Run Away with Me to Hop Shop Lavender Farm

lavender farm in London

Come run away with me to a dreamland! I’m currently soaking in a yummy smelling lavender bath at home after putting the kids to nap and remembering my time earlier this summer at a dreamy lavender farm in North Kent. Lavender season is now over, but trust me, you’ll want to bookmark The Hop Shop at Castle Farm for next year!

lavender field farm London

This family-run lavender farm in North Kent is the largest lavender farm in the UK! In the summer months, the lavender fields burst into a sea of purple. It’s literally 95 acres of jaw-dropping magic. At Castle Farm, they harvest and extract pure Kentish Lavender Oil, which you can shop along with other lavender products, here on their online store.

lavender farm in London

Back in June, I was lucky enough to gain private access to the lavender fields courtesy of my friends at The Hop Shop, which isn’t available for everyone unless you pay for a private photography session. The public is welcome to join on lavender tours throughout the month of July every year, which includes an hour-long guided tour of the fields, a visit to the oil distillery, and photo opportunities. You can also visit a section of the fields for free without having to pay anything! Or reserve a special picnic evening in the field or an aromatherapy massage (must book in advance), which would totally make this trip one to remember. For more information, click here.

Here’s a few tips of how you can use lavender for its calming, therapeutic qualities:

  • Relax with a few drops in the bath or on a pillow.
  • Massage gently into the forehead to help soothe headaches and reduce travel sickness.
  • Use with a base oil in aromatherapy massages to help relieve muscular tension and painful joints or to induce relaxation.

Don’t forget to follow along with The Hop Shop’s Instagram for more pretty photos!

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Summer Bedding Style At Home with The Company Store

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This blog post is sponsored by The Company Store, but all opinions are my own.

When it’s hot in the Midwest, it is HOT!! Living in Chicago, you get used to really only having two seasons: brutally cold winter for six months and then a hot summer. I like to try to air out my home at the first signs of spring by opening up all the windows, but this can also make our bedroom feel a bit warm in the summertime. Just like Chicagoans are pros at switching out our wardrobes with the change in seasons, this also extends to our bedding. In the winter, I love cozy knit or flannel sheets, but in warmer months, I like to switch it up with silkier lightweight bedding.

When The Company Store reached out to me about their premium linen bedding, I jumped at the chance to try. Good quality linens are worth investing in especially if you live in a hot climate – but remember, not all linen bedding is made equally! In general, a sheet with a higher thread count will be more durable and feel softer. A thread count of 200 is a good standard, and a count of 300 will be noticeably softer. I’m a huge bedding snob – it has to be at least 600-800 thread count to touch my body!!

I always look for a nice quality sateen material, which is a cotton fabric sought after for its soft, silky touch and subtle sheen. Sateen is lightweight and breathable – perfect for hot summer nights. Noone likes tossing and turning all night because it’s too hot – and The Company Store offers linen bedding that is made to keep you cool, and your bed stylish.

I chose the Legends Camellia 600-Thread Count Egyptian Sateen Duvet Cover, which is this pretty pastel floral print in greens and taupes totally perfect for summer style. I paired it with matching 600-thread count shams. But the real prize is really the Legends 800-thread count Egyptian Cotton Flat Sheets and Pillowcases – soooo soft and smooth, and like I said before, nothing but the best will ever touch my skin lol 😉 I also accessorized the whole look with white Beekman Matelassé Shams and Coverlet. I love the quality of my new bedding!

p.s. I’m a planner! If it were up to me, summer would never end, but since this isn’t the case, it’s never too early to start planning for a Chicago winter. I ordered the Legends Geneva Down Oversized Comforter for extra warmth and can’t wait for snuggly mornings in bed with my boys!

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Vienna Travel Guide: What to See and Do in Vienna

Vienna family of five vacation

If you are looking for a fairy-tale trip, then there is no more perfect a place to visit than Vienna. Vienna, Austria is rich in history, music and baroque architecture, but still has a modern feel to it in parts of the city. Picture a capital city as romantic as Paris but with a third of the crowd. A place as cosmopolitan as London but so much cleaner. It’s a dream come true and it’s all in Vienna, Austria. You’ll surely fall in love with Vienna at first sight, like I did!

If you’re not spending that much time in Vienna, you’ll definitely want to take a hop on, hop off bus tour like we did via Vienna Sightseeing. This is the most convenient and comfortable way to travel and pack in the main sights, especially if you are traveling with small kids! We got off at Schönbrunn Palace Vienna and Naschmarkt, and these are definitely two must-see destinations in Vienna.

 

Schönbrunn Palace Park

Vienna family of five vacation

The palace is the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs. If you take a tour of the palace and museum, you will learn about the royalty that lived here, particularly Franz Joseph who at 18 became ruler and survived the suicide of his son, the murder of his wife Sisi, and even throughout WWI. Austrian tales of yore got your attention yet?

Vienna family of five vacation

The palace park is huge and is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon or a day here. Amongst the gardens here you will see some of the most beautiful flower arrangements. There is also the Vienna Zoo inside the palace grounds that I am told is top notch, if zoos are your thing. We didn’t check this out because I have this weird thing about zoos. (I’m not a fan of animals being confined, and growing up in Chicago, I can go to Lincoln Park Zoo anytime which is free, so I for sure wouldn’t pay to go to another zoo.) However, it is free to enter the palace park!

Naschmarkt

Vienna family of five vacation

Our next hop off stop on the Vienna Sightseeing tour was the Naschmarkt. This is Vienna’s most popular market with 16th-century origins. Located at the Wienzeile over the Wien River, it has more than 100 food & vintage stalls, plus restaurants! Definitely a must-do in Vienna. It’s a true Viennese market experience for locals and tourists alike! Each of the little food stalls or huts in the market offers a different style of food. You can find traditional kraut at Naschmarkt sold from a wooden barrel in the age-old fashion, right next to cutting edge fusion mixes from Italian, Japanese or Moroccan delis.

Vienna family of five vacation

When in Vienna, obviously you must eat schnitzel. But don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth and try a sacher-tort. This is the famous chocolate cake you may have heard about. It is one of the most decadent desserts and is shipped all over the world, but you can try it right here in its birthplace, which makes for a memorable experience in itself.

Vienna family of five vacation

You might be surprised to learn that most Arab Austrians are of Iraqi and Lebanese origin. Our best meal in Vienna was at this Lebanese restaurant called Duzi’s Kitchen. Hands down the best Lebanese food I’ve ever had (not like I’m an expert on Lebanese cuisine, but I will say I loved this ethnic meal way more than eating schnitzel!)

Vienna family of five vacation

Danube Island

Vienna family of five vacation

Like any major city, there is plenty for kids to do. In Vienna, we rode city buses and trains to take the kids to Danube Island, where they had a blast jumping on trampolines and zip lining. Recommend this place for getting the energy out of your kids!

Vienna State Opera House

Vienna family of five vacation

There is so much music history in Austria, particularly Vienna where many musical greats resided like Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud. It’s not surprising that opera is one of the main attractions in Vienna. The Vienna State Opera has one of the biggest stages in Europe for good reason – they have over 300 performances and 70 productions a season. There are 180,00 costumes – which is worth 6 miles of fabric – that are housed in a building next door connected by an underground tunnel! So mysterious and romantic, don’t you think? We know nothing about opera, but the kids enjoyed watching opera on the big screen outside the opera house along with thousands of other people on the street!

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Vienna. Scroll down to see more photos from this gorgeous city! Stay tuned for blog posts about other cities we visited in Austria, coming soon.

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VIENNA sightseeing tour

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VIENNA sightseeing tour

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Color Outside the Lines with Crayola Experience

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Where do crayons go on vacation? Color-ado!

Or actually, to Orlando, Florida, we go. Cheesy mom jokes aside, our recent family trip down South included an all-day outing at Crayola Experience Orlando. Six colorful hours of melts downs (talking crayon-making, not my kids), too many hands-on activities to count, and lots and lots of coloring outside the lines – can’t think of anything more kid-friendly than that! It was Winter Break from schools, so you can imagine how packed Crayola Experience was with families all trying to entertain the kids.

Our favorite attraction at Crayola Experience was the Melt & Mold – here the kids can create a ring, shark, car or seahorse souvenir out of crayon wax. Roman and Rhys each picked out a shark mold – no surprise because they love all things aquatic! The Drip Art station is a new spin on a timeless classic. We had fun loading freshly made crayons into the Drip Art machine and watching it melt and drip wax into a swirly-whirly work of art. And of course, we enjoyed the Crayon making station where you can customize the label with your name.

As if all the creative activity stations weren’t enough, Crayola Experience also has playrooms and interactive floors that get the kids jumping and dancing. Pro tip: Plan out the top 5 attractions you want to hit up in advance. You could easily spend six hours at Crayola Experience (like we did), but if you don’t have that much time, make sure to plan out your visit in advance. All in all, we had a blast and Crayola Experience was a welcome break from the usual Orlando theme park hopping.

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