A Kensington Palace Baby Shower Fit For a Prince

 

I'm writing this post and loving looking back on the last week when my friends had a "sprinkle" to celebrate the (approaching!) arrival of our son. I felt like such a princess! I mean, the shower was at Kensington Palace's Orangery, so it's easy to understand why. But beyond the location, the day was just so gorgeous and sweet. I can't think of ANY element that could have made the moment more perfect.

(Okay, maybe a small private plane dropping off a few family members and friends from the States, but... that may be a little high maintenance.)

Instead of doing a traditional "shower" with lots of baby gifts and a slew of hostesses having to bring various items, it seemed more fitting to go with a "sprinkle" that didn't do gifts and could be somewhere that was a good combination of beautiful, central... and affordable. I'm such a fan of brunch, so having all my friends around a pretty brunch table for the morning was just perfect. 

The subtle theme of Peter Rabbit was perfect for the morning- it felt perfectly English and sweet for a baby boy. Even despite the fact that I wore a pink dress. (This is the one! It covers all the right parts, but still made me feel pretty. Plus, it is designed for post-baby, too, with a discreet little zip in the front for nursing.)

These adorable Peter Rabbit Biscuiteers biscuits welcomed all the guests to their seats and made for gorgeous favors from the day.

And look at the gorgeous homemade carrot cake topped with the guest of honor, himself. (I think I took at least a hundred photos of it before the day was finished.) If you can even believe it, it tasted better than it looked. Plus, that mint green cake stand from Minted is just.... too much. 

The great thing about having the brunch at some place so beautiful is that just a few simple details really made the day gorgeous. Small touches like the sweet personalized bunting  just made it feel so gorgeous.

Eggs Royale or Caramel Waffle with Cinnamon Butter & Apples? I know. I know. It's a tough choice, but the waffle won in the end. YUM.

In lieu of the standard baby shower gifts, friends gave us the coolest stash of gift certificates. There was the go-to Amazon gift cards for diapers, tickets to the Electric Cinema, a spa pedicure, handmade coupons for dinner after the baby arrives, a date night for Tyler and I for a cooking class at Jamie Oliver's Recipease and so on. So great- and the perfect gift for a second-time mom who already has what she needs.

I'm trying to think of what else to tell you about the day- but I just keep coming up with the generic statement that it was so perfect. I'm not sure all expats feel so loved and at home where they live (it can be so lonely and isolating at times!), but that morning was such a sweet reminder of how fortunate we are to be in London with so many kind people around us.

 

Thank you to all my friends for blessing us with such a celebration! I love each of you and value your friendship so much. Thank you for being family to us in a home so far away from home.


If you're a sucker for parties like this (I am!), you can see the sweet shower that Amber & Helena held for the girls in my last pregnancy. Another gushy (and royal-themed!) day that I am so thankful to have enjoyed.



 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

The Perfect Parisian Lunch: Cafe De La Paix

 

When Amber & I booked tickets for a day-trip to Paris, we knew that the day would be (or could be potentially) rushed. With a city as gorgeous and jam-packed with great sites, stores and neighborhoods- it was easy to try and cram the day full with amazing stops like Galleries Lafayette, brunch with local friends or stopping in a few museums.

But the good thing about traveling with someone you really like and know is that you can be honest with each other about how you want to spend your time. Luckily, we both had the same goals in mind: eat amazing food, take as long as we want since we wouldn't have babies with us and keep it simple.

So basically, eat great food and let the rest of the day fall as it would around that. We kept breakfast simple (yet amazing) with a stop at, in my opinion, Paris' best boulangerie (Du Pain et Des Idées) and a casual picnic from the market along the Seine for dinner... but lunch? Well, that we did in style.

For a long time, I've seen Cafe De La Paix sitting smugly next to the Palais Garnier. With it's iconic green awnings, distinctive signs and posh clientele dotting the terrace- it's been on my "If I'm ever cool enough, I'll go there" list. Well, without a baby... we were both feeling cool enough. 

It would be fair to say that lunch here was the crown jewel in our girls' day to Paris. I wanted to give a full review of it, so that when you plan your next trip to Paris- you'll have all the details needed to decide if an afternoon here is how you, too, should spend your time. Pull up a chair and join us for our ladies lunch in Paris. 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

The prominent position just out of the Opera Metro station beside the Palais Garnier is a, undoubtedly, striking. The sunny terrace with posh waiters running around makes the scene even more... Parisian. You can eat on the Terrace for a bit more relaxed menu and service (though, it will be one of the fancier sidewalk cafes you can find in the city!), but we had reservations inside the main dining room.

The main dining room? Amazing. With painted ceilings, plush red velvet banquettes and fine china dressed on the table- it is a "pinch me" kind of place.

 

OKAy, IT SOUNDS PRETTY... BUT HOWS THE FOOD?

The food is amazing. Honestly, it ticks that "Fine French Cuisine" box in every perfect way. I'll give you a visual walk-through to prove it.

There is a seasonal set menu from the market that is available at lunch and pre-theatre which offers three courses for €53. While the regular menu was dotted with glorious options like oysters and grilled meats, I felt compelled to do some "travel research" and opt for the menu so that I could pass along the information to you here. We told our waiter that we wanted to try the menu, if there was anything we didn't particularly like and he said he would take care of us.*

(*I've never handed over my dining before- as I'm typically a bit of a control freak over my food. Think Sally in the diner from When Harry Met Sally. But hey, I was baby-free in Paris with my friend at a gorgeous restaurant. If there was ever a time to go with the moment, it was then.)

While we waited for our first course, a little amuse bouche arrived at our table. Gorgeous. Perfect. 

From there, the first course arrived: "le jardin du printemps"... which, naturally, means "Spring Garden." Now I've never eaten a spring garden before- but this gorgeous bowl of color seems to do a pretty amazing job of living up to the title. A light puree of greens crowned with bright vegetables and flowers that was so light and fresh.


Next came the main: turbot- because nothing says "ladies lunch" like simple white fish and beautiful veggies. Cooked simply in butter, the fish was perfectly cooked and the right choice for the meal.

And of course, after that dessert descended on our table like an angel from heaven. It was a creation that only the French can create that somehow combines art and flavor. Wild strawberries, cream, homemade salted shortbread... We were in pain trying to finish it after being so stuffed, but you'll be glad to know that we persevered and ate every bite. 

 

While we were moaning over how full we were, coffee arrived... alongside a plank of about a dozen gorgeous handmade sweets like macarons and tarts. Obviously, it was hard work to pay them all the respect they deserved and eating them all. But we aren't quitters, so we rallied. 

And it would be a pity to talk all about such beautiful food and fail to mention the exceptional service. It's not everyday that the chef comes out to personally say hello! The entire staff was so kind and helpful- it made the experience all the sweeter! (They didn't even seem to mind that we were the last people to leave the dining room after rest of the bustling lunch crowd had long left.)

 

WOULD YOU GO BACK? 

Yes. Definitely. It's a great spot to spend with someone that you'd love to enjoy a long meal with. It's not to be rushed, but if you're with someone that you want to spend some good time with in a perfect place, Cafe de la Paix is pretty hard to beat. I'd love to take Tyler back there for a romantic dinner out in Paris or waste the afternoon away with a girlfriend there again. 

Or, in a dream scenario, stay above at the Le Grand Hotel in one of their balcony suites and meander downstairs to the Cafe de la Paix for brunch after a lazy morning in bed. (A girl can dream, right?)

 


 

Thank you, Cafe de la Paix for treating us to the *perfect* lunch for our trip. We left feeling significantly chubbier and blissfully spoiled.

 

Find more of my favorite places to eat here in my PARIS TRAVEL GUIDE.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on April 30, 2015 and filed under eat, paris, travel, france.

Buy It In Blighty: British Souvenirs

 

If we ever moved back to the States, there would be a long list of things I would miss about daily life here. Beyond the relationships and meaningful things, I would also grieve the lack of access to some of my favorite things that are only found here. 

Some are the fancy items that you find in specialty shops (like Floris Perfume... swoon), others are just practical items that are made better (Primark tights!), while the rest... well, they're just things I think make for great gifts to remember your time in Britain.


1. ANTIQUE SILVER: What kind of Notting Hill resident would I be if I didn't put this on the top of my list? Between my love for entertaining and my passion for a good bargain, I think it is so fun to scour the market stalls of Portobello Road on Saturday mornings for treasure. (Open every Saturday. Go before 11am to avoid the really terrible crowds.) I also find some great serving pieces and home items in the charity shops here- some of our favorite things have been £0.50 off the dusty shelf of an Oxfam store.

2. TIGHTS: I can't explain the different in the tights here vs the US. The quality, even among the cheap brands, is just so much better. And the price? SO MUCH CHEAPER. I get mine from Primark. I can get a couple of pairs for £2 each and wear them for months on end without snagging or runs. Marks and Spencer also has great tights for around £2.50 each. They are so much thicker-yet-stretchy than you find in the States. My family always requests that I buy them several pairs each year.

3. TEA: Tea in the States is so expensive compare to Britain... and even the basic store brands here are going to be as good (if not better) than most of the blends you'll find in the US. We like M&S Gold for a great everyday tea... I think it's around £5 for 80 bags. Yorkshire Gold, PG Tips, or Twinings are all good buys that you can find anywhere. (And I know there is Twinings in the States, but each of the teas are blended different for the US markets even though they are called the same.)

4. SMYTHSON: You can buy Smythson around the world, but there is something especially neat about going to their shop on Bond Street. You'll feel posh toting that little blue bag around Mayfair with you, and the goodies inside will become a keepsake for years to come. Whether it's stationery or a chic travel wallet, the look is timeless.

5. BRITISH MAGAZINES: When I would travel here before we moved over, I loved reading the newspapers and magazines in Britain. Something about them was so funny and different to me... It's definitely culturally enriching to read the vocabulary and social commentary within one. 

6. LIBERTY LONDON: This department store is not only special to visit because of the gorgeous building that it is located in off Regent Street, but the famous floral prints that made it famous make for a great souvenir that is perfectly London. They have a variety of items available in an assortment of their most popular prints- trays, tea cups, home goods, aprons, etc. Or, of course, you can go to their fabric hall and have some yards cut of their famous prints to do something extra special with when you get home.

7. LEMON CURD: While Britain does make amazing jams, I think good lemon curd is really hard to find back in the US. It never seems to have the same pucker that UK curd has. (Which, in my opinion, is the best part.) Plus, it's ridiculously cheap here. You can buy a pretty jar at one of the fancy department stores like Harrods or Fortnum & Mason as a gift, or stock up for yourself at any grocery store.

8. TATLER: Again, another British magazine that is so awesomely British. Grab a copy for the train or plane... I have a feeling you'll have a hard time tossing it out even after it's been read and out of date. (I always do, at least.)

9. FLORIS LONDON: Floris is the oldest private perfumer in Britain. Their shop in Mayfair has mixed custom scents for the Royal household for generations, and their celebrity list is too long to count. You can either go in and buy one of their scents off the shelf, or pay to have a custom scent blended for you. (Fancy, right?)

10. COOKBOOKS: If people talk about bad food in Britain, I typically just assume they haven't actually been here in twenty years... or wouldn't be able to find good food where they live either. Great food is EVERYWHERE in Britain. There are some amazing chefs here with great work- Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry... etc. I live just around the corner from Ottolenghi in Notting Hill, so I'm especially keen for the Jerusalem cookbook he created. (Plus, the UK cover is different than the US, so it makes for a fun souvenir.)

11. CATH KIDSTON: This British brand is a stop that I frequent when I need a gift for my nieces or nephews. With adorable prints and sweet items, I can always find a reasonably priced item that totally hits the spot. (Plus, they are a large brand here, so it is easy to find them dotted around town.)

 


 

So there you have it: those are some of my favorite things to enjoy or to share from England. What would you put on your list to pick up here during your stay?

 



 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on April 28, 2015 and filed under england, hot tea, london, shopping, travel.

How To Drink Tea Like a Brit.

When Americans visit England, most of them are eager to jump into to the tea scene. Whether it is drinking tea instead of their normal coffee or going for afternoon tea. I love the excitement and eagerness to get into the culture.

There's just one problem.

Americans have no clue how to drink tea.

If it's not iced, Earl Grey or herbal- it gets awkward. 

We know Brits drink milk in their tea, but it kind of sounds gross when we imagine it being in the tea we drink. How do you drink loose leaf? Do you wait to let it steep or go straight in? And what do I say when they ask me what type of tea I want? Green? Earl Grey? ... Iced?

I'll make it really easy for you. Unless you really know tea and what you like, don't order Earl Grey. It's NOT the most common tea here, and, despite America's assumption that it is the most British choice, it isn't. (I used to think this, too!)  Also, if you do get Earl Grey- try lemon in it. Adding milk to it is a bit gross, as it is so floral. Don't get me wrong, loads of people still drink it... but, if you're an amateur to tea, follow my lead here.

So what do you do?

When your waiter or server asks you what type of tea you'd like, ask for either English Breakfast or an Afternoon Tea. (These are the most standard black teas.) Or, if you're at a place that isn't overly posh, you can say "Builder's Tea"... or if you get stuck, just simply say, "regular black tea." They'll know what you mean. 

These are the teas that you put a splash of milk into (not too much where it starts looking grey). A cup like this will go great with cakes and sweets. When you taste this, you'll "get" how it all works- the flavors are perfect together. And don't forget to toss in a sugar cube to get the full experience.

Now I know some Brits may chime in here and say that they only drink Earl Grey or that they would prefer herbal teas, etc. I know, I know! I often do, too. But, for the average American trying to get the quintessential tea time experience- you can't deny that the standard cup of tea that is served is a breakfast blend or afternoon tea... or just "normal" builders tea. So just nod your head and don't confuse anyone. As Americans, we are already confused enough about what to do. :)

But actually- if you are a bonafied Brit, please feel free to weigh in with any other thoughts. While I love tea and talking about it, it still is a bit of a "second language" to me. I've learned all I know late in life. 

 

PS. These photos were taken at Candella- a really sweet tea room off Kensington Church Street, near the Palace and Kensington High Street Tube Station. A great place to spend the afternoon. Walk in on a slow day, or book ahead to guarantee your table to make sure you have one. (There are only 5!)

 


If you're looking for great places for tea in London, read about some of my favorite teas in London here.



 

*images by Sara Kerens

Posted on April 24, 2015 and filed under eat, england, hot tea, london.

I'm Probably In Paris.

 

Here's something you may not have expected to see when you clicked through to read today: I'm in Paris! (Or maybe you did if you've been reading for a while and realize that random trips are right up my alley.)

In a move that I can only describe as "impulsive," "amazing," and/or "legendary," I bought tickets for a day trip to Paris with my friend, Amber. Eurostar was having a sale and we jumped at the chance to spend a day (kid-free!) in Paris for €70 round-trip tickets.  It's a little last hoorah before the baby arrives, and I can't wait to waddle all around the city with one of my favorite people!

 

 

Our main goal for the day? EAT. We are going to hit up as many eateries as we can. Why? Well, for starters- why not? What else does a pregnant woman want to do in Paris? But also, because we are both wanting to check out some places that we have heard are great... and if we love them, they'll make the cut for the PARIS TRAVEL GUIDE. So wish us luck that we find some great new spots... because it could be to your benefit!

We'll be back in time for bed, but in the meantime... follow along on our fun girls day on Instagram!


And speaking of French loveliness, the sweet Paris-based company, Émoi Émoi did an interview with me that just went live this week. I actually really liked what they asked me and I like how it summarized how I feel about being a mom. Read the interview here

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 22, 2015 and filed under france, paris, travel.