About two years ago, I was standing outside my friends interior design shop in Westport, CT. It’s across the street from the train station headed to NYC. I noticed a woman walking in my direction toward the train platform. She looked beautiful. Guess what, I did…? I told her how pretty she looked and that I loved her dress.
She was wearing a chic little black summer dress, Chanel purse and shoes. She stopped and said, “thank you so much, I wasn’t sure if it was too short to wear at my age.” (Aside: She was maybe in her late 40’s early 50’s. Not old at all.) I told her that she looked beautiful and I meant it. She smiled and thanked me. As she continued her hustle toward the train, I noticed the zipper on the back of her dress was not zipped all the way up. I politely yelled and ran up to her to tell her and pointed out her ‘almost wardrobe malfunction.’ She allowed me to zip her up and graciously thanked me again with an even bigger smile. It’s just a simple reminder that it doesn’t take much to be kind. It doesn’t take much to stop competing and start supporting each other. So please, stop the competition. We need each other. Let’s support each other. Isn’t that the story we want to tell?
“Be the type of person who cheers on others, compliments strangers, and encourages people to believe in themselves. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing.”
One of my favorite lines from ‘Love Actually’, and I have many, is “Life is full of interruptions and complications.”
These disruptions are not always convenient and often force us to pivot.
As a divorced, single mom of three, I know it’s not always easy to ‘just pivot’ but over time I learned it was necessary.
For example, this is the first article I’ve written here in a long time. Partly because our world was turned upside with the COVID lockdowns and the other because I had to pivot.
I was spinning my wheels as usual working full-time, granted from home, but still working 50+ hours a week, focusing on my kids, my health, staying connected with friends over weekly Zoom happy hour calls and keeping up with 18th Style on Instagram.
I knew something had to give, so I chose to focus on my kids, my health, my friends and my day job.
I know 2020 was a very difficult year for so many and I’m deeply sorry to those who lost loved ones, lost their jobs and suffered setbacks.
2020 for me, was a year where I was able to spend time with my kids. Time that I will never get back, a time that I am forever grateful for. My oldest leaves for college in September and I can’t imagine what life is going to be like without her here with me everyday.
So as we look ahead, there will be more interruptions and complications, it’s life…but perhaps we can try and focus on what’s in front of us today. Our friends, our family and the little things because as they say…
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things
Every month on the 18th, I celebrate the strong, intelligent and kind women in my life.
This month, meet Charlotte, entrepreneur (founder of @charlotteshouse), wife, mom of five children (ages eight to one), and friend of mine.
We met 7 1/2 years ago, when our daughters, now BFF’s, started pre-school. I have watched her family and business grow over the years and in awe of all she has accomplished. She works her butt off, pays it forward and truly inspires me everyday!
18th Style: Where are you from?
Charlotte: Born in Charlottesville, VA. Grew up right outside Washington DC in Alexandria, VA and currently live in Southport, CT.
18th Style: You lived in New York City, what did you love most and what do you miss most?
Charlotte: I LOVED living in the city and still miss it desperately. I loved the fundamental diversity of experiences that are so omnipresent in the city.
I loved getting on a subway with people from all backgrounds, cultures and life experiences. I loved that camaraderie of the city despite the thousands of people crashing into each other on a daily basis. I loved the it is completely unapologetic, un-pristine and just VIBRANT.
I also just loved being able to find anything at anytime anywhere.
18th Style: Tell us about your background.
Charlotte: Growing up, I loved sports and the arts and pursued both throughout high school and college. I suspect they gave me very different things, but a sense of creativity, teamwork and self-motivation was probably the overarching traits of these two disciplines.
After college, I fell into elementary school teaching and loved it. I taught 1st grade for 4 years and then decided to move to NYC and try my hand at the corporate world on the off hand chance I might still love my job AND make a more impressive salary.
Didn’t take me long to realize corporate life was not for me, so I went back to school to get a psychology degree in order to work as a school counselor.
I spent 5 years as a guidance counselor at PS165 in NYC and then we made the difficult decision to leave NYC to live full time in Connecticut, where my husband grew up.
Our third child was a newborn, so the city was growing increasingly difficult to navigate, but I was still the only member of the family not convinced that suburban living was my jam. 🙂 When we moved to CT, I started a DIY blog on a complete whim and with ZERO understanding of what that entailed.
I’ve had two more children since we moved, have parlayed my blog into TV appearances and continue to build upon my brand, At Charlotte’s House.
18th Style: What’s At Charlotte’s House and where do you see it going in the future?
Charlotte: My website has become a place for me to share creative colorful ideas and to champion the idea that ANYONE can have a house that reflects their personality and style.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Home should be a place you love regardless of budget or experience.
18th Style: You’re raising five beautiful children. How do you balance motherhood, work and life?
Charlotte: Lots of HELP!
We have some to help with the logistics of kids every morning. I would never be able to get it all done so she’s essential for me getting any work done.
My husband is incredibly supportive and doesn’t consider his contribution to raising the kids any different than mine. I.e. if he has to make dinner for the kids every night, so be it! I also admit to being fairly low on the micro-management scale.
I let my kids entertain themselves and they’re pretty independent as a result. As I sit here typing, one child is drawing next to me, the other is doing puzzles in the other room, two are making ‘poor’ decisions, and one is helping get dinner ready.
18th Style: How do you spend your free time (and do you have any)? 😉
Charlotte: Very little free time.
Honestly I LOVE what I do so if I had a night to spend alone in a hotel, I’d bring my laptop and my computer and
would edit photographs with the Housewives playing in the background and a glass of Prosecco next to me.
18th Style: Who or what inspires you?
Charlotte: My fellow bloggers and designers are incredible. They are the most multi-talented group of people I know and their ability to create and run a business and manage social media is incredible.
18th Style: How would you describe your style? What are your favorite brands?
Charlotte: My style is colorful and eclectic.
I love mixing and matching and bringing a sense of the unexpected into my design.
I’m not sure I could pick a favorite brand because I’m always thrifting and pulling pieces from all over… I love Serena and Lily although I don’t have much of their stuff in my home. I love Anthropologie.
18th Style: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Charlotte: I’d love to time travel! Having a few more hours in the day would be REALLY useful. That or flying.
18th Style: What’s your favorite quote or saying?
Charlotte: I love “No one can make you feel inferior without your own consent.”
18th Style: Lastly, I love fun facts. Tell us something people wouldn’t know about you? Can be anything.
Charlotte: I used to sell tie-dye t-shirts on the corner when I was a kid. Also… I’ve run 8 marathons and played division 1 lacrosse.
My first visit to London was a last-minute trip. I was about to turn 30 and my lifelong goal of traveling abroad before this milestone birthday was quickly evaporating. On a Thanksgiving bargain — roundtrip airfare for only $230! — I quickly jumped at the chance to fly to Heathrow and to uncover things to do in London with friends.
We did all things touristy during the trip. We stayed in the posh neighborhood of Kensington at an intimate hotel on Crowell Road called the Adelphi. Our prerequisites: rooms with private baths, a location close to the Tube (in this case Gloucester Road) and an in-house pub for late hours. The Adelphi Hotel was just fine for the deal we were getting, but the room was so small that in order to get to my side of the bed, I had to rub along the wall — obviously not the only one to do so as the wallpaper had been pretty much rubbed off at butt level.
We spent our first jet-lagged day getting acquainted with the city by riding a double-decker bus. I highly recommend this activity for a first-time visitors, as you can see all the sites, learn your way around and not move a muscle.
On a break from my friends who decided to go shopping, I headed outside of the city to visit Hampton Court, a palace of King Henry VIII designed by Christopher Wren (who also designed St. Paul’s, among other London landmarks). I enjoyed a typical Sunday brunch in a local pub, and then rode the Tube to the town of Wimbledon. As a tennis junkie, I walked through the quaint streets to find the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and then spent an hour in the gift shop and adjoining museum. Although all the places we visited could be named as a top destination on my list, the day outside the city was what clinched my deep like for London.
Minding the Gap, Again
In a completely unparalleled universe, my second flight to London began what my friend and I nicknamed “the Good Karma Tour.” As I was boarding the plane, the ticket agent called our names. The flight was overbooked and passengers were being told they would have to wait until the next day. We thought we were doomed. Instead, we were told they had to rearrange our seats and that we had been moved closer to the front.
When we board, I literally stopped in my tracks (causing my friend to slam into me) as I realized “closer to the front” meant business class. The unfortunate passengers around us had to deal with two adult 30-something women acting like schoolgirls who had just been asked to the prom as we played with our flying reclining seats and gorged on delightful meals, complete with an ice cream sundae cart with fresh fruit toppings.
During this second stay, we decided to forgo the cheap-yet-comfy hotel experience and choose the name-brand comfort of the Marriott in the Marble Arch district. The location was key for our purpose of traveling up and down Bond and Oxford Streets to shop. Our hotel was near Hyde Park, and a quick stroll through the park found us in the West End and the upscale shopping in Kensington and King’s Cross.
Once we arrived and settled into our hotel, we meandered through the city and stopped for a quick visit to the National Gallery. More benefits of a repeat visit: Knowing my way around made it feasible to simply pop in (it’s free) and just visit some of some of my favorite Impressionist pieces in the East Wing.
At the end of the day, we called a friend we had met during our first visit and met his family in Notting Hill for dinner. To further ease into our first night, we enjoyed the hotel’s indoor pool and hot tub, and easily soaked away our jet lag.
Day two, our Good Karma tour continued with sunny, 60-degree weather and a taste of royalty. We decided to be a bit touristy and headed to Windsor Castle. As we walked up the winding road past Eton, the band paraded by. When we entered the main gate of the castle, the changing of the guards had just begun. We left the castle for lunch and sat at an outdoor cafe on a cobblestone street.
The cafe had two plaques: one stating the first floor housed an apartment belonging to William Shakespeare, while the other was signed by a handful of courtiers declaring the king was under arrest for not paying taxes. Meanwhile, our view was of the castle, where the Queen herself was in residence. Here we were, sitting on a street of kings, queens and Shakespeare, and I couldn’t think of a better day.
We returned to the hotel that night and quickly changed to head out for our first night of theatre at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Our tour continued with shopping in Kensington at Burberry and Harrods, and following a fellow London-obsessed woman’s advice to head to King’s Crossing, where we came across couture shops filled with beautiful clothes — perfect for window shopping. I also discovered a Burberry factory outlet that could be found in Hackney, which required a bit of exploration and many wrong turns to find what was then a hole in the wall with fantastic steals.
Dining in many of the city’s best restaurants before each night’s theatre, we also had good karma on our side when we attempted to visit a Gordon Ramsey restaurant before a show. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed and we wouldn’t have time to eat once they officially opened, and we were disheartened. Until Gordon Ramsey himself overheard our dismay and invited us in for a pre-theatre appetizer that he would whip up for us! What luck!
Feels Like Home
I’ve returned to London so many times since my first two trips, it feels like home. I have friends in the city I can call to meet me when I pop into town, which I love, as they can show me places near and dear to them versus what is written in guidebooks.
I’ve visited to attend a 40th birthday party at the top of Tower Bridge and to enjoy a champagne flight around the London Eye while dressed in black tie. For such a special event, I chose to stay at the Lanesborough, a St. Regis property. My, what a difference in accommodations a decade can make!
My last trip, just last summer, I splurged and stayed at the Rosewood Hotel near Covent Garden. This is the creme of the crop in terms of luxury, and while I was beyond satisfied with my room, a chance meeting at an event with the hotel manager resulted in a knock at my door the next day to upgrade me into a suite so large that I could not use every part of its amenities and space in the one day I had left in the city.
Even with numerous trips beneath my belt, when I met a friend for dinner in St. Christopher’s Place, I discovered a charming pedestrian shopping and dining area I had never-before visited.
It’s why I truly love London. It surprises me, it immerses me in history, it can be done on a budget or high-end splurges, there is culture at every turn, the dining can be superb (yes, really!), and the people are so friendly you will find them awaiting you on your next return.
I am an experienced and award-winning editor and writer with 20 years working in travel media. Not only have I served as editor-in-chief of a TripAdvisor website for nearly a decade, my writing has been published in travel magazines and online, and I have been quoted as a travel expert online, in print, on radio and on television.
I have spent my life moving around the U.S. — the Midwest, Florida, Atlanta, Boston and now Northeast — and growing up, my history-loving father tried to show me every detail of American history through day trips and weekenders. Without realizing it, he set up the kindling for my eventual wanderlust. After finding a $240 round-trip flight to London, I got my first passport, hopped a flight, and was forever in love with traveling outside of the country. London ignited my wanderlust and ever since, I travel as often as I can. If I’m not traveling by plane, I’m in a car, exploring my town, county, state… I never stop moving.
My favorite thing about the work I do is helping others plan their perfect vacations, which is why I founded Anywhere World Travel, a travel concierge company. I’m not a travel agent; I am an experienced traveler who can save you time by using my knowledge and background to help you plan your trip. Visit Anywhere World Travel for more information.