Tuscany Day Trip: Montepulciano

 

I convinced Tyler and our friends, Geraldine and Grant, to go to Montepulciano for the day while we were lounging around the villa one day. I had gone years ago and was itching to show them what a cute town it was. After they relented to my less-than-subtle nudges, we hopped in the car and drove an hour and a half. When we got there, I soon realized- I had actually been to Montelcino and had never been to Montepulciano before. Oops.

The good news for all of us was that this town was WAY better than I had expected to show them. Lucky for them (and me!), we got to spend a wonderful day exploring this charming town once run by the Medici family and still known today for its world class wines.

Plus, rolling the word "Montepulciano" off your tongue is one of the funnest things ever said.


MONTEPULCIANO

 

GETTING THERE

To drive from Florence (which is the best way, since it's really complex to reach otherwise), you'll take an easy 90 drive south, past Siena. Park in one of the paid lots and wander in through one of the various city gates. We parked in lot #1 and it was a great starting point.

You can walk straight from the parking lot and into town. From there, it was a windy and colorful stroll up through into the city center. Along the way, expect fruit stalls, tiny artists' shops and touristy stops full of leather purses and ceramic goodies.

 

WHAT TO DO

This isn't going to be a day-trip that has a big bullet-point list that comes with it. Your main objectives for the day are to relax, catch some great views from the endless alleyways and vistas, and eat/drink well along the way.

You can make it up to the Piazza Grande (admittedly, a tiresome endeavor with a baby stroller) and enjoy the piazza life from there. Grab a cup of (delicious artisan!) gelato from the tiny cafe right in the square for a real treat. Or if you're feeling more energetic, you cna pay €4 to climb up to the top of the Terrazza del Palazzo Comunale for sweeping views of the Tuscan hills surrounding you.

 

WHAT TO EAT

If wine is your game, then you've got countless vineyards surrounding the town you can visit as this is the home of the famous vino nobile. The larger vineyards offer amazing lunches in gorgeous settings... along with pricetags that pair well with such an opulent experience. Some of the most famous vineyards in the Montepulciano area are Avignonesi and Contucci Cantine.

 

 

Tuscany is a great place to take day trips- really for any type of traveler. If you're young and looking to explore- these small, friendly towns are nearly fail proof adventures. If you're a couple looking for some romantic spots and lonely cafes, these towns offer it. If you're a family craving some culture, but feel exhausted by big cities- small towns like Montepulciano are a great middle ground. (Plus so many of the streets are pedestrian only, you don't have to worry about cars. Let those kids run free!)

 


 

Find more of my Italy posts here and my series on Tuscan day trips here.

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy by grant schol

 

Posted on September 27, 2016 and filed under day trips, italy, travel.

Weak-Night Cooking

One of our friends recently joked that I don't cook... I was a bit confused. What? Me? When I'm busy with a semester, I am eating out a lot because, well, I have to eat out. I'm just not home very often. When life is a bit slower, I love to try new things and scour magazines for new ideas. Not only do I enjoy it, but let's be honest- it's way cheaper and healthier than eating out all the time. And with little kids, it's way less hassle.

But....  right now it is not slow. We are in the first bit of a new semester and dinners at home are the last thing on my list of a million things to do each day. The only problem is... it's the first thing anyone else asks me when I get home. "What's for dinner?!"

I do a few things to keep afloat in these moments. Hopefully, I'll share my moves with you and you, in return, can give me some winning-no-brain-required-recipes!

1. WRITE IT DOWN | This one is so obvious... but only if you're actually doing it. Otherwise, you think you it doesn't make a difference. It does! I plan out every meal my family eats for the week on Sunday night. So boring, but so necessary. I meal plan and then I order it all on Ocado. (I'm a big fan of Ocado.)

I used to love wandering through the grocery stores here. Well, actually, I still do. I just have other things to do, so the last thing I want to do is run out to Tesco at 6:15 to buy French mustard or whatever other random ingredient I don't have. I schedule my delivery slot (always on Wednesday, because it's free that day) and have it all there and ready to cook when I walk in the door.

2. STICK WITH WHAT WORKS | Trying new things is so fun, and way easier the more you've cooked. With that said, when I'm busy- we are sticking to a shortlist of 10-15 things. I cook things that I'm very comfortable with and don't expend mental energy on daunting steps like braising and pickling. (I know my limits.)

3, TWICE IS NICE | My poor mother. I used to not eat leftovers. Gross. I only wanted "fresh food." These days, I live off of them. When I cook, I plan for the meal to feed us twice for dinner... or at least dinne + two days of lunches for whoever is home. There is little better than eating a delicious homemade meal... that you didn't actually have to spend anytime on.

4. SHARE THE LOVE | Sure life is busy, but if I'm meal planning- I try to plan to have guests over to share it with us. Or, I make extra and give it to our neighbors. (We know them, it's not creepy.)  I'm not making individual filets, so the extra price is nominal and the gesture is always so appreciated. I think that it's easy for us to feel self-centered when life gets hectic. It's a good push for me to think outward when what I really want to do is be inward. (It's so hard, isn't it?!)

5. FREEZE OUT | And for nights when you get home and everyone meets you at the door with gum in their hair and crying? Drag that bag of frozen chicken fingers out of the bottom drawer of the freezer, hold you head high knowing that you do the best you can.... and get out the peanut butter to start getting that gum out.

A few of my weekly recipes are from the links below. I'd love for you to post up your favorites, too!

 

-Creamy Feta Chicken with Peppers & Rice (A Diary of Lovely)

- Chicken Stew with Biscuits (Ina Garten)

- Honey Pecan Salmon (Aspiring Kennedy)

 




 

*images by noah darnell original to aspiring kennedy

 

Posted on September 26, 2016 and filed under eat, life.

My Reykjavik | BurgerJoint


I've mentioned it elsewhere- but Iceland has changed SO much in the past five years. The amount of people in every locations is exponentially more than when we first started going... and I would say more than doubled since even last year.

Whenever we saw friends or colleagues, they all asked us what we thought of it. The boom of tourism is changing the lives of all 330,000 people that live there. Every block in town and small village along the (only) highway is full of cranes and new business popping up in response to the hoards of tourstics flocking to Iceland.

While there are so many new (great!) places opening, I still feel drawn back to Burgerjoint (or "Bullan," as the locals call it) on days around lazy days when we are near the marina in Reykjavik..

This tiny shop tucked right on the marina makes fresh burgers. They're one of the most affordable meals in town, and they're pretty stinking good. No visit there is complete with a basket full of fries- generously sprinkled from the shaker of seasoning salt- and a coffee milkshake.

The BBQ bacon cheeseburger is a crowd-pleaser, but with huge sides (the large fries could easily feed 5 people), a small cheeseburger does the trick for me.

Find Burgerjoint at Geirsgata 1, Reykjavik 101, Iceland. (Right by the IcelandAir Marina Hotel)



 

*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on September 23, 2016 and filed under eat, iceland, travel.

iPhone (un)Operating System

 

Half-way through our trip to Italy, my phone stopped working. It wouldn't read the touch sensor for a day or so at a time- making it impossible to get into. I put up with it for a few more weeks (because I didn't have time to send it in to get repaired), and now I'm a month into a phoneless life and I have to say.... it is so nice.

While I wait, I have a £5 mobile phone. The tiny screen has a call log, contacts book, settings and game (singular- just one pathetic little game). It's so basic, and it has been a welcome detox from mindlessly scrolling social media and updating my inbox.

 

 

And all those helpful little apps? Whadday know- I can still login to my bank on my laptop and get everything done that I need as well as all the various functions that I spend clicking away at on my phone.

The only downside is that I never have a camera with me without my iPhone. I missed Viola's first day of school. I look at Harry's golden curls in the afternoon sunlight and realize that I only have my memories from sitting on the couch together, rather than a photo burst of them. So you know... pros and cons.

 

It's a real struggle to stay present- especially in the presence with my kids. In those quiet moments of sitting around the kitchen table or as they tinker with toys, I find myself constantly flicking back and forth between them and my phone.

I have the new iPhone 7 headed my way by the end of the month, and I'm already cringing at the bad habits that I'll fall back into.

How do you keep a safe distance from your phone usesage? My friend recommend the MOMENT app, which was a embarrassing yet needed look at how much I'm on my phone each day. (Or you could always go cold turkey and swap out for a basic cell phone. It's like a crash diet, and I have a feeling you may totally love it, too.)

 



 

*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on September 19, 2016 and filed under kids, life, iceland.

Under The Tuscan Sun... and Just By The Olive Trees

 

When I was 19, I spent a semester in Italy. Just outside of Florence on a hillside of a sleepy suburb in a 15th century villa. In this villa, we had class, we had little Italian women cook for us and we stayed up way too long every night. I'm not sure anyone can spend three months at that villa and not have those moments stay with them forever. There really is something magical about "the villa," and I am so glad that I got to share it with my family this summer.

While we were there, my friend Grant snapped some pictures of us around the house. He, literally, took out his camera and starting clicking away after breakfast one day. (And from the lack of Tyler and/or group photos, you'll see that it was so casual that he went in to change out the laundry about two minutes into taking pictures and we had given up by the time he had come back out.)

I have to say, I love them. Not just because I can now appreciate the gift of having us all four in the same photo... but especially so because they're a reminder of a normal day that made up this gorgeous holiday.

There are so many memories that I have from the villa- visiting with my family in high school, arriving with my best friend and a huge suitcase to live out of for the spring whilst in college, saying goodnight to friends in the driveway during the summers in college, eating lunch with Tyler as newlyweds in the dining room, laughing on the terrace with Oxford friends after graduation, and now... well, with my sweet babies toddling around the yard.

 

I love Florence and the lifelong friends that we have there... and, well, now I have some pictures to add to the others we already love from this same special place.

 



 

*images by Grant Schol

 

Posted on September 9, 2016 and filed under italy, kids, life, photography.