois and coconut cream topped with playful pink skirt and biscuit heel and a Miu Miu 1950’s inspired vanilla bikini biscuit with red hot icing and playful white bow.

Our Spring 2010 runway tea

Instead of spending all of your money on Liberty London’s beautiful but expensive clothes and home wares, find one-of-a-kind treasures at Portobello Road MarketVisit this 2-mile long weekly market on Saturday mornings if you’re set on seeing the famous market, or just about any other day of the week to avoid touristy crowds. The market contains antiques, produce, new goods, clothing, and second-hand goods. Check out Decadent Vintage for affordable treasures curated by a mother-daughter duo with a passion for fashions of the past or Portwine Arcade for quirky old-fashioned goods.Yes it’s often packed with tourists but it’s one of London’s largest and most diverse markets. This is an amazing place to experience the eclectic side of London at its finest and to find rare items for incredible prices if you’re daring enough to wade through the crowds. Plus it’s only a mile and a half away from Holland Park, which is a great place to peacefully relax after the marketplace hustle. For something even less touristy check out Golborne Road MarketNumerous stalls offer everything from antiques to fruit and bread to posters, clothes, ceramics and music.It’s best to visit Friday or Saturday when the most vendors come out to display their eclectic mix of  second-hand and vintage wares, architectural antiques, niche designer and vintage fashion boutiques, and inventive food. It stretches past the iconic Trellick Tower, which itself overlooks the Grand Union Canal leading to Regents Park, Camden and beyond. It joins with classic Portobello Road and shows the best of Notting Hill’s trendy wares.

Instead of dining in expensive, 5-star hotel restaurants, check out less common eateries at Borough Market: London’s most renowned food market dates back to the 13th Century and is a mecca of artisanal bites and hard-to-find ingredients. It’s best to visit Thursday or Friday, but you’ll be fine going early Saturday morning too. Nosh on fresh and sustainably caught seafood from Shellseekers, try goat’s milk ice cream in flavors like Hokey Pokey or Lemon Cheesecake from Greedy Goat, or pick up super fresh and nutrition-packed vegetarian fare from The Veggie Table. P.S. Check out this wonderful British Berry Tart Recipe from the market’s website!

Instead of taking countless photos of Big Ben and the parliament building, go see St. Paul’s Cathedral to get your dose of British architecture. Admire Christopher Wren’s 18th century masterpiece. Although the building has roots back to 604 AD, it is Wren’s building that visitors have been seeing ever since the Great Fire of London. It has been used for weddings, WW II peace services, Jubilee celebrations, and funerals.

What are your favorite places to visit in London? Any good tips from locals or ardent travelers?

What I’m loving now: June 2012

17 Jun

This is a new series that I’m going to be staring. Every month I want to share with you 10 of the products, articles, recipes, or ideas that have struck my fancy. I hope you enjoy!

10. These shoes look super luxe but without the killer price tag. The Mona Mia Trinidad Woven Planform Heels are the perfect work shoe with a classic pencil skirt or great for a night out with your favorite jeans and a fun top. I think these vegan leather heels are the perfect way to update any summer look.

9. Check out these wonderful tips from Amy Pennington of Apartment Gardening on how to grow as garden even in an urban environment. I’ve never thought of growing my own lettuce, but after reading her advice, I think I’m going to give it a try!

8. 479° Popcorn’s Black Truffle and White Cheddar Popcorn is my absolute favorite snack right now. The air-popped treat only feels indulgent with its 70 calories per serving. The salty and umami tastes combined with the crunch of the popcorn make this the perfect way to satisfy any foodie craving!

7. Eminence’s Eight Greens Phyto Masque is AMAZING! It makes my skin look instantly brighter, cleaner, and more glowy. It uses a combination of organic ingredients to to promote cellular renewal, boost circulation, stimulate collagen production, regulate oil production and balance skin’s hormone levels, leading to healthier, clearer skin. I especially love that this Yucca-based mask uses all natural ingredients instead of the man-made chemicals in so many other facial products. 

6. Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest that’s on its way to becoming the first park of its kind with 7 acres of land just 2.5 miles from downtown Seattle. where people can relax and munch on fresh fruit and vegetables for free. This sounds like a genius way to target the nation’s obesity epidemic during the recession. Free produce plus getting active in the park sounds like a great way to improve anyone’s health. I hope that the trend of food forests catch on because I want one near me.

5. Abby Paloma is trying to connect New York’s yoga community with the farm-to-table food movement by hosting a series of summer yoga dinners at Growing Heart Farm in Wingdale where yogis pay $60 to tour the farm’s vegetable, herb, and flower gardens before taking an outdoor yoga class complete with live music and finally enjoying a vegetarian dinner made from the farm’s bounty. I think that this sounds like a genus way to capture the basic similarities of the yogic approach to living in the moment and being in harmony nature and the local farm movement’s emphasis on sustainability and embracing nature.

4. These Chocolate-Dipped Tea Bag Shortbread Cookies are a perfect addition to any afternoon.Dark chocolate covered shortbread is always delicious because of how the buttery cookie complements the bitter chocolate, but the shape of the cookie is really what makes them special. It’s such a great idea to turn a typical household item into an impossibly chic cookie!

3. We are Handsome’s Scoop Back Puppy One Piece is quite possibly the cutest bathing suit I’ve seen all season. While the $300 price tag is absurd, looking at the adorable puppy face is a sure way to make anyone smile. Who could help but love that adorable, oversize puppy face!

2.Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth created this 21 meter sculpture in German Duisburg as a reaction to local development. The Tiger and Turtle-Magic Mountain shows an impressive view of the surrounding area when visitors climb the winding roller coaster-esque staircase. The impassable loop forces people to turn  back halfway through the loop, but the obstacle makes them really think about the entire experience of the manual roller coaster.

1. This one  you can’t get yourself because he’s all mine. The number one thing I’m loving right now is my Dad. He’s the only dad cool enough to join a fantasy football league with my boyfriend, fly our family halfway across the country so that he and I could go see the incredible Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, and be in better shape than me or any of my sisters even in his 50’s (wow that man can do a lot of burpees!). My dad may very well be the coolest man I’ve ever met. He’s taught me how to appreciate good food, good movies, and good music. He’s taken my sisters and I to visit some of the magnificent places in the world to give us the type of cultural education that would be impossible to get simply by studying at home. If you’re reading this, I love you Dad! Happy Father’s Day!

Miscelaneous May

29 May

After five months of blogging, I’ve come to realize the importance of editing. That’s why many of my photos and ideas for blog posts didn’t actually make it onto ModernAlice. Even still, I wanted to share with you some of the exciting things that I’ve been up to this month. So here’s a compilation of random photos from the past month.

My adorable pooch, Cassie, blending in with the stuffed animals

Making a rainbow at Prom

A recycled owl…how’s that for nature

Architectural paintings at the art show

More recycling with bottle cap furniture

Fun with the Wizard of Oz

Satirical art at its best

Having a blast with my friends at Grad Night where we, the graduating seniors, got to have Disneyland all to ourselves until the wee hours of the morning

My youngest sister having the time of her life climbing the pile of bean bags at my other sister’s outdoor movie party

The perfect tutu that would make any little girl’s dreams come true

Adorable vintage shop on Abbot Kinney filled with vintage treasures

Playful architecture on Abbot Kinney

Awesome cork chair…I want one of these in my home one day

ChakWave juices that blend herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables to appeal to the seven main chakra energy points

Nobuhiro Sato’s concrete mansion planter that experiments with the ideas of architecture to create lifestyle design accessories

Incredible brick and mortar street art on Abbot Kinney

Unique DIY succulent arrangements and terrariums at The Juicy Leaf

Adorable puppy bowls that would make any spoonful of soup or ice cream even better

Cute wooden bears with absolutely no purpose other than to make you smile

Draw Me A House: A Book of Colouring in, Ideas and Architectural Inspiration

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony with my mom for Mother’s Day

 So lovely readers, what exciting things have you done this month? What do you have planned for next month’s summer fun?

Playtime with Legos

23 May

When anyone makes the transition from the carefree pleasures of childhood to the serious responsibilities of adulthood, as I am about to make now when I graduate high school in just under a month, there is tremendous pressure to simply grow up. Well quite frankly, I don’t want to. There is no rule that when you become an adult that you must leave youthful fancies behind. The most succesful and happy adults are those who remember to play.

I plan to always make time to play because it is just as importance as meditation or exercise in terms of maintaining mental and physical well being. Playtime is full of rewards whether you’re exercising on the playground with your kids, boosting your general knowledge with a game of trivial pursuit, or simply having a good time to get your creative juices flowing.

Legos are one of the most beneficial and beloved toys in America because they encourage kids to embrace their creativity and they are just plain fun! I wish that I can say that I was a lego lover growing up, but they’ve become more of a recent love. Check out some of the incredible ways that people have been using their legos and see the innovative things that people have done to express their adoration for America’s favorite toy!

Simon Pillard and Philippe Rossetti’s 20,000 Lego kitchen island from Dwell

Lego lunchbox from Firebox


Lego soap dispenser from Simply Sara

Lego cake from Betty Crocker

Lego Bow tie from Made in Forest Hills

Lego conference table from abgc Architecture and Design

Lego crayons from Crafty C0rn3r

Lego messenger bag from Luxfordst

Lego deer taxidermy kit from David Cole


Lego building inserts in Toulouse, France for Imaginez Maintenant (Imagine Now)

What’s your favorite way to play?

Schools of the Future

19 May

Long gone are the days of little red school houses. With today’s rapid technological advances, schools are changing more rapidly than ever.

Technological advances such as tablets and ipads are starting to render traditional textbooks obsolete, so 20 years from now, when students no longer have to carry books to and from their classes, will kids even need lockers?

Repurposing outdated lockers

Another use for unneeded lockers

With innovative developments in sustainable architecture, will schools begin incorporating enough solar panels and eco-friendly materials that schools of the future cease to resemble schools of the past?

Student Center at the University of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland

Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia

With so many internet resources available with the mere click of a mouse, will  schools need libraries any more?

Library of Ørestad College in Copenhagen, Denmark

With an increasing trend of grow one’s own food for health and environmental sustainability purposes, will schools start to look more like farms?

Green School in Bali with its own farm, a bicycling program, solar power, and an organic chocolate factory

Vertical Garden at Drew School in San Francisco, California

What other changes that we can’t even imagine yet will change

Schools around the world are starting to implement innovative new designs and technologies to give us a small glance at what the future of schools may hold. How do you think schools will change in the next few decades?

Unique LA Recap

15 May

What I love most about living in LA (besides the weather of course) is that there is always something to do. Downtown especially is filled with exciting events, restaurants, shops, and attractions. From tracking down the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck to watch both the Lakers and the Clippers in second round play off games on the same day, to admiring the architecture was beautiful enough to become the focus of 500 Days of Summer to visiting the monthly Art Walk, Los Angles always has something exciting to offer!

Even while sitting in a downtown parking outside The California Market Center over the weekend, I was lucky enough to simultaneously view Banksy’s “Park” street art and timeless Art Deco gems like the beautiful Eastern Columbia Building. Where else in the country is there such a breathtaking combination of perfect sunshine, poignant art, and historic architecture?! I really do love LA.

Back to the story…the reason that I was sitting in the parking lot is that on Sunday for Mother’s Day I had the pleasure of attending the fourth annual Unique LA Spring Show Downtown with my mom and three sisters. We always love attending these fabulous craft fairs to find super talented local artists and designers. The Spring, Summer, and Holiday Unique LA shows are two of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles. If you live in San Francisco or New York, make sure to checkout the Unique SF Show on June 20 and July 1 or the Unique NYC show that they are hoping to start soon!

There was a $10 admission fee, but a dollar of every ticket goes towards supporting another local organization, CicLAvia, and upon entry each guest gets a canvas tote with art designed by a local artist specifically for the event. At each Unique LA event, the nonprofit organization changes, as does the artist who designs the bags. Unique LA also offers free snacks, a free  photo booth, and a free craft station.

As always, the tremendous creativity of the 325 designers who showcased their work at the event amazed me. This is both the perfect place to pick up a unique, handmade gift for even the pickiest people on your list and a lovely way to spend an afternoon with friends. There are countless booths with beautiful jewelry, hilarious t-shirts, quirky home decor, awesome terrariums, intriguing sweets, upcycled vintage goods, and artsy prints. With so many talented artists in one place, you’re bound to find something that strikes your fancy. The artists are almost all incredibly friendly and they are often willing to negotiate prices with you or give you a better deal if you buy multiple items.

We ended up buying magic wallets made from old books, inventively flavored pickles, earrings, ghost pepper hot sauce, seed bombs, a necklace, and other fun goodies. There were so many great things for sale that it was hard to choose what to buy!

One of the coolest things at Unique LA this weekend (although I didn’t really appreciate it until after I got home), is that they got Caine Monroy, the 9-year-old inventor of Caine’s Arcade, to bring his homemade, cardboard arcade to the event. When we saw the elaborate cardboard set up, my sister was immediately stunned and told me how she cried during the video. Although I has heard of the arcade built by a young boy in the back of his dad’s auto parts shop, it wasn’t until I came home and cried as I watched the video myself that the magnitude of Caine’s creativity and hopefulness really hit me.

If you haven’t heard of the kid genius who became famous overnight, check out Nircan Mallick’s moving video, about Caine’s Arcade immediately….and have a box of tissues nearby.

Real Life Inspiration Board

25 Apr

By now almost everyone has discovered the outrageously addictive world of Pinterest. But who really has time to sift through all of his or her pins? The creators of Pinterest wanted to emulate the concept of inspiration boards, but it seems that now Pinterest has made them obsolete.

I know that when I’m in need of inspiration, but am running low on time, that I only glimpse at a fraction of my pins. Having a real life pinterest board on my wall, however enables me to sneak a peek at the things that bring a smile to my face multiple times a day.

Months ago I decided that I wantd to put up an inspiration  board in my room, soI began searching through my mom’s Glamour magazine, my copies of Dwell, the monthly Free People catalogues, and whatever magazine I could get my hands on. After finally acculating a massive pile of images, I decided to go for it and transform my drab closet door into a colorful collection of inspiration. So I pulled out my mod podge and a paint brush, and went to work. While I was doing it, I was half afraid that my mom would be upset at my defiling of the house, but when I showed her the finished project she was impressively supportive of my project.

What have you got to lose? Go ahead and pick a place in your house or office where you want to display images that make you happy. You can of course do this on a piece of paper, wood, or worst comes to wort, you can always paint over it or put new images on top.

Here are some other inspirations boards from around the web to get your creative juices flowing:

Inspiration board from The Decorista

Inspiration board from Styleseeking Zurich

Chartreuse’s inspiration board from The Glitter Guide

Hanna’s inspiration board from iHanna’s Blog

Tanya’s inspiration board from HeyDoYou